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Post-Tier 4 Semitrucks Are the Best Buy

Sure, most trucks made after 2007 use DEF, but such semis offer a far better buy.

It all comes down to whether you are willing to pay more for a semitruck that is older and has higher mileage on its odometer yet runs with a pre-Tier 4 engine that doesn’t require diesel exhaust fluid and pricey particulate filter maintenance.  

“Certainly, concerning the farm market, those pre-Tier 4 semitrucks are highly sought after,” confirms Bill Nelson of US Auctioneers, one of the largest truck resellers in the country. “As a result, they have stronger prices – particularly if they have low miles for their age.”

Therein lies the rub. Semitrucks that fit that description were built prior to 2007. With 10 or more years under their belts, trucks built just before the EPA forced the deployment of the Tier 4 diesel have often chalked up well over 500,000 miles. 

So when a relatively low-mile pre-Tier 4 truck comes up for sale, it is guaranteed to attract a lot of bidders, especially farmer buyers. These circumstances drive up final bids so much so that pre-Tier 4 trucks will fetch prices being given for post-Tier 4 vehicles with fewer miles. 

What’s odd about this situation is that many farmers are already acquainted with DEF. It’s been required in diesel pickup trucks for as long as it has in semitrucks. High-horsepower farm equipment has been operating with Tier 4 diesels for several years now.

So why pay a premium for a pre-Tier 4 semitruck that has more miles and wear and tear on it? Good question.

four to five years older, twice the miles, yet selling for the same price

A great example of the higher prices being paid for pre-Tier 4 trucks can be seen in the two International 8600 trucks found in this issue’s Pocket Price Guide. These two trucks sold for an average of $14,800 and had chalked up an average of 260,676 miles.

For a comparison, I checked on recent sales of 2007 International 8600 trucks. I discovered 11 such trucks sold in the past three months for an average of $15,772. That’s slightly more than the 2011 and 2010 International listed in the Pocket Price Guide.

Here’s the kicker. Those 2007s had an average of 573,584 miles. That’s over twice as many miles as the Pocket Price Guide trucks.

Nelson feels there is great opportunity right now to pick up post-Tier 4 semitrucks at good prices. 

“Sales of new semitrucks really picked up after 2009 due to the general economy improving,” he notes. “Many of those trucks are now hitting the resale market, making their inventories strong. If you do some shopping right now, you’ll find good buying opportunities on low-mile vehicles.”

What you’ll find in short supply right now are farmer-owned semitrucks. Depressed commodity prices have dried up the availability of such trucks, which “are the gold standard when it comes to semitrucks,” says Dan Sullivan of Sullivan Auctioneers. “Such trucks always bring more money. That’s true now more than ever.” 

What to look for in a used semitruck

Background checks and comparison shopping are key to buying a used truck. Here are three steps to take.

1. Research the background and inspect the truck prior to purchase. “Certainly you need to inspect the truck or have someone inspect it for you prior to the sale,” urges Dick Phelps of US Auctioneers. “Call the auctioneer and ask about the truck. Get the owner’s name and call him up. Ask how the truck was used, what kind of maintenance it received, and what problems there were. Be sure to ask to see copies of service records.”

2. Learn how the truck is equipped. Semitrucks are rich in variety when it comes to options; the way they’re equipped impacts their price.

For example, Freightliner trucks can have a Cat, Detroit, or Mercedes Benz engine. Cat-powered Freightliners bring a price premium at auction.

Engine horsepower varies widely among trucks, even within a model line.

Semitrucks come to auction with a wide variety of wheelbases. The longer the wheelbase, the better it is for farm trucks to negotiate older bridges.

3. Determine the features it offers. A truck that comes with a wet kit can bring a $2,000 to $3,000 premium at auction. Trucks with all aluminum wheels can bring extra money, too. 

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