Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? Consider what you can — and cannot — afford when shopping for a pre-owned vacuum truck.


As demand for vacuum trucks increases and the lead time for taking delivery of new trucks rises to six months or more, pre-owned vehicles are an increasingly popular option for septic contractors. 

“More than half of our vacuum truck sales nationwide are pre-owned vehicles,” says Mike Suiter, industrial sales manager for Jack Doheny Companies, which sells and rents a wide variety of equipment nationwide, including wet-dry industrial vacuum trucks, hydroexcavators and wet-dry DOT vacuum trucks.

“Our sales of pre-owned vacuum trucks have risen about 60 percent compared to about five years ago,” he says. “The market for used vacuum trucks keeps getting larger, so demand is up.” 

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So what should buyers consider when looking for a pre-owned truck? There’s a lot to consider, but Suiter offers the following basic tips: 

1. Get a good warranty. Typically the length of a warranty depends on the truck’s age and condition. Doheny offers several levels of warranties, ranging from no warranty for “as-is” units to up to six months for work-ready units to one year for fully remanufactured/rebuilt trucks (excluding the chassis). 

Also, be aware that some sellers provide separate warranties for the chassis and the vacuum module. And a dealer might not service both warranties; sometimes a dealer might handle issues with the vacuum module while the chassis dealer might be responsible for chassis-related issues. As such, it’s wise to finalize warranty details before buying, as it’s tougher logistically if the dealer you buy from doesn’t handle both warranties. 

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Moreover, consider the locations where warranty service is provided. If you live in Iowa and buy a truck online, and warranty service is offered only in Pennsylvania, you may want to reconsider your options. In some cases, an inconveniently located warrantor might pay a company in your area to provide warranty service, Suiter notes. 

2. Get the proper paperwork. Be sure to obtain a copy of a clear title and release of liens. “If the seller can’t produce one, look elsewhere,” Suiter advises. Also, sellers should provide federal certification that the truck passed its annual U.S. Department of Transportation inspection. 

“If the inspection is current, you can jump in the truck and get right to work, as opposed to getting pulled over and getting taken out of service because the inspection papers aren’t in order.” 

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3. You get what you pay for. “We see a lot of guys with champagne taste on a beer budget,” Suiter says. “You have to understand the dollars and cents that go into remanufacturing and making units work-ready. 

“It’s not uncommon for us to put anywhere from $30,000 to $90,000 into a machine, which results in a higher sale price. Look for a reseller that offers a wide variety of units within your budget category.” 

4. Beware of customizations. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find parts and service for “one-off” special-built trucks that are highly customized. Suiter says he’s heard of contractors who get a great Internet deal on a truck, only to find it’s impossible to get parts and support. 

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5. Be wary of tight-lipped sellers. If a dealer or private party isn’t forthcoming with information like how many hours are on a truck, previous owners, service records, references or contact information for the previous owner, run the other way. 

6. Don’t forget about the rubber. “The biggest thing I see people miss is the condition of the tires,” Suiter says. “Even recaps are $300 apiece, and new tires cost $600 to $800 apiece. The inside tires are hard to inspect, but don’t overlook them.” 

7. Buyer beware. Ask for maintenance/service logs and a history of any major repairs. If they aren’t available, it shouldn’t automatically rule out buying the vehicle. But you should then perform more due diligence in inspecting it. If you’re not mechanically inclined, bring along a qualified mechanic to do an inspection for you. 

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8. Put major components through their paces. Thoroughly test such things as the power take-off, vacuum and water systems and ask if any of them have required major repairs. “It’s a good idea to check the blower tolerance to determine the wear on the loads, whether the PTO system leaks, if pumps were rebuilt recently and if hydraulic hoses are wet or dry,” Suiter says. 

Overall, Suiter recommends buying from a reputable dealer who can support you after the sale. That includes not only performing major components, but also teaching contractors how to maximize their machine and become more successful. “Find a seller who’s interested in helping you grow a business,” he says. 

Ready to buy? Check our classified listings here: www.pumper.com/classifieds

And if you want a brand new rig, check out these workhorses:

  • The Knight vacuum truck from Keith Huber Corporation incorporates all the features of the King Vac with the filtration technology of the AirLord.
  • Pressure vacuum tank trucks from J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers are available in capacities of 3,360 to 6,000 gallons.
  • The VAC3000 Series from Imperial Industries are ASME-certified 407/412 steel DOT units with capacities of 3,200 and 3,600 gallons.
  • The Pac-Mac VP Series nonhazardous hauler from Hol-Mac Corporation offers numerous adjustments, from vacuum system options to valve setups.
  • The 4,000-gallon aluminum Matador vacuum tank from Amthor International comes standard with a 5/16-inch-thick side shell and floor, full head baffles and no external rings.
  • The Versa-Vac vacuum trailer from Advance Pump & Equipment has a 1,000-gallon debris hopper with either 1,400 or 2,200 cfm high-volume vacuum systems.
  • The FXT50 truck vacuum excavator from Ditch Witch mounts directly to a truck’s frame rails, allowing the system to flex independently of the truck, increasing stability.
  • The HV-55 hydroexcavator from GapVax has a 12.5-cubic-yard debris body and water tanks from 400 to 1,400 gallons.
  • The X-Cavator from Vac-Con has a hydrostatic drive that efficiently uses the chassis engine for the vacuum, eliminating the need for PTO, clutch and gearbox operation.
  • The Supersucker HDX industrial vacuum loader from Super Products has a water system including a standard 600-gallon capacity water tank setup and a hydraulically driven pump delivering flow up to 14 gpm and pressure up to 3,000 psi.
  • The multipurpose Guzzcavator from Guzzler Manufacturing combines the performance of a Guzzler CL vacuum loader with the versatility of a Vactor HXX hydroexcavator.
  • The X-10 and X-15 hydroexcavator models from Hi-Vac Corporation are designed to virtually eliminate the risk of underground utility strikes.
  • The F4 Slope hydrovac from Tornado Hydrovacs holds 13 cubic yards of mud and more than 2,100 gallons of freshwater.
  • The Presvac Hydrovac versatile hydroexcavator is designed for cold-weather operation and is offered as an option to be in full compliance with DOT regulations regarding collection and transportation of hazardous materials.
  • A high-dump option for AllJetVac combination jet/vac sewer cleaners from Vacall – Gradall Industries allows the operator to raise the debris tank 76 inches above ground level and shift the tank horizontally 21 inches beyond the rear bumper.
  • The HV-64 all-season hydroexcavator from Transway Systems operates at less than 85 dBA. It has a 6,400 cfm and a 27-inch Hg high-vacuum blower with direct-drive transfer case.
  • The PAT 949 combination truck from Polston Applied Technologies removes sand and grit from wastewater treatment plants, large diameter lines, digesters and lift stations without shutting down the plant service.

Check out complete product listings and manufacturer contact information. 


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