Many people choose truck driving as a career to see everything that the country has to offer while earning a competitive wage. After driving for a few years for large companies, you'll likely consider giving yourself a raise by becoming an owner operator. You're not alone. Small fleets and independent owner operators make up 90% of the industry. You have the drive, the know-how, and the time to become an owner operator. All that you need now is the truck.
Buying a used semi-truck has some advantages over purchasing a brand new one. Follow these five guidelines for buying a used semi-truck to avoid mechanical problems, obtain the best financing for semi-truck, and get the most out of this long-term asset.
If you talk to successful owner operators, you'll find that they have one thing in common. They all planned the purchase of their trucks well in advance. Your truck will be at the center of your business. Making wise decisions regarding its purchase will set you up for long-term success.
What do you need to consider before purchasing your truck? Start by assessing your requirements based on the type of cargo that you expect to haul and the length of your routes. For instance, you've decided that work-life balance is important to you and that you need to be home with your family by dinner time. You may choose to haul lightweight cargo on short routes with a day cab semi-truck.
On the other hand, a single person may decide that hauling retail goods on long routes makes more economic sense. He or she will opt for a semi-truck that has all of the bells and whistles for sleeping, eating, and driving. Semi-trucks such as the Volvo VNL, Western Star 5700XE, and the Peterbilt 579 Ultraloft all feature comfortable sleeping cabs, state-of-the-art onboard navigational equipment, and powerful engines.
After determining the type of truck that best suits your needs, you'll want to generate a budget for the new purchase. Besides the truck, you'll need cargo handling equipment and insurance. Include these items when you generate a plan to save for a down payment of at least 10% of the truck's price.
When looking for used semi-trucks that are for sale, the selection is huge. You'll find one that meets your needs at dealerships, with fleet operators, and with other owner operators. Each group has something to offer as well as some downsides.
Dealerships usually have a wide selection of semi-trucks for sale, and those vehicles typically fall within a certain mileage and age range. A trusted dealership representative will share his or her in-depth knowledge about the truck brands and models that the company carries so that you can make a smart buying decision.
Fleets value reliability above all when it comes to their trucks. That's why they sell and replace their vehicles on a regular schedule. If you decide to get a low-mileage, used semi-truck from a fleet, choose one that keeps meticulous repair records and is willing to share those records with you.
Buying a used semi-truck from an owner operator can be the way to go if you know that the person has a good marketplace reputation. He or she will be honest about the truck's condition, performance features, and any shortcomings.
Once you've found a trusted insider, it's time to really do your homework. The dealership, fleet, or current owner has given you access to the vehicle's records. Don't let that valuable data go to waste. Check the vehicle's maintenance records against the manufacturer's recommended maintenance activities for the truck. A truck that has been inspected at regular intervals will more than likely be in better condition than one that has a haphazard maintenance log.
Some vehicles change hands more than once before they land in the hands of an owner operator. That's why you'll want to locate the accident records for the truck. A truck that has been in a major highway pileup is one that you should pass on. In most cases, those major repairs rarely make the truck as good as new.
As a future owner operator, you need to find out which truck parts tend to fail first and those that should last for the life of the truck. Reviewing the truck's repair history can alert you to any hidden problems that you'll face down the road. Going over the truck's repair history with your mechanic is ideal. A semi-truck mechanic can often tell which parts are about to fail next on the truck based on its recent repairs.
A critical mistake that many prospective truck owners make when buying a used semi-truck is failing to ask why the current owner is selling the vehicle. They make assumptions that could cost them a lot of time and money later.
While you know that fleet operators get rid of used trucks on a regular schedule, trucks that belong to owner operators or that are parked at dealership lots may have a different story to tell. The dealership may be trying to unload the truck because of a defect that can't be fixed without it incurring a very expensive bill. The current owner may have been in an accident and wants to sell the truck before its exterior starts to look as bad as its internal structure looks.
Asking direct questions about why a truck is for sale can uncover some surprising information about the markets that you serve. For instance, some states have adopted laws that prohibit older semi-trucks from operating due to emissions standards. An older truck that has clean maintenance, repair, and accident reports could be sitting on a dealership's lot simply because politics has deemed it obsolete. In these cases, you'll want to check for new and upcoming regulations in the states in which you operate to make sure that you can get your money's worth out of your used truck purchase.
While a semi-truck can look good on paper, a close inspection can uncover obscure flaws. Start your inspection with a test drive. Strange noises, mishandling, and flickering warning lights are some signs that you may be about to purchase a dud instead of a stud.
Tires are major truck components that impact your safety and that of others. You want to closely check the truck's tires for cracks or other defects. These defects show up when semi-truck tires have been improperly mounted or repaired and when tires are just old. Also, don't drive the semi-truck if its tires are overinflated or under-inflated.
Polished chrome can create a blind spot for nearly any used semi-truck shopper. However, it pays to do a thorough visual inspection of the truck to spot rust. Rust is a glaring sign that the truck isn't as reliable as it first appeared. Semi-trucks are designed to haul heavy cargo. If critical parts are rusted through, the truck will not be able to safely transport those heavy loads.