Pros and Cons For Buying A Used Semi-Truck At The Auction

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How To Sell Your Semi Truck


Yesterday vs Today

In years past, buying a truck from an auction consisted of standing in a muddy field listening to an auctioneer bark out bids in rapid succession. If it happened to be raining that day, the more sophisticated auction sites provided a small pop-up tent for you to huddle underneath.

Auctions were once relegated to middle age men in plaid short sleeved shirts and blue jeans, chomping on cigars or spitting out chew. Fast forward to today, where anyone with cash or a credit line can sit at home and bid on an online auction from halfway around the world. No matter where you purchase your vehicle, make sure that it gets brake services regularly to keep it safe, this applies to every type of vehicle, including automobiles. 

While the premise remains the same, “an auction is the public sale of goods that are sold to the highest bidder”, the venue both on site and online has been transformed into a sophisticated multi-billion dollar industry. A lot of people still go to in person auctions but many of those auction sites now include luxury suites where VIP buyers can eat free hot dogs and drink free beverages. A far cry from yesteryear.

However, nothing has changed more at a used heavy equipment auction than the type of buyer. Today you will be bidding against semi truck dealers, owner operators, and large trucking companies.

No matter what type of buyer you identify as, there are things you should know before you start bidding. Here is a quick list of Pros and Cons of buying a big rig at an auction and a few tips.

Pros To Buying Used Equipment At An Auction Today
  • You could save thousands of dollars – Who doesn’t want to save money?
  • Finding the Unfindable – Auctions are a great place to find older models that truck dealers may not want to carry. Or trucks with unusual specs that dealerships seldom see on their lots.
  • Selection – The bigger auctions will have a wide variety of all the major brands
  • You Are In Control – No pressure from a salesperson to purchase, you are not waiting on anyone to tell you if the deal is good enough, you decide.
  • You Need It Now – Your trucking business was awarded a contract and you need to have four Freightliners working by the end of the week. An auction can have you up and running quickly.
  • Warranty – Many dealerships tell you not to buy a used semi truck from a truck auction because because you can’t get a warranty. In some cases this can be true but not in all cases. Before you bid on used semi truck, see if a warranty is available.


  • Online auctions
    • Less Costs Than Traditional Auctions – You can bid on a Peterbilt 379 in Southern California from your desk in Vermont. No airline tickets to buy, hotels or meals.
    • Convenience – Bid on commercial vehicles 3,000 miles from the auction site and be home for dinner. No weather delays, dirty hotel rooms or bad meals.
    • Less Disruption. Less Downtime. – No need to worry about rearranging your staffs schedule so you can spend time at an auction.


Cons To Buying Used Equipment At An Auction
  • You Could Overpay by Thousands of Dollars (or more) – Believe it or not we have seen customers pay more than $10,000 over the retail sticker price. How does that happen? Auctions can be like casinos. People like to win. They often get caught up in the excitement of bidding and temporarily lose their minds. Don’t worry, while it can be painful to overpay, for most people the condition is only temporary.
  • Truck Auctions are not used Car Auctions – Nearly every sophisticated buyer at a used vehicle auction is running around with the same software telling them nearly everything they need to know about the car, even those minute details like that sun shade for car. This does not hold true for used semi trucks. Specs vary widely from truck to truck. Two trucks can look the same but one maybe worth $30,000 more than the other, based on one specification. Intelligent people in the trucking industry purchase a $90,000 truck only to find out it won’t work for them. This is especially true for online auctions where you can easily miss a specification.
  • Costly Repairs – A trucker decides to go out on his own but doesn’t want to pay retail. Although the trucker can’t take a test drive or see any maintenance records, they are confident the truck they see at an auction online is in good condition. It looks great. A few weeks later, they are broken down at a truck stop with a powertrain repair that will cost more than the purchase price. There are many reasons people in the trucking industry bring their equipment to the auction. One of those reasons is they want to get rid of problem equipment and never want to see it again. And they don’t want to worry about the liability. When bidding at an auction you should always factor in some repair costs.
  • Fees – Many auctions slap fees on the buyers. Make sure you account for that before you make a bid.
  • Transportation Costs – Your great deal could turn sour if you didn’t account for getting your used semi truck home. Besides the long haul from the auction to your yard, your truck could break down along the way. See costly repairs above and then imagine how much those repairs cost if you are 1.200 miles from home.

If you enjoy high risk, high reward, auctions are a great place to find a used semi truck for sale. If you are risk averse, buying a new truck is the way to go. For those who don’t like the risk of the auction but can’t afford a new truck, try buying your next used semi truck from a reputable dealer. No matter how you purchase your semi, we always recommend buying an after market warranty.

We wish you luck in finding your used semi truck.

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