Which Truck Should You Buy

"Which truck should I buy?"  It's a great question before going owner operator.  Unfortunately, there's no easy answer.  Here's some things to consider to help you decide....

  • Your available cash and budget (explanation below)
  • What you plan on doing with the truck? (explanation below)
  • What will you haul and where will you run? (explanation below)
  • How long will you keep it? (Explanation below)
  • How hard do you want to work? (Explanation below)

When I first started trucking I asked that same question to everyone, including good diesel mechanics. I still ask them, "what's the best truck to buy?", when I'm getting repairs done.

I will share with you what I learned from their answers and my experiences and some opinion of mechanics in the videos below. 

But first....

Get A Free Debt Relief Quote

Your Cash and Budget

Obviously the more expensive and newer the truck, the more money you will need as a down payment.  But wait, the older the truck (depending on what the maintenance records show has or has not been replaced already) the more likely you will have to repair or replace old and worn out parts!

You might even need to do a bottom end or top end job on the motor.

And trucks after 2006 may have DEF issues.  But trucks prior to 2006 didn't have DEF.  Lots of old school mechanics prefer working on these trucks and often their cheaper to work on.

As you can see, either way, you need money set aside and you need to continue putting money aside as you make money for fixed costs, break downs, and emergencies.

What do you plan on doing with the truck?

Before choosing which truck to buy, you should have already determined what you will do with the truck.  


If you want your authority you will need even more money to have on the side.  Each of these things have different implications.  Follow the links if you want to learn more about them.

What will you haul and where will you run

Kind of related to what you wan to do with the truck is what you plan on hauling and where you want to run.

For example if you live in West Virginia you might be used to seeing coal haulers in Pittsburg you might be used to seeing aggregate haulers.

In Abilene you might see a lot of cow haulers or in Midland you might be used to seeing truckers hauling sand or other oilfield trucking operations.

Some of these trucking applications require you to seek out certain specifications on the truck and a special trailer.

If might also dictate where you will run.  Will it be the mountains or the plains.  Less than 80,000 lbs which is general freight or will you be hauling heavy?

Specialized hauling requires a heavy duty truck and more horse power and more money.

If you're going to be in the oilfields trucking you probably don't want to get a new shiny truck.  It's dirty work on ruff terrain.

How long will you keep it?

People assume because I talk about trucking life or life as a trucker, I mean trucking for life.  NO WAY!  Unless you want to! lol

So when you buy the truck, you might have a plan (Or you might not) of trucking for a certain number of years. 

You might want to buy the truck that holds you that entire time.

OR... you might want to buy your first truck to get all of the kinks out and then put another driver in it while you buy a few more with the confidence of KNOWING you have one that is dependable and reliable.

OR... you might be planning on buying a truck and driving it for 10 years or more stacking your money and then leaving. ( In which case you might as well go ahead and get you a very nice truck!)

Also, if you're going to be the only drivers and you're going to keep it for a decade than get out of trucking.  In a later article i'll talk about which trucks retain retail value better.  Which is something that  you might want to consider again, depending on your plans and intentions for life as a trucker.

Will you be solo or team driving

If you're going to be solo and your money is tight you can choose a semi with a little less space.  However, if you're tall, you need to take that into account.

If you plan on running teams, you want a truck with a double bunk and more space.

If you're going to be taking the kids, wife, family, friends, or pets on the road with you want to have that extra space as well. 

All of these things will help you decide which truck to buy.

Which Name Brand Truck

My basic response is that if you simply want to make the most money with the truck hauling regular freight, go Freightliner or International with Detroit or Cummings engine.

Volvos would be next on my list with a Detroit, Cummings or Volvo Engine.  This opinion is based on lower cost of entry and maintenance.

New Or Used?

This basically comes down to philosophy.  There are many ways to look at going each route.  Two different people might feel very different about whether to buy a new or used 18 wheeler. 

You have to determine what makes you more comfortable based on your intentions for truck and other information you find out related to that.

Personally if I was 100% sure I would drive 5 plus years, I might get a truck 1,2,3 years old.  Maybe even brand new if I had plenty of money saved, knew the business and how to run a business and manage money.

If if was only going to drive a few years I might still get that truck if I know what I was going to do with it.  (Read, sure of the revenue I could make)

If I didn't now for sure how long I would drive and I had money saved up for repairs, I might get an older truck or at least an entry level workhorse truck.  As I will describe below.

Pro's and Con's of a New Truck

A new truck will loose a lot of value as soon as you take it off of the lot.  You might think it guarantees no break downs.  Well that would be a wish not a guarantee.  Brand new trucks actually break down more than you might think.

True lots of stuff might be covered if you break down but some stuff isn't.  Usually the power train is covered for a certain period of time or mileage. Make sure you find out what is and isn't covered with breakdowns and you're OK with that.  Also see if you can get a loaner or rental if your new truck breaks down.

A new truck definitely lets you know ALL of the history with the truck.  If you're going to get the truck, pay for it, keep it for a few years after it's paid for to get that extra value out of it.  Go for it if that's your thing.

For a first truck though unless you've driven a few years already, I would say go slightly used.  Maybe 2 years old.

If go used, also consider certain truck retain value better then others, which we will talk about later.

Pro's and Con's of buying a used truck

If like having a smaller bill to pay and possibly shorter term to pay it, a used truck is for you.  Especially smart if you are new to trucking and it is your first truck better because you don't even know if you're going to love being a trucker or owner operator.  With a cheaper truck you can get out sooner if need be.  And also you might be able to get all of your money out of the truck as long as you get it at a good price.

A used truck can be just as profitable as a new truck and have you in the black sooner.  Even with repairs.  You pay less insurance and taxes.  You might pay some money in repairs but your monthly expenses otherwise might be a lot lower.  Especially after you replace/repair all of the wear and tear parts.  (Don't forget a brand new truck also gets low fuel mileage until broken in!)

The trick is doing a thorough look over when choosing a used truck.  Also don't over pay for that truck.  I like getting a steal, not a deal.  I buy with equity already in the truck.

Inspect everything and see if they will let you take it to get a Dyno. Be aware that many places won't.  So there's that. Alternatively, you could just get an oil sample and have it tested. Most reputable dealers though are not trying to get over on you by selling you junk for a truck.  Especially if they have a website and social media. 

Also check the VIN number at www.rigdig.com to get history of that truck.  Make sure it hasn't been in an accident or at least you know about the extent of damages and repairs.  About that...... you can buy trucks that have cosmetic issues (ugly trucks) at a greatly reduced rate.  You might get DOT inspected more often but just stay legal and you really can make higher profit margins with a lesser truck expense.

Many people will do this, stack their money and then buy a newer truck with cash later from the lot or an auction.  This is a good idea if you're going to the oil fields to work too.  You don't need a pretty truck in the oil fields, just a dependable one.

Even if you get a used truck just a year or two older, you save a lot of depreciation.

If you are worried about a warranty you can get an extended warranty on used trucks.  Some companies like Ryder and Freightliner will have warranty on certain used trucks.

Work Horse Trucks - Entry Level

All truck manufacturers actually have entry level trucks these days in their product line.  However, I still consider certain brands to go to for 1st time buyers.

I suggest Freightliner because those trucks are very popular.  That means the parts can be found pretty much anywhere.  So if you break down, it means lower down time and a cheaper price.  Most shops are qualified to work on them.  Sure people talk junk about Freightliner but pay attention to how many experienced owner operators choose them.

I've owned 2 Freightliners with Detroit 60 engines 12.7 liter.  I have driven about 8 years in various Freightliners.  I loved it and would buy another.  (Just talked to my mechanic 3 weeks ago and asked about the 12.7 liter vs the 14 and he said he suggest getting the 12.7 any day but said the 14 liter is great too.)

I said international for the same reason.  However, I have talked to drivers who had both Freightliner and international and many said they prefer the Freightliner for one reason or another.  Many drivers and mechanics say stay away from PACCAR engines.  I personally have no experience with one.

You can get both trucks with either Detroit engines or Cummings engines in them. My mechanic said he likes Cummings engines but Detroit would be his first choice.  By the way, he works on FedEx fleet trucks so he does plenty of work.

Both of these companies have some very nice looking trucks that will even fit in the high end category.  Both companies have many models and you will need to compare apples to apples when comparing against the two for price. (Same bunk space, horsepower, mileage (etc) for price)

Volvos - I drove Volvo for 5 years and I loved it.  The turning ratio and the room inside the cab.  First 2 had a Cummings.  The first year was terrible with the auto transmission.  The last year there were no problems.  I drive Volvo now with their engine D13.  No issues on 2012.

Volvos and Macks are as different as Chevy and GMC.  Macks are marketed as Heavy Duty.  Volvo is more marketed as comfort and luxury.

I loved my Volvo and would buy one with Cummings or Detroit or Volvo.  Volvo to me has the most trucks that straddle the fence of entry and luxury and have truck that goes comfortably in both category.

The Higher End Trucks

Peterbilts and Kenworth - Both of these trucks are the luxury of trucks.  Peterbilt is slightly higher cost and KW might be higher resale value depending on the truck model and market.  Some Petes might resale higher.  It's like Lexus and Mercedes.  Mercedes is Petes and KW are like Lexus. 

Western Star Trucks - These trucks were built by hand one at a time.  You ordered them the way you want them.  Obviously, they are high quality and more expensive.  They are like the Apple of Truck, lol. or using a car analogy maybe the Bently.  Although the same people that owns  freightliner owns Western Star

I don't recommend you higher end trucks as your first truck but to each his/her own.

They do have a higher resale value than the lower cost brands last I checked but you need to check at the time you are able to going to buy.

Can Older Truckers Make Money

Can older big trucks 2006 and older make you money?  That's a truck question.  Short answer yes.  However, you need to get a mechanic to look over that truck.

Also if the person who has it also has the maintenance records, that will be wonderful for you.

Something to look out for, customization to the truck like changing to a different engine, could cause you headaches at time.  If it's a good match that's a plus but if it's not, even more of a headache.

My current truck is an 06.  Came with a Mercedez and now has Detroit Series 60.  I can't use the VIN for some attached or on the engine.  So I have to get it off and take it up there unless there is a serial number.  Not to bad if I'm in a shop next door.  Not good if I'm broke down on the road.

In addition to that the fuel mileage will not be good on those older trucks.  Maybe 6 mpg.  

That said, if you are mechanically inclined or have a good mechanic at your service who is also cheap and love working on these old trucks, it could be a good move for you if you have money set aside.

Especially if you don't want to be on the road all of the time.  Once you use that truck to stack up even more bread and get the truck in good shape, you can lease it out, or put a driver in it who is concerned with earning and not show boating. 

Then you can get a new truck with cash knowing you have a backup asset.

BUT, if you know you want to drive 5 or 10 years more, I say go ahead and get something a few years old (after 2016) with under 400,000 miles on it and hold on to it.

More comfort, newer technology but mature and much better fuel mileage.

My experience with used trucks

In this video, I will share some expense of owning an older truck.  Only to emphasize, you should not go into this without some capitol and a little time on the road to familiarize yourself with the game.

I have bought two used trucks.  One truck had well over 1,000,000 with a rebuilt 12.7 Detroit engine 400hp.  I had to buy a transmission within the first 3 months.  Had to do a lot of other work as well in the first year.  It was a 92' FLD120 Frieghtliner.  

The other truck was used as well.  It was a Freightliner Midroof with about 800,000 (I think) on a Detroit 12.7 430 engine.  Never rebuilt that I know of.

I will buy a used truck again but that is me.

When buying used, you have to be mentally prepared to expect that you might break down and need to spend money on parts.  This is how I look at it though, once you get those part replaced, you no longer have to worry about that part again.

The benefit of buying used is that you will have lower or no payment and lower taxes.  Also no monthly payment sooner than with a new truck.

Used Trucks For Sale on This Website

Which Engine is best?

I like Detroit and Cummings simply because you get more for your money and it is easier to find parts. 

Other people like CAT.  Some claim they are better quality or pull harder.  The parts are not as abundant as Detroit and Cummings so it costs more and could have you sitting longer for repairs.

What are Glider Kits?

Glider kits are a great way to get a newer truck with an older engine that doesn't have the to meet new engine emissions requirements.  These truck will have rebuilt engines often warranted.  You can also buy glider kits with just the body and you get your own engine put in it.

Fitzgerald Glider kits is one of the best places to get Glider Kits or learn More info about them.


At the end of the day, you have to determine what truck you want based on your goals and personal desires.  Take into account the info and perspective I have provided but also ask questions to mechanics and other owner operators.

It might help to talk to a mechanic.  I already did that for you Dec. 2016.  I have interviewed him as well on video but that is a few years old.  He gave pretty much the same advice though.  

What Are Your Comments?

What are you thoughts, ideas, or comments about the information on this page? Do you have experience with the topic. Can you give additional information? What's your story? What's your insight. What's your opinion? What's Your question? Share them with us!

DO NOT make childish posts attacking people or companies.
DO NOT abuse this site to get back at someone. You will be banned.

Enter Your Title

Other Comments

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Should I buy myself my own truck? 
As of instead of switching trucks for one company should I just by my own because of the condition of the other used trucks.

Should I Buy New or Used Big Truck? What is Price Range? 
Hey guys i really appreciated your response on my last question. My next one is Is it realistic to spend $40,000 on a used truck and actually have it be …

Which type of truck should I buy 
I am in the market for a used truck. My question is which truck would you pick and why? I have looked at volvo, kenworth, freightliner, they all had autotrans …

Thing about New/Barely Used Trucks/Warranty Not rated yet
Just something to consider when buying new or barely used with factory warranties, particularly on a newer model or 1st year of a new generation truck/engine. …

I think you should buy a truck to make money Not rated yet
GEt your head outta your (butts)and buy your own truck these companies are ROBBING you blind its time we take back our buisness and let theses thieves …

Click here to write your own.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Tips For New Drivers

Types of Trucking Jobs

Popular Pages