How to buy your next tool truck

How to purchase or lease tool distributor trucks


“Merchandising is very important in an interior layout. … The truck is the store and should have some thought behind the design of it,” Carstens said. “The tool truck builder can tell you what will work and what won’t.”

Carstens said that ACDV custom-builds interiors with the benefit of its own woodshop. So when a distributor asks for something unusual, “we can probably do it. … and there may be other distributors that might like the same thing,” Carstens said.

“The most important thing about size is you get the proper GVW for the weight that you are planning on carrying. …When you overload your truck you will cause premature failure of components such as tires, brakes, springs, engines and transmissions,” Carstens advised.

Buy vs. lease

The dealer’s financial situation is going to determine buying vs. leasing.

“We have people that do both, but the vast majority are leasing,” Solofra said. “When leasing, you will typically need to be in the vehicle a minimum of three years before you start to see any equity building up in the vehicle.

“Our advice for those leasing is to look at a few different options. We are seeing some pretty big differences between finance companies regarding residual payments, down payments and lease terms, all of which are going to have a major impact on the payment.”

Another factor in tool truck financing recalls the gas vs. diesel debate.

“Since the fuel economy is not as good and the durability of the engine is not as long as a diesel, the leasing or finance companies may not lease this vehicle over as long a period of time,” Carstens said. “With a shorter term on the lease for the gas motor, the monthly payment may be as high as the higher-priced diesel truck.”

“There are some tax considerations whether you buy or lease. I always tell distributors to consult with their tax advisor,” Carstens said.  

Carstens and several distributors suggest looking into a home-equity loan for your truck purchase. Straight-up bank loans are more difficult though.

“Most banks are reluctant to loan on a tool truck. They will look up the blue book value on the truck and ask why you are paying $40,000 more than the book value,” Carstens said. “Most of them don’t understand the additional value that is added to the truck.” Banks also worry that if you default, they’ll be stuck with a specialized vehicle they’re not equipped to sell.

“This is why a leasing company with knowledge of the tool trucks is the best place for financing,” Carstens said. “They understand the business and they typically have a no or low down payment amount.”

There are lots of numbers to consider with a new truck, payments are part of that, but need to be considered in the right light.

“People equate the tool truck payment with their car or mortgage payments,” Summit’s Brown said. “But the reality is, what you’re buying is a revenue-creating piece of equipment.”

And there are benefits to upgrading your store.

“Do most second-time truck buyers’ sales increase with a new truck? Yes, they always seems to,” Brown said. “A lot of that can go back to increased display area and the distributor has a new attitude, a new purpose. He’s rejuvenated.”

Brown is also a former distributor and DM. His other main advice is to be more conventional when you design a new truck.

“Stay as close to the mainstream as possible. Which means a diesel, 22-foot, five-shelf-per-side, nice truck. Don’t do something crazy. Don’t put four toolbox pockets in it. … And other people have built trucks with no toolbox pockets,” Brown said. “Well, the reality is when you turn around to resell it, you’ve reduced your market to 5 percent.”

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