How much does it cost to be an owner-operator?
August 19, 2019
Prior to deciding to become an owner-operator, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. First, we recommend reviewing our step-by-step guide to becoming a fleet owner. Next, we suggest making yourself aware of the expenses associated with owning a semi-truck, as many company drivers aspire to own a trucking business someday, but many don’t know how much it actually costs.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to state exactly how much money you need to become an owner-operator because most of the costs are variable.
With help from tax and accounting firm for owner-operators, ATBS, we’ve complied a general list of the expenses owner-operators can anticipate in their first year as a business owner.
Purchasing or leasing a truck
Take time to consider what kind of truck you want and how you are going to finance it. Some things to think about could include:
- If you buy a used truck from a place like Schneider Trucks, will you buy the truck outright or finance it and have monthly payments? Used trucks typically range between $45,000-$100,000.
- If you lease a new truck, do you have enough for a down payment? What will your monthly payments be? New trucks typically range between $125,000-$150,000.
- If you lease a truck from an entity like SFI Trucks and Financing, what will your monthly payments be? Expect to spend about $1,600-$2,500 a month.
The documentation owner-operators are required to obtain vary by state. The below prices are estimates of what you can expect.
- MC/DOT number: $300
- Business registration / LLC fee: $50-$300
- PrePass: $14.99 monthly
- IRP Credential: $1,700 – based on percentage of miles you operate in each state
- IFTA Decal: $10
- BOC-3 Form: $20-40 – necessary if doing interstate business
- HVUT: $550
Most carriers require owner-operators to be insured. Owner-operators who lease on with Schneider, for example, are required to carry occupational accident insurance and unladen/non-trucking bobtail insurance. Physical damage insurance is also recommended.
An owner-operator can expect to spend about $3,000-$5,000 a year on insurance.
Fuel is one the largest expenses of owning a semi-truck, as most owner-operators spend an average of $50,000-$70,000 annually.
To get an estimate of how much you will spend on fuel, take the price of fuel per gallon and divide it by what your average miles per gallon is. Then multiply that number by how many miles you expect to run each week.
Although truck maintenance can vary based truck age, it is suggested that you budget for things like new tires and unexpected expenses. As an example, tires can cost $1,000-$4,000 each time they need to be replaced
It’s easy to forget to include the cost of food in your monthly budget. To save costs, owner-operators can invest in a refrigerator and microwave to put in their trucks and purchase food from grocery stores vs. spending more costly meals at restaurants.
New owner-operators often forget they are required to pay taxes on a quarterly basis rather than having taxes automatically withheld from their paycheck like company drivers. It is recommended to set aside 25 to 30 percent of your weekly income for quarterly taxes.
You may have additional costs depending on how you get your loads as an owner-operator. If you choose to use a load board, there may be a fee associated with it. Furthermore, hiring a freight broker or dispatcher could cut into your overall profit as well.