Equipment auctions can be an excellent source of good, used equipment. But to get a good machine at a good price, you have to know how to evaluate intelligently the equipment being auctioned. One of the first things to do is to determine the age of the machine. Every piece of equipment has two ages: actual and effective. Actual age is simply the chronological age of the machine, beginning with the year it was built. The most accurate way to determine actual age is to check the machine's serial number. Once the serial number is known, a serial number guide can quickly identify or verify the model year of a piece of equipment. Effective age is the amount of use a machine has experienced during its life. Usually this is measured in miles of hours. Be wary of accepting an odometer or hour meter reading at face value. Look for other tell-tale signs of age, such as sagging seat cushions or worn pedals. It is also good to consider how the machine was used--whether it performed light duties or heavy labor. Also check into the former owner's maintenance habits. Existing machines lose value as advances in equipment technology give newer machines greater capabilities. Rate of production and fuel usage are other important considerations. To help determine if a piece of equipment is economically obsolete, answer the following questions: How much time and labor will be needed to perform an engine overhaul compared to a newer machine? Are parts readily available at a reasonable cost? How much lead time is required for part orders? If parts aren't readily available, can they be custom made, and at what cost? KEYWORDS: auction, classified, fleet management