What To Look For When Buying A Used Big Rig

It's no secret that a new semi-trailer truck can be a pricey item, especially if you're an owner-operator or a small fleet operator. Most new Class 8 trucks start out at around $80,000, and custom options can push this figure well past the $200,000 mark. It's no wonder that so many buyers opt for the used market when it comes to shopping for a reliable workhorse.

The following offers a comprehensive guide on what you should look for when shopping around for a used semi-trailer truck.

Age and Mileage

Most modern trucks are engineered to go up to 1,000,000 miles before requiring an overhaul. Even then, an overhaul can give an older truck a new lease on life. Because of this, buying a used truck isn't the dire roll of the dice it once was in earlier times.

Nevertheless, it's a good idea to go for the newest possible truck with the lowest possible mileage if you intend on driving long-distance routes with your used purchase. For short-distance hauls, you can get away with having a higher-mileage truck since you won't be adding on as many miles as you would with long-distance driving.

Structural Integrity

Rust is the enemy of virtually any vehicle, especially when it comes to semi-trailer trucks. As you inspect your potential purchase, check the frame and various points along the undercarriage for signs of structural rust. Don't hesitate to look elsewhere if you see significant amounts of rust and corrosion, as the time and money needed to fix it could be more than the truck's actual worth.

Engine and Transmission

When looking for a used semi-trailer truck, you'll want to find one that offers the best engine and transmission combination for your hauling needs. Regardless of how you use your truck, you'll want it to have enough horsepower and torque to handle your typical loads with relative ease. It's also good idea to check the engine's overall condition, noting any signs of leaks, blow-by and overall wear. You may also want to have a trusted mechanic perform compression testing to gauge the engine's performance and longevity.

The engine and transmission combination you choose will also have a big impact on the truck's fuel economy. According to Heavy Duty Trucking, the average semi-trailer truck achieves 5.9 mpg when fully loaded. If you plan on hauling in areas where strict emissions requirements are in place, you'll also want to factor that into your purchasing decision.

Comprehensive Maintenance Logs

Regularly scheduled maintenance can make or break a semi-trailer truck. Having a complete set of maintenance logs on hand can do wonders for revealing how it was treated throughout its previous life. The more comprehensive or up-to-date the records, the more likely it is the truck was well cared-for prior to arriving on the dealership lot.

Keep in mind that sparse records or a lack of records doesn't necessarily mean the truck was neglected. Service logs are a tremendous help, but they're only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to researching your potential purchase.

Cleanliness as a Window to a Truck's Health

It's not just maintenance logs that can tell you about a truck's past life. If the previous owner made an effort to keep the truck clean with minimal wear and tear, then chances are the rest of the truck is in pretty good shape. Likewise, a truck whose interior was used and abused without regard might not be in the best shape mechanically, either. Keep in mind that there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.

Creature Comforts and Features

The amount of creature comforts you'll find in your potential truck purchase depends on a variety of factors, including your budget, the type of truck you're looking for and the amount of time you spend behind the wheel. For long-haul trucks, these features include a fully-kitted sleeping area with integrated generator for engine-off operation and ergonomic air-ride seating, for starters.

If you're looking at a "day cab" (a semi-trailer truck without a sleeping compartment) for short-distance hauling, then expect a more utilitarian truck with fewer comfort features. Keep this in mind as you discover more about your next used semi-trailer truck.