Buying a used semi truck is not the same as buying a used car. Sure, they have some things in common, but commercial trucks are purpose-built machines that run for millions of miles. If you don’t know what to look for when you’re buying one, you could easily end up with a bad deal or a truck that doesn’t fit your needs.
Whether you’re an owner-operator, a fleet driver or owner, or a farmer who needs to haul product around, you can benefit from knowing what to look for in a used truck for sale.
Truck Layout & Axles
By far the most important aspect of buying a truck is buying the right truck for your needs.
You need to can choose whether you need box trucks, flatbeds or tandem-axle highway haulers. These trucks are not all created equal – deciding which one you should buy depends on what you’ll use it for.
For instance, if you’re a farmer looking for a way to move crops or livestock from the field to storage, or from storage to the market, you probably don’t want a large tandem-axle truck with a sleeper cab. These trucks may look great, but they’re mostly suited for long-distance highway cruising. On the other hand, if you’re an owner-operator who is hoping to make it big in the long-haul trucking scene, a single-axle short cab truck won’t be the best buy. It’ll certainly be less expensive than a larger truck, but it can’t haul as much weight and won’t be comfortable for long drives.
Another major factor in your choice of truck is the engine. You’ll want to choose a truck with the right amount of horsepower and towing capacity to move your loads around. Contractors towing small excavators or equipment won’t need as much power as drivers hauling 40-ton trailers for thousands of miles.
Your choice of engine also plays a big role in the fuel economy you can expect. While a tractor truck will never get the same kind of fuel mileage as a compact car, the numbers can still vary widely from truck to truck. Unless you’re buying your own diesel tank to fuel your truck at home, you’ll need to consider mileage and fuel capacity when you’re buying.
It’s also a good idea to inspect the engine itself when you’re buying the truck. You should try to familiarize yourself with the truck as much as possible, especially if you’re buying as a private owner. Make sure you’re comfortable with the engine and take a look at its condition before you buy.
Most trucks in the are manuals, but automatic transmissions are becoming more popular in the trucking world. If you have a CDL, or if you’ve been driving for a long time, you’ll likely be comfortable driving a manual truck. Some drivers, though, prefer the ease and convenience of an automatic. You’ll want to know what kind of transmission the truck has before you buy so you can be sure you’ll be happy and comfortable driving it.
In the old days, a truck that hit 500,000 miles on its original engine was ready for either a full rebuild or the parts bin. Today, many modern trucks can hit that number easily and still run for years. However, you should always know the mileage of a truck when you buy it. The total number miles a truck has driven indicates how much wear and tear the truck has seen and what condition you can expect the engine, transmission, and drivetrain to be in.
It’s also important to think about your own needs and how they relate to the truck’s mileage. If you’re planning on driving long-distance routes with your new used truck, you’ll probably want to shoot for one with lower mileage to start out. However, owners who only plan to use the truck occasionally or for short-distance hauls have a bit more freedom, since they won’t be racking up the miles as fast.
History and Maintenance
Sometimes it can be tough to know what the actual condition of a truck is before you put some miles into it yourself. However, if your truck has complete or recent maintenance records, those records can be an indicator of how the truck was treated by its previous owner. More complete or up-to-date records might show that a truck is well-cared-for. That, in turn, can let you feel better about buying it.
However, a truck lacking records isn’t necessarily a no-sale. Try to learn about the truck’s origin or past owners from the dealer or from vehicle history reports. At the least, you should be able to learn about accidents or major work the truck has received before buying it. If you do see anything that makes you think twice, have a mechanic look the truck over and give you his opinion.
In the end, buying a used semi truck doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You just need to think about what you want and what you’ll use the truck for. Once you know that, the right tractor should be easy to find.
If you would like to spend more time running your business, and would like us to handle your marketing, please contact us today to discuss your requirements or request a free quotation.