Buying a used semi without checking it out is like buying a house without stepping inside. When you’ve found a truck that catches your eye, you’ll want to engage all of your senses during a test drive to make sure it’s in solid condition — and meets your needs for space and comfort.
Check the odometer to make sure the mileage makes sense for the age of the vehicle. Observe how the semi handles on various terrain. Check the lights, wiring, any corrosion and loss of brake fluid on the brakes. Check the oil, as well. In addition to listening and feeling for anything odd when you’re behind the wheel, ask your representative about:
The truck’s history. Ask the representative or owner what it was used for, and how they acquired it or why they’re selling it (if it’s an independent owner). If a particular semi was used to haul short distances but you’re looking to travel cross-country, it may be a risk to expect it to hold up for your purposes.
The most recent DOT inspection. The representative should be willing and able to provide the most recent inspection papers, so you can review any hidden issues, and possibly use them as a negotiation point later if practical.
Accident records and maintenance records. These, like the DOT inspection, will help you anticipate future problems and parts that may need replacing.
Ask about warranties. Even if there’s no factory warranty for your used truck, a dealer may offer a separate warranty for a certain time period or mileage limit. A stellar warranty pays for itself, since a used vehicle purchase always involves some degree or risk.
Finally, trust your instincts. A truck that doesn’t feel right or a seller who seems unwilling or unable to answer your questions may signify you need to do more shopping around.