Home The Long Haul Blog 10 Steps To Take Before Purchasing A Used Truck

Used Truck Buying Guide: 10 Steps to Take Before Making a Purchase

May 26, 2023 Truck Sales Author: Rush Truck Centers Read Time: 4.5 MIN

Information provided by Doug Shields, Sales Development Manager

This article is a continuation of our series answering many of the questions that a prospective commercial truck owner might have when considering a used truck purchase. In this second installment, we provided nine steps you can take when buying a used truck to increase your odds of having a great ownership experience. Just straight facts and no fluff to help you make a solid, fact-based decision when buying your next commercial vehicle.

If you’re in the market for a used commercial truck, you’re going to want a dependable, reliable vehicle that can meet the demands of the job it’s intended for. You’ll also want a truck that’s in peak condition to handle the strains of day-to-day use that inevitably result from being on the road.

One of the most frequent requests we receive from those looking to buy a used truck is for the previous owner’s maintenance records. While maintenance records can provide a clear picture of the truck’s background, upkeep, and any previous or current issues, you most likely won’t be able to get the previous owner’s information or records due to seller confidentiality or other factors.

So how can you avoid buying a “problem” truck if you can’t get your hands on a copy of the maintenance records? Here are ten steps you can take to better protect yourself and increase your odds of having a great ownership experience.

10 Steps to Buying a Quality Used Truck

  1. Only buy from a reputable truck dealer. Purchasing a truck from an individual you don’t know, or worse online or from an auction, is fraught with risk. In these situations, you will most likely have little to no recourse if the truck experiences unexpected problems after the sale. Working with a widely recognized, reputable dealership ensures that assistance is available if issues arise after driving the truck off the lot. A dealership can also help you consider all of your options and find the best truck to fit your needs.

  2. Obtain and review the shop’s condition report for any truck you consider purchasing. The key benefit here is in establishing the current condition of the truck. If the dealer can’t or won’t produce a condition report that you can keep, don’t buy the truck. Review the condition report and the truck with a trusted expert who can go over any concerns and help you make a decision. This could be a technician, an experienced fleet owner, or even the dealership’s service manager.

  3. Ask what fleet the truck came from. Fleets are no longer going to turn over previous maintenance records. There is too much liability these days. However, fleets have reputations (good and bad) and most of the larger fleets have well-established shops and maintenance protocols. Knowing who previously owned the truck can give you a good idea of how well it was maintained.

  4. Obtain and review the complete engine control module (ECM) report for any truck you decide to pursue. We recommend reviewing the ECM report with an expert, preferably a certified engine technician. They can not only decipher any engine codes, but they can also tell you what to watch for when considering a truck powered by a specific engine.

  5. Determine if the truck or any of its individual components carry an existing manufacturer’s warranty. With some heavy-duty engines costing as much as $50,000 to replace, it makes a lot of sense for you to determine if there is an existing factory warranty that will transfer to you upon purchase. If there is no existing warranty, and you still want to buy the truck, you should consider investing in aftermarket component coverage that protects major components for a set time period and mile range. Typically, these packages have specific dollar limits as well as an aggregate total. While an aftermarket warranty won’t cover every aspect of your truck, it can certainly help decrease costs by partially paying for or, in certain cases, covering the total cost of a component should it fail during the coverage term.

  6. Test drive the truck before you make a commitment. Just because the truck may look to be in good shape doesn’t mean it is. You simply don’t and won’t know what you’re buying until you put the truck through its paces. A test drive, sufficient to bring it to top speed, is the only way you can know if it’s going to satisfy your needs.

  7. Find out what the dealer did to the truck. Get a list of all reconditioning work the dealership performed before the truck was put up for sale. A reputable dealer should, at a bare minimum, perform preventive maintenance services and provide proof of a passed DOT inspection prior to delivery. It’s also a good idea to have the aftertreatment assembly (sensors, filters, etc.) checked thoroughly and cleaned (if necessary) so you don’t have to pay out of pocket to address any immediate issues after the sale. You can ask how much money was spent on make-ready services as well as when they were completed. This date will give you a good indication of how long the vehicle has been in the dealer's inventory. 

  8. Request an engine oil analysis. This is a great way for you to determine if there are any internal engine issues. Nobody has a crystal ball, but an engine oil analysis is the next best thing. Getting this done and having an expert review it with you is an easy way to avoid a costly engine problem post-purchase.

  9. Perform a forced regeneration of the emissions system and monitor for fault codes. This is a major area of concern that many prospective truck owners simply miss until it’s too late. The ECM report may be clean, and the dashboard may have no active lights or codes showing, but when you perform a forced regen, that can all quickly change. Doing this last step is a great way for you to know if you’re buying a great truck or one that will only cause problems.

  10. Request a truck history report. A clean bill of health isn’t complete without knowing where the truck has been. A history report, generated by a third party such as RigDig, will tell you if a specific vehicle has been put out of service for maintenance issues or has been involved in any collisions and helps you avoid equipment damaged by flood, fire, hail, and other undesirable issues. 

Used Truck Sales at Rush Truck Centers

These are just some of the things that a smart truck buyer looks for when investing in their next vehicle. Rush Truck Centers is your source for quality, used trucks of all makes and models. And you can be sure every pre-owned truck at our more than 140 dealerships has gone through a rigorous make-ready process and has passed a federal DOT inspection before being sold.

With a large inventory of pre-owned trucks from the brands you know and trust, our dedicated used truck sales specialists can help find the right pre-owned truck to meet your needs. Search our inventory of used trucks or contact us today to inquire about a vehicle.

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About the Author

Doug Shields, Sales Development Manager

Doug has been a mainstay in the new and used heavy-duty truck industry for more than 25 years. Formerly Director of Used Truck Operations, Doug remains actively engaged in the day-to-day success of Rush Enterprises’ Corporate Used Truck Department, serves on a number of industry and OEM committees and councils, advises Rush Enterprises’ Operations, Marketing, Sales and Legal teams on various matters, and when he’s not in meetings, he teaches a daily sales course as well as a management training curriculum for Rush Truck Centers sales staff. Doug has written countless sales and management-related articles specific to our industry that have been published in the Used Truck Association monthly magazine. When he’s not working, Doug enjoys playing chess and poker and spending time with his family in Arizona.