What’ll it be, buddy? New or used? Buy or lease? A salesperson could throw those questions at a prospective buyer and get a combination of answers, and none of them would be absolutely wrong. Because like everything in trucking, “it depends.”
The choice has become more critical since the cost of a new over-the-road tractor has climbed to well over $100,000 and a midrange truck can be $75,000 or more. Manufacturers blame the price increases on government safety and exhaust-emissions requirements, and on inflation of the costs of materials used in building the complex vehicles.
New or used?
Why buy a new truck? “Low maintenance and less downtime,” says J.P. Heineman, a salesman at Truck Country’s Cedar Rapids, Iowa, location. “Downtime – that’s number one. A half a million-mile used truck might still be OK, but you get to 600,000, 700,000, 800,000 miles, and that’s when things start nickel and diming you.”
The cost of purchasing is higher, but your maintenance cost is much lower with a new truck, he says. New trucks have the latest technology that can save on fuel and other operating costs and help avoid accidents, as well as clean up the environment. The selective catalytic reduction now used by all heavy-duty diesel engine makers deals with nitrogen oxide in the exhaust and takes stress out of the engine.
But choosing new or used “depends on the customer and on the application,” Heineman says. For instance, he says, someone who doesn’t want to deal with diesel exhaust fluid will have to buy used. A key factor is mileage.
Good used trucks cost substantially less than new and can perform well.
But research their reputations before buying.
“If the customer is contemplating new or used, and he runs a lot of miles and has the means to go new, I’m putting him in a new truck. If a customer is putting 2,000 miles a year on the truck hauling crops out of his 180 acres, and then he parks it for 10 months of the year, he should buy used.”
You can’t beat used trucks on price, he says. “You can get two for one – that’s probably the biggest advantage. If you’re buying used trucks, your overhead is not near what it is when you buy new.”
Just be sure you have the trucks in the proper application – primarily, that your operation is the same or close to what the truck was originally built for.
“There have been some discouraging times with some of the emissions things we’ve had to contend with,” Heineman says. “But things have begun to turn around. The air coming out of the exhaust is as clean as can be. It just takes a lot of sensors to make it.” New engines with EPA-2010 emissions get better fuel economy than the EPA-2007 engines, he points out.
What makes, models and specifications are good bets when buying used?
Penn Commercial Vehicle Solutions in Glenmore, Pa., with 13 other locations in three states, works on all kinds of trucks. Hank Grahn, sales director for fleet maintenance, also notes the fuel-efficiency benefits of newer equipment. The new trucks are also more reliable.
However, he says, “There’s certainly a risk involved in buying equipment from ’07 and later. It’s viable, but you have to go in with your eyes open, you have to do your homework. Just because a vehicle has low mileage doesn’t mean it’s a creampuff. It might be low mileage because it’s been troublesome.”
In deciding which used models might be the best buy, Grahn recommends talking to the people who service and repair them for a living. And talk to customers who use them.
The Internet is also a good tool, he says. “Not everything is true, but there’s a lot of data out there that’s in the public domain.”
There’s actually an alternative to new and used trucks, and it’s the glider kit.