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How To Buy A Fleet Of Semi Trucks? (Ultimate Buyers Guide)

A fleet of semi trucks is defined as either a small, medium, or large group of semi trucks that operate together in a single company.

Small fleets are the most common in the U.S. and tend to have a good rapport with their drivers, while large fleets tend to have more financing opportunities.

Here’s a short summary on How to Buy a Fleet of Semi Trucks:

To buy a fleet of semi trucks, evaluate your business goals and customer base. Complete all the required legal documents such as the USDOT and decals for the International Fuel Tax Agreement. Next, find the dealer or mega carrier best for your business goals to obtain the best financing available. 

How Many Semi Trucks make up a Fleet?

A semi truck fleet can have anything from 5 semi trucks to a couple hundred. The number of trucks determines whether your fleet is a small fleet, medium fleet, or large fleet.

Typically, a small fleet is between 3-7 semi trucks, a medium-sized fleet is about 8-25, and a large fleet is essentially any number above this.

There are some benefits to having a large fleet, but today most fleets consist of 25 or fewer trucks. 

While larger fleets may be more competitive and have better opportunities for loans and financing; but small fleets tend to have better reputations with their drivers.  

How to Decide on which Type of Semi Trucks to Buy for your Fleet?

To determine what type of semi trucks you need, be sure to evaluate what sort of loads you will be hauling and where.

There are different types of semi trucks, and the type you need is essential in determining the kind of truck you need. 

Day cabs are typically smaller semi trucks that are designed for traveling shorter distances. They do not have a cabin for the drivers to sleep in, and therefore are usually significantly smaller.

Sleeper cabs are precisely what their name says: a semi truck with a sleeper cabin. This is designed for long-distance traveling. 

There are also refrigerated semi trucks and semi trucks with a lift system for load and unloading.

When selecting your semi truck, it’s essential that you weigh your needs against your options. 

If possible and you have a diverse clientele with all types of loads to be carried, you may want to diversify your fleet with different types.

Should you Buy a Fleet Semi Truck or New Semi Trucks for your Fleet?

There are benefits to buying a fleet semi truck, a used vehicle that was utilized for business and not private purposes.

This means they were already being used for hauling materials and may have high mileage and wear on the engine. 

However, for many smaller fleets, a used fleet semi truck is a great option.

Semi trucks depreciate rather drastically over time. This means their resale value goes down, which may not be the best as a long-term investment. 

But, this does mean you can purchase them much cheaper than a brand new one. 

The real question is, what sort of fleet do you have, and what are your assets? You want to be sure to make the best decision for your personal fleet.

If you’re a new, small fleet operator buying a fleet truck is a great option. But, if you’re a more established fleet owner, you will do better with a new semi truck. 

Cost Savings of Buying a Fleet Semi Truck vs Buying a New Truck

Buying a new semi truck has a higher upfront cost. Semi trucks can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars when purchased new.

Also, the loans which are available to many small businesses with minimal assets are limited and not the best. 

For these reasons, a fleet semi truck is a great option. They do have their downsides, however.

Since they were driven for commercial purposes, the mileage on these vehicles is typically high.

The maintenance schedule may not have been adhered to properly either, so you want to be sure to get a good report on the care of the vehicle. 

Buying a new semi truck is good if you have the resources. They come with excellent warranties that usually cover most maintenance and repairs for the first few years.

They also don’t have a history of poor maintenance, so that you can buy them with peace of mind. 

Most of the time, you can get a fleet semi truck for $30-$40,000, whereas a new semi truck may cost you closer to $150,000.00. 

Financial Considerations to take when Buying a Fleet of Semi Trucks

There are three main avenues available when looking to purchase a fleet of semi trucks—buying one outright, financing one with a loan, and leasing your semi trucks. 

Leasing your semi trucks has a lot of benefits for your fleet. If you choose a traditional leasing option, you can benefit from getting the most out of your truck while it’s in peak condition.

There are also capital leases available that make the vehicle become your property after the lease is up. 

Loans are also available for purchasing a semi truck for your fleet. These are good options, especially for smaller fleets.

Loans usually require that the semi truck is under 10 years old and that you make a down payment on the vehicle. 

This down payment can be rather hefty, however. They range from 10%-40% of the cost of the vehicle, which is not an insignificant amount, especially when buying new. 

You want to be sure to consider the age of your company, the potential for growth going forward, and where you want to take your fleet. 

Leasing vehicles can be an excellent way to expand your fleet when you aren’t sure about the long-term goals of your company.

If you wish to expand your company in the future, loans and outright buying are excellent options and investments. 

Buying from 3rd Party Lender vs. Actual Lien Holder

When a semi truck (or any car for that matter) has a lien on it, it basically means the seller still owes money on the vehicle for one reason or another. When you purchase the vehicle you take on the responsibility of the lien.

There are some benefits to purchasing the lien in that you may be able to get a better deal on the vehicle. You may get a better financing option, interest rate or negotiate the payment plan. 

One of the downsides is you are simply trusting the seller on the quality of the truck. Be sure to evaluate it carefully or only purchase from a trusted individual.

A third party is a private dealership. The benefit of purchasing in this manner is it is easier and usually more reliable with regards to quality.

Additionally, all the paperwork will usually be done on the same day, including loans and financing, which can enable you to drive off with your truck on the same day.

However, these services do come with an additional markup in cost.  

Capital Cost and Payment Terms

Capital cost is the initial costs incurred from a purchase. This translates primarily to the down payment required by the lender.

For some, this is only about 5% of the price, which is beneficial to free up the company’s money for other costs and expenses. 

But, the issue is the payment terms may have a higher interest rate. Many buyers find that a lower capital cost will translate to higher interest rates over time, maybe so much as doubling the loan costs. 

When evaluating capital cost and the payment terms, be sure to consider the costs to be incurred in the short term versus the long term. 

Good Interest Rates

As briefly touched upon above, interest rates need to be evaluated in terms of long-term versus upfront costs. 

Typically, the higher the down payment on your purchase, the lower the interest rate payments in the long term.

Remember that loan companies make their money from interest rates, and the longer it takes them to get their money, the more they will make. 

A good interest rate can be as low as 5-6% if you have a decent credit score of around 600.

You can read more about good financing options and loan interest rates on the Lending Tree website.

If you are buying multiple trucks simultaneously or you frequently buy your trucks from the same company, you may be able to negotiate even lower interest rates. 

Service and Maintenance Plans

Finding a fleet manager to handle the upkeep of your vehicles may be an excellent investment. Maintaining and repairs on your vehicles is very important to ensure you can afford your investments. 

The more downtime your semi trucks have, the less money you will make. Additionally, if you maintain the schedule well, your resale value will also be higher. 

Some dealerships have great deals on the maintenance schedule if you purchase from them, and this is another benefit of buying from the dealership directly. 

Warranty Terms

Warranty terms refer to the specifications regarding the costs you may incur and the coverage you have guaranteed through the warranty.

You want to be careful of aggregate limits in your warranty agreement. This refers to the amount of coverage under warranty and may require you to pay hefty sums out of pocket.  

These are great for small maintenance but in the event of a large repair, you may still be required to dish out thousands of dollars. 

Should you Buy a Fleet of Trucks from a Dealer?

Generally, it is safer to purchase your fleet trucks from a dealership. They have better financing options and loans, warranties, and possibly special deals if you buy multiple vehicles from them. 

Additionally, you have peace of mind knowing the dealership has a reputation and wants to maintain that reputation.

There is usually a record of the vehicle maintenance and accident records you may use to inform your purchase. 

These features aren’t available when purchasing from a private seller. 

Should you Buy a Fleet of Semi Trucks from Mega Carriers?

Mega carriers are large companies that operate huge fleets of semi trucks for delivery services—some, such as Schnieder, service some fortune 500 customers. 

The general consensus is that mega carriers are efficient but treat the semi trucks as expendable. Having so much revenue, maintenance is often put off to maximize immediate profits. 

Therefore, the costs may be lower, the maintenance and repairs may end up costing you. It isn’t the best financial decision to purchase your semi trucks from a mega carrier for these reasons. 

However, some mega carriers do take better care of their fleet vehicles.

So it’s always best to call the controller of the mega carrier and have a discussion to find out what maintenance the vehicle has gone through.

Which Mega Carrier Sells a Fleet of Semi Trucks?

Swift Trucks sales are one of the main fleet mega sellers. They also have a relatively good reputation for having a good variety and maintenance for their vehicles. 

Swift also usually utilizes high-quality brands such as Kenworth and Peterbilt, which can be an excellent opportunity to purchase these brands at a lower cost. 

Some benefits of purchasing from a mega carrier are the opportunity for lower-interest loans, perhaps because of the possibility of high costs in maintenance. 

Other available sellers include Walmart, but their reputation regarding the maintenance and upkeep of their trucks is a bit more questionable than Swift. 

Typical Process on Buying Semi Trucks from a Carrier

Purchasing a used truck from a mega carrier is similar to purchasing one from a dealer.

But, the loans available are usually through third-party companies, and some groups do not have truck lots of their own. 

Swift, for example, tends to sell through auctions. Others, such as Schneider, sell more directly from their own company.

One of the first tasks to purchasing a semi truck is finding one in your price range or offering a loan program in your price range. 

Schneider has many financing options available through third party loan companies and is a good choice when searching for available options with bad credit. 

What to look for when Buying Semi Trucks from a Mega Carrier or Dealer?

The first thing you want to do is try to get a background report on the semi truck.

See if it was in an accident and check up on the maintenance schedule. This is important, especially with regards to buying from a mega carrier, as they tend to overlook maintenance. 

Look into why the semi truck is for sale and evaluate any repairs it may need against the price being asked.

It may need serious repairs soon since mega carriers are known to maximize profits by selling semi trucks before needing special and costly repairs. 

Mileage of Semi Trucks

Keep in mind that most semi trucks can last around 20 years and up to about 1 million miles. This is true for semi trucks which are well maintained, and the maintenance schedule is followed. 

Be careful when purchasing a semi truck that has around 70,000 miles since this is usually when a semi truck may be up for an overhaul, which can be very expensive.

This is especially true for semi trucks which were poorly cared for.

Maintenance Report of Semi Trucks

Getting a maintenance report is an excellent way to decide whether a semi truck is worth it or not.

A maintenance report can detail whether the semi truck will likely have system failures or serious malfunctions reasonably soon.

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck owners are required to keep detailed reports of the maintenance of their semi truck. This means it should be available to you upon request.

You can find out more about this code here from the FMCSA.

Warranty Report of Semi Trucks

You can figure out the previous warranty on the semi truck or the current one before purchase. 

If there is a good warranty on the semi truck, it can really save you a good amount in the long run, especially if you’re getting a fleet of semi trucks.

You’ll want a decent warranty for them. 

Figure out what warranty is best by evaluating the previous warranty to help see what repairs were needed. 

Examination by Mechanic

Mechanics inspect the semi truck for a variety of damages and signs of wear. Getting a pre-purchase inspection report is an excellent idea since it can help you make an informed decision. 

You will want the report done by a third party (if you do not feel confident to do so yourself) since a mechanic working for the seller will likely be biased. 

Be sure to pay close attention to the oil inspection, tire inspection, and the rust and wear on the truck exterior. 

Tire Condition

You will want to see semi truck tires with evident tire treads. If they appear faded and worn down, it is a clear sign you will need to replace them soon. 

Check on the mileage of the semi truck and when the tires were last replaced (if at all).

Typically, tires should be replaced every 3-6 years, depending on the type of driving and mileage they incur every year. 

Be sure to check for any damage, dents, and bulging as well. Bulging is a clear sign of serious problems and should be taken into consideration. 

Dyno Test Results

Dyno tests evaluate the horsepower of a semi truck. The horsepower produced by a semi truck is indicative of its overall performance. 

You want a semi truck that can perform up to par for the build and make. If the test results are below average, it could mean the semi truck has more critical issues. 

Oil Sample Analysis

The semi truck should have a full oil tank, and the oil should be relatively clean.

If you notice the oil seems burnt or very dark, this can indicate either issues with the semi truck’s engine or that the oil has not been maintained well. 

If you notice this, check the engine as well and ask for the complete oil change report. You want to be sure the oil has been changed on schedule. 

Recommended Mega Carriers to Buy Fleet Semi Trucks

Two of the top-ranked places to purchase your semi trucks from include Swift and Schnieder.

These mega carriers are large but still consider the maintenance of their semi trucks more than some other larger companies. 

Walmart and the USPS have not gained a reputation for the maintenance of their vehicles. They are somewhat infamous for having expended their trucks to their burnout and then try to sell them to make a profit. 

Swift and Schneider have left many customers satisfied with their used vehicles and are typically the most recommended for anyone looking for an affordable option for fleet trucks. 

Would you expect to do additional Repairs on Fleet Trucks?

Some maintenance is to be expected when purchasing used semi trucks, especially ones which have undergone extensive use in a massive company. 

The question is, what sort of maintenance is worth performing for the price? 

You will not want to spend thousands on a used semi truck only to overhaul the whole thing and dish out even more in such repairs.

Some repairs, such as replacing tires or fixing up the body, might be expected and are not earth-shattering. 

You want to see that the semi truck was cared for and that the investment will not be a waste of your time. 

Should you get an Extended Warranty for Fleet Semi Trucks?

This depends partially upon whether you plan to keep the semi truck for a long period of time. This might sound obvious. 

But if you purchase a semi truck that is 15 years old just to get small shipments from point A to point B and don’t expect a great deal out of it, an extended warranty may not be worth it.

Likewise, if you purchased either new or fairly new semi trucks and expect to get a good 10-15 years out of them, then extended warranties are an excellent idea, especially with regards to a fleet of semi trucks. 

Imagine having some 15 semi trucks needing extensive repairs at a similar time? This can really be expensive and will pull money from fuel and other immediate costs.

In such cases, an extended warranty is wise.

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