The construction equipment market is still working through the supply chain issues that bedeviled it in 2021, and an active construction market is keeping machines in use longer and constraining the flow of used iron into the normal secondary channels.

As a result, construction equipment is still seeing strong pricing in the resale and auction markets, according to first-quarter data from industry analyst firm EquipmentWatch. Prices for equipment at resale were up 4.7% year-over-year  in January and up 6% from December. Equipment age is also creeping up: 15.1% year-over-year and up 12.9% from December.

Construction equipment “is not depreciating as it usually has in the past,” says Garrick Brim, senior analyst, data analytics at EquipmentWatch. “We’re even seeing values [for used equipment] that are even higher than the MSRP [manufacturer’s suggested retail price] if that equipment is on the newer side.” 

Related link: ENR 2022 1Q Cost Report PDF
Subscription Required

All this points to continued issues with the supply chains for new equipment. But the real constraint may be coming from a tight equipment pipeline in the midst of an otherwise robust construction market.

EquipmentWatch data shows a staggering drop in construction equipment resale activity, with resale down 29.7% year-over-year and down 5.5% from December to January. Even more troubling is the 28.8% decline in auction activity year-over-year seen in the January numbers. 

It would seem that there’s simply less equipment being put out for resale or auction, and Brim says his firm’s data suggests the high level of construction activity is to blame. “If resale activity is down, then my first thought is that people are holding onto construction equipment longer,” he observes. 

And a lot of equipment that was purchased before the COVID-19 pandemic is still in service, with owners reluctant to let it go with the supply of new machines still constrained. The average usage of equipment going to auction—how many hours are on it—is down slightly from last year, but still much higher than the equipment that was being auctioned right before the pandemic hit. “If we’re seeing an increase in usage, that means productivity has not slowed down,” notes Brim. “There’s just not enough equipment out there.”

But just because some machines going to secondary channels have been ridden harder than in the past doesn’t mean sellers won’t get their money’s worth. “People are really using the equipment a lot more right now—in some cases putting on double hours from what we’ve seen before—and that will affect the value,” says Brim. “But with such strong demand, I don’t see it depreciating soon either.”

EquipmentWatch also tracks types of equipment being sold, and the prevalence of smaller machines such as skid-steer loaders and compact excavators getting picked up at auction lately is worth noting. Brim says contractors are sourcing the smaller equipment they need for projects right now, rather than just buying larger machines for future work. “That activity [in compact equipment] is a reliable good sign of health of the market,” he says.