Buying Used Trucks: Tips for Semis and Big Rigs

Your trucking business rides on your truck. Whether you’re buying your first one or expanding your fleet, buying a used truck is a challenge. To help, we spoke with truck sales veteran Ken Dominique, Center Manager of SelecTrucks Houston. Here are his actionable tips for buying used semi trucks and big rigs for owner-operators.

What are the benefits of buying a used truck?

Ken: Aside from the obvious savings on price, buying used allows you to avoid the 12% federal excise tax on new semi trucks. With new trucks running around $140,000, that’s a hefty $16,800 tax!

When would buying a used semi truck not be a good idea?

Ken: If you have the expectation that a used truck should perform like new, then you might want to consider purchasing new. Used semi trucks can be a great deal, as long as you’re realistic about the running costs.

What shopping tools and resources would you recommend?

Ken: There are numerous online sites, like Commercial Truck Trader, but also check out for deeper dives and Truck Paper, which you can find online or at most truck stops. And of course, there’s my company, SelecTrucks.

What criteria would you use to help narrow down your search?

Ken: Do your homework but don’t overcomplicate the process with endless searching. Narrow your choices down to two or three trucks from reputable sources that you can visit in person. And always ask the seller what’s been done to the semi truck (besides detailing) in order to get it ready for market.

What’s the best way to test drive a semi truck?

Ken: Just like you would do with a used car, take it out on the highway and get it up to speed. Turn off the radio, listen to the transmission, engine, and brakes. Get a feel for how the truck handles the road, and you’ll learn a lot.

What’s the number one thing shoppers overlook when buying a used truck?

Ken: Warranties. With a used truck, there are going to be breakdowns, so make sure you’ve got money above and beyond the truck’s cost to purchase a good warranty.

What should buyers look for in a semi truck warranty?

Ken: There are a few things: Make sure the warranty company has been in business a while and is proven. Look for aggregate limits to ensure you don’t get shorted on pricey repairs, like an engine that’s cratered. Look closely at the deductibles, and check to see if the warranty covers EPA-mandated ATS (After Treatment Systems) repairs, which can be costly.

Is there a formula for figuring out your future maintenance expenses for your big rig?

Ken: There’s no hard and fast formula, but buyers need to be serious about set-asides, carving out up to 20% of the cost of the truck for maintenance and breakdowns in the first year alone.

What are some ways to finance a used semi truck?

Ken: Most reputable dealers offer great financing options. You can also use a credit union or bank and get reasonable rates. Keep in mind that the loan will be a commercial loan, so your consumer credit rating isn’t really relevant, and new owner-operators will have to work with the lender to establish commercial credit.

Buying a used semi truck is a smart way to avoid the rapid depreciation that comes with new trucks and get a jump on the expenses of being an owner-operator. After all, the load pays the same whether you’re hauling in a new truck or an old one. Just be sure to approach the task with the right mindset and do your research.

What are some ways to finance a used semi truck?

SelecTrucks of Houston is a truly unique approach to used semi trucks. We understand the challenges you face in today’s increasingly competitive and consistently changing transportation industry. That is why we have gone far beyond the traditional approach of just offering used trucks. We also promote the programs and support you require to be successful today and down the road. Visit us at