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Sorting out semi truck values

Shopping around for used semitrailer trucks offers a unique set of challenges as compared with tractors. That’s what I discovered while walking the aisles at a massive truck consignment sale in Bettendorf, Iowa.

I came looking for 6- to 8-year-old Class 8 tractor trucks at this event held by US Auctioneers ( I came across two 2006 Freightliner CL12064ST Columbia class trucks. One was powered by a Detroit diesel engine, while the other had a Mercedes Benz power plant.

With tractors – actually, almost all farm equipment, for that matter – any model machine is offered with a single engine. Period.

Yet, here I was, looking at two of the same model Freightliners with different engines.

“They also sold them with Cat diesels,” Dick Phelps of US Auctioneers told me. “Freightliner was known for customizing trucks to preference.”

Engine variety is just the tip of the variation iceberg you’ll discover among tractor trucks. Today, you can select from seven different manufacturers of Class 8 (33,001 to 80,000 gross vehicle weight rating) trucks.

Besides Freightliner, other makes you can choose from include Kenworth, International, Mack, Peterbilt, Volvo, and Western Star (co-owned with Freightliner by Damiler).

Some manufacturers handle their models like tractor makers do, by offering a variety of models under one name. For example, Peterbilt’s current line of on-highway trucks consists of six models. The top of their line is the 579.

Options proliferate like pigweeds in summer with the 579. You can choose from three different engines, three different transmissions, two front-spring options, four rear-suspension options, two different size fuel tanks, and on and on.

The variety of options on Class 8 trucks makes price comparison nearly impossible unless you’ve done background research prior to searching for a deal.


Sizing up Freightliner’s Columbia class

For your convenience, I’ve gathered sale data on the Freightliner CL12064ST day cab trucks and sorted those trucks by engine type in the Pocket Price Guide on the next page. I restricted this comparison of Columbias only to 2006 and 2007 model year trucks that have sold recently. You’ll notice the trucks are sorted by their respective engines.

Take a moment to look at the engine groupings and their final sale price. Notice that the CL12064STs powered by Mercedes Benz engines sell for less. There is a reason for that. “That engine never performed as well as Mercedes Benz wanted,” explains Phelps. “It gained a reputation. So now, years later, trucks with Mercedes engines bring less at sale.”

Accessories also add to trucks value

Beyond a tractor truck’s general configuration, there are certain accessories you may want that add value to the vehicle. For example, a PTO and wet kit offer the benefit of hydraulics that can be employed to open hopper bottom gates from the cab. A head rack comes in handy to store chains and to load binders, particularly if you are using the tractor with a flatbed trailer.

Background check

Once you’ve settled on a couple of tractor trucks you would like to bid on, take the extra time to investigate their backgrounds.

“Certainly you need to inspect the truck or have someone inspect it for you prior to the sale,” urges Phelps. “Call the auctioneer and ask him about the truck. Get the owner’s name and call him up. Ask how he used the truck, what kind of maintenance it received, and what problems he had with it. Be sure to ask to see copies of service records. You have got to do your due diligence before bidding.”


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