Used Truck Shopping: Tips For First-Time Semi-Truck Buyers

If you've recently secured your Commercial Driver's License and you're interested in beginning your career as an owner-operator, you might be looking to buy a used truck to get you started. Used semi-trucks are a great investment, but only if you know what you're looking for. Being new to the industry, that can make shopping for a truck challenging. Here are a few tips to help you choose a good-quality truck that's sure to keep you on the road and happy with your investment.

Look At The Service Records

The first thing you should do when you're evaluating a truck is to ask the owner or dealer for the service records. Looking through that documentation can give you a clear picture of the truck's history, including its mechanical performance and any repeat problems. You want to see a solid, consistent history of preventative maintenance and timely repairs. This is a good sign that the truck has been cared for well. While you're at it, make sure you verify the VIN number on the service records against the one on the truck to ensure that there hasn't been any confusion.

Assess The Mileage

If you've only ever purchased passenger cars, evaluating the mileage on a semi-truck can be a bit of a challenge. A couple hundred thousand miles can be a lot on a standard car, so seeing numbers like that on the truck might make you want to shy away. The fact is that semi-truck's diesel engine can run as much as a million miles before it needs to be rebuilt. So don't let a couple hundred thousand miles scare you away from the investment.

Inspect The Body And The Frame

Look over the entire truck body, including the frame and other structural components. The biggest thing you're looking for is any signs of rust. Surface rust on the body may not be a big deal, as it can be sanded away and painted over. However, rust developing on the frame or the rest of the structural elements can be a serious concern. Those areas are more difficult to deal with, and they can be an indication that there are more serious structural problems than meets the eye.

Check The Suspension

While you're examining the body and frame, take a couple of minutes to look closely at the suspension. Not only are you looking for signs of wear or damage, but you should also consider the manufacturer of the suspension parts. Make sure that the manufacturer is still producing those components, and that the suspension is from a reputable provider.

This is important because the last thing you want is to face a suspension failure en route and be unable to replace the parts without replacing the entire suspension. The same should apply to the truck in general. Make sure that there are replacement parts available from at least a few different suppliers; otherwise you could face difficulties getting the parts you need after a breakdown. The more time you spend off the road trying to fix the truck, the more money you're losing.

Evaluate The Oil Condition

The oil in the engine can tell you a lot about the truck. Make sure that the oil looks clean and smells right. If it's dark, dirty, smells foul, or has other issues, that's a key indication that the engine hasn't been maintained well. This can leave you prone to failures down the road, and that's not a wise investment.

Talk With A Mechanic

If at all possible, bring a semi-truck mechanic with you when you look at any used truck. He or she will have an expert eye and know what kinds of things could pose major issues even if they don't look like it to the untrained eye. In addition, your mechanic can give you an idea of what kind of maintenance the truck will need in the near future so you can budget accordingly.

Be Realistic About The Cab

If you're looking at a sleeper for long-haul runs, it's tempting to want the truck that has the largest, most elaborate sleeper. After all, if you're spending that much time in your truck, you want to be comfortable. However, it's important to look at it from a practical perspective. The larger and more elaborate the sleeper, the heavier your cab is going to be. This can reduce the weight capacity you have for loads, which can actually hurt your income potential. Look for a sleeper you can be comfortable in, but make concessions in the interest of optimizing your income.

Look at trucks at dealerships like Arrow Truck Sales to start your search.