When Purchasing A Used Truck

We often promote the sale of California Used Trucks. Some might think it is a sales gimmick like the “Happy Cows” or singing California raisins, but we believe there truly is a difference. We dedicated an entire post to Why Drive California Trucks.  While weather is important, we contend in the post that another factor is that California Truck owners are fanatical about their equipment. We all know that California is an extremely image conscious state as well as an expensive place to live. If that wasn’t enough, California fleet trucks are required to have an inspection every 90 days. Californian’s take care of their trucks and do routine maintenance regularly to save money and avoid costly needless repairs or fines.  They also position themselves for a higher resale value on their pre-owned vehicle.

Comparing Photos Of Two Used Truck Frames

Like a Canary in a coal mine, we believe a rusty frame may be a warning sign that wiring and engine components may be in the same condition. This is not always the case but further inspection should be warranted upon test driving the truck. Below are two photos. The one on the left is a freshly painted frame from a 2006 truck from the East, and the photo on the right is from a 2007 California dump truck in our yard. The paint is original.  At first glance, these heavy-duty trucks may not look a heck of a lot different.  But look closely enough and you can see that frame paint on the left is already bubbling from corrosion underneath.

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What Else Should You Consider When Purchasing A Used Semi?

We hope you are not in a rush, because finding the right truck is a time consuming process.  Before you can inspect a truck, before an offer is made, you want to make sure the truck you are looking is not just a truck but the right truck. For many owner operators, this may sound silly but you would be surprised at how many people rush through the process and end up with something they didn’t expect.

Before you begin your search, imagine a deck of cards. An Ace trumps a King, a King trumps a Queen and so on. When purchasing a truck, what is your Ace?  Is the make of truck the most important factor in determining your purchase? We sell a lot of Peterbilt’s and we sell a lot of Peterbilt’s to repeat customers. We have customers who are brand loyal, for them the Peterbilt brand name is an Ace.  We also have customers who value price over brand. They might prefer a Peterbilt but if there are two trucks with the same specs and one costs less, the cheaper one is their new favorite.

While brand loyalty is high on the priority list, we find that specifications are usually the most important factor. Purchases of expensive semi trucks are made every day that are spec’d incorrectly. Not doing your homework on specifications can be a costly lesson. One of the first questions, an experienced sales person will ask is, “What are you using it for.”  Other important factors for your deck include, engine make (is it a CAT or Cummins), Pre-emission or emission, wheelbase, transmission speed, as well as sleeper or day cab, just to name a few.  Once you rank what is important, it’s now time to search for the perfect semi-truck.

 Where Do I Find My Used Semi Truck?

Well, Charter Trucks believes CharterTrucks.com is the only place to search for a semi-truck or trailer. Okay, this maybe a bit of a stretch.

Less than a decade ago, the majority of trucks were found in a magazine or at an auction. Today buyers find their used big rigs online. While most start their search at the big clearing house sites like truckpaper.com, commercialtrucktrader.com, and ironplanet.com, more and more buyers are turning to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn. Two years ago, Charter Trucks had 2,000 followers on their Facebook page, today we have over 15,000 people receiving our latest inventory within in minutes of arriving.

If you are using one of the big online internet clearing houses, once you have narrowed your search down to a few trucks, try to see if they are also hosted on that dealers website (unless it is a private party).  Why? There are two reasons. 1) If you go to a dealer site, you get a better idea of what the rest of their inventory looks like. Is it clean? Do they specialize in the truck you are looking for or is the truck in their yard just a one off? 2) Dealer websites have unlimited space to tell you are about their product.

I Found The Truck, Now What?

You have found the truck or trucks you wish to look at, now it’s time to get down to business. At the end of the day buying a used truck is always a risk and anyone who doesn’t tell you that up front is not telling the truth. With that said, purchasing used can save you thousands and thousands of dollars even with the cost of repairs factored in. To better your odds on finding your perfect truck, you must ask questions and lots of them. If you are purchasing site unseen, you must go even one step, maybe even two steps further.

Here are 7 Questions Our Sales Staff Feels Every Customer Should Ask?

  1. Where is this truck from?  If it’s not from California, Arizona, etc., ask if it has any corrosion or rust issues.  Heck, even if it is from California, ask the same question.  Maybe the truck ran in the High Sierra where rust does come into play.
  2. Do you have a history? Many dealers won’t be able to provide records but they may be able to give you an idea of what industry or where the truck was located before it ended up in their yard.
  3. Even if the dealer provides you with a 100 photos, ask for more if you need them. If your specifications have to be perfect, you are wise to double check to make sure they are correct. Most dealers do their best to provide the most accurate information possible but don’t rely on them. Have your salesperson confirm and reconfirm. It’s like they say in the construction trade. “Measure twice, cut once.”
  4. Buying sight unseen? Ask For a FaceTime video or have your rep on the phone and do a complete walk around.
    • Tell them to show you any leaks, ie. turbo, oil, coolant
    • Ask to see any flaw that is a deal breaker for you, such as paint issues, rust, or suspension
    • Listen to the engine
    • Have your salesperson check for uneven front tire wear
    • Be sure to ask about clutch, gear linkage, or rear end noise
  5. This list wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t ask about the mileage and engine hours. Hint: You might want to ask for the ECM miles as well. Sometimes the ECM goes out and the mileage doesn’t match and vice a versa.  Your objective is to get an accurate read on how much wear the truck has endured.
  6. Ask for a Vin#: This makes it easy to for you to do your own research
  7. Always ask if you can take the truck to a third party or have a third party come on site for inspection

These are just a few questions to consider. If you have any that have that you would like to add, please let us know.

Happy Hunting.

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