Buying your first semi-truck? 5 things to consider

December 22, 2022

A row of semi-trucks in a used truck lot

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Whether you’re an experienced owner-operator or a driver who’s just starting a trucking business, buying your first semi-truck can be a daunting task. However, it can also be a good investment, so long as you have a solid business plan.

Every owner-operator has different needs and business considerations when it comes to buying a semi-truck, including:

  • Financial restraints.
  • Logistical requirements.
  • Equipment must-haves.

We put together a list of things you may want to think about as you decide how to buy your first semi-truck.

Things to consider when buying your first semi-truck

1. Do you want to buy new or used?

One of the biggest decisions when buying your first semi-truck is determining whether you want to buy a new or a used truck. The following will play a factor in your choice:

  • The amount of money you have saved for a down payment.
  • How much of a payment you can afford to pay monthly or weekly.
  • How much risk you’re willing to take on with potential repairs.

Buying a brand-new truck

A new semi-truck can cost you between $175,000-$190,000, depending on the make and model you chose.

Advantages of buying a new truck

Disadvantages of buying a new truck

  • A new truck will probably cost more upfront.
  • A new truck may lose value as soon as it’s driven off the lot.

Purchasing a used truck

You can generally expect to pay between $45,000 and $100,000 for a used semi-truck.

Advantages of buying a used truck

  • A used truck will most likely have smaller monthly payments than a new truck purchase.
  • Some companies, like Schneider Trucks, will work with you regardless of your credit score.

Disadvantages of buying a used truck

  • A used truck warranty usually expires earlier and doesn’t cover as much for repairs.
  • A used truck may need to be upgraded sooner than a new truck.

2. Do you need a day cab or a truck with a sleeper?

The type of owner-operator you are will determine if you need a day cab or a sleeper cab.

If you move mostly short-haul freight and get home every night, a day cab may suit you just fine. If you’re a long-haul owner-operator who gets home less frequently, a sleeper cab is almost certainly a must.

3. Do you prefer a manual or automated manual transmission?

What type of transmission you want your truck to have will most likely have a big influence when determining what the best semi-truck to buy for your business is. Most drivers have a strong opinion on whether they prefer an automated manual or manual transmission.

Automated manual transmissions are typically more efficient and easier to use, but some owner-operators still prefer manuals.

4. Are you set on a specific make of truck?

Some owner-operators know exactly what make and model of truck they want.

If you have no idea what make is right for your business, we encourage you to talk to other owner-operators about what makes and models they’ve had success with and ones they have not.

Some of the most popular semi-truck brands include:

  • Freightliner.
  • International.
  • Kenworth.
  • Volvo.

Doing research is a great way to see what features and specs some trucks have that others don’t.

Viewing the inventory pages on truck providers such as Schneider Trucks can provide great insights on truck features and options.

5. Do you have any must-haves?

Your must-haves could be very different from another owner-operator's list. Before you start truck shopping, consider making a list of all the things your truck absolutely cannot go without.

Some of the most common things owner-operators find to be most important, include:

  • The way the truck handles.
  • What the truck looks like.
  • How the truck rides.
  • The MPG of the truck.
  • What features the truck comes with (especially safety and cost-saving features).