Used Trucks: The Price is Right

Evaluating a truck’s worth means aiming at a moving target, but there are enough resources to help you establish market value.

Truck Blue Book
$120 per year, published quarterly
(800) 621-9907

N.A.D.A. Official Commercial Truck Guide
$90 per year, published every two months
(800) 544-6232

Used Trucks: Checklist And Inspection Diagram

Used Trucks: First Steps

Used Trucks: Make An Offer

Used Trucks: Reading The Oil

Used Trucks: Getting Financed

How much is a used truck worth? It’s a key question, but not an easy one to answer.

Especially in this unusual period of supply and demand, when the market is still sweating off its used truck glut and the skepticism over new engines has steered many new-truck buyers to the used market.

Many owner-operators take the easy route and base their estimates on prices in truck trader magazines or on their loan balances. Prices in truck classified ads are the hopeful wishes of other truck sellers, say dealers, and not necessarily reflective of what a dealer or another trucker might actually pay. Dealer lots show current values, but the limited selection might not include what you’re shopping for.

Instead, used truck valuators suggest you start with an expert opinion on any truck you are buying or selling. “I’d build a good relationship with someone in the business,” says Eddie Walker, owner of Texas-based Best Used Trucks and president of the Used Truck Association. That someone should be a dealer with a proven track record, Walker says.

But don’t stop there. Prices from auctions – both traditional and online – also make a good reference point because they show recent purchase prices of specific equipment.

Auctioneer Taylor & Martin offers access to its auction prices from the previous quarter on its website, Its True Value Guide is accessible for as little as $5 for a one-time online view. Other companies, like online auction house, allow browsing through listings, which gives an indication of current prices.

Another source for valuation is price guides, such as The Truck Blue Book. It estimates the value of trucks with certain specs, says editor Terry Williams. Component differences, of course, affect pricing, and owner-operator rigs in particular tend to be unique, he says.

“A car is seen as a whole unit,” Williams says. On the other hand, “When you buy a truck, there are loyalties to the engine and transmission.”

Chrome packages, upratability, rear ends – all play a part in the valuation. A truck spec’ed for certain jobs may not be in demand like one with standard features. A truck with a standard sleeper may get less attention than one with a custom sleeper. Guide books can help you quantify some of these component issues.

Buyers should also be aware that prices can vary widely by region – occasionally as much as $15,000 to $20,000. For example, some regions, like Texas and California, are flush with long-nosed traditional owner-operator models, Williams says. “Usually the regional difference is within a $5,000 range,” he says. “Truckers are mobile. They should play the supply and demand game.”

One other valuation method is to approach a lender regarding a particular model. “You can usually judge what trucks are worth by what you can them get financed for,” Walker says.

As you try to determine a fair price for any truck you are buying or selling, check as many resources as you can. The more estimates you get, the more confident you will be.

Don’t settle for a guestimate of a truck’s value when you can find specific pricing information in print or online.

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