A Guide to Second Hand Truck Buying – Updated for 2023
We take an in-depth look into the process of buying a used truck. Spend ten minutes reading our used truck buyer’s guide to avoid the pitfalls of buying the wrong size, weight, emission standard and specification truck from the wrong type of seller.
Why Buy Used in 2023?
Since new trucks are bought on a lease agreement, if the job you have available can justify the lease and repair and maintenance payments, then why not have a new truck? In theory a new truck should be more economical and reliable plus it will meet all of the latest emissions standards.
The simple answer is that it will always be more expensive to buy or lease a new truck than a used one. A truck is like a car in terms of losing the bulk of its value in the first few years. This drop in residual value will be reflected in the monthly repayments.
However, price is not the only reason that people buy second hand trucks. Consider the immediate availability of a new truck. Over the years, truck chassis lead times have varied with post Covid 19 pandemic lead times stretching to over 12 months for some trucks. If you are looking for a rigid truck then you have to add to this the time required for adding a body. This means that you have to plan a new vehicle purchase over a year out! Unfortunately, life and business does not always afford you this luxury. New opportunities such as new contracts mean that you may need a truck next month, accidents or severe truck failures in your existing fleet might mean that you need a truck tomorrow.
Unless your business is SO highly specialised, there will always be a stock of used trucks somewhere in the UK that can carry out the work.
Years ago, a six-year-old truck with 500,000 kilometres on the clock would represent a relatively risky investment. Could you afford to the breakdowns which could have a huge impact on your business? Just think of the impact of a breakdown for a refrigerated operation in the Summer or a concrete mixer with the contents setting nicely.
A well-maintained truck built after 2013 should be comfortably reliable for over one million kilometres. This means the risks involved in buying a second-hand truck in the years gone by have been reduced. And, don’t forget that it is still possible to break down in a brand new truck!
Before you can really be sure of the used vs new question, you have to work out exactly the size of truck it is you are looking for. Sometimes this will be obvious. For example, if you are setting out as an owner driver on container work then you will need a 6×2 tractor unit with a gross train weight of 44 tonnes. More tractor unit buying advice here. For many other operations the answer will not be so straightforward. If you are a manufacturer and have decided to upgrade from using vans, then the natural upgrade would be to a 7.5 tonne truck, as many drivers can still drive one on their standard car licence. Beware the payload, however. A 7.5 tonne truck may only have a 3-tonne payload, whereas a similar-looking 12 tonner may well be able to carry seven tonnes! You need to consider the licence needed to driver the truck – vital if you are to be the driver, but you also need to be fully aware of the lack of HGV drivers in the UK before you rush in to buy a truck before having a driver lined up.
Take Advice from Dealers
The most important piece of advice on these pages is here: Take detailed advice regarding your own requirements. This means talking to a number of truck dealers – new and used – about your transport needs. If you receive consistent advice regarding the size and configuration of the truck then the chances are that you are on the right path. If a dealer is not prepared to spend the time with you on getting the specification right, then perhaps you shouldn’t buy a truck from them when it comes round to it.
Try to avoid your own preconceptions about what type of truck you need and describe to the dealer your operational requirements. Remember, if Henry Ford asked people what they would like to improve their transport, he would have heard “I’d like a faster horse” not, “I’d like a car”. The operator does not always know best. Not sure if you need a box or a curtainsider? Then you can read more detailed information on each of our dedicated truck body type pages.
I Definitely Want a Used Truck
OK, so now you are pretty sure about the size and specification of the truck you are after. You have spent to a couple of new truck dealers about a price for a new truck including maintenance for your benchmark pricing. Now you need to go shopping for a good used one.
Importance of the Truck Brand
If you are operating in the UK, the chances are you will be looking at a post-2013 Euro 6 truck as these can be driven inside the low emission zones (LEZ). Read more about finding the Euro level of a truck here). For trucks of this era, there is a common saying that, “no one makes a bad truck any more.” This said, there is still some brand snobbery remaining in the market and the prices of these “premium” brands reflect this attitude. If you have champagne tastes and beer money then skip over the used Scanias and Volvos and focus on the market-leading DAF or perhaps a Renault, MAN or Iveco. There are only six mainstream truck manufacturers selling new trucks in the UK.
Check out the most popular truck brands in our report on the best-selling trucks in 2022 – this will show you where the buying decisions were made when the trucks were new. With more new trucks sold, there should be a wider choice in the used market as well.
In truth, if you find a well looked-after truck with the perfect length, height and payload at the right price, it should not matter which badge is on the front of it.
It would be preferable if you have a local dealer franchised to the truck brand for ease of servicing and buying parts, but this is not vital.
Searching for a Used Truck
So, you have an idea what body type of truck you want and what gross vehicle weight. Using the advanced Truck Pages filtering system you can add specialist filters to your search including year, make, model group, model, axle configuration, gross vehicle weight, euro level – even the type of tail lift! Not many of the sellers will include a price, so you won’t be able to filter out the more expensive trucks at this stage.
Once you have narrowed down to a reasonable number, it’s time to contact the sellers. You can email them a standard set of questions, or pick up the phone to call for a chat about the truck. In doing this you will get a better feel for the nature of the vendor. Don’t be frightened to ask lots of questions, as it could save you a journey visiting the truck. Before you call, make sure you read the details of the advert and look at all of the images, as there is no point wasting time asking questions that have already been answered.
Questions to ask:
- What is the price?
- Will they provide any warranty on the major components?
- Is all the paperwork present including service & maintenance schedules?
- Check the MoT dates and odometer readings
- What are the kilometres showing – does this tally with MoT records?
- The previous owner and type of work carried out
- General condition of chassis and body – is it dry inside? What is the condition of the flooring?
Take notes for every vehicle and vendor. Once you have this information for a number of trucks, you should be able to draw up a short list of potential viewings. Look at where they are located and see if you can book appointments on the same day if they are further afield. If you have a shortlist of one truck and it is the other side of the country, then consider researching the seller in more detail online and ask for a video of the truck – if everything checks out, you might want to think about buying the vehicle unseen and simply getting it delivered. This will save you time and money – read more about buying a truck online here
Before you go and view a truck on the short list, make sure that the truck has not been written off or is still subject to finance it is worth carrying out a provenance check, using HPI for example.
Physically Checking the Truck for Faults
Now we are down in the messy end. You are at the truck seller’s premises and ready to give the truck a once over. So, what are you looking for? If you have no idea about things mechanical, we recommend taking along someone who does. You might want to consider using a service like the RHA’a Vehicle Inspection Services.
If you are going to do it yourself then here’s some pointers:
- Check the paperwork exists. It’s one thing being told there’s a full history – check it out thoroughly
- Check external appearance including all aspects of the body – is it straight, dry, first life (not an older body fitted to a newer truck) If written, can it be easily removed. Check all doors and locks work
- Check any ancillaries – refrigeration usings including plug in the stand by, crane operation (ideally under load) tipping gear, tail lifts etc. Don’t assume everything works. Is there any paperwork for these ancillaries (Lohler tests for tail lifts and cranes for example).
- Check condition of mirrors & windows
- Check tyres carefully – do they match? Have they been retreaded? Are they remoulds? Are they a cheap brand?
- Look around the engine for signs of leaks. Has the vendor already had it running? Are there signs of oil leaking from the engine or transmission? Any leaks on the rest of the drive train?
- Get inside the truck and check every switch for operation
- Go for a test drive – this should be with a load ideally, although this is not usually possible. Check for smoke from the rear under load and revs. Make sure you are covered by your insurance or that of the seller.