Bucket & Boom Truck Buying Guide: Key Factors to Consider

By arming yourself with knowledge, you can extend your dollars to new heights when buying a new or used bucket truck—allowing your business to boom!

bucket truck

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Whether they're called bucket trucks, cherry-pickers, or aerial lift trucks, in the landscape of utility services vehicles, the bucket truck stands tall—pun only kinda intended.

However, not all bucket trucks are created (or treated) equally. 

For prospective buyers, understanding key distinctions is helpful for making an informed decision about the type of bucket truck that will serve you best.

In this guide, we're going to break down some major points of consideration for your bucket truck buying journey—from types of bucket truck, which truck is best for which application, how much they cost, how to inspect a used bucket truck for sale, and more!

But before we get started...

What is the Difference Between a Bucket Truck and a Boom Truck?

For the most part, the terms "boom truck" and "bucket truck" are used interchangeably within the service truck industry. The terms "bucket" and "boom" refer to the main components of this style of truck—the "boom" being the extendable arm and the "bucket" being the secure platform at the end of the boom.

This being said, there are differences between what are commonly referred to as bucket trucks versus boom trucks.

bucket truck vs boom truck

  • Bucket trucks are generally smaller, with a single-person platform ideal for workers in electric utility maintenance, tree care, or other industries requiring solo tasks at height.
  • In contrast, boom trucks have larger booms and platforms—accommodating multiple workers and material handling capabilities for heavy-duty applications such as construction and industrial projects. (See also "crane trucks" for similar models.)

For the purposes of this guide, we will be primarily using the term "bucket trucks" to refer to both styles of trucks. 

What Are the Benefits of Bucket Trucks?

Bucket Truck Versatility

man using bucket truck to fix flag pole

Bucket trucks offer manned access to elevated work areas with greater reach and improved safety over traditional ladders.

From electrical line maintenance to tree trimming, the reach and flexibility of bucket trucks make them indispensable for numerous industries. Their ability to easily elevate workers to new heights simplifies high-reaching tasks while making them dramatically safer than alternative means of working at height (just imagine if all those cherry-picker jobs used manual ladders instead—yikes!).

Their evolution from simple cherry picker trucks in agriculture to complex machinery tailored to assist in completing intricate tasks in hard-to-reach areas spotlights their enhanced safety features.

Need to navigate crowded rail yards to access electric utility lines or elevate workers for building maintenance? No sweat! The unique application-specific design of many bucket trucks make them a valuable asset that allows for enhanced operational efficiency without sacrificing worker safety in various challenging environments.

Boom and Bucket Reach

With platforms that can soar from 35 to an impressive 125 feet (10-38 meters), bucket trucks are pivotal in offering flexible access to elevated areas.

And speaking of pivoting...

Many bucket trucks feature a 360-degree rotating arm—allowing precise positioning of the work platform for meticulous tasks and material handling capabilities. This enhanced reach eliminates the need for vehicle repositioning—saving considerable time and costs while enhancing productivity.

From electrical line maintenance to tree care and even unique scenarios like animal rescue, bucket trucks get it done!

Ok, you probably get the picture by now.

Let's help you buy the perfect bucket truck for your needs. But you're probably wondering...

How Much Do Bucket Trucks Cost?

Prices for new bucket trucks for sale can start at around $130,000.

Meanwhile, used bucket trucks for sale with similar capacities generally cost less at about $94,500.

For lighter-duty bucket trucks used mostly for routine facility maintenance, the price spectrum ranges from $37,000 to $140,000.

However, businesses in need of heavy-duty bucket or boom trucks for more demanding construction applications might see prices ranging from $84,000 to a hefty $370,000.

New vs. Used Bucket Trucks for Sale

The Pros of Buying a New Bucket Truck

new boom truck from bucket position

When deciding between a new or used bucket truck, opting for a new bucket truck for sale offers several key advantages.

  • New bucket trucks come with comprehensive warranties—providing coverage for potential repairs and saving on maintenance costs.
  • Newer models often feature advanced technology, such as improved hydraulic systems, better fuel efficiency, and enhanced safety features.
  • Buying a new bucket truck usually includes the ability to customize the vehicle to one's specific needs—ensuring ideal working height, platform size, and additional features.
  • Newer models generally require less maintenance, have fewer mechanical issues, and offer a longer operational life—which can offset the initial higher cost over time.
  • New bucket smell! That's a thing, right?

The Pros of Buying a Used Bucket Truck

scissor boom truck
Scissor-style Aerial Lift Truck

Though buying a new truck can be nice, most folks will opt for used bucket trucks for sale. In addition to some steep savings, let's see what other benefits this decision can deliver.

  • Purchasing a used bucket truck typically involves a lower initial investment (usually in the form of a down payment)—which can be helpful for businesses with tight budgets.
  • Used bucket trucks have a proven track record, as they have already been in service and have demonstrated their reliability.
  • There is a wider variety of used bucket trucks available on the market, giving buyers more options to choose from.
  • Used bucket trucks can be a good choice for businesses that require a backup vehicle or have a temporary need, as they offer a more cost-effective solution.
  • Buying used allows you to take advantage of the depreciation of the truck—making it a more affordable option.

Buying vs. Renting Bucket Trucks

Companies that regularly employ bucket trucks might find purchasing a truck more economical in the long run as opposed to renting—despite the higher upfront cost.

Still, renting a bucket truck is also an option worth considering, with daily, weekly, and monthly rates averaging at $600, $1,730, and $5,200, respectively.

The Steeper Cost for Insulated Booms for Bucket Trucks

Insulated bucket trucks, which provide additional safety for electrical work (covered more later in this piece), come at a premium—costing anywhere from 30% to 100% more than their non-insulated counterparts.

For new to recent models, this could mean a price bracket of $60,000 to $375,000. It’s worth noting that older insulated models might only feature insulation at one point, often the upper boom, so remember to keep such specific details in mind when shopping for a used bucket truck.

Also, for used models, carefully inspect the insulation on the boom and the bucket, ensuring there are no cracks or deterioration that could compromise safety.

Why Can Bucket Trucks Be So Expensive?

It's important to note that bucket trucks tend to be costly—partly due to limited manufacturers dominating the market. Frequent users of these vehicles often realize that acquisition makes more financial sense than constantly shelling out for rentals.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Bucket Truck

Working Height and Reach

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a bucket truck is the working height and reach. Determine the maximum height requirements needed for your specific job requirements—considering factors such as overhead power lines or building heights. Compare the specifications of ongoing needs with the rated reach of the boom to ensure accessibility to different work areas. This will also keep you from buying too much or too little truck for the jobs you anticipate performing.

Weight Capacity

The weight capacity of the bucket truck is another crucial factor. Evaluate the maximum weight that the truck platform can support to ensure it can handle the material handling capabilities required for your tasks. Consider the weight of equipment, any materials that need to be lifted, and yes, your personnel. (We resisted the urge to insert a dieting joke here.)

Platform Size and Configuration

The size of the platform is important for providing a comfortable workspace for workers. Evaluate the platform dimensions, considering the number of workers that will be on the platform at any given time, as well as the equipment or tools that need to be used.

Additionally, consider the configuration of the platform, such as if it can rotate or extend to reach specific angles or positions.

Outrigger or Stabilizer Considerations

boom truck with extended outrigger stabilizers

The supportive extendable legs that extend from a bucket truck are called outriggers or stabilizers. These hydraulic legs provide stability and balance to the vehicle when the boom is in use, ensuring safety during operation.

Safety Features

Bucket trucks come with various safety features to protect workers and ensure job site safety. Look for features such as bucket straps, fall protection systems, emergency lowering controls, outriggers, and safety interlocks. These features can help prevent accidents and injuries, so it's crucial to prioritize safety when making a purchase.

Maintenance and Service History

Whether buying new or used, it's important to consider the maintenance and service history of the bucket truck. For used trucks, ask for maintenance records to ensure it has been properly serviced and maintained. For new trucks, inquire about the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and any warranty coverage.

Training and Familiarization

No, not just anyone can use a bucket truck! Be sure to consider the training and familiarization needed for operating a bucket truck. Ensure that your operators receive proper training and received any specialized licensing on how to safely operate the equipment—including how to set up and secure the truck, operate the controls, and perform routine maintenance.

Selecting the Right Elevated Work Platforms

Selecting the right elevated work platform for your bucket truck involves selecting the right platform height—which are categorized into categories under 50 feet, 50-59 feet, or over 60 feet—ensuring the safety and stability of workers performing various tasks at height.

The side reach of the platform, which indicates the horizontal movement from side to side, is also crucial in determining what tasks a specific cherry picker can handle.

Selecting Proper Boom Options

Insulated Boom Trucks

An insulated bucket truck is designed with safety as a top priority—featuring insulating materials in the bucket and boom to protect workers from electrical shock when working near live electrical components. This specialized insulation prevents electricity from flowing through the equipment, reducing the risk of injury and damage.

Choosing an insulated bucket truck is essential when performing tasks that involve close proximity to power lines or electrical equipment—ensuring the safety of workers and the proper functioning of the equipment.

Boom Insulation Rating Categories

There are several categories of boom insulation for insulated boom trucks, each with different voltage protection levels:

  • Category A: For barehand use, the boom protects workers, and a test system is installed in the upper boom. Can be used for gloving with proper covers.
  • Category B: Known as gloving buckets, these booms provide secondary protection with a test electrode system. Primary protection comes from insulating tools. Suitable for gloving with an additional cover.
  • Category C: Similar to Category B, these booms serve as secondary protection with a test electrode system. Limited to systems below 46 kV and can be used for gloving with an additional cover.
  • Category D: These booms lack electrode systems and don't require covers for gloving platforms. They act as secondary protection, while insulating tools provide primary protection. Work is limited to systems under 46 kV.
  • Category E: Designed for low-voltage applications, these booms use insulating guards or isolation for protection. They have various nameplate ratings for voltage levels.

Non-Insulated Boom Trucks

Not planning on working on electrical lines? Non-insulated bucket trucks can help you save some money for jobs that present no risk of electrocution.

Telescopic Boom Trucks

A telescopic boom truck features a straight, extendable arm that provides greater vertical reach for tasks requiring significant height access. Telescopic booms are well-suited for applications where a higher reach is needed, such as utility pole work, tree trimming, or accessing tall structures, as they can often reach greater heights than alternative boom styles.

Non-Articulating Telescopic Boom Trucks

Say that three-times fast! In comparison to simply a telescopic boom truck, a non-articulating telescopic bucket truck has a straight, extendable boom. They are ideal for tasks requiring greater vertical reach and stability over simply versatility. Non-articulating telescopic bucket trucks may be more affordable due to their simpler design, while telescopic bucket trucks with articulated booms may have a higher price tag due to their increased functionality. 

Overcenter Bucket Trucks

Overcenter bucket trucks provide greater reach and versatility—allowing the operator to extend the boom vertically and offering more side reach. This enhances safety and efficiency for workers. Generally, overcenter bucket trucks tend to be more expensive than non-overcenter bucket trucks due to their enhanced functionality and versatility.

Non-Overcenter Bucket Trucks

One might opt for a non-overcenter bucket truck instead of an overcenter boom truck when the primary focus is on accessing vertical heights rather than requiring extensive side reach or the ability to navigate around obstacles. Non-overcenter bucket trucks are often simpler in design, potentially more affordable, and easier to operate for tasks that don't demand the versatility provided by overcenter boom trucks.

non-overcenter vs overcenter booms on bucket trucks

Driveline Configurations

Driveline options for bucket trucks range from two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, all the way up to six-wheel drive, or even tank-style track bucket trucks—all depending on the heights and terrains the truck will navigate. Larger bucket trucks often necessitate more robust configurations like 4WD to 6WD to meet their material handling and reach requirements. The driveline will obviously impact the price of any piece of equipment as well as the cost of maintenance.

Cost of Maintenance

While the initial cost of a bucket truck is important, don't forget to factor in the maintenance in the cost of ownership. Regular upkeep ensures your bucket truck continues to run efficiently and remains operable for as long as possible.

To save yourself some headache down the line, it may be helpful to research the cost and availability of parts for certain cherry-picker models before shopping to manage maintenance cost expectations.

Consider the operational costs of these vehicles. Regular maintenance and inspection are non-negotiable for ensuring longevity and safety.

Inspecting Used Bucket Trucks for Sale

Before you buy any bucket truck—but especially used boom truck models—carrying out a thorough inspection is crucial to ensure that you're investing in a safe, efficient, and reliable vehicle. A meticulously maintained truck is more likely to offer longevity and consistent performance.

Here are some key aspects to check when inspecting used bucket trucks for sale.

Exterior Condition

Look for signs of damage such as dents, rust, and corrosion which can undermine the structural integrity of the vehicle. Pay close attention to the condition of boom and buckets themselves—they should operate smoothly without any signs of undue wear or damage. Also check for fluid leaks, tire condition, and the functionality of lights and signals.

Outrigger or Stabilizer Considerations

When shopping for a used bucket truck, examine the condition of the outriggers—checking for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Test their functionality by extending and retracting them, and listening for any unusual noises or signs of hydraulic leaks.

Additionally, verify that the outriggers have adequate reach and ground clearance for the types of terrain you will encounter during operation. Ensuring proper function and maintenance of outriggers is critical for the safe and efficient use of a bucket truck.

Engine and Transmission

The heart of a bucket truck is its engine, and it’s vital that this core component is in good condition.

Diesel engines are prevalent in these heavy-duty vehicles, known for their durability and long life. Listen for unusual noises, check for smoke on startup, and review fluid levels.

Transmission options can greatly impact your work. Automatic transmissions may offer smoother operation over manual ones—which could be critical based on your application. Manual transmissions offer a bit more control but make sure the clutch is in good shape. Make sure that the vehicle shifts smoothly without hesitation, and inspect for any leaks or damage to the transmission system.

Hybrid Bucket Trucks

Hybrid bucket trucks are gaining popularity in North America as utility companies and industries increasingly focus on reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Before purchasing a used hybrid bucket truck, buyers should inspect key components such as the hybrid system (electric motor, batteries, and charging system), aerial lift (boom, platform, and hydraulic system), electrical system, and Power Take-Off (PTO) for proper function, wear, or damage.

Vehicle History

Understanding the owner history of the bucket truck provides insight into potential future issues. Look for documentation of the year of manufacture, model, and use history. This information can help to determine the vehicle's ability to perform specific tasks as well as its reliability. 

Hydraulic System

Hydraulic systems provide the lifting power for bucket trucks and should be scrutinized for signs of wear or leaks. The system should operate smoothly without any juddering movements.

As we've covered, if the bucket truck is a hybrid, inquire about the electric motor's condition and ensure all related systems, such as batteries, are in proper working order. Consider the fuel efficiency and ecological impact of the hydraulic system, particularly if you're leaning towards a hybrid or all-electric model.

Inspecting Safety Features

Your final check should be for safety features. Examine the presence and condition of fall arrest systems, anchorage points for safety harnesses, and emergency lowering mechanisms. Test the stability controls and operator safety interlocks to ensure they're fully functional. Remember, the safety features not only protect workers but also are a good indicator of the vehicle’s overall quality and maintenance level.

Bucket Truck Deal Breakers

When considering the purchase of a bucket truck, there are several potential deal breakers that should raise red flags. Let's delve into these bucket truck deal breakers in more detail.

Rust and Corrosion

Rust and corrosion can severely affect the long-term usability of a bucket truck. These issues often occur in vehicles used in harsh climates or that have seen heavy use. Regions with salty air or roads can be particularly brutal, leading to accelerated deterioration. Rust can erode the metal, compromising the structural integrity and posing a safety hazard for workers operating at high elevations.

During inspection, pay special attention to the boom and bucket areas—where integrity is paramount. If signs of advanced corrosion are evident, it's wise to consider another vehicle that's been managed better or is situated in a gentler environment.

Leaks and Fluid Contamination

Leaks are another critical concern when it comes to bucket truck performance and safety. Whether it's hydraulic fluid, oil, or other vital liquids, leaks can signify underlying issues with the vehicle’s mechanical systems. Fluid contamination as a result of leaks can damage the hydraulic system, restrict functionality, and even result in system failure when operating the boom or elevating the platform. A thorough inspection to identify leaks can save you from sudden operational failures and costly repairs.

Emissions Compliance

When purchasing a bucket or boom truck—especially a diesel engine bucket truck—it is crucial to consider Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Ensuring compliance with emission standards is not only responsible but also prevents potential legal issues.

Don't Forget About Professional Inspections!

mechanic inspecting a bucket truck for sale

Even though an online list of red flags and dealer-breakers when buying a used bucket truck is a handy way to quickly remove trucks from consideration, any bucket trucks you're considering buying should be fully inspected by a specialized professional mechanic first. Though this may cost a few hundred dollars, it will be money well spent for your peace of mind.

Heck, this may even provide you with some negotiating power when agreeing upon a price depending on what the mechanic finds!

Where to Buy Bucket Trucks For Sale

"Where can I find new and used bucket trucks for sale?"

When embarking on the purchase of a bucket truck, potential buyers have various avenues to explore.

  • Bucket truck dealers can provide expertise and support as well as the newest models.
  • Fleet companies are often looking to offload past fleet trucks at a discount, making them a great source for cost-effective used options.
  • Private sellers may be a good source of used bucket trucks for sale to find a great deal, though special caution is urged to ensure the proper quality and safety of the vehicle.
  • Online marketplaces provide a wide range of bucket truck styles and models from a variety of sources—including all of the above-mentioned options.

You're Now Ready to Find Your Next Bucket Truck for Sale

Equipped with this guide, you're ready to start shopping! Start pinpointing which model will serve you best, which will be the best value, and begin to narrow your field of bucket truck candidates that will move onto the final round of professional inspection before purchase.

You're also invited to find your winning bucket truck model with help from your friends at My Little Salesman. Since 1958, My Little Salesman has been connecting buyers with sellers of commercial trucks, heavy equipment, heavy tools, and accessories. Use the intuitive filtering tools through My Little Salesman's online marketplace to save a list of bucket truck models that fit the bill.

Shop for New and Used Bucket Trucks For Sale Now

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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