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Buyer's guide: Top tips for buying used telehandlers

With advancing control technology and the costs of meeting emissions legislation pushing new telehandler prices up, a used machine could prove a handy buy.


Jane Carley checks out a few things to look out for on some of the key makes.


Telehandlers have to be a jack of all trades all year round for stock farms, but they also become a key piece of equipment at harvest, putting in some serious work.


The busy workload means second-hand machines often have high hours and can be subject to considerable wear and tear; cabs are notoriously tatty and wear points can often need attention.

As they are rarely a one-man machine, different driving styles and levels of maintenance can also take their toll.


To see what is available on the used telehandler market and run through some key pointers, we set a budget of £25,000 and went looking for a typical farm-spec machine with about a three-tonne lift capacity and seven-metre reach.



Manitou telehandlers offered a wide range of choice within the brief. 


For traditional cubicles, the old MLT 629 (circa 2000), which lifts 2.9 tonnes to six metres offers a compact machine at 2.1m wide, while the MLT 634 (2003-2011) and MLT 735 (2007-2011), with 3.4t to 6m and 3.5t to 7m capabilities respectively, are better suited to more modern buildings. 


For a busy workload stacking bales or filling a feeder wagon, the MLT 634/735 offers more horsepower and hydraulic capacity. More recent versions, designated 120 LSU, have 120hp Perkins engines and 150 litre per minute load-sensing hydraulics.


Roading ability was also better on the MLT 635/735 with a six-speed 40kph powershift, compared to the four-speed 32kph manual box on the MLT 629. The ability to shift easily up and down the gears also improved cycle times, says the manufacturer.


Three specification packages were introduced for more recent models (from 2012); Classic, Premium and Elite. Air conditioning, air seat, a Bluetooth radio, auxiliary depressurisation, boom suspension, and LED worklights made up the Elite package.


Boom suspension – a useful feature for roadwork or leading bales in rutty fields – also gave the machine a degree of protection, especially the axles and pivots.

Points to watch out for

  • Lower spec models without boom suspension – which protects the machine as well as increasing operator comfort – may have more wear to the axles and pivots if they have been used frequently on the road or for jobs such as leading bales in rutty fields
  • Older MLT 634s had a small driveshaft between the engine and the gearbox which produced a ‘rattle’ as it was affected by vibration. Check universal joints for wear, as they were easily neglected
  • Check the bottom lift ram pin and bush for wear; it is also worth working the headstock tilt back and forth to check for play in the compensation ram bushes and pins

On the market


2008, MLT 735, 4,800 hours, powershift transmission, £22,000
2010, MLT 735, 7,500 hours, 120 LSU model, £23,000
2012, MLT 735, 5,190 hours, £25,950



With a lift capacity of 3.2 tonnes to 6.4 metres, Merlo’s 32.6 proved a highly popular telehandler when in production from 2006-2014, and was available in three versions: low cab, Plus and Top, with varying specifications.


The low cab version is sought after for traditional buildings. As well as being just 2m tall, its width of 2m and overall length of 4.22m meant it could negotiate narrow passageways.


The model’s 100hp engine started out as a Perkins and then went to Deutz before returning to Perkins and finally Kubota.


Top of the range equipment included a fixed gear pump, which offered more powerful, quicker hydraulics, worth looking out for.


For a more heavy-duty option, the 38.7 and 42.7 are worth a look, although specification changes were frequent throughout their evolution so it may be difficult to compare like for like. 


Control layouts in particular were repeatedly upgraded and a pick-up hitch added to the equipment list.


Other desirable features included boom suspension and an air seat. Air conditioning was rarely specified as the machines are so frequently used with the top door open and may not work, having been neglected.

Points to watch out for

  • Perkins engines’ simplicity made them relatively easy to fix, whereas Deutz units had the reputation for reliability, against the more complex EGR system of the Kubota
  • Fully hydrostatic transmissions mean brakes are rarely used, so can seize up. They need careful inspection
  • The swivel housing on the 32.6 was fitted with a plastic brush which may have worn away, however, it is cheap and easy to replace

On the market
2011, 32.6, 4,900 hours, Plus-spec, £22,000
2010, 32.6, 4,200 hours air con, air seat, pick-up hitch, £23,500
2012, 32.6, 4,500 hours, boom suspension, pick-up hitch, £25,500
2011, 32.6, 4,670 hours, hydrostatic 40kph, air con, air seat, pick-up hitch, £25,750



JCB telehandlers are sought after and tend to command a premium, with many farmers choosing to buy a second-hand machine to use around the yard while a newer model is out loading bales or fertiliser, etc.


For our £25,000 budget, buyers should be able to secure a 2008-2010 531-70, which lifts 3.1 tonnes and has a maximum lift height of seven metres.


Expect high hours given the amount of work these machines undertake – 1,500 hours a year is not unusual.


Older machines were powered by a Perkins engines, later replaced by JCB’s own Ecomax and Dieselmax power units, with maximum outputs ranging from 109-145hp.


The 531-70 Agri Plus provided an agricultural-spec version which included joystick control, four-speed transmission, pick-up hitch and turbocharged engine, while Agri Super models added more powerful engines, boom suspension, hydraulic QFit locking headstocks, air conditioning and trailer brakes.


If the main workload will be on concrete, for example loading a feeder wagon, it is worth considering an industrial-spec 531-70, which had lever rather than joystick control and lacked the diff-lock required for jobs such as pushing up grass. A no-frills machine of this type could offer more choice and less hours for your cash.


More powerful options are the 536-70, which lifted 3.6 tonnes, and the 541-70 (4.1 tonnes) but these may stretch the budget somewhat.

Points to watch out for

  • If the machine has had heavy bale loading use, check the back of the boom near the pivot point, where cracks can appear
  • Have a good look at the engine, especially the alternator drive pulleys for wear, and the thermostat housing which can leak
  • Wear and tear should be commensurate to the hours recorded, especially linkage wear on the headstock tilt mechanism, pivot bearings on hubs, and the main boom pin and lift ram bush wear.
  • Excessive wear can indicate poor maintenance

On the market
2008, 531-70, 4,051 hours, 109hp, £19,500
2011, 531-70, 3,800 hours, £23,500
2008, 531-70 Agri-Super, 6,805 hours, £25,000
2012, 531-70 Agri-Plus, £27,500



Claas introduced the Scorpion telehandler in 2005, built by Kramer, which now has an agreement with John Deere.


The Scorpion 7030 offered a high standard specification machine with 3.3-tonne lift capacity and 7.1-metre lift height.


Powered by a 120hp Deutz engine, it featured four-wheel drive, power braking and a Varipower 40kph hydrostatic transmission said to offer more pushing capability than a standard torque converter.


Standard hydraulics used a 150 litres per minute load-sensing pump and a pick-up hitch with trailer tipping and hydraulic trailer brakes were also featured.


For our £25,000 budget you would expect to buy a 2008 or 2009 model, or maybe a 2010 one with high hours.


Some of the early machines had an option of a smaller hydraulic pump and could have been specified without air conditioning, air seat, hydraulic attachment locking or crab steering. These items will all affect the used value, so check the spec carefully if any of these are on the wish list.


Conversely, there was the option to add ballast weights, taking the machine’s lift capacity to 3.5t, which might be worth a look if you are looking to move bigger loads.

Points to watch out for

  • Some grease nipples on older models were difficult to locate, so the machines need a careful inspection to assess how well they have been maintained, taking care to look at all pivot points around booms, axles and steering as all these points rely on receiving a daily grease for long life
  • Larger boom pins and bushes were fitted for better durability, so there should be few issues with these
  • Hydraulic hoses were prone to rubbing at the base of the boom, leading to leaks, so check for wear

On the market
2007, Scorpion 7030, 7,500 hours, £21,000
2008, Scorpion 7030, 5,830 hours, £22,000

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