7 Tips for Buying Used Commercial Vehicles

At Commercial Truck Trader, we always want to help our customers find the very best commercial vehicles for their lives and work. Our website carries a huge inventory of heavy and medium duty trucks, vans, and trailers — both new and used. While new is the right choice for some — a shiny, fresh off the assembly line truck can certainly be tempting! — there are big advantages to buying used vehicles. More “experienced” trucks and vans are going to be more affordable and the used market offers a wide variety of options, giving you the flexibility to find the vehicle that you’re most comfortable with and that’s best for your professional needs. To help out with your used purchases, today we’ve assembled 7 Tips for Buying Used Commercial Vehicles!!

Big offroad car wheel on country road

1. Understand Your Options. Leading online commercial vehicle marketplaces, like CommercialTruckTrader.com, give you the widest selection of trucks and vans to choose from. Although you cannot personally inspect a vehicle through an online purchase, our dealers provide comprehensive descriptions and great photos of their for-sale trucks. To look over a vehicle in-person, your choices will obviously be narrowed to dealers within travel distance. For buyers who’d rather close a deal with a handshake instead of a mouse-click, our “Dealer Search” feature will help you find the dealers closest to you! Finally, you may consider a live auction. Bidding can be fun, but high-energy competition can drive prices well above what a used truck or van is worth — don’t get too caught up in the action.

2. Do Your Research. The most important step in buying any used commercial vehicle is to find out as much as you can in order to determine if it’s the right purchase for you. The three main aspects of inquiry are to (1) inspect the truck or van, from the structural and mechanical pieces to the tire treads and the mileage, (2) learn the vehicle history, including use, maintenance, oil change, and repair records,  (and always search through public records using the vehicle’s VIN to find traffic records and its accident history), and (3) research the owner/dealer through background checks and word-of-mouth reputation.

3. Consider Technology. If a truck is more advanced than you or your drivers are used to, operational learning curves could slow down productivity. On the other hand, some features will help you work smarter and faster, so you’ll want to strike a balance between innovation and familiarity. And of course, you’ll want to be sure that any commercial vehicle you purchase is able to meet state and federal requirements, including safety requirements and emissions standards.

4. Care About Appearances. It can be easy to dismiss the look of a used truck or van, as long as it works. But if a dealer hasn’t taken care of the outside of the vehicle, have they really taken care of the inside? Use caution when evaluating worn-looking trucks. Also remember that commercial vehicles seen by the public can be your company’s best — or worst — advertisement to potential clients. If a used truck really does run well, but just doesn’t look appealing, can it be refurbished to give your business a more professional image?

5. Evaluate the TCO. Total Cost of Ownership can be found with a simple equation: add Purchase Cost and Ownership Costs (tires, fluid and lube changes, maintenance/ repairs/ part replacements, insurance), then subtract Resale Value. Researching a vehicle’s condition and history (as described above) will help you forecast when and where problems may arise and the average cost of maintenance and repairs. And remember that a vehicle is likely close to requiring a major engine overhaul once it hits 700,000 miles. Doing the math and establishing an acceptable TCO that fits your financial situation will give you specific criteria for evaluating used trucks and vans.

6. Get the Paperwork. Ask for proof of ownership/the vehicle title to be sure you are buying from the registered owner. You don’t want to purchase a stolen truck, and the original invoice could quickly provide the assurance you need. When buying used, you should also obtain a title transfer and a bill of sale. If the truck or van shows up with undisclosed problems – or doesn’t get delivered at all – you have plenty of evidence to pursue refunds or legal recourse.

7. Seek a Warranty. Especially if you have lingering questions about a used vehicle, strongly consider getting an official warranty or vehicle guarantee. Most dealers will offer some kind of warranty, but individuals, who often sell trucks for lower prices than a franchise dealer, likely will not provide guarantees. So the availability of warranty options is something to keep in mind as well.

Well there you have it! There are many benefits to buying used commercial vehicles, but also a lot of  factors to consider when making those used purchases. In fact, we’re sure you could name some more!! What do you consider when buying used vehicles?? Let us know in the comments below!!


Ethan Smith HeadshotAbout the Author

Ethan Smith

Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.