Buying Your First Semi Truck: 5 Key Research Questions

Buying Your First Semi Truck: 5 Key Research Questions

What do you need to know before buying your first semi truck? Lots. Here are some questions to guide your research.

Written by bobtail

Buying your first semi truck is a bit like buying a car and a bit like buying a home. It is a vehicle, after all, and you’ll want to compare manufacturers, engines, transmissions, and more. The price tag is more like a home, though. A brand new cab will run you at least $100,000 on the low end—and if you drive over-the-road routes, your rig is a sort of residence.

But a semi truck isn’t just a vehicle or a shelter. It’s also a business investment. The best way to think about buying a semi truck for business is as an asset—machinery you buy now that will provide a financial return (and then some) through years of use. Manufacturers do a lot of research before buying new factory equipment. Truckers should do the same for their trucks.

So, where do you start with the research? The answer is with a list of questions. Here are the top five questions to ask as you begin planning for your first semi truck purchase, whether you’re an owner-operator just setting up shop or an experienced fleet owner making the leap from leasing to owning.

5 Decisions To Make Before Buying Your First Semi Truck

1. Should you lease or buy?

Leasing outsources many of the responsibilities of ownership; your leasing company may handle maintenance, DOT compliance, vehicle registration, and even roadside assistance. It’s what some business owners call a “turnkey solution.”

However, there are also advantages to owning. There’s the asset value, for one thing. If you want to take out a loan, banks may require collateral. Your own trucks pack a lot more value into your business and can open up more funding opportunities.

Plus, when you own your truck, you have the freedom to use and modify it as you see fit. Ultimately, ownership gives you more control over your business—but also adds a lot of responsibility. Leasing may be the safer bet for a new operator.

All that said, you are reading an article about buying a semi truck for your business. From this point forward, we’ll assume you’ve rejected the option to lease. Here’s what to look for when buying a semi truck.

2. Should you buy new or used?

The next high-level decision to make is whether to go for a brand-new unit or pick up something used. There are advantages to each option:

Advantages Of Buying A New Truck

Advantages Of Buying A Used Truck

3. What about a day cab vs. sleeper?

Sleeper cabs tend to be more expensive. Is the extra cost worth it for your trucking business? That depends on a few details about how you operate:

4. What technical specifications does your business require?

There’s no one perfect truck for every situation. Start by considering your routes: Are you running light loads through the flat Midwest? Look for a fast, nimble rig. If you operate in mountainous terrain, however, you’ll need to focus on torque and towing power. Here are just a few of the technical features to consider when comparing semi trucks:

Average Miles Per Gallon: A Key Consideration In Buying Your First Semi TruckIn 2019, fuel made up 24% of carrier cost per mile. That’s second only to driver wages. To keep fuel costs down, look for a truck that offers the best average miles per gallon during operation. Of course, the engine, transmission, and fuel economy features in your rig are only part of the equation, but they’re an important part.Establish a goal for average MPGs and reject trucks that can’t match it. That could influence your decision on which model years to consider. If you know you want at least 7 MPGs, you’re probably cutting out 2010 models. As a rule of thumb, look for a rig that can promise at least 7 to 11 MPGs on average.

5. When should you replace semi trucks?

You’re considering buying a semi truck; it may feel a bit early to think about replacement. In fact, large fleet owners rotate their stock on a regular basis, and it’s never too early to put a plan into place. Most leasing deals operate on six-year terms. That’s a good starting place for thinking about truck replacement. Of course, if you buy a new vehicle, and you stay on top of maintenance, you may run that rig for 10 or 15 or 20 years—but you’ll face more costs and headaches along the way.

Another way to phrase this question is: How long do semi trucks last? While the answer varies widely, consider that you’ll probably put 100,000 to 120,000 miles on an engine every year. Well-maintained diesel engines can still perform admirably up to 700,000 miles and up—but with increasing downtime. To keep things simple, you may want to start thinking about replacing trucks after five years of ownership.

Cash Flow For Financing Semi Trucks

You may be buying your first semi truck, but it won’t be your last. Replacing trucks is part of running a fleet. You may get financing through a bank, through the dealer, or—with enough capital—you may buy outright. All of these scenarios require reliable cash flow. That can be a challenge when brokers and shippers may not pay invoices for 30 or 60 days.

The key cash flow solution in this industry is factoring, and there’s no better way to factor an invoice than Bobtail. Download the app, upload rate confirmation and a bill of ladings, and get your invoices paid within a day—all without contracts, reserves, volume requirements, or hidden fees of any kind. Try it for free with a one-month Bobtail trial.