The Foolproof Guide to Buying Sight Unseen

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Buying anything preowned comes with risks and unknowns, especially when it comes to large pieces of equipment, like trucks and trailers. What kind of condition is the used heavy equipment in? What’s its history? While nothing is completely foolproof, you can purchase sight unseen without stress and with complete confidence if you follow these easy steps.

1. Know what you are looking for.

Trucks and trailers come in all shapes, sizes, and functions with various applications. Do some research to understand exactly what you need to get the job done. In the world of transportation specifications are King. If you have a clear idea what you are looking for, your sales person has a clear idea of what he is looking for.

2. Ask questions.

Once you know what you want, you will also know the questions to ask. Ask a lot of them. Any legitimate truck and equipment seller should be happy to answer questions you have or provide you with resources to answer your questions. Some basic questions you should remember to ask:

  • How many engine hours and ECM miles?
  • What are the blemishes?
  • Can you tell me about the equipment’s history?
  • Are there any leaks?
  • Do you hear any vibrations or anything out of the ordinary?

It’s also a good idea to ask questions about the seller to get to know them better. Have a conversation, ask them about their business and their processes. The more you trust who you’re buying from, the more comfortable you’ll feel about committing to a sight unseen purchase.

3. Ask for a walk around.

Once you have developed some trust with your seller, get a sales person on the phone and have them walk around the unit, pointing out features and flaws that are visible to the eye. Think of this as an audio tour of the piece of equipment you hope to buy. This is another good opportunity to ask questions and get more details about the truck’s condition.

Your salesperson should look for the same things that you would if you were doing the inspection yourself. Keep your ears open for any potential deal breakers, namely mechanical issues and rust. Rust will eat away at your piece of equipment, undermining its overall safety and integrity. It will come back even when you remove it, and it will significantly reduce the resale value when you do decide to sell it in the future. Ask your salesperson to check for rusty areas, particularly:

  • Across the frame
  • The area around the brakes and slack adjusters
  • Around rear differential (aka: Pumpkin)
  • Inside door frames
  • Inside scratches and paint chips

While many dealers might offer complete reconditioning, most will not, which means there will be some minor signs of wear and tear, including:

  • Dents and scratches
  • Chipped paint
  • Foggy lights
  • Uneven wear or shallow tread depth on tires
  • Doors that open and close awkwardly or with difficulty

The amount of these minor issues that you accept during your on-phone walk around is up to you. The salesperson may describe one dent too many, but keep in mind that certain minor issues can be negotiated into your final sales contract.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific photos or video.

Even if you do trust your salesperson, ask for photos and videos to judge the piece of equipment for yourself. Ask for multiple different angles, showing both exteriors and interiors, especially in areas of high wear, such as:

  • Under the engine to look for leaks
  • The driver’s seat
  • The frame and fifth wheel
  • The tire treads

You are essentially looking for the same things you would if you saw the truck in person—scratches, leaks, rust, and any other damage or deformations. Ask the seller how recent the photos are as well.

Technology has also made it easy to see any piece of equipment in real time. Have the salesperson Facetime or Skype during the walk around. You can see the unit in frame and ask them to show you any specific sections or areas you are worried about.

5. If you’re still in doubt, ask to have a local third party do an inspection.

Ask the seller to take the equipment to a local dealer for an inspection. Yes, this will likely cost extra dollars, but it might be worth it for the extra peace of mind. You can also hire a mobile inspector to provide a thorough inspection of your potential purchase. Mobile inspectors have just as much knowledge as a mechanic and can generate a report within 24 hours of inspection. They generally won’t test drive the piece of equipment, but you’ll get a thorough examination of the unit, including:

  • Frame damage
  • Evidence of prior accidents
  • Paint damage
  • Interior wear and tear that might not be apparent in photos and videos

Getting this thorough examination not only ensures that you get a piece of equipment that meets your standards, but also gives you some ammunition when negotiating a price.

6. For best results, do business with a dealer who has experience in selling sight unseen.

All of this is assuming that your dealer has sold trucks and equipment sight unseen in the past. Dealers inexperienced in sight-unseen purchases may be completely ineffectual, unnecessarily drawing out the sales process. They may fail to provide you with detailed photos or perform a walk around or otherwise not give you the information you need to make a purchase.

Experience can also help them better guide your own purchasing decisions to ensure that you get the exact piece of equipment that you need, in solid condition, at a fair price.

7. Review, review, review.

Don’t let details get lost in translation.  Don’t be afraid to have your salesperson physically go out and reconfirm specifications or other details. It’s what they get paid to do. Don’t rush into a sale. Take your time and verify every part of the deal to ensure a smooth transaction. Have the contract faxed or emailed and review it, paying close attention to any added charges or fees. As always, feel free to ask questions about the contract before you commit to signing.

Some other things you need to consider and review when purchasing a piece of equipment sight unseen:

  • Private Party Payment: When dealing with a private party how do you plan to pay for the unit? You may have one plan, but the private seller may have another. As a buyer, you don’t want to spend money until you have the equipment in possession, but the private seller generally won’t want to ship the equipment until they have some money in their hands. That puts both of you at a draw. The solution: use an escrow service, which acts as a middle man by verifying payment so that the seller may release the piece of equipment. It’s a good form of security for both the buyer and the private seller. It also doesn’t hurt to ask about financing options tailored to your specific budget and needs.
  • Shipment or pick-up: How do you plan on receiving the piece of equipment? Choosing the wrong method of delivery could cost you thousands of extra dollars in taxes and fees and potentially lead to more damage to your equipment. Some questions to ask yourself:
    • Are you going to pick it up on sight? If so, What laws might apply?
    • Do you prefer it delivered to your door by a third party?
    • Do you want to take out-of-state delivery?

Fortunately, many coast-to-coast shipping services offer their services to private buyers. Do some shopping online or consult the dealer for any reliable, affordable shipping service recommendations.

  • Warranties: Certified pre-owned trucks may come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which is a great way to cover yourself in the event that you do find something wrong with the piece of equipment when you do finally see it in person. Some dealers offer their own CPO warranties, but the coverage may be limited. Aftermarket warranties can get pricey, but if you buy used equipment, the one thing that you know for sure is equipment breaks. Do your research, shop wisely, and consult your dealer if you have questions.

Choosing Charter Trucks for Your Sight Unseen Purchase

Charter Trucks is located in Cloverdale, California, and specializes in sight unseen sales for trucks, trailers, and other equipment and used heavy machinery.  Thirty five to seventy percent of their sales each month are sight unseen purchases. Their secret: building relationships with their clients and thoroughly evaluating their equipment to instill confidence in potential buyers and eliminate the inherent risks in buying a used piece of equipment. Charter offers Work Ready, Work Ready Plus and Value equipment, so you know up front what you are purchasing. A committee then prices each unit based on their condition and the various fluctuations in the market to give you a fair price.

Charter Trucks ensures a smooth, efficient selling process. Their main goal is to provide you with the information you need to make a smart purchase that is good for you and your business. Along with an on-phone walk around, the company provides detailed pictures and videos of each unit. To keep your mind at ease, Charter Trucks also offers the option to purchase warranties on most pieces of equipment.

Charter Trucks also handles out-of-state deliveries and transactions on a daily basis. They provide customers with a wide range of options for delivery and can arrange pick up service to get your purchase home safe.

The company also offers financing options based on your personal needs and budget. They have finance professionals who can guide you through the financing process. They work with some of the country’s top lenders, including:

  • BMO
  • ENGS
  • J & L Capital Resources
  • MaximCC

Charter Trucks is backed by a team with over 60 years of experience in the business of buying and selling used equipment. They know how important the trucking business is to the country’s greater economy, and they understand that having the best equipment ensures your safety and efficiency, as well as your success and the satisfaction of your customers. For more information about buying trucks and trailers sight unseen from Charter Trucks, call (707) 669-6202.


27000 Asti Rd. • Cloverdale, CA 95425 • 707-669-6202
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