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Full-Maintenance Lease Returns: The Best Kept Secret in the Industry

Many in the market for a pre-owned commercial truck are unaware of the best-kept secret in the industry: full maintenance lease returns.

Both semi-trucks are Full Maintenance Lease vehicles that have been cared for since day one. One has 200,000 miles, and the other has 600,000 miles. Despite the difference in mileage, you can’t discern which one is the 200,000-mile truck due to their equally diligent maintenance programs.

What is a full-maintenance truck lease?

Companies like Ryder, Penske, PacLease, and Ideal Lease offer full-maintenance truck lease programs. These programs typically span 60 months with a fixed rate and a monthly mileage charge. The lessee is responsible for providing the driver, fuel, and insurance. The lessor supplies the truck and covers all maintenance, federal highway use tax, and licensing for the lease duration.

A key feature of these lease programs is a commitment to minimal downtime.

Most preventative maintenance is done using a mobile service truck sent to the customer’s facility when the truck is in from its daily run, or on weekends. This allows maximum use without disrupting the customer’s routes. It also ensures that maintenance is done at the correct intervals.

Major repairs are done at the OEM’s shop, while a replacement truck is provided. This eliminates having the driver waiting at the shop while their truck is being serviced. Also, technicians are trained to spot potential problems and deal with them ahead of time to prevent breakdowns. They know they must get five years and 500,000 miles of trouble-free running from that truck.

Fair Market Value Lease

Not to be confused with full-maintenance leases, a Fair Market Value (FMV) lease does NOT include maintenance costs. Here, the lessee often minimizes maintenance (especially towards the lease’s end), stretching resources to reduce costs.

These customers do as little maintenance as possible because they know they’ll be returning the truck at the end of the lease. They postpone oil changes, ignore minor issues (that can become larger problems), and stretch everything as far as they can.

When an FMV truck breaks down, it’s often serviced by non-OEM technicians using sub-standard parts to save money.

By the end of the lease, these trucks often show significant wear and major problems compared to a full-maintenance lease return.


Why buy a full-maintenance truck lease?

Trucks from full-maintenance leases are attractive for their consistent maintenance history. They also tend to come from private fleets known for professional drivers and favorable operating conditions. These trucks often have less wear and tear due to operating in environments with less harsh road conditions and climate.

Upon returning a full maintenance lease, trucks undergo a thorough inspection. Any damages are accounted for, and necessary repairs are made before they are prepared for resale. Having been maintained diligently from the start, these trucks present a more reliable and well-maintained option for potential buyers.

Buyers should inquire about the truck’s history, maintenance records, and operating conditions to gauge its condition accurately. Neglected trucks often show signs of being “too far gone,” making them less viable for long-term use.

Ultimately, the decision hinges on two primary considerations: the likelihood of the truck providing maximum longevity and the extent to which its history and maintenance remove uncertainties about its condition. Trucks from full maintenance leases, having followed strict maintenance protocols, often stand out as more reliable and cost-effective options in the secondary market.

Buying California Iron

Is there a real advantage to buying full-maintenance lease returns with a California history? You bet. The obvious benefit is the drier climate and minimal snow, which means little to no rust or corrosion. Another factor is that California paves most of its secondary roads. Road conditions in states like Texas or Arizona are rocky for miles on end, taking a heavy toll on the mainframe and running gear.

The Pre-Delivery Inspection

A Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) is  the final check completed before the sale of the truck. It starts at Mile Zero.

PDI’s performed on new trucks at the dealership are often done with a casual attitude, knowing the customer will bring the truck back if there’s an issue, or deal with the issue himself.

A PDI for a full-maintenance lease is different: the lessor knows they’re responsible for the truck running for 500,000 miles so they want to ensure there are no issues.

Preparing a Lease Return for Resale

When a full-maintenance lease truck is returned, two things happen: first, the lessor looks for atypical damages that will be billed back to the customer; second, they identify if there are any issues they need to repair before they sell the truck. When proper protocols have been followed from start to finish, the truck will likely be a reliable used vehicle with high resale value

From day one, it’s all the little things that make a huge difference. At the end of a full-maintenance lease, the truck’s looks stock from the factory: tight door jams; a lack of rust; good wiring; clean, unspliced looms coming in from the side of the truck back into the the harnesses.

When buying a used commercial truck, customers need to ask these questions: what is its history? What did it do? Where did it work? Who did the maintenance, and how often? When a truck hasn’t been properly maintained from day one, it shows. We use the words “too far gone” because there’s no amount of money or time that can get it back to a spot that can go a million miles.

In the end, we cannot see about 80% of what is going on with a truck, but if the history and inspection look good you have a better chance of getting a reliable truck and a great value.

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