Whether you're expanding your existing fleet or just dipping your toe by buying your first commercial vehicle, this article is for you. When getting a commercial vehicle or twenty, buying new can be an enormous business expense. At the same time, buying used can be a nerve-racking experience. What can I afford? Where do I go? How much is too much? How much is too little? How many miles should it have on it? How do I know if it's a lemon? How do I know if I can trust the seller? Should I take out a loan or pay upfront? These questions and others can plague your decision.
We hope to make buying a used commercial vehicle a more straightforward process. We might not answer every question, but we'll get you oriented and set you down the path toward buying a vehicle that makes smart business sense and that you'll be happy with.
Know What'll Suit Your Needs
First of all, think about your criteria. What kind of vehicle do you need? Some businesses need heavy duty trucks for hauling and towing heavy loads. Others need cargo vans to get their business on the go. Still others just need a fleet of sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and other driver-friendly vehicles.
You might be surprised that what you originally thought you needed might not make the most business sense. For example, cargo vans can hold more than almost any truck. Sport utility vehicles are more attractive to most renters than sedans. Large SUVs can tow about as much as compact pickup trucks. Make sure you know what each class of vehicle can do before you start looking for individual sellers.
Finding a Good Seller
Find a seller you can trust. Maybe you've had positive experiences with them before. Maybe they guarantee all their vehicles with written and actionable promises. Maybe their reputation precedes them through word of mouth or internet reviews. Maybe they have detailed histories of the vehicles they sell, including service histories or vehicle history report. If the seller doesn't have a service history for the vehicle you're looking at, they probably inspected it and should be able to provide you with documentation. If you're not sure about the seller's word, ask if you take the vehicle to your own mechanic to be inspected.
There are a few best practices before buying. First of all, shop around. Many dealers have inventories right there on their website, so you can auto shop without leaving your couch/bed/pajamas. And there's no law saying you need to buy from the first seller you meet with. Car shopping might not be a joy to you, but you'll usually get a better deal if you look at a few different sellers.
Speaking of shopping around, look at a few different financing options. The dealer might finance themselves, but give them a number to compete with. Or at least get an idea of the average interest rate and terms are out there.
Finally, always do a test drive. Get used to the way this particular class of vehicle drives so you can spot anomalies. Strange odors, odd noises, and more can be a sign of a problem and are things you can ask an independent mechanic about.
Buying used is a great business decision if you do a little of the legwork. Find a few trusted sellers, shop around, and get the right car for you.