To repair or replace—that is the question.
For some semi truck owner-operators, their truck is their baby. For others, their truck is simply a tool for getting the job done. Whether you have an endearing nickname for your rig or you prefer to keep things strictly professional, we can all agree that your truck is perhaps your greatest asset and investment for the continued success of your business or even career.
So, what happens when your semi truck starts to show signs of wear, aging, or when the odometer starts to resemble the latest estimated lottery jackpots?
“So, what should I do? Should I revamp my rig or look at new semi trucks for sale?”
Well, that depends on several factors. Let’s look at four such factors so that you can feel good about your decision to rebuild or replace your semi truck.
1. Is the cost of truck maintenance eating your lunch?
Making the leap from a worn-out truck to a newer rig is still a leap from one monthly payment to another. The question you need to ask yourself is—which monthly payment makes the most sense? And is one payment growing faster than the other?
Let’s crunch the numbers a bit to see if a new truck makes “cents.”
First, let’s say that you drive an average of 10,500 miles per month.
The Cost Keeping Your Semi Truck
Your existing semi truck likely has a much lower monthly payment than a newer model. That being said, the maintenance costs required to keep it on the road may end up eating any savings you currently enjoy.
Let’s say your current truck payment is $1,700 per month and your cost of maintenance averages out at about 16 cents per mile ($1,575 a month). Before other fees, that’s a total of $3,275 a month.
Ok, remember that figure.
The Cost of Buying a New Semi Truck
It’s no surprise that buying a newer or new semi truck will likely be more expensive than the rig you have now. That being said, newer trucks require much less maintenance per mile on average.
Let’s say that a newer semi truck payment is $2,700 per month and maintenance costs average out to about 6 cents per mile ($630). Before other fees, that’s $3,330 per month.
There's another concept to remember when looking at these numbers—maintenance increase as the truck ages. Monthly payments, however, usually remain the same short of a refinancing situation.
So, while you may feel like you’re saving money driving your semi truck until the wheels come off, it may be handy to know that a newer truck is only around $55 more per month away—or less.
And we haven’t even touched on the other factors yet!
2. Are you going to be in the trucking industry for the “long haul”?
Pardon the pun, but how long you see yourself in the trucking industry is a huge factor to consider before buying a newer truck.
“I don’t plan on having a long career as an owner-operator truck driver.”
Different people get into trucking for different reasons. If you're planning on moving into a different career in a few years, it may not make sense to buy a new truck.
Sure, a newer truck may end up costing less to maintain but there’s no promise that it will hold onto its resale value when you’re ready to toss the keys to the next driver and say “sayonara” to the industry. Sticking with your current semi truck until you split may be the smarter move.
“I plan on remaining an owner-operator truck driver for many years to come.”
If you see yourself behind the wheel of your own semi truck possibly for the next several years, if not decades, a new truck may be a worthwhile investment—especially if your current truck has seen better days. Sure, a new truck means a higher payment, but you may end up saving big on maintenance, fuel, and our next factor to consider…
3. Can your current semi truck easily keep up with evolving emissions regulations?
As Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
One of these “a-changing” aspects of the trucking industry are emissions regulations. If you’re operating or planning on operating in California or many states like it, your old favorite semi truck will need a trip to the shop in order to meet CARB emission standards.
What are CARB regulation standards for semi trucks?
CARB regulations are emissions standards set by the California Air Resources Board. CARB regulations govern the emissions standards of the engines of diesel trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GCWR) of 14,000 pounds (6,351 kilograms) or more. The regulations state that such vehicles must be fitted with particulate matter (PM) filters—which help remove pollutants such as ash and soot from diesel truck exhaust.
CARB regulations also require that current semi trucks are outfitted with an engine year of 2007 or newer. In 2023, that engine year requirement goes up to 2010 or newer. All CARB-approved trucks must be registered with the the Air Resources Board of the California EPA.
And it’s not just California with the higher-than-average emissions requirements. Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington State, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Massachusetts have all enacted CARB-level emissions standards—that is to say, higher than the EPA’s national standards.
How much does it cost to make my semi truck CARB compliant?
Depending on the state of your semi truck’s engine and the emissions filtration status of your exhaust system, the amount of maintenance required to make your truck CARB-approved can run anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 or more—depending on which components need to be replaced.
For the most accurate figures, consult a reputable semi truck mechanic to determine if your truck’s engine and exhaust system meet CARB standards and to learn what upgrades would be necessary.
4. How would a new truck impact your financing or insurance rates?
When making a major business decision, such as buying a new semi truck, it’s important to consider how this will impact your other costs. More than maintenance costs, buying a new truck will likely impact your financing rates, insurance rates, registration fees, and the like. Before you start looking at newer semi trucks for sale, it’s never hurts to get financing and insurance quotes—both on models you have in mind and your existing rig.
Many companies have made it easy to request quotes on semi truck financing, insurance, and many other services that go along with buying a new semi truck. Some companies even provide semi truck insurance calculators capable of providing ballpark estimates in seconds.
Due Diligence = A Great Decision
The decision to buy a new commercial truck is one of the most important decisions you can make as an owner-operator. It is crucial that you weigh the pros, cons, the costs, and the advantages of any decision you make. There’s no rush to come to a decision right away, so do your due diligence. Your future self will thank you.
Fortunately, you have tons of options—and your friends over at My Little Salesman have you covered. Our database of semi truck dealers located all over the United States (and beyond) are constantly updating their inventory listings with thousands of semi trucks for sale. Whether you’re looking for a new sleeper semi truck for long hauls, day cab trucks for regional jobs, or delivery box trucks for moving goods around town, My Little Salesman has hundreds of pages of truck listings for you to explore. Filter your search to save time and easily connect with truck dealers near you.
Whether you can’t wait to name your next rig and kiss the steering wheel or you’d rather take a more professional approach, your future commercial truck awaits at My Little Salesman.
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