When you need a heavy duty truck, it can be tough to choose which avenue is best for you and your business. Should you buy a brand new truck, get a used one, or go for a lease or rental? The decision comes down to your budget, what type of truck you need, and how willing you are to do– or pay for– any maintenance.

Before you buy the shiniest new truck you can find, consider your company’s current financial situation, as well as plans to grow. Are you truly in a place where you can afford a brand new truck, and is it even what you need? Remember– it’s not just the price of the semi, but also maintenance, operating costs, various government fees, and insurance.

Are you taking on a lengthy, new project where a truck will be necessary for years to come, or do you need something for a short term job? A new truck will cost a lot at the beginning, but if you use it for many years, it can be worth it. Leasing or renting may be a better decision if the job is relatively short term.

We’ve done a lot of research on buying and renting heavy haul trucks, and are here to provide an overview so you can make the decision that’s best for you. Here are some things to keep in mind when buying or leasing a new or used heavy duty truck.

Understanding the Options

When it comes time to get a truck, there are four standard options that buyers have:

  • Buying new – Buyer buys a brand new truck that has never been used before
  • Buying used – Buyer buys a used truck that suits his or her needs
  • Leasing – Lessee leases a new or used truck for a set period of time
  • Renting – Renter rents a new or used truck for a short period

Each one of these options has pros and cons, but the biggest difference is whether you own the rig, or are renting it from someone else. If you choose to buy a truck– whether it’s new or used– you will eventually own it. That means you can customize it in whatever way you choose, and even write it off on your tax returns.

Owning the semi may seem attractive, but keep in mind you’ll be on the hook should anything break. If there’s a problem with the engine or transmission, you’ll have to pay for repairs yourself.

Buy New

Buying a new truck may seem like the most attractive option, at least when you first start looking. After all, is there anything better than a shiny, new heavy duty truck?

The benefits of a new semi are evident. Not only has the truck never been used by anyone else, but you can also get a truck that meets your exact specifications. With a new truck, you won’t have to settle for anything less than best. Plus, by owning the semi, you can build equity. You make payments until you own it. If you hold onto the truck for a long enough time, it can be a financially sound decision.

However, a new truck can be expensive, especially if you don’t need it for many years to come. If you customize the semi, then need to sell it soon after purchase, it may be difficult to sell. You should avoid buying a new heavy duty truck if the volume of what you are hauling isn’t in line for the amount of money you are spending or if what you are hauling doesn’t merit a new truck.

Pros:

  • Can get truck with exact specifications
  • Can customize the truck to get what you want
  • Can build equity over the long term

Cons:

  • Can be expense for those who are budget conscious
  • May be difficult and expensive to sell if you attempt to sell soon after purchase
  • FET sales tax which is 12% on top of sales tax

Buy Used

Buying a used truck is a great option, especially if you’re more budget conscious. Many trucks are lightly used and are much less expensive than their new counterparts. If you’re comfortable working as a do-it-yourselfer, you can make a used truck into exactly what you need it to be.

A used semi can provide maximum value at a reasonable price. However, if you have custom specs, you may have to buy whatever is on the market. You should avoid purchasing an older or high mileage used heavy duty truck if you are going to add an attachment with a long shelf life that has a costly installation.

If you buy a used truck, you will own it as soon as your last payment is made. And, if you’re using the truck for business purchases, you can write off depreciation on your taxes.

Pros:

  • Can get a great truck within a budget
  • Many used trucks have only been lightly used
  • You can maximize the value for your money
  • If you are willing to do some work yourself, you can customize the truck

Cons:

  • Cannot get a used truck that will meet custom specs
  • May be damaged or have substantial miles on it

Lease

A lease is a great option if you have little or no down payment. It’s also a good option if your project is relatively short-term, and you want fixed maintenance and a solid payment plan. When you lease a heavy duty truck, you don’t have to worry about resale. When your term ends, you can simply turn in your truck.

Keep in mind that there are two different types of leases. You can get a straight conventional lease or a lease purchase. A lease purchase agreement is when there are terms that say you must work with their mechanics, and we don’t recommend entering this type of contract.

A lease isn’t good for those who may find themselves wanting an out before the lease term is through. If you break the lease, you’ll face stiff fees and penalties that will void any cost savings that you’re getting. If you like modifying your truck to custom specs, you might not be a good candidate for a lease. Additionally, you may have to carry extra insurance, and you could be on the hook for damage should something happen to the truck.

You should avoid leasing from a trucking company unless they can guarantee you cargo mileage. According to EveryTruckJob.com, 50% of all leases from truck companies are returned because drivers can not cover expenses.

Pros:

  • Can lease with little or no down payment
  • Don’t have to worry about resale value
  • Will have fixed maintenance and payments

Cons:

  • Will pay fees and penalties if you try to get out of lease before the term
  • Not able to modify the truck to your exact specs
  • May have to carry extra insurance
  • Could be on the hook for damage should something go wrong

Rent

Renting a heavy duty truck is a great term solution for those who need a truck for a certain, short period of time. Renting is also a good way to try on a truck– before committing to buying a rig, you can test a haul to see if the truck is what you want to buy.

However, renting has higher payment costs over a long term period, and it’s not a good idea to keep a rented semi longer than you expected. Because you don’t own the semi, you could be on the hook for damages.

You should avoid renting a heavy duty truck if you have a high per mileage rate and do not have the ability to control the distance.

Pros:

  • Perfect as a short term solution
  • Good if you don’t know what you want
  • Can test hauls and try before you buy

Cons:

  • Higher payment costs than other options
  • Can’t keep it longer than expected without incurring substantial costs
  • Could be on the hook for damage
  • Can’t let it sit on the lot in between projects without incurring huge fees

Conclusion

Now that you have weighed all your options, it is time to choose the method that seems best fit for your project. Let’s review the choices one last time. If buying a brand new truck is the route you want to take, you will be able to select a truck that is equipped with everything you are looking for. Keep in mind that this will be a costly purchase and sometimes can take up to 4 weeks or longer to be build and delivered, but it can build equity over an extended period of time.

Thinking about buying used? This is another great option if you are on a tight budget and don’t mind putting in a little extra work. Additionally, leasing a truck is the way to go if you are looking to save money and only need the truck for a short amount of time. A downside to leasing is not being able to customize the semi to your liking. Lastly, renting is an option if you are looking to use the truck for a short amount of time or want to test drive the semi before committing to buy one.

All of these options possess qualities that will help with any major project, but depending on your budget and length of time or distance, one option might conquest the others. Plan your project down to the last detail, construct a budget, and then decide which method adheres to your strategy.

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