4 tips for buying a used truck

| September 11, 2013
Don’t forget that negotiations with a dealer can include matters other than price, such as repairs and future service work.
Don’t forget that negotiations with a dealer can include matters other than price, such as repairs and future service work.

Your next truck could generate close to $1 million in revenue – possibly much more. So it’s worth taking plenty of time to make the right choice. Here find advice for choosing a used truck. 

NARROW YOUR LIST. In addition to checking local dealerships, try a Google search and other online resources. Once you have found three to five trucks that meet your key requirements, run a VIN check through an online service. RigDig.com, for example, provides ownership history, insurance claims, accidents, mileage history and more. When you find a clear reason not to buy a certain truck, move to the next one. 

EVALUATE FOR FUEL EFFICIENCY AND APPLICATION. Nine out of 10 used trucks were not spec’d for optimal fuel mileage, so dig deep to find one matched to your application. Keep in mind body style, engine, transmission, rear-end ratio, tire sizes, weight, accessories, auxiliary power unit or other idle reduction technology, mileage, sleeper size and your type of freight and regions of haul. 

RESEARCH IN DEPTH. Call the dealer and get as much information as possible: maintenance history, full ECM reports, pictures – even video. If a dealer says he doesn’t have this information or otherwise puts you off, move on. Find out what operation the truck was used in, whether it’s been parked for extended periods of time and what preventive maintenance has been done. If the truck came from a large fleet, chances are its maintenance records are available.

SCHEDULE INSPECTIONS. It’s ideal to get these three inspections, preferably by shops other than the selling dealer:

  • Engine inspection by an original equipment manufacturer dealer. This should include tests for dyno, engine blow-by, oil analysis and charge air cooler, as well as an evaluation as to whether the engine’s condition is reasonable for its mileage.
  • Front-end inspection. This provides a good indication of how well the truck has been maintained.
  • Finally, a bumper-to-mudflap inspection by a well-qualified mechanic. Ask for his opinion on the truck overall, including the condition of all major systems.
  • martymarsh

    So, what this boils down to is you have to spend a small fortune mostly because dealers are dishonest. ANYTHING I have ever sold in my life was either in good working order or I told the person buying it what was wrong with it, I expect the same EVERY TIME.

  • Don Slate

    VIP,Vehicle Inspection Pros.They have people all around the country to go and inspect a truck for you.Call Brandon @ VIP,and he’ll take care of having someone inspect your possible purchase.

  • dieselralph

    Check gearing using a gearing calculator like powerspec.cummins.com. You can enter what speed you want to drive at and it will tell you what the RPMs it will turn at that speed. If its a Cummins engine it will give you a red, yellow, or green if its fuel efficient. If its another brand, then at least you’ll have the gearing numbers and can ask the dealer if it meets your needs.

  • martymarsh

    What does something like that cost?

  • Steve Joramo

    Tip number 5 Take a scangauge with you to the dealership, plug it in the vehicle and get the history in your fingertips. Kevin Rutherford’s scan gauge made to advise the driver how to drive for fuel efficiency and tell the ecm history. Letstruck.com for details and info…

  • martymarsh

    I will just say, yeah ok.

  • Freddie

    A rutherford kool ade drinker who is clueless…. LMAO !!!!

  • Steve

    If the motor blows up in 10 thousand miles, at least you will have been getting good fuel mileage all the way to the bankruptcy hearing.

  • martymarsh

    I tried to refrain from that, but that is just about right.

  • martymarsh

    Again, something like this is laughable, there should not be all of these suggestions what to do. You should be able to go in to a dealer and pick out a truck and it have no problems because the dealer makes sure of it. To actually pay people to find you a good truck is past ridiculous, more so when a lot of people that are trying to buy a truck are working with next to nothing. It seems they get taken advantage of the most, by people with a smile on their face.
    Then to buy something like scangauge that was suggested, is to prove that the dealer that can also check the computer is not lying.
    Unless you are buying from a private seller, ALL of this needs to be on the dealer, or how much money do I spend before I find a good truck?
    No one wants to take responsibility for anything, they just want to get paid.

  • Steve Joramo

    Funny how when you drink Kevin’s Kool-Aid it comes with more money in your pocket, work smarter, not harder.

  • Steve Joramo

    The scan gauge will help you spot things to NOT buy the truck. If you are filing bankruptcy you have more problems than fuel mileage.

  • John Scott

    Keep in mind that almost every truck is spec’d for a certain speed. If your happy driving 65 MPH then buy a truck that was spec’d for that. This is why buying a fleet truck can be bad for the independent who wants to average higher speeds. Also, keep in mind that fleet’s have generally increased times between services to save money. Does not hurt them. Because they trade them before any issues arise. But the next owner might not be so lucky. Also, the emission parts are critical to inspect. That can be your biggest costs in breakdowns. Any dealer does things to hide problems, like pressure washing engines to hide leaks and detailing a truck because a nice looking truck can sell better. I bought a nice looking 2006 Freightliner and at 550,000 am facing a in frame over haul. It was a fleet truck which probably did not have the care it should have. Its always a good ideal to try and contact the previous owner if you can. Also call the engine maker with serial number. Many times then have records of what was done under warranty.

  • BDrake

    I think that #1 and #2 are Oil and coolant analysis. I also find that only about 1/3 of the dealers I have dealt with are not willing to trouble themselves to do this. They think I should just accept their word that it’s a good truck when they haven’t done oil and coolant analysis. For those dealers, that’s where my interest in their truck stops.
    #3 Maintenance records. How much trouble could it possibly be to get a copy so that, as the dealer, you know. Again how can a dealer speak with confidence about any truck that he has no history on.
    #4 ECM print out. I think that any dealer that will not trouble themselves to do an ECM printout is not fully informed. These first 4 point are my starting point for any truck. To physically inspect and drive the truck is only half the story and you are fooling yourself if you think that you know better then the trucks history.
    One last step I like to see, especially on higher mileage trucks is a dyno. Sure they cost a “little” money but as far as I am concerned this would be the clincher for me. After reviewing and the history on the truck, hearing all the dealers pitches, driving the truck and concluding in my own mind that this is a serious contender the dealer whipping a dyno sheet on me would close the deal. Ironic that it is like pulling eye teeth to get 4 of these 5 things from a dealer, and just forget about #5, even if you commit in writing to by the truck contingent upon dyno results.
    These 5 items are what arms the dealer with the knowledge and confidence in any particular truck. What dealers don’t want to know is that the truck they just took on trade is not nearly as good as his used manager thought and that it might be difficult to unload this one. They would rather be ignorantly optimistic than knowledgeably confident.

    If the truck is as good a s the dealer claims these are all paper records that can be electronically transmitted anywhere in the world by something as cheap, simple and quick as email.

    These five items are the witness to the story being told. As far as I am concerned these record tell me weather or not to invest any expenses to travel to the truck to do a physical inspection. I know, with these records, I am not going to find many surprises upon inspection, and any I do find will likely be minor.
    It simply amazes me that most dealers today think that their story and a physical inspection is going make me fall so in love with the truck that I am going to forget about the trucks history. I absolutely will not spend the money to go look at a truck, even if it is around the corner, if I can not get the trucks history. A truck is a truck is a truck.