id=626 21 Tips for Buying Used Trucks | Empire Truck & Trailer
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21 Tips for Buying Used Trucks

When it comes to buying a used truck, there’s lots to be prepared for. You’ll likely need to spend several hours researching what’s available, comparing prices and features, and determining which truck will meet your specific needs. In order to further narrow down your search, you’ll also need to factor in the inevitable costs that come with purchasing a used vehicle so you can budget accordingly and receive the most value.

Though this task may seem overwhelming, we’ve assembled a used truck purchase checklist along with some important tips for buying used semi-trucks and used diesel trucks to help guide you through the process.

Used Truck Purchase Checklist

As you go through the process of purchasing your next used truck, follow the below checklist as a used truck buyer guide:

  • Make a list of your trucking requirements
  • Know your budget or price range you feel comfortable with
  • Narrow down your search to a few potential options
  • Investigate and assess the truck’s history and current condition
  • Determine appropriate financing and insurance options

By following this simple used truck purchase checklist, you can better prepare yourself to find the right one and make a smarter investment.

Used Truck Buying Tips

While this checklist is a good guide to follow through the used truck buying process, there are plenty more factors to consider. From the truck’s history to its current engine and mechanical status to what kinds of future repairs and upgrades will be required, there’s lots to take into account, not to mention the additional financial and insurance considerations for used trucks.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed or making the wrong decision when shopping around for a used truck, there are some helpful steps to take. Here are some of the most important tips to follow when you begin your hunt for your next used truck.

Running a History Check

Before plunging into the nitty gritty details of the truck’s current quality and condition, it’s important to get the overall big picture of the truck’s background. Ask for maintenance and oil change records, accident history, and if there have been any recent upgrades. Uncovering these in the beginning can save you time and money later on. Use these steps to get the history.

Used Buying Guide Checklist

1. Know Why it’s Being Sold

The very first thing you should consider before you get too heavily invested in a particular used truck is the reason the owner has decided to sell the truck. This is where you can determine if there are any existing or potential mechanical issues you’ll be responsible for. If the owner is selling simply because they’re upgrading, then this might not necessarily raise any red flags. However, if there is something wrong with the truck, then it’s better to be aware right off the bat so you don’t inherit a load of problems.

2. Review the Maintenance History

If you’ve determined there are no glaring problems with why the truck has come onto the market in the first place, then you’ll want to do your due diligence. Check out the truck’s maintenance records. Has the truck received regular tune-ups or had any parts replaced? Having a better idea of the overall history of the truck can help prepare you for what’s to come should you purchase it.

3. Examine the Oil Change Records

In addition to maintenance history, you’ll want to look specifically at oil change records as well. If oil changes haven’t been performed consistently throughout the truck’s lifetime, it could indicate the potential for engine problems in the future.

If there are no maintenance and oil change records at all or sporadic records, take caution. It could indicate poor maintenance and that there is a possible hidden problem. Otherwise, ask the dealer if there is anything missing or if they have additional insight into the truck’s past.

Take Caution

4. Understand the Accident History

Part of painting a clear picture regarding the truck’s overall history and status is knowing the accident history:

  • What kinds of accidents and collisions has the truck been involved in?
  • How extensive was the damage?
  • Which parts were replaced as a result of the damage?

Beingaware of the accident history in advance can prepare you for potential problems down the road.

5. Determine What Needs Replacing

As part of the maintenance history, you should have a better understanding of what has already been replaced. From there, you’ll be able to assess which truck parts are due for replacement and upgrading soon. Pay particularly close attention to the transmission and engine.

If any parts are wearing out it could be time to have them replaced. This could mean a major investment for you once you acquire the truck. On the other hand, it could make it worthwhile purchasing the used truck if major parts have been recently replaced. This is provided everything else checks out as well.

Be sure to check for safety concerns as well. For example, check if the truck’s brakes and lights are all working. If not, these will need replacing as well in order to adhere to safety standards.

6. Research the Engine Model’s Track Record

Another important factor in buying used commercial trucks is the engine model in question. Certain engine models have a known history of chronic problems. Some engines are also known to wear out after a certain period of time or mileage reached. Do your research online about the best engine models before committing to your next used truck.

Performing Quality Inspection

After you’ve done the initial due diligence, you can proceed to examine the details of truck’s overall quality. Here are some of the finer points to inspect when it comes to buying a quality used truck.

7. Check the Oil

As part of your quality inspection, check the existing oil situation. This includes looking at the current oil levels as well the condition of the oil. Both the engine and transmission oil status can be a further indicator of the overall health and condition of the truck. If you suspect anything, ask to see oil change records as mentioned in tip No. 3.

8. Look for Body Rust

Continue inspecting the vehicle’s quality by looking for rust on the exterior surfaces as well as within the structure of the vehicle. Check the doorframes and other parts for signs of structural rust. This could indicate the vehicle hasn’t been well-maintained and may not have much life left.

When examining the surface for rust, look for raised spots on the paint. If you find these patches, especially on the roof, they may indicate rust underneath.

Examine the Surface

9. Look for Body Damage

This may seem obvious, but don’t overlook any possible body damage. To avoid missing any deficiencies, be sure to only inspect the truck outdoors and in daylight.

10. Consider the Truck’s Mileage

The truck’s mileage can also be a good indicator of the overall quality of the vehicle when considered with other factors. Knowing the engine model can help indicate at which mileage point an engine rebuild may be required.

When looking at the mileage you’ll want to consider your own use for the truck. If you’re planning on driving frequently over long distances, it may make more sense to look for a truck with lower mileage.

However, a vehicle with high mileage doesn’t necessarily remove it from the running. If the truck has been consistently well cared for, it may still have a lot of life left in it.

11. Inspect the Tire Tread

When purchasing a used truck, it’s easy to overlook certain parts because you may become focused on mechanical issues and maintenance history. But don’t forget to look at the tires during your own inspection. As part of your thorough research, remember to examine the tread left on the tires. Find out:

  • How many miles have been put on the current tires
  • When they should be due for replacement.

Without taking this into consideration ahead of time, it could mean yet another upcoming investment you’ll need to make when buying a used truck.

Assessing the Mechanical Operation

Once you’ve inspected the quality of the truck, including its exterior and interior condition, you’ll want to get to know it from a mechanical and operational standpoint. You’ll need to be clear on what your primary use for the truck will be and find the right match. Use these steps to assist you in the assessment.

12. Select the Best Axle Layout

Consider the type of axle layouts and configurations that are available. Depending on the load you’re carrying, there are different layouts that are more appropriate for each scenario:

  • Are you hauling goods long distances throughout difficult terrain?
  • Or are you making shorter more frequent trips?

If you’re uncertain, consult an expert to make the right purchase for your needs.

13. Determine the Right Horsepower and Towing Capacity

Another important consideration for your specific needs is the amount of engine horsepower and towing capacity the truck has. If you’re towing construction equipment such as excavators, then you won’t require the same power as you would need for long-distance commercial trailer towing. Be sure to inquire specifically about the truck’s capacity and if it will meet your own towing requirements.

Towing Capacity

14. Consider Transmission Types

Commercial trucks are available in both automatic and manual transmissions, which could be yet another decision to make. It may come down to a personal preference. Take into consideration the transmission type and what you’ll be most comfortable with before moving on your used truck purchase.

15. Ask an Expert

If you don’t feel comfortable assessing the mechanics and quality of the truck on your own, it’s a good idea to bring in a certified truck mechanic. As an expert, the truck mechanic will be able to point out things you may have overlooked. A mechanic will also be able to make recommendations about the specs of the truck to meet your needs.

Planning Ahead

Once you’ve found some viable used truck options to meet your needs, you’ll want to start thinking about the long-term investment, including ongoing costs, upgrades, and insurance. This is also where you’ll need to explore financing options and plan ahead. Use these steps to plan your next moves.

16. Source Replacement Parts

Before making your investment, it is crucial to find at least two parts suppliers that can provide replacement parts for the particular model of truck. If the truck is a limited edition or a lesser-known model, it may be difficult to find the appropriate parts, even if they seem small or unimportant. If you can’t get the parts you need, then your truck is rendered useless.

17. Budget for Repairs and Upgrades

After determining which parts need replacing and finding the right parts suppliers, you’ll want to tally up your total potential cost. Take this additional cost and factor this into your overall investment so you can determine the complete picture of your budget. This will help to not be blindsided or left unprepared for the additional expenses.

18. Explore Financing Options

As you get closer to narrowing down your next used truck, it’s important to research the available financing options. Certain lenders operate on different criteria when it comes to providing financing plans. Certain types of used semi-trucks may not be eligible for financing with certain lenders. Sometimes financing approval is subject to official inspection. If the truck doesn’t meet certain requirements, then financing may not be an option.

19. Select the Best Insurance Option

Just as you shop around for the right truck, you’ll likely also have to spend some time shopping around for the right insurance. Rates can vary depending on the insurance provider, and so exploring all available options is the best thing to do.

Not only should you consider cost, but you’ll also need to consider the best possible coverage available that will support you should you suffer a loss to your business.

20. Ask About an Extended Warranty

Ask about the particular dealership’s warranty. Many times dealerships offer extended warranties on trucks. If available, extended warranty coverage can alleviate some of the financial burden associated with purchasing a used truck. But be aware that depending on the plan, the cost of extended warranties may not be worth it.

21. Know When to Walk Away

The most important tip of all is to be aware when something sounds too good to be true or makes you feel uncertain. If the mileage seems to be too low for the truck’s age, or the seller had any hesitancy in providing maintenance records or allowing a mechanic to inspect, these can be strong indicators of a problem truck. Knowing when to walk away from a deal can save you a lot of time, money and stress down the road. Remember, there are plenty of other trucks available to choose from. 

Choosing a Reputable Seller

Purchasing a used truck can be a major undertaking. With so many things to consider such as vehicle history, quality and operating status, parts replacement and upgrades, as well as how to finance and insure the truck, it becomes vital to select the right vehicle from a reputable seller.

At Empire, we provide a wide range of inventory to choose from. Whether you’re a single operator or you’re looking for fleet management, check out our full used truck inventory to find the truck that’s right for you.

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