If you want to use one of JLG's (NYSE:JLG) aerial work platforms or one of Terex's (NYSE:TEX) excavators, you have two basic choices: Buy one yourself and tie up a lot of capital in a piece of equipment that you might use only part-time, or go to a place like UnitedRentals (NYSE:URI) and rent one.

With a lot of talk of a recovering non-residential construction market and strong stocks in equipment companies like the aforementioned JLG and Terex, plus others like Manitowoc (NYSE:MTW), you might think these are good days for United Rentals. And to some extent, you'd be right.

United Rentals posted 17% revenue growth in the fourth quarter, with same-store growth of 13% and a better than 5% increase in rental rates.

Unfortunately, the company is still under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and has not yet produced final amended financial statements, so year-ago comparisons are pretty sketchy at this point. That said, looking at the company's calculations for free cash flow, you can get some idea how things are going. Operating cash flow was down a bit for the full year, while equipment purchases for the rental fleet were up.

It will likely take time and money to resolve all of the remaining issues, but it seems as though the company is making progress in the meantime. A special committee report in late January identified many of the issues, including improper accounting of sale-leaseback deals and inconsistent valuation methodologies, and recommended the removal of some employees.

I don't mean to understate the significance of an SEC investigation, but I see nothing in this mess that looks as though it will permanently cripple the company. That said, taking a look at this year's cash flow and the company's forecast for next year, coupled with my longer-term expectations, I just don't see a great value in this stock today. If I want to play construction themes, I'd probably steer clear of equipment angles and look instead at engineering firms such as Fluor (NYSE:FLR), Foster Wheeler (NASDAQ:FWLT), and their peers.

For more Foolish thoughts on heavy-duty gear:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).