How to buy your next tool truck

How to purchase or lease tool distributor trucks


The annual tool expos are right around the corner, and if you're not thinking about getting a new truck now, you might be once you see some on the show floor. Beyond wanting a shiny new toy for your business, make sure you also carefully consider all the aspects in the purchase decision. There's more to the purchase process than just how you will pay for the truck.

Gas or diesel?

When it comes to buying a new (or used) truck for your route, one of the key decisions that will directly affect your bottom line is fuel supply: Should you buy a gas or diesel vehicle?

“There are two types of emission controls currently on the market, Selective Catalytic Reduction System and Exhaust Gas Recirculation System. Most engine manufacturers have gone to the SCR system with the exception of International (Navistar) which uses the EGR system,” said Charles Carstens, owner of Atlanta Commercial Display Vans.

“SCR works by injecting automotive grade urea/water solution called Diesel Exhaust Fluid or DEF into the vehicles hot exhaust steam,” Carstens said. “The EGR System uses advanced fuel injection, air management, electronic controls and proprietary combustion technology.”

Callout: For more information on EPA’s diesel emissions regulations, check out www.epa.gov/otaq/highway-diesel/index.htm.

“Annual mileage is just one of the considerations when choosing between gasoline and diesel power,” said Brian Tabel, retail marketing manager for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. “Lower mileage applications can favor gas, but this is dependent upon other factors, like body application, load ranges, typical route requirements and terrain.”

“Smaller routes in cities that maybe only cover 20 to 40 miles a day are good candidates for gas chassis,” said Frank Solofra, director of corporate accounts at Lynch Diversified Vehicles.

Overall price is also a consideration.

“Once pricing for the 2011 models (which meet the new 2010 emissions standards) came out, we saw more people considering the gas option,” said Solofra. “Chassis pricing has increased over $12,000 alone from 2007 and 2010 emissions, not to mention regular annual increases.”

Solofra said prior to the 2010 emission regulations, there wasn’t as much talk of gas engines in this category. And many still opt for diesel, he said.

As far as Isuzu goes, Tabel said the company’s low-cab-forward commercial trucks feature two 2010 EPA-compliant diesel engines, and spring 2011 will reintroduce its NPR N-Series of gas-powered trucks.

“The new Isuzu NPR ECO-MAX with Isuzu’s 4JJ1-TC diesel engine has demonstrated fuel savings of 20 percent from earlier models and is B-20 Bio-Diesel compatible,” Tabel said.

Solofra advised that distributors consider the service center they use or intend to use and its capabilities as far as chassis selection. “Most dealers will be sure that they have a good service center on their route for whatever chassis they are considering,” he said.

New or used?

For the budget-conscious buyer, another big consideration is whether to buy a used or new tool truck. For new trucks, you’ll need to do all of your usual due diligence evaluating manufacturers and specs. If you decide to go the used route, you’ll need to add research on make/model dependability, maintenance, recalls and repair histories.

Just like with cars, used tool trucks have their own issues to be wary of,” Solofra said. “No matter the condition of the vehicle, there are always unknowns with used vehicles. It is impossible to tell if/when the engine will go or what other problems you may run into.

“When looking at a used tool truck, you need to consider not just the chassis but, of course, the interior as well,” Solofra said. “It doesn’t matter if the truck is in great shape if you can’t display the tools the way that works for you.”

Tabel said that 80 percent of LCF Isuzu trucks delivered to the U.S. since 1986 are still in operation. These numbers bode well for the brand.

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