Focus on the needs of your business and seek an expert inspection when heading out to buy a pre-owned vacuum truck.


Pumpers have preferences when it comes to adding to the fleet of vacuum trucks. Some like to buy new, while others prefer to buy used. And those in the used market sometimes want to buy an existing pumping rig or repurpose a chassis with a new or transferred vacuum unit.

The following are a few questions and tips to help you come away with a truck best suited to your daily workload:

  • Bodied up, body swap or new body? Are you going to add a complete truck or replace the chassis?
  • Is the chassis well-suited to your company’s operating model? Many options on chassis and bodies are specific to your operations. A list of options you are seeking is helpful in your search for a truck.
  • Do your research. A quick online search will give you an idea of which brands, models, engine types, transmissions, bodies, pumps, etc. are more reliable. A pricing range can also be established from general research; but, in the used truck market, each piece stands on its own.
  • Should you purchase from a dealer or an individual? Both have advantages. The individual should be able to give you more information about the particular piece, including why it’s being sold and potential issues. Dealerships can offer financing assistance, extended warranty programs, assistance with body mounting, and access to other resources that are not readily available to consumers.
  • Should you hire an independent inspector to evaluate your purchase?
  • Does financing make sense for you?
  • Be value conscious. Is price really the only concern?

Pump trucks consist of two major pieces of equipment: the chassis and the body. There are specific considerations when looking into both:

Related: Septic Pumpers On the Go Need Reliable Truck Chassis Reviews

Understand your requirements. Depending on the tank size, type and materials used in construction, some chassis are less preferable than others. Large aluminum tanks require air ride suspension, a specification not common on vocational trucks. Talk with the body company about the body requirements.

Mileage and hours — lower is better. Low-mile trucks with PTOs tend to have a high number of hours (they sit and run the PTO, not rack up miles). High-mileage trucks can be converted from other applications, such as road tractors. Either factor can cause an excessive amount of downtime, reducing the potential for revenue generation.

Converting chassis from other applications. Fully understand what the application was and how it might impact your ability to keep the truck on the road. Applications such as refuse offer great specifications for pumpers, but this application is considered severe duty. In general terms, if a chassis was used for a refuse application, be vigilant in your evaluation of that chassis as it will be well used and perhaps used up. Road-type applications are better, but the mileage can be very high and the specs not appropriate.

Related: Emission Standards and Diesel Technology Upset Heavy-Duty Truck Market

Who will mount your body? If you are installing a new body, choose a reputable vendor. If you are going to swap a body, are you going to do it yourself or have an outside vendor do the install? Body installations require a great deal of mechanical and programming (on late model trucks) ability. Installation of PTOs can be tricky. Improper installation can create liability issues. Determine the real cost of installing the body yourself — how many hours it will take, how many potential mistakes an inexperienced installer can make, etc.

Emissions systems. Does the truck have modern emissions (diesel particulate filters and diesel exhaust fluid)? Modern emissions systems were introduced in model year 2008. The early systems were more prone to maintenance issues than later models (generally after 2011). Emission systems are here to stay, so learn about them, understand how to operate them, and train your drivers in the proper operation of the systems. This will save many dollars and keep your trucks on the job.

Extended warranty. Purchasing an extended warranty can be money well-spent. Extended warranties are really insurance programs. Fully understand the policies of the extended warranty, including your requirements for maintenance and the process for making a claim. The various programs do not necessarily allow you to take the truck to the mechanic of your choosing but, more like an insurance program, instead have preferred vendors. If your truck is an emissions truck, add the emissions coverage to the warranty. One problem with your emissions system will pay for the warranty.

Related: Pump That Septic - Pumper Magazine Video Profile - March 2011

Get an expert opinion. Hire an independent service to assess your purchase (even if you are mechanically oriented). When buying a house, do you hire a home inspector? If so, the same precaution applies to a truck. A seller who will not allow an inspection indicates the piece is not suitable for purchase. If you invest a small amount of money now in an inspection, thousands of dollars in potential issues can be avoided.

AS IS, WHERE IS

In the used truck market, sales are “as is, where is” even from a dealer (unless they offer some type of warranty). In negotiating the sale, be specific about repairs and have the repair items included in the sales order. This is a binding contract. At delivery, inspect the unit to make sure the repairs were performed and ask for copies of the repair orders. Truck dealers rely upon employees and vendors to do their work; and, on occasion, those responsible for doing the work do not complete that work to expectation.

Be value conscious. Used trucks appeal on a cost basis. Be diligent in your efforts to find the best value. Value is based on the totality of the vehicle, not just the price. Expect to pay for quality. “Good” trucks are hard to find, so do your homework and be ready when the right piece comes your way.

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When it’s time to borrow

Used trucks can be more difficult to finance than new trucks, but these tips apply to both new and used equipment. My simple credit formula revolves around the concept: “If you were to loan money, what would you require?”

  • Know your credit score. There are plenty of free resources that can give you an idea of your credit standing. Websites like www.creditkarma.com and www.myfreecreditreport.com are a couple. Many credit card companies now offer credit information. Do a search for free credit checks.
  • Showing regular profitable revenue helps bolster your credit requests. Notice the word “profitable.” Would you loan money to an entity that loses money?
  • Do you have experience? How long have you been in the business? What’s your track record?
  • What’s your plan? A short written plan with a pro forma cash flow statement (revenue minus expenses equals free cash) strengthens your case, particularly for adding additional equipment. Show how the additional equipment will add to profits.
  • Finance people talk in numbers. Use numbers to clarify your points.

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