Ask LH: Is It Worth Buying A Second-Hand Car Used in Mining?

Ask LH: Is It Worth Buying A Second-Hand Car Used in Mining?

Hey Lifehacker, I would like to know if it is worthwhile buying an ex-mining vehicle (used above ground only)? I am considering purchasing a 2005 Navara for $6500 — RedBook values it at $10000 or more. Any thoughts? Thanks, Miner Matter

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Dear MM,

As with any used-car purchase, it depends on the overall condition. As a mining vehicle, it’s likely to have been exposed to harsh terrain on a more frequent basis than your typical 4WD. It will also have more kilometers on the odometer; especially if the mining site is in the middle of nowhere.

You need to be very wary if the seller is sketchy about the history of the car — at the very least, you’ll want to see a detailed log book including mechanic receipts. This will give you an idea of what kind of wear-and-tear that the car has been through, which is a good thing to know when you’re dealing with a mining vehicle.

If the seller hasn’t been keeping their log book up to date, ask for the contact details of their mechanic. They should be able to provide you with all the service records. Being a company-owned vehicle, it’s extremely likely that any repairs and services will have been done at the same place, which should make record hunting easier.

Other things to be mindful of are the engine (does it take petrol or diesel?), towing capacity (is it more car than you actually need?) and pickup location (travelling all the way to the Telfer desert probably isn’t worth it.)

Do any readers have experience with ex-mining vehicles, either from the buying or selling end? If so, feel free to share your tips in the comments section below.


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  • I think there is a reason why they are much cheaper than normal… They are worked very hard and not well looked after basically. If it was me I would steer clear of them , Definitely have a mechanic you trust look over it.

    You don’t want to buy a second hand diesel that hasn’t been looked after. Any major problems with the engine will cost you more to repair than what you paid for it.

  • My thing with buying ex-fleet is always wondering whether the servicing has been done to keep the car alive and healthy, or to keep the car alive for three years until it hits the Pickles auction house floor.

  • Probably do a little bit of a background check on the mining company as well, Some may have a worse track record than others for vehicle maintaining.

  • “If the seller hasn’t been keeping their log book up to date, ask for the contact details of their mechanic. They should be able to provide you with all the service records.”

    I tried this once. I was told that divulging the records would be a breach of their customer’s privacy.

    • Unless they were getting the car serviced at Right Wing Autos – the mechanic for people over 40, living at 4006, then they’re talking tosh.
      Privacy act covers personally identifiable information, such as age, race, political affiliation, location, etc.
      Certainly doesn’t cover carburetors and brake liners..

  • As someone who has worked in coal mining for the last 7 years, I would never buy a used mining vehicle. They have had a tough life and are usually not well looked after. Often have the bare minimum of servicing done and repairs are held off or not done due to cost cutting, especially in the current climate.

    Many of them also idle away for a long time with operators sitting in them with air conditioning on, meaning the engine may have done more hours then you would expect looking at the odometer.

    • Agreed. Similar with buying ex-police vehicles – they’re treated roughly and do a hell of a lot more hard driving than a family sedan, but are only serviced as if they were.

      Wouldn’t touch it without full, comprehensive logbook, as the least.

  • It depends on the type of mining it has been involved with and what it has been exposed to. For example, many light vehicles used around open cut mines get exposed to significantly higher levels of sulphur than normal which turns them into rust buckets in quick time.

    They may be selling it as a result of the current downsizing going on but usually these sales are because their records indicate that annual maintenance now exceeds the lease payments on a new vehicle that is covered by warranty with lower maintenance costs.

    I work in finance for a mining company btw…

  • Depends on what you plan to do with the car. If you’re buying it cheap, so you can spend cash on ripping the driveline/suspension out for a rebuild/upgrade to use as a weekend toy, who cares about servicing? If you’re buying it to use as a family tourer, get log books and take a trusted mechanic to a viewing. If it’s an auction, they won’t be able to drive it but they’ll be able to look everything over and run it for a little while.

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