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Ten considerations when buying a used tool truck

One of the most frequently asked questions LDV Inc. hears from our customers is "What should I look for when I'm buying a used tool truck?"

There are a number of considerations when buying a used tool truck, Frank Solofra, Director of Sales at LDV, discusses both the top considerations and a few that most people overlook.

The first five factors to consider are no different between new and used tool truck shopping.


How much space do I need?

When considering how much space you need, always take two things into consideration: Will this truck provide enough space for me as my business grows, and do I have enough to make the space look full now? The best merchandised trucks and the top-selling dealers are not necessarily carrying the most tools. They are utilizing the space in their trucks well. The mobile tool business has evolved from a mobile warehouse on wheels into a mobile retail store, which results in an opportunity for a dealer to carry less and showcase more.  You also need to consider your route, don't buy a truck that won't fit into half of your stops.


What are my merchandising plans?

Does this truck allow me to highlight my high dollar items well? Can I add and remove displays and promote new items? Is this layout conducive to the way I like my customers to move through the truck? Your truck layout should inspire your customers to walk all the way through your truck. You want your customers to have to browse through your truck in order to see what you have available.  You want space available for regular promotions; with so many purchases being impulse buys, you have to show the customer what they need before they know they need it!

Gas v. Diesel

Diesel chassis prices have skyrocketed since the emission changes in 2007 and 2010, with an average increase of almost $15,000 in five years on medium duty trucks, not to mention an average increase of $1,200 per year. That alone explains why gas has become a popular option. And while a gas chassis is not an option for everyone, we are seeing resurgence in gas since the 2010 emissions requirements. Shorter mileage routes in dense populations are excellent candidates for a gas chassis.  If you drive less than 15,000 miles per year, you should consider gas.

Chassis Selection

Most dealers will take serviceability into consideration when choosing a chassis. If there is a good service center for the chassis on their route, that would be a key consideration.


Before you begin shopping, figure out how much you can afford. Look at your inventory cost, weekly paid sales, your extended credit and any other loans you may have against your business. You don't want to cripple yourself with a truck payment that is going to limit your ability to buy the inventory you need in order to grow your business. Next, talk to a leasing company that is familiar with tool trucks in order to secure the best rates.

LDV's thirty year mobile tool truck sales veteran, Pete Madsen, offers his thoughts on the top considerations for buying a used truck.

Engine Hours v. Miles

For the most accurate assessment of vehicle wear and tear make sure to review engine hours as well as miles.  City routes with frequent stops will have lower miles, but will often have very high engine hours. And while this is not the only indicator for outstanding engine life, it is a good one.


Where was the vehicle driven? A climate that sees no snow or salt, will be much easier on the truck. Vehicles driven in the Northeast typically last between seven and ten years, whereas vehicles driven in the Southwest can have double the life. Using the geographic area to estimate wear and tear on the vehicle is also a very reliable indicator.


Climate isn't the only reason to consider the geographic location of the vehicle; transportation costs and having the option to inspect the vehicle should also be looked at. Consider taking a trip to inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing. Vehicle condition is highly subjective, especially when the person selling the vehicle is often the person who maintained it. So, budget for an inspection trip as well as the cost of transporting or driving the vehicle back home. City trucks also tend to have more body damage which can require substantially more body repair.


While it's often difficult and time consuming, ask for the service and maintenance history of the vehicle, and invoices of any mechanical work completed. If you're not a mechanic, have a mechanic inspect the vehicle or even require a DOT inspection. Take into consideration the potential cost of refurbishment.

Buying From a Truck Builder v. Private Party 

There are definitely advantages to buying from a reputable truck builder – the largest being peace of mind. A few points to consider: Trade-in tool trucks tend to be in better shape than vehicles being sold by dealers leaving the business. When you buy from a reputable truck builder, the vehicle should have undergone a full mechanical inspection, most exterior body issues will have been addressed, the interior will be detailed and major and most minor issues will have been repaired. You will also have a service person to call as issues arise. Most importantly, you will have an opportunity to make minor layout modifications and customizations at a reasonable cost prior to taking delivery. However, this is not to say there are not great deals to be had by buying a well-maintained truck from a private party.

So, how do you go about locating your used truck? The industry has changed in recent years, thanks to the advent of the Internet. Gone are the days of truck trading print ads, today's buyers and sellers can go right online.  Most of the tool truck manufacturers list the used trucks they've taken in on trade and a few have gone so far as to set up "Used Tool Truck" pages to assist sellers in listing their used trucks.

LDV's used truck page offers free listing, unlimited pictures, and no listing period. charges a small fee and will list your truck for as long as it takes to sell. Used tool truck buyers are no longer limited by word of mouth and geography. The vehicles listed for sale on these sites, make it easy to search for a truck that suits your needs and your price point.