Used Truck purchasing tips.
There is undoubtedly an art to buying a used vehicle. It’s an art worth learning if you’re keen on picking up a bargain. Fictional karate master Mr Miyagi’s quote, “never put passion in front of principle“, is lesson one regarding advice for buying used. On the other hand, if you’re unsure what to look for when looking at a used vehicle, then a pre-purchase inspection by an authorised reputable agent will assuredly give you peace of mind.
Introductions first! My son, Tommy, is a diesel fitter and knows his way around any piece of machinery with an engine. In fact, he spends the better part of the week performing pre-purchase vehicle inspections. And me, well, I’ve spent the last 40 or so years working on, driving, managing, writing about and filming trucks.
This particular afternoon, Tommy had just put the last of his tools back in his toolbox and was closing the lid. It was time for a cleansing ale. During the conversation, over an ale, I mentioned I was working on an advice article to help used truck buyers. Tommy suggested, “Hey, why don’t we buy our own truck and fix it up? What better way to research your article?”
After a brief moment of thought, I responded, “yeah, why not!”
That night we were both searching the used truck pages of the internet, and much like most blokes, we’d pause now and then at something that caught our eye – pondering if that was the rig for us. Then occasionally dreaming of what it would look like after we’d added our personal touches. By the end of the following week, we had a shortlist of potential units.
Having well-documented service history is an investment that will pay significant dividends when it comes time to sell any vehicle. In addition, to the service history we were fortunate to source the receipts for the engine rebuild and new transmission replaced at half a million kilometres. The fact that the engine rebuild receipt was genuine from Cummins and the transmission replaced by a reputable service dealership certainly provided reassurance that the servicing was genuine and performed by trained technicians. Most dealerships offer a limited warranty for their work, while new components come with the manufacturer’s warranty.
Some good news for used buyers is that Cummins, Eaton and Meritor offer extended warranty packages on new components. Subsequently, this means that when you replace the old engine, transmission or rear axles with a new one, you have the option to purchase the same extended warranty package offered with new vehicles. All of a sudden, a late-model used truck with a new driveline becomes a desirable proposition.
Consequently, after reading the service history on the 2014 flat roof K200 mentioned above, we decided that was the truck for us. So, project K200 was born. It was a Townsville based truck, which meant a road trip. After months of being in lockdown, a road trip was just what the doctor had ordered.
Why the flat roof K200 and not an Aerodyne? Flat roof K200s are relatively rare these days. At the time of writing, we could only find one for sale. Aerodyne models have their place, but the flat roof K200s fit many applications that the higher Aerodyne model won’t suit, which means they attract a high resale value.
One thing that impressed us about this particular truck was it had been a fuel truck since new. Fuel companies are renowned for their meticulous maintenance programs that keep vehicles up to speck. Another thing that we liked was the round tanks which give it an ‘Old School Cool’ look. There is that passion coming out. Sometimes though, if you’re lucky, you can score some of the items on your wish list.
When it comes to budgeting, you really need to add up the total cost of acquisition and not focus on the advertised price of the unit. Indeed, the advertised price will form part of the overall cost but not all of it.
This vehicle was original specified to work in a fuel distribution application and tow a variety of tanker configurations that included short 19-meter B-Doubles. Consequently, it had what some might consider a very short wheelbase. A word of caution here, it is essential to evaluate the length of a used truck’s wheelbase and ascertain how suitable the vehicle will be for your application. Chassis modifications are expensive. Thankfully the wheelbase on this K200 was well suited to the tipper application we intended.
When a truck reaches the million kilometres mark, it is certainly due for a major overhaul. Bear this in mind when looking at service history and budget that into your costs. For instance, given our newly acquired K200 had a rebuild around the half a million-kilometre mark, we budgeted that it should be due for a significant overhaul at 1.2million. In theory, the truck should have earned enough money to pay for the upcoming scheduled rebuild when the time comes, so that cost is now in our operating budget, not the purchase budget.
You can find an example of the budget breakdown associated with the total acquisition cost listed at the end of this article.
I had a few errands that needed attending to in Townsville, so I flew up a few days before Tommy. We planned to drive the truck down to Brisbane over the weekend. He’d fly into Townsville Friday morning, and then we’d head off. Meantime, I decided to give him a little surprise and enlisted the help of the local sign writer to make a sign with his name on it, then stick it on the door for the journey down.
As we’d never seen the truck other than a few photos, we had arranged for Brown and Hurley’s Townsville branch to perform a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle before we committed to the purchase. This ensured that the chassis and engine numbers matched the paperwork. If you’re financing the vehicle, your finance company will most likely insist that a pre-purchase inspection get carried out before they finalise payment.
Safety Check for COR
Given that we were about to embark on a 1400km journey in a vehicle we’d never seen, we took the truck straight around to Brown and Hurley’s Townsville branch for a thorough safety check, grease and brake adjustment. We discovered that when we opened the driver’s door, the previous driver was a smoker, and the interior reeked of cigarette smoke. Consequently, we asked for the cabin fresh air filter to be changed.
It’s far cheaper to spend a few dollars checking the truck over compared to breaking down and having to get a callout on the side of the road. Furthermore, having a documented safety check forms part of your COR (chain of responsibility) requirements.
Once the K200 got the all-clear, I borrowed a hose, some truck wash and gave the old girl a quick bath as it was left parked up against the fence after finishing its last run out west; bugs, mud and all. As we were travelling bob-tail, I let the drive tyres down to 70PSI (480kPA) to help iron out some of the bumps on the run to Brisbane. Given the shocking state of the Bruce Highway, this was a task we were glad we did. After the quick tub, I sprayed on some tyre black, cleaned the windows, put half a dozen air fresheners in the cab and stuck the decal with Tommy’s name on the door.
It’s amazing how good and clean a truck looks when the wheels are clean.
Seeing the big grin on Tommy’s face when he first spotted his name on the door is one that I’ll remember for many years to come. Even though we’d done all our homework and the purchase was a business decision, for the two of us, it was part of an emotional journey as well.
Friday morning finally arrived. Tommy threw his bag into the bunk, scribbled some lines into his work-diary and turned the key. The big-bore Cummins E5 kicked into life. For an engine that had done 500,000km, it sounded sweet too.
A few moments later, we headed north along Ingham Road, bound for the bypass and the BP at Cluden on the southern side of town. We had about 1400 kilometres to travel. We estimated we should put in at least 560 litres of diesel and about 30 litres of Ad-blue to be safe. Not surprisingly, we used far less than our estimated 560 litres, but it always pays to air on the side of caution when you’re trucking.
The old K200 ran like a charm all the way. The engine oil pressure was strong, as were the volts. The clutch needed adjusting, and few screws in the dash required tightening. We assumed they were left loose after the removal of the company data logger. But apart from that, mechanically, she was very sound.
Did we score a bargain? We want to think so, but only time will tell. However, through our thorough investigation and research, we found a robust, well-maintained vehicle that didn’t require too much additional investment to put to work. Indeed, this gives us peace of mind with the reliability we’d expect from a unit of this age.
As stated earlier in the article, if you’re unsure what to look for, or like us located too far from the vehicle, it’s a worthwhile investment to get someone like Kel Stanton’s Mobile Diesel Service to carry out the pre-purchase inspection for you.
Project K200 – Budget
Advertised price: $150,000.00
Travel to collect truck: $2300.00
Fuel to get truck home: $860.00
Pre-Purchase Inspection & Safety Check: $401.00
Major service: $1500.00
Diff Lock parts: $2120.00
Diff Lock fit-up & Roadworthy: $3400.00
Mud Guards x 4: $209.00
Greaseless 5th wheel pads: $260.00
Chrome Nut covers & hubcabs: $270.00
Seat Cover: $320.00
Cleaning & Detail: $420.00
Total Purchase Cost: $162,560.00