It’s hard to listen to the radio or watch the television without coming across adverts for the new breed of online car sales where the vehicles are bought ‘blind’ and delivered with a week or two for the customer to send them back.

A little like the ‘puppy dog’ close used with TV sets in the day – let people have them on trial and they’ll never send them back whether they can afford them or not.

So, this model seems to be working – brands such as Cazoo and Cinch have reached our everyday language. Buying a new Tesla car can only be done online – including specifying the limited options and payment.

If buying online is working for cars, then why not for buying trucks?

As far as new trucks are concerned there has been progress. Scania recently announced that they had made their first ever sale of a new truck online in Poland.  This was only possible as the model sold was a fairly common specification tractor unit, plus the specification was preloaded by a salesperson with knowledge of the requirements. For most trucks – especially rigid trucks, the specification process is highly complicated.

Trucks are Complex

If you think that buying a car is complex with the choices of trim levels, engines, transmissions, interior, sound systems etc. then ordering a new truck is orders of magnitude worse. Many of the medium duty trucks have tens of thousands of options. Many of these are similar to cars but multiplied by a wider choice of gearboxes, back axle ratios, number of axles, location of axles – whether they steer or drive or lift.  That’s before there’s talk of a body or ancillaries such as tail lifts or cranes.

It is for this reason that it is unlikely that many trucks will be sold online, it will be reserved for standard tractor units and the very basic 7.5 tonne box vans and similar that are ready bodied and available in stock. 

How about buying used online?

Used truck buyers sometimes have to compromise in terms of specification, as long as the truck can do the job. They may even compromise on the truck brand if it means the truck can be delivered. With long lead times for a new truck chassis plus build times mean that many operators need to turn to the used truck market when faced with a shortfall in vehicles – be it from new contracts or problems with exiting vehicles.

Many used truck buyers have been buying vehicles ‘unseen’ for years, but this will usually depend on the existing relationship between the truck dealer and the buyer.  So, selling online and delivering a used truck unseen means that the dealer has to relicate this ‘trust’ that does already exist between certain buyers and sellers.

With the advent of video and high quality images, it is unlikely that a buyer would discover a major issue in reason that can’t be highlighted by photos and videos online. Most buyers don’t spend a day under the tilted cab of a used truck before buying it any more, so why waste a trip to view and a trip to collect the truck and turn the deal into an online purchase and get the vehicle delivered?

A Detailed Specification

To help this happen and smooth the transaction for buyer and seller, the truck advertiser should make sure that all of the relevant details are available to the interested buyer inline. This incudes full dimensions of the body – inside and out, the specification of the tail lift or refrigeration unit, the condition of each tyre, the details of the service history. Offer to make a personalized video for the potential buyer showing them any aspects that they are particularly interested in.

This will speed up the decision making process – if a customer chooses to buy the vehicle, they will stop looking for any others.

Scania Truck Sold Online
The first truck recently sold online by Scania – the sale made in Poland

Payment Confidence

Getting someone to pay tens of thousands of pounds to a truck dealer without having met them or seen the vehicle is the hardest part. This means that the customer has to believe that the operation is professionally run and financially sound. Think testimonials from previous customers – or how about an Escrow service for those customers who are not one hundred percent?

My Recent Online Experience

Having just bought a used car from an online dealer this week, I had been convinced about the specification of the car, the condition of it and that the dealer was a sound enough risk to take. With the added two week cool off period that a consumer received when making a remote purchase, the deal was done.

The company’s delivery system was not able to get the car to me as fast as I would have liked, so it resulted in an unexpected and unwanted two hour train journey.  At least I only had to go to collect, not once to view, then once to collect.

Conclusion for Dealers

Make sure the online entry is as detailed as it can be. Plenty of images, videos and dimensions. Make sure that your website reflects your business to give a remote buyer confidence.

Conclusion for Buyers

Never send money to anyone that you have not fully verified. Always double check bank details by calling the seller from a number that you know belongs to them. Think twice about every email received to make sure it really comes from the seller. If you buy a truck and its only 95% what you are after, you still have a truck.  If you get taken for a ride and lose all of you money and get no truck – that’s a lot worse!

Used Iveco Eurocargo for sale
The Future – Buying Standard Box Trucks online?