Driving a commercial truck can be lucrative, with salaries averaging $70,000 nationally. But it’s important to do your research first. Buying a commercial truck isn’t the same as buying one for personal use. This article will help you understand the considerations and funding options as you look into buying a truck for business purposes.
How to buy a commercial truck
A commercial truck is a valuable asset, and buying one or more could be a business decision that leads to success and profit for years to come.
A good starting point is figuring out the cost and logistics to start your own trucking business. According to The Truckers Report, the cab of a new 18-wheeler costs between $130,000 and $180,000. A trailer can cost between $30,000 and $80,000. Used vehicles will cost much less, depending on the year, model, and accessories.
A semi-engine is built to go a million miles before requiring an overhaul or rebuild, compared to around 150,000 for a car. So if you drive 50,000 miles per year and keep up with maintenance, a semi should be good for at least 20 years.
Financing a commercial truck is different from personal vehicle financing
Unlike going to a car dealer and having your financing right in front of you, commercial vehicle financing is different. The good news is you have several options. Consider the following when you want to finance a truck.
Bank loans for commercial vehicles
To start, it’s important to know that commercial vehicle loans often cost more than personal loans. A commercial loan may be as long as 10 years, so you’ll be paying more interest over the life of the loan. But with an expected vehicle life span of 20 years, you could have 10 years of use after paying off the loan.
Not all banks make commercial truck loans. Otherwise, many truck financing companies also specialize in loans for commercial vehicles. Some offer loans of up to 100% of the vehicle value. Which eliminates the need for a hefty down payment and frees up more cash-on-hand for you.
Online lenders for commercial vehicles
Online lenders can be a better option for people who have less-than-perfect credit and who may not qualify for a loan from a traditional bank. Chances are it will cost more due to the higher interest rates that come with a lower credit score.
Unfortunately, you’ll find less-than-honorable online deals on trucks, so it’s critical that you fully vet the companies you consider. The Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports are several sources that can help you learn more about the lender’s reputation. It also helps to get recommendations from others in your industry.
Driver advocacy groups can advise you of any complaints about lenders. These groups include:
- The American Trucking Associations (ATA)
- The Trucking Industry Defense Association (TIDA)
- The National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC)
What to consider before buying a commercial truck
When buying a commercial truck, you should consider what you’ll be carrying and where. Ask yourself:
- Are you going to be traveling long distances?
- Will your loads be particularly heavy?
- How big will the cargo be?
- Do you need to pull a trailer?
- Will you need a crew in addition to the driver?
- How will the truck be loaded and unloaded?
All these questions will help you decide your truck size. You’ll want to compare cargo space as well as capacity and towing capability. The size and weight of the truck can also impact your fuel efficiency. So keep that in mind too.
Your budget defines your choice of engine, which is crucial to your vehicle purchase. For cost-effectiveness, you could consider diesel engines as they’re typically more fuel-efficient. However, if you’re looking for a smaller truck, you can choose from 4-, 5-, 6-, or 8-cylinder engines. These generally provide good mileage as well.
Deciding which of the three main cab designs is best for you will depend on your operations. Your options are:
- Regular cab. Two doors and maximum three people
- Crew cab. Four doors and seats five people plus driver
- Extended cab. Features extended seating behind the first row, but not necessarily for passengers (more often storage or pets)
Your choice depends on whether you plan on hauling cargo only. If you’ll need a crew with you to unload and load, you’ll want to have room for passengers as well as the driver.
New or used
Buying a new commercial truck will cost more, but there are advantages. This includes knowing the truck’s history in full and having access to an extensive warranty.
If you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, learn more about the vehicle history. You’ll also want to:
- Make sure the tires are clean and undamaged, and the rims have no cracks or dents.
- Look for chipped or cracked windshields or mirrors.
- Check the engine.
- Look for patched or strapped fuel tanks.
- Check for oil leaks.
- Inspect the exterior and interior for damages.
Did you know truck condition is often a factor contributing to road accidents? Keeping your truck properly maintained is critical to your success as a commercial driver. The brand of truck you choose could affect your maintenance costs too. Research the brands that are easy to maintain and make sure you have access to a shop for that brand in your local area.
Read how Motive’s fleet management solution can help fleets catch vehicle maintenance issues early.
The type of commercial truck available to you will vary depending on your location. You don’t want to make up your mind about one commercial vehicle only to learn it’s not available locally. If you’re set on that choice, you’ll have to factor in the transportation costs to get that truck delivered.
Should you buy or lease your commercial truck?
A common question is, “Should I lease a truck?”
Buying and leasing both come with pros and cons. Leasing a truck is like leasing an apartment. You don’t build up any equity, and you don’t own it. But your monthly payments are generally lower than if you had purchased one. Your down payment could be lower as well. And while an outright purchase may cost more initially, the IRS allows individual vehicle owners to take a Section 179 deduction in the purchase year. That gives you an immediate potential tax deduction.
What is a carrier-sponsored lease, and should you get one?
A carrier-sponsored lease is exactly what it sounds like. Freight carriers work with finance companies to offer lease and lease-to-buy programs for potential drivers (or owner-operators).
There are advantages to these kinds of programs.
In some cases, depending on the contract, the driver may be able to own the vehicle outright after a specified amount of time. Some leases also have provisions where the vehicle can be returned to the carrier should the driver decide that trucking isn’t the way to go.
Of course, similar situations often come with penalties. So it’s critical to read the small print or retain the services of an attorney before signing anything.
Other costs associated with commercial trucks
When evaluating your financing options, you should remember to factor in all of the other costs of doing business as a truck driver. Fuel, insurance, tires, tarps, tie-downs, and other regular maintenance items will be recurring costs versus fixed costs over the life of the vehicle.
Other costs will add to your monthly expense, in addition to your lease or purchase costs. Costs such as state permits, Unified Carrier Registration, and Heavy Highway Use Taxes. It’s best to make a list of your estimated recurring costs in advance so you can budget your expenses more accurately.
Buying a commercial truck, or even leasing one, is a major investment. It will take time, but doing your homework in advance by contacting banks, leasing companies, carriers, and truck dealers will help you secure the best vehicle and financing.