CRTS Insights

Should You Buy a New or Used Trailer?

Posted by David Shepherd on Nov 3, 2019 10:56:58 PM

KentuckyVan_V1Many owner-operators think that used semi-trailers are just someone else’s problem that you’re buying. Others don’t realize that they’re ready to upgrade to a new trailer. Whether you’re looking for a new or a used trailer, CRTS can help you identify the best fit for your situation. 

Should you buy a new or a used trailer? Let’s take a look at the advantages of each.

Why Buy a Used Trailer?

B09646-R-CroppedIf you’re a new owner-operator, chances are you want to buy a used trailer. As you’re starting out your business, you need to invest in a trailer within your operating budget. A reliable used unit will allow you to get out and establish some runs and customers. You can then build that base into long-term relationships. 

If you’re a new owner-operator with a semi-trailer that’s costing an arm and a leg every month, and you’re utilizing it only 30-40 percent of the time, you won’t stay in business for long.

Instead, we recommend looking at something within your operating budget. So if you do have four or five days where you’re sitting still, it won’t put you out of business.

Related: What to Expect When Financing Your New or Used Trailer

There are good reasons for veteran haulers to purchase used trailers, too. For example, a couple of used trailers might be the right choice if you’re doing drop-and-hook hauling. Shippers usually don’t treat expensive new trailers any better than older used ones. 

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Why Buy New?

Reefer-for-Inserts-Cropped-2New trailers have several advantages, as long as it makes economic sense to purchase new. The most obvious advantage is the warranty. You don’t get a warranty with a used trailer, and that can make a big difference. 

Just as you want to stay within your operating budget, you should also consider your maintenance budget. With a new trailer, maintenance is almost non-existent for the first three years, aside from preventive maintenance like oil changes. Used semi-trailers require more maintenance from the start. Buying new can relieve that cost burden.

New trailers also have an advantage if you’re hauling food-grade materials. The FSMA program enforces the cleanliness of a trailer that’s transporting food items. If a used trailer has a cut in the liner, it could be rejected at the loading dock, but a newer trailer will almost always get loaded without a second thought. 

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Are You Ready to Buy New?

owner-driverHow do you know when it’s time to start buying new trailers? There’s a fine line to walk. You need to look realistically at all the parameters and run the numbers. For example, if you have successfully stayed under a load about 80 percent of the time, and you’re able to make a profit from the loads, you’re probably ready to move up to a new semi-trailer.

However, if you’re only under a load about 60 percent of the time and you’re making much less than an eight percent profit, we don’t recommend moving up to a new trailer.

Also consider how much you’re spending on maintenance. If you’re taking a three percent margin every month and you’re spending two percent on maintenance, your trailer is sucking your profits and you probably need a more reliable used trailer. Your maintenance costs should never overwhelm your profits. 

An older trailer will require more maintenance, but if you can keep your maintenance costs in line and run decent loads on a regular basis, you’re probably ready for an upgrade.


Common Questions About Used Trailers

Our customers often have questions about the used trailers on our lot. They want to be sure they’re getting a unit that won’t let them down, even though it isn’t new. CRTS only stocks and sells quality trailers, because we’re committed to helping your business grow. 

Here’s a few of the most common questions we hear: 

  1. Is there a warranty on the unit? Unless the original owner purchased an extended warranty and the unit is less than four years old, there is no warranty.

  2. Will it pass a federal inspection? Yes, every trailer we sell will pass inspection. That’s one of the things CRTS is proud to say — every used trailer we sell will have a current federal inspection on it.

  3. Does the trailer leak? We do our best to ensure that it doesn’t. Our trailers are checked top to bottom and stem to stern.

  4. What customizations can I add? A lot of customizations can be done to a new trailer to make it fit your specific needs. However, a used trailer can only add cosmetic changes, such as side skirts. Unfortunately, you can’t change the specs of a trailer that’s already built.

How CRTS Helps You Decide What to Buy

We sincerely try to get to know you and what you’re doing with the trailer — where you are  running to, how long you’ve been in business, whether you have any dedicated contract hauls, what kind of product are you pulling. The more we can learn about what you’re doing and what your business is, the better we can help you

Somebody may say they want to buy a new reefer. We’ll talk to them a bit and sometimes it turns out they don’t need a new reefer. What they need is a good, reliable, used reefer that can save them $20,000 and keep their operating ratio to a livable standard. But if a new reefer makes the most sense for the customer and his operation, we are happy to help with it.

As a customer, you know your business a lot better than we do. But we try to help you think about factors that you may not have considered. We can often suggest more ideal solutions to help you accomplish what you’re trying to do - which is to keep running and make a profit.

Handpicked related reading: Get the Trailer You Need, Not the One a Dealer Wants to Sell


CRTS is a trusted partner to hundreds of transportation firms in the southeast region. We have accomplished this by putting our customers first, providing unequalled service, and offering the best semi-trailer products available. 


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For 50 years, CRTS, Inc. has been a trusted partner to hundreds of transportation firms. We accomplished this by putting our customers first, providing unequaled service, and offering the best semi-trailer products available. 

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