Choosing the Right Heavy-Duty Truck
So, you need to buy a new heavy-duty truck for your business. Maybe you need a long-haul rig that can move products from point A to point B. Or, you might require something with a lot of horsepower to pull or carry major loads for short distances. You might even need a truck that can do a little bit of both.
How can you ensure you’re going to choose the right model… or get a good deal on a big truck in the first place?
This can be a big question for business owners, and particularly those who aren’t used to making capital purchases. After all, every dealer and manufacturer is going to suggest their option as the best one. And with the dollar amounts involved – both in terms of upfront costs and ongoing operating expenses – it’s not a decision most can afford to get wrong.
Luckily, we have decades of experience when it comes to diesel engines, heavy-duty trucks, and other pieces of related equipment. We have seen it all once or twice and want to share our insights with you. So, in today’s post we are going to give you some basics of choosing the right heavy-duty truck.
Let’s look at a simple, step-by-step process you can follow when choosing a heavy-duty truck for your company. We’ll start with a point that’s easy to lose sight of once you start your research.
Know the Role You Need to Fill
One of the things we remind business owners when they are considering any capital purchase is to think carefully about the need they are trying to fill. In other words, put aside the glossy pictures and eye-popping performance stats, at least at the beginning of the process. Rather than thinking in those terms, consider what it is you need your heavy-duty truck to actually do.
One of your first considerations will come down to size and horsepower. You’ll want to think about how the truck will be used, what it will be hauling or pulling, and over what kinds of distances. Try to imagine normal day-to-day scenarios, as well as unusual occurrences that might pop up now and again. When those odd days do come, how important would it be for you to meet them with your existing equipment? Do those instances come along often enough to justify a bigger truck?
Moving past your power needs, think about the fuel and other inputs. How would your truck need to perform in those areas? Are there any types of fuel, oil, or maintenance you need to avoid? Any other specifications for the engine (for instance, being compatible with certain toolsets)?
And finally, consider the environment your truck will be operating in. What will the climate be like? How will it be stored when it isn’t in use? And how might operating conditions change in the future? You might not be able to forecast this with great precision, but it’s worth thinking about the variables.
You’ll notice that none of these questions are framed in terms of cost, age, or extra amenities. These will all come into play later, but only after you have determined what purpose your heavy-duty truck will serve for your business. If you don’t have those specifics locked into place then you’re almost bound to choose a model that you’re going to regret later.
Compare Models Based on Your Criteria
The first step in our heavy-duty truck buying process is massively important because it get you thinking about the purchase on your own terms. You should only begin shopping, whether online or through a dealer, once you have a notion of what you want or need your truck to do.
With the role defined you can begin to evaluate different models based on your own criteria. This is different than simply weighing up the costs and benefits of each one. For instance, one truck might have jaw-dropping performance statistics. However, if the horsepower that is supplied far exceeds your operational needs, then that extra power isn’t really a benefit for you, is it? It’s especially unhelpful if the bigger engine comes with a higher cost. You’ll end up paying for something you don’t really need.
Likewise, certain trucks are built for distance, efficiency, or specialist roles. You don’t want to make the mistake of buying a unit that seems like a “great deal” when in reality you don’t need the added equipment.
This can happen with any kind of heavy-duty truck, but these sorts of missteps are especially prevalent with units that are used or offered through manufacturer incentives. Sometimes the price or discount seems too great to pass up. However, it’s important to always remember that a heavy-duty truck is a business asset. It’s nothing more or less. If it doesn’t do the job you need it to, or if there is a lower-priced alternative that fills the same need, then the deal isn’t so great after all.
Marketing hype and good salesmanship can build desire, causing you to look past your own best interests. There isn’t anything wrong with chasing a new flashy model truck, or a special price. You just need to make sure that you aren’t doing so at the expense of your day-to-day needs or bottom line.
Be Realistic About Your Budget
Having established what role you need your heavy-duty truck to fill, it’s good to move on to costs and budgets. This is an area where business owners tend to falter. That’s because they aren’t always realistic in their thinking.
One way this shows up is through under budgeting. A reliable heavy-duty truck is a capital investment. It’s something you are purchasing to grow your bottom line (see the point above). Don’t convince yourself you’re going to get one for a price that’s far below the market value. You’ll simply end up with a piece of equipment that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, or that costs you a ton of unexpected operating costs.
Speaking of costs, both expected and not, realize that the list price for your new heavy-duty truck is only a starting point. That figure is important, but it only represents the first amount you’re going to spend. Over time you’ll also have to factor in financing costs, operating expenses, maintenance, fuel, and even things like insurance and training.
Each of these should be carefully considered before you make a buying decision. In fact, we might recommend that you put together forecasts for a few different heavy-duty trucks before settling on what you want. Project out the five-year expenses associated with each one, at a minimum, so you can compare apples to apples when thinking about finances.
This kind of exercise can be tedious, but it’s often revealing. It can turn out that the heavy-duty truck you imagine to be the most efficient option is anything but – particularly when you factor in things like fuel costs, periodic overhauls, and insurance.
It can be frustrating to think about any piece of machinery in this way. But doing so allows you to move forward with a clear vision of what you’ll spend and get from your truck purchase, rather than shooting from the hip and hoping for the best.
Read the Reviews
It can be hard to find accurate and unbiased reviews of heavy-duty trucks. For one thing, there aren’t as many of them around as there are normal consumer automobiles, so feedback is harder to come by. And for another thing, diesel truck manufacturing companies pay a lot to ensure that they always look good to their target market.
Still, there are things you can do to ensure that what you’re being told matches up with reality. You could speak to a non-competitor about their trucking fleet and see what their experience has been like. You can also talk to a trusted independent dealer (like Valley Power) to get a first or second opinion. That’s especially helpful if you can find a company that works for several different brands and can match you up with the right model of truck.
What you’re looking for isn’t necessarily an opinion that a certain type of heavy-duty truck is “good” or “bad.” Instead, what you want to find is verification of things like efficiency, reliability, and (especially) ongoing operating costs. You want to find out whether other businesses like yours have gotten ROI from their purchase, and whether they would be happy to make the investment again.
Making mistakes is just part of growing a company. However, when you consider the costs associated with purchasing a heavy-duty truck, not to mention keeping it on the road, it’s easy to see why you can’t afford a blunder. So, you want to go into your investment with your eyes wide open and having as much information as you possibly can.
You can learn a lot on the internet, but we strongly advise you to speak with an experienced colleague or vendor before making a final decision. Every heavy-duty truck is different, and you want to buy one that will help your company continue to roll forward for years to come.
Get Everything in Writing
When buying a heavy-duty truck it’s incredibly important to identify your needs, compare different trucks based on those criteria, and then do extensive research on the options. Even then there is the chance that some of your expectations won’t be met. This is why it’s a good idea to run through your purchasing agreements with an eye for details.
There isn’t one particular thing we would advise you to look for. Instead, we would tell you to go line by line and be sure you understand all the terms, and feel comfortable and protected with each one. Question anything you don’t see or completely comprehend. Ask as many questions as needed, or add as many terms as you require, until you are satisfied with your paperwork.
Speaking of the documents, at a minimum your purchasing agreement should spell out:
- Pricing details and payment terms
- Delivery times and details
- Warranties and guarantees – including any terms that void them
- Service requirements and expectations
- Availability of support and maintenance
- Lease, buyback, or renewal stipulations
- Financing details and requirements
These are only examples. It’s entirely possible that you, your internal team, or even your heavy-duty truck dealer will come up with several more areas of concern. What matters most is that you know exactly what will happen after you sign on the dotted line. You should have very clear expectations about what you’ll receive, what everything will cost, and how you will be covered if those expectations aren’t met.
Even a great truck can turn out to be a bad investment if the terms are unclear. And, two ethical and professional business partners can fall into a major disagreement if there are misunderstandings. For this reason we encourage you to ensure that everything about your transaction is spelled out.
It’s very unlikely that your heavy-duty truck dealer is out to get you, or that you’re going to get a substandard piece of equipment. But by having the right agreements and receipts in place, you can enjoy peace of mind that comes with knowing you are ready for any eventuality.
Heavy-Duty Truck Experts at Valley Power Systems
Why choose a heavy-duty truck on your own when we have an experienced and knowledgeable team who can help? We work with numerous manufacturers and suppliers, but our customers are always the top priority. That means we can help you distill the best points from each make and model and find the one that fits your needs, budget, and operating environment.
If you’re worried about choosing the right heavy-duty truck for your company, or simply want another perspective before you make a huge investment, let us help. Contact the experts at Valley Power today to set up a free consultation!