21 Tips for Buying Used Trucks
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
- Know your budget or price range
you feel comfortable with
- Narrow down your search to a few
- Investigate and assess the truck’s
history and current condition
- Determine appropriate financing and
By following this simple used truck purchase
checklist, you can better prepare yourself to find the right one and make a
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
If you’re uncertain, consult an expert to make the right purchase for your needs.
13. Determine the Right Horsepower and
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.
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.
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
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.