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The Thrill of a Live Heavy Machinery Sale

Covid showed us new ways to do business, online and on Zoom with many major, global, live machinery sales shutting down, choosing to conduct their business totally via the internet. However, Euro Auctions, the world’s largest privately owned auction house for the used and unused machinery market, still values the thrill of a live sale. Read below the full article as featured in the November/December 2023 issue of Cranes & Access.

Used construction machinery is now a global commodity, that washes around the planet to where it is needed most. Good, fresh, late, low hours machines are always in high demand and during Covid, with OEMs shutting down manufacture, used equipment values escalated. Dealerships were unable to get new stock, and the heavy plant and machinery auctions came to the rescue, providing a ready supply of good used kit.

Covid showed us new ways to do business, online and on Zoom with many major, global, live machinery sales shutting down, choosing to conduct their business totally via the internet. However, Euro Auctions, the world’s largest privately owned auction house for the used and unused machinery market, still values the thrill of a live sale.

All machine operators and dealers have got diesel in their veins. They thrive on the smell of oil, diesel smoke, hydraulic fluid, kicking the tyres and meeting their peers, who, like them, have probably just stepped off a machine to come and bid for their next one. There is nothing like sale day. It’s wild and noisy, with the chant of the auctioneer constant, planting a rhythmic earworm inside your head. Visually the scale of the event is mindboggling as every type of machine is on offer, in multiples. The crowds mill around watching the ramp, networking, catching up with old friends, checking prices, looking for a bargain, taking a punt on a new machine, acting on impulse, and making a snap purchase. It’s a cacophony of sounds and smells with the crowds jostling to see the action and for all attending it’s typically the best day on the calendar.

Once the place where the old and broken kit was sent to die, one step away from the scrap heap, now, the used machinery sale is a highly sophisticated, multi £billion business and is the place where good fresh low hours machines can be purchased, sale on sale. Rental companies dispose of their hire fleets, with confidence in the auction to receive the best price for their inventory. Contractors use auctions to stock up ahead of new contracts. Businesses diversifying can sell at auction, injecting cash into their balance sheet. Retiring directors can fund retirement. Whatever the reason for selling at auction, vendors and buyers are both satisfied with the results of the sale. And this has changed purchasing trends, showing good fresh machines are out there and operators are happy to buy them, over new. 

Technology has changed the auction landscape, providing vendors and buyers access to a global marketplace. Where, once, local buyers would attend a sale, now buyers from around the planet are able to make international buying and shipping possible. Buyers can search for the exact specification machine they require, in multiple numbers, if required and robust selling platform allows bidders to search, save searches and buy in several ways.

Onsite – at live sales, customers can turn up in person and following a simple process of registration and payment of security deposit, buyers can obtain a bidder number to participate and bid during that sale.

Online - via the internet bidding service, buyers can track each physical ‘live’ sale online and bid on the lots they are interested in, again, from anywhere in the world. Euro Auctions stream live video and audio of all the auctions meaning the online bidder has an equal footing to those onsite.

Pre-Bid - if a customer is unable to attend a scheduled physical sale, buyers can place a Pre-Bid, up to a maximum amount of their choosing. Euro Auctions’ systems will ‘live bid’ on your behalf during the sale up to the maximum amount specified by you. Pre bidding is currently available when the equipment is listed on the website.

Timed Auctions – this is an ‘Internet Only’ auction, and rather than transport equipment across a continent or around the globe, Timed Auctions are where multiple lots can be sold simultaneously via the internet. Bids can be placed online, and the sale remains open on each selected lot until a pre-determined time and date.

In later years Euro Auctions has established itself as one of the leading specialists for the disposal of mobile cranes and access equipment in the UK. Conducting the three most important sales in the sector in 2022, for M&M Crane Hire, NMT Crane Hire and Quinto Crane Hire. Working with crane operators expanding by turning stock to free up capital, conducting retirement sales, as well as working with liquidators, Euro Auctions has vast experience in this sector. With global reach and access to crane buyers in over 200 countries, Euro Auctions is adept at reaching out to confirmed buyers, creating real interest in the stock at all sales, with permanent sale sites in the UK, Europe, Middle East, USA, Canada, and Australia.

Sage Advice – from Scott McCall, Lifting & Access Sales Manager at Euro Auctions

Machinery auctions are now an essential component of many leading contracting and rental company business plans, and not just at the point of disposal. With significant sector experience and sale data/trends to hand, our industry experts can assist procurement and finance teams to understand how a purchase today may affect the balance sheet later.

One recent example, using our market experience and understanding, enabled a customer to take advantage of a yearend deal from an OEM, normally the machines traded out would be retained for another 2/3 years – but working with us to facilitate a deal meant they could take the new kit and reduce monthly finance costs. The result - average fleet age lowered, monthly finance costs lowered, and more fleet in warranty.

When it comes to disposals at auction, good sound industry advice on values and residuals can advise consignors what to send to auction. In one recent example, a customer identified some younger assets that he believed would achieve a desired figure. After taking advice he understood those assets depreciate faster in early years so the target total wouldn’t be hit. Reviewing some older equipment, we identified machines that were more desirable and that would return the required cash. The customer ended up keeping the fresher kit on fleet and returning the required cash to the bank.

The used listings for cranes, access equipment and telehandlers are overrun with brokers selling machines they do not own. Choosing a broker tends to elongate the sales process and leave a depreciating asset sat in a yard for some time. Auctions provide the opportunity to realise assets into cash much quicker, and with an extremely low cost of sale. Auctions have moved on from being a ‘dealer only’ buyer event, to end users and rental companies trusting the process to buy, as well as sell. Net result prices for the vendor improve as the auction can cut out the middleman. In the case of high value items such as cranes this can add significant sums to the vendor’s bank account. As traditional sales avenues dry up and OEMs become reticent to take trade ins, auction provides a guaranteed sale route.

Working alongside OEMs, I have enabled significant new machine orders to be delivered, most recently a package of 200 new machines for GT Access, a leading UK access rental company, in exchange for 147 scissor lifts. These machines have been split across several of our European auction sites, so the local market does not become swamped. This also helps the OEM deliver good fresh used equipment into markets where they may not yet be strong, helping with brand profiling.

Sale Results

In a market where assets have predominantly been disposed of at private sale, auctions now offer good solid returns, with past disposals including the following names.

M&M Crane Hire                                 Total sale value                                    £4.60 million

NMT Crane Hire                                  Total sale value                                    £3.68 million

Quinto Crane Hire                               Total sale value                                    £5.10 million

Looking to consign or purchase lifting equipment? Contact Scott McCall today;

E:  [email protected]               M:  +44 (0) 7796 603445

To read the article on the official Vertikal (Cranes & Access) website, click here.

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