7 Key Questions to Ask When Buying (& Budgeting) for a Semi Truck

7 Key Questions to Ask When Buying (& Budgeting) for a Semi Truck

Budgeting | Uncategorized | 08/29/2023
Written by Stacy Conner

Finding the right truck is just like shopping for the right home or vehicle: it takes time, patience, some research, and figuring out exactly what you want.

If you’re new to the trucking industry and looking to buy or lease a new semi truck — or if you’re an experienced manager or owner-operator hoping to upgrade your current rig — you might have different questions depending on your business, trucking, and inventory needs.

If you’ve been around as long as we have in the truck repair industry (20+ years! Can you believe it?), you start to notice patterns in the questions people ask.

What follows is a summary of 20 years of fleet management repair experience broken. We’ll explore the seven key decisions you may want to consider when buying your new semi truck.

If you’re looking for a new semi truck, you’ll want to continue reading on.

7 Key decisions to make before buying a semi truck

These questions and more are what we’ll discuss in the coming sections.

1. Lease or buy a semi truck?

Whether you’re making your first semi truck purchase or looking for a new opportunity to expand your existing fleet of trucks, the type of semi truck you’ll purchase will likely depend on whether you want to lease or buy your new or used vehicle.

Both leasing and buying have their advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and cons of leasing a semi truck

Leasing can be an attractive option for individuals not quite ready for all of the responsibilities of running, operating, and maintaining a new truck. When you choose to lease, responsibilities such as performing regular preventive maintenance, performing regular DOT inspections, and providing roadside assistance can be offloaded to companies who provide these comprehensive support services.

On the flip side, if you choose to not lease, you likely won’t benefit from the value that owning a semi truck can bring you. For example, if you need a loan from a bank, many banks require collateral for funding.

Your semi truck can be collateral for these types of funds.

Pros and cons of buying a semi truck

When it comes to owning a semi truck, you’ll have greater freedom to modify and use it as you see fit for your business needs.

However, truck ownership can be costly and may be a challenge for new operators. If you’re not quite ready for the control and added responsibility of owning a semi-truck, you might consider leasing a truck as an option instead.

But if you’re ready to buy, you’ll want to keep reading to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of buying a semi truck.

Expert tip: know your budget constraints

Fun fact: the cost of semi-trucks from 2010-2018 at the lower end was about $100,000 USD (Statista.com, 2019). Today, semi truck models run as much as $175,000 or more!

If you’re buying or leasing a semi truck, think about your business needs: how much can you afford for your down payment? What about payment installments, insurance, and routine maintenance?

If you keep in mind how much money you’re willing to invest to maintain your business and the assets you’re purchasing (or leasing), you’ll set yourself up for more success when it comes time to running taking care of your truck and keeping it in shape.

Before purchasing or leasing heavy fleet equipment or trucks, we like to always look at the manufacturer trends for the model year of the equipment we’re purchasing. For example, most truck buyers research trends for popular brands like Kenworth, Volvo, or International when purchasing a semi truck.

But as technology continues to become more sophisticated, owner-operators will find that most newer models of trucks will come with similar features — so you simply can’t go wrong with choosing a newer truck model, regardless of the brand.

With that said, it’s important to do your research on manufacturer trends. If you notice that there’s a large supply of 2021 models at the dealer, but they’re all out of 2022 models, this trend may indicate that 2021’s models may not be quite as reliable given that they’re still on the shelf.

Whether you’re leasing or buying, it’s important to do your research. If you do, you’ll more likely reap the benefits of your new truck — and not end up with a lemon that requires frequent repairs and unplanned downtime.

2. Buy new or used?

To buy new or used: that is the question. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Pros and cons of buying new

When you buy a new semi truck, you’ll likely have access to the following advantages:

Of course, buying new is an investment. It doesn’t come without its disadvantages, including (but not limited to):

Pros and cons of buying used

If you’ve ruled out buying a brand new truck, purchasing a used truck can be just as attractive of an option. When purchasing a used truck, you’ll have the advantage of:

On the other end of the spectrum, buying used has its challenges, including (but not limited to):

When considering buying a used truck, ask your local truck dealer or lot owner if your used truck comes with an extended warranty. Many of the terms of these warranties will vary, but it never hurts to ask your seller and give it a shot.

Asking your seller this question will place you and your business in the best position to succeed and thrive.

3. Buy a day cab or sleeper semi truck?

As you narrow down your search for the right semi truck, you’ll also want to consider if you’ll be using your new truck for over-the-road or day-trip-only freight hauls.

If you know you’ll be home every night, then perhaps buying a day cab would be best for your trucking needs. If you know you’ll be consistently hauling loads and driving through the night, you’ll want to buy a spacious sleeper to help make those overnight hauls more comfortable (and to save on the cost of hotels).

Your comfort is equally as important of a factor as the specs of the truck itself when making your first semi truck purchase or lease. Knowing what your business operation needs (and/or whether your drivers prefer driving throughout the night) is an important consideration when choosing between a day or sleeper cab.

4. Manual or automatic transmission?

Many new truck drivers are also first trained on automatic transmissions. Partly due to this reason (and other market factors), manual transmissions are becoming less common than automatic transmissions. 

With that said, some people still prefer the feel of an old-fashioned manual. Consider the type of transmission you most prefer as part of your research in purchasing the perfect truck for your needs.

5. What are my must-have technical specs?

Before buying your first truck and racking up those miles, it’s worth figuring out which technical specs will make or break your driving experience. It’s important to keep the technical specifications in mind because not all new and used semi trucks come with the same specifications.

A few key specifications common to all trucks include:

By knowing what type of truck you’d prefer to drive, you’ll better be able to narrow down your search for the right truck. Plus, purchasing a truck with all the technical specifications you think you’ll need will help make driving during those long-haul drives more comfortable and manageable.

6. What should I consider when test-driving a semi truck?

Now that you have the technical aspects covered, you’re ready to buy, right?

Not so fast. Before buying, you’ll want to make sure you test drive your semi truck and inspect it for the following key items in advance:

Test driving your potential new buy will help you avoid any unwanted surprises or headaches you may run into while finding the perfect truck. Conducting a test drive will help you determine whether your new semi truck is a match for your needs.

7. What are my options for financing a semi?

When it comes to paying for your semi truck, you’ll have a few different options. You can fund your purchase or lease with the help of a variety of loans.

Some banks specialize in same-day funding, others for small startup trucking companies, and still others that move larger volumes of goods. If you’re worried about credit, some direct lenders specialize in helping potential truck owners with fair or poor credit.

You should be clear on a few items, though: how much you can shell out for your down payment, the truck and the lender you prefer, the type of loan you want to take out, and the necessary paperwork to make it happen.

In short, you have options when it comes to financing your semi truck. Don’t let fair or poor credit scare you into thinking it’s not possible to fuel your dream of owning a new semi truck.

With a little persistence and research, you’ll find the right finance option for your needs.
If you ever need help and are in a pinch, you can always check out our collection of helpful fleet manager videos or give our truck experts a call for advice on all-topics financing or truck-related.

Bonus: When should I replace my semi?

You may not be thinking about this question yet, but we would be doing more harm than good if we didn’t mention it. In other words, our customers often ask us, “How long do semi-trucks generally last?”

With proper care, and in the best-case scenario, a semi truck can keep trucking for 10, 15, or even 20 years long. What’s more, a healthy and well-maintained truck can log more than 700,000 miles.

As you consider buying your new truck, ask yourself about your business goals for five, 10, or even 15 years down the road. And make sure to find a quality repair shop that can help support you in making this goal a reality.

After all, a truck’s best friend is its mechanic and technician team. Your mechanic has your back.

20+ years of in-shop and mobile truck repairs

When it comes to truck repairs, our mechanics have over 20+ years of experience working on diesel engines, semi-trailers, semi-trucks, and more.

If you’re looking for repairs in-shop — or are in a pinch on the side of the road — our in-shop and mobile-repair technicians will make sure you and your truck stay healthy and running for the long-haul.

Connect with a truck expert today at Equipment Experts, Inc. Give us a call at (253) 365-6591 to see how we can help you create a more efficient, dependable, and profitable fleet.

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