While new is the right choice for some — a shiny, fresh-off-the-assembly-line truck can certainly be tempting — there are big advantages to buying used vehicles. More “experienced” trucks and vans are going to be more affordable, and the used market offers a wide variety of options — giving you the flexibility to find the vehicle that you’re most comfortable with, and that’s best for your professional needs. To help out with your used purchases, the following are 7 tips for buying used commercial vehicles:
Understand your options.
Leading online commercial vehicle marketplaces — such as CommercialTruckTrader.com — give you the widest selection of trucks and vans from which to choose. Although you cannot personally inspect a vehicle through an online purchase, dealers provide comprehensive descriptions and great photos of their for-sale trucks. To look over a vehicle in-person, your choices will obviously be narrowed to dealers within travel distance. For buyers who’d rather close a deal with a handshake instead of a mouse-click, a “Dealer Search” feature will help you find the dealers closest to you. Finally, you may consider a live auction. Bidding can be fun, but high-energy competition can drive prices well above what a used truck or van is worth — don’t get too caught up in the action.
Do your research.
The most important step in buying any used commercial vehicle is to find out as much as you can in order to determine if it’s the right purchase for you. The three main aspects of inquiry are to (1) inspect the truck or van, from the structural and mechanical pieces to the tire treads and the mileage, (2) learn the vehicle history, including use, maintenance, oil change, and repair records, (and always search through public records using the vehicle’s VIN to find traffic records and its accident history), and (3) research the owner/dealer through background checks and word-of-mouth reputation.
If a truck is more advanced than you or your drivers are accustomed to, operational learning curves could slow down productivity. On the other hand, some features will help you work smarter and faster, so you’ll want to strike a balance between innovation and familiarity. And, of course, you’ll want to be sure that any commercial vehicle you purchase is able to meet state and federal requirements, including safety requirements and emissions standards.
Care about appearances.
It can be easy to dismiss the look of a used truck or van, as long as it works. But if a dealer hasn’t taken care of the outside of the vehicle, have they really taken care of the inside? Use caution when evaluating worn-looking trucks. Also, remember that commercial vehicles seen by the public can be your company’s best — or worst — advertisement to potential clients. If a used truck really does run well, but just doesn’t look appealing, can it be refurbished to give your business a more professional image?
Evaluate the TCO.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can be found with a simple equation: add purchase cost and ownership costs (tires, fluid and lube changes, maintenance/ repairs/ part replacements, insurance), then subtract resale value. Researching a vehicle’s condition and history (as described above) will help you forecast when and where problems may arise and the average cost of maintenance and repairs. And remember that a vehicle is likely close to requiring a major engine overhaul once it hits 700,000 miles. Doing the math and establishing an acceptable TCO that fits your financial situation will give you specific criteria for evaluating used trucks and vans.
Get the paperwork.
Ask for proof of ownership/the vehicle title to be sure you are buying from the registered owner. You don’t want to purchase a stolen truck, and the original invoice could quickly provide the assurance you need. When buying used, you should also obtain a title transfer and a bill of sale. If the truck or van shows up with undisclosed problems — or doesn’t get delivered at all — you have plenty of evidence to pursue refunds or legal recourse.
Seek a warranty.
Especially if you have lingering questions about a used vehicle, strongly consider getting an official warranty or vehicle guarantee. Most dealers will offer some kind of warranty, but individuals, who often sell trucks for lower prices than a franchise dealer, likely will not provide guarantees. So the availability of warranty options is something to keep in mind as well.
Article compiled by Commercial Truck Trader, an industry leader that serves sellers of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks and trailers. With more than 1,000,000 monthly unique visitors to CommercialTruckTrader.com, our main purpose is to bring commercial vehicle buyers and sellers together. Additionally, Commercial Truck Trader is committed to providing innovative products to ensure that manufacturers and dealers generate connections, drive sales and maximize profits. For more information about Commercial Truck Trader, please visitwww.CommercialTruckTrader.com.