How to sell your old mowers, blowers and tractors for top dollar

Date Published: 
February, 2006
Original Author: 
Tom Smith & Tom Pfeifer
Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, February 2006

You don't need to set up an eBay store to sell that old equipment you're not using anymore. All you have to do is clean it up, advertise it and-most important-auction it off as a single lot.

WHAT: Do some spring cleaning by selling the equipment you don't need anymore or are replacing.

Spring Grove has one sale a year, near the end of winter. We accept sealed bids, and we make people bid on everything. We used to sell pieces of equipment individually, and what always happened is there were some things everyone wanted and other things no one wanted.

Now, even if you only want four of the 12 pieces of equipment we're selling, you have to bid on all of it. Maybe you resell some of it, maybe you junk some of it. We don't care what you do with it, as long as you get all of it off Spring Grove property by the deadline!

By selling it all as one lot, the amount we get for our old equipment is staggering compared to what we used to get. We can buy three mowers for the money we get by selling our old equipment.

The winning bid depends on what we've got in the mix, of course. If there's a quad (an all-terrain vehicle), or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, people go crazy. They'll bid on the whole lot just to get that quad.

WHY: Equipment you don't use anymore and can't trade in takes up space. It needs to be inventoried. It costs time and money to take it to the landfill—if you eve, get around to doing it. And it's a potential revenue source that's dropping in value every day you allow it to just sit there.

Besides, selling your old equipment to someone who can put it to use is in the spirit of "reduce, reuse and recycle." It's nice that some of this equipment can be put to good use for a few more years instead of being buried somewhere.

As we've already said, selling equipment a piece at a time is not the way to go. This isn't a terribly complicated program, but you do need to do a bit of planning.

1. Know what you're buying and what you can get rid of.   Being able to do this properly is contingent on having a good budgeting process. At the Grove, we know what equipment is being replaced months before we sell it. If you're not sure how many new mowers you're going to buy, it's going to be hard to decide how many of your existing ones to sell.

You might think, "Well, I'll just sell the old equipment off as the new equipment comes in." The problem with that is you'll end up having multiple sales, and you know what rule number 2 is:

2. Sell everything as one lot, auction winner take all. This not only means you won't have any leftovers; it's also a way to clear out some of your old inventory. At one point, we had about 20 push-type blowers that had been in inventory for years, replaced with newer, easier-to-use models. Every year we throw a few into the mix. Sure, some of the bidders say, "What am I supposed to do with those?" Our answer is, "We don't care what you do with them, they're just part of the auction."

There is some equipment you can either trade in or sell outright and get big bucks for—a backhoe, for example. For the auction, you'll be gathering small pieces such as soil-hauling equipment and mowers, of course.

We don't hold a live auction; we accept sealed bids. Since people don't know who they're bidding against, you tend to get higher bids, especially if you have a piece of equipment in the lot that people really want. If you have a John Deere Gator or any kind of all-terrain vehicle, that will draw bidders. And tractor prices are spectacular. If you have a tractor of any size in the mix, you will generate lots of excitement.

3. Put auction conditions in writing.
Tell people the deadline for accepting bids and the deadline for the winner to remove the equipment. We also reserve the right to refuse any bid and give potential bidders a list of the equipment with a note that there is no warranty on any of it—it's being sold "as is." (They are buying used equipment, after all.)

4. Put someone in charge of handling the details. One of our mechanics handles the sale, getting bids and meeting the people who want to come by and look at the equipment before bidding. Usually we get about a dozen bids.

At this point, we only advertise the sale every other year. We've been doing it a while, and we let the regular bidders know when it's time for the auction. You do want to advertise periodically, though, to bring new people into the process.

Early March is a good time to hold the sale. The winning bidder will have time to retrofit that mower or put that new alternator in the ATV before the weather warms up.

5. Be honest with potential bidders. We do clean up the equipment, since making it presentable is going to payoff in higher bids, but we answer questions honestly. “This mower had a problem with such-and-such. We've had those mowers three years, we run them 50 hours a week and we can't afford to take a chance on one of them being out of service for several hours, so we're replacing them. But for the average person who uses a mower two hours a week, they should be good for years."

The guy who has won the auction the last couple of years runs a business cutting grass and also sells equipment.

Every year, usually in April or May, we get calls from people asking if we've got any equipment for sale. We tell them who won the auction.

Even though there's only one winner—and even though the winner has to take some old leaf-blowers off our hands—all the bidders ask to be notified about next year's auction.