Buying new when looking for a conventional day cab or semi is always treat, as you know the history of the vehicle from the get-go, and you get a warranty to boot. The problem of course, is the price tag. We’re talking a minimum of $150 grand here, and unless you inherited a boatload of money from your beloved uncle recently, most truckers, particularly beginning truckers, don’t have that type of budget to spend.
Buying used, however, is always a risk, so while you can find many great deals out there,
and most trucks are good for a million miles or more, be mighty cautious as you look for a used vehicle.
Look for friends and acquaintances who are selling their day cab
The first thing to do when you decide you want to buy a used conventional day cab is asking all your friends, fellow truck drivers and truck mechanics if they know of anyone selling theirs. The reason, of course, is that you can have a face-to-face conversation with the owner and most owner-operators, will give you reasonably honest answers to serious questions.
Ask them point-blank, why they are selling and you will get a broad spectrum of answers. They may say they’re getting too old for the trucking game, are moving cross-country to retire, are bringing in a family member to the business and want to start them off with a new truck, say this one is slightly underpowered, or open up that the truck was involved in an accident. Regardless of what they say, chances are they will try to undersell rather than oversell the truck.
Next, go through a careful walk through with the owner. Start with the tires. Besides inspecting the tread, look for cracks and crevices in the tires and notice whether all of the tires are of the same manufacturer. You can tell a lot about how well the vehicle has been taken care of, by the tires.
Next, check the frame. You are looking for cracks, bends, sagging, or welds that indicate the truck has frame damage, which is very expensive to repair. Then move around the truck and carefully inspect all bolts, lug nuts, headlight casings, body panels, doors and hinges for signs of rust.
Then move to the brakes. Cracks, corrosion, leaks, or anything that feels rough is a major concern. Next, have the owner hop in and turn on the lights, as well as hit the brakes, to make sure everything is operating correctly.
Then have the owner turn on the engine, and give it a couple of minutes for the engine to warm up, and head for the exhaust. You are looking for evidence of smoke, which is a good sign that the truck is burning oil.
After that, have the owner to turn off the engine and prop the hood up. Inspect the radiator and hoses for signs of leaks. Then touch the belts to feel for signs of being too taut, too loose, or being frayed. Finally, check the oil to see if it’s at the proper level, and the color looks normal.
Then it’s time to hop up into the cab itself. You’ll want to sit in the seat to see if it’s comfortable, and then pay close attention to the doors and windows. If there is a problem with either, not only is it a health and safety problem but another indicator of how well the truck has been taken care of.
On to the test drive
If no red flags pop up so far, it’s time to go for a test drive. Notice how the truck accelerates, brakes, and handles. Listen carefully for unusual engine or brake sounds. Basically, you’re looking for a truck that you would feel comfortable driving for several years, so be as critical and picky as you want.
Inspect the paperwork
Once you’ve done the walk-around inspection and the test drive and you’re serious about the truck start by asking to review the latest CDC inspection. This should tell you quite a bit about the vehicle you have in front of you, but even then, ask to see the paperwork for any repairs that have been done in the last two years.
Check with the mechanic
Don’t rush into purchasing the vehicle until you have at least talked with the mechanic who does the maintenance and repairs on the truck. This will often avoid any nasty surprises the owner “forgot” to mention.
Insist on an inspection
At this time, it’s important to have an independent truck mechanic thoroughly inspect the truck. Sure, you’ll have to pay for it, but a couple of hundred dollars for detailed inspection is much preferable to thousands of dollars in the truck is going to need an engine or transmission overhaul.
Choose a popular brand of truck Peterbilt trucks for sale are everywhere and for good reason. And there is a reason you find Peterbilt trucks for sale in every truck lot and fleet sales in the U.S. Because they are damn good and popular trucks.
Not only are they great trucks, but your truck mechanic will have no difficulty in finding needed parts, as compared to if you buy and off-brand.
Other factors to consider
Many experienced drivers note a few words of caution about buying any truck with 400,000 to 600,000 miles, and in particular, used fleet trucks. The reason is that is the time when the most major repairs are likely to occur, and fleet drivers are often new, inexperienced drivers who tend to grind gears, mishifted, driving up a hill with the accelerator buried to the floor because the truck is in the wrong gear. One suggestion is to look for an older truck, perhaps around a 2000 or 2001, with minimal vehicle options. These trucks have frequently already proven their value,
and maintenance and repairs will be significantly less than buying a mid mileage truck. The name of the game is profit, and the less you spend on repairs, the better you’re bottom line will be.