Used Commercial Truck Opportunities

Rarely do I see a dealer that will stock used upfitted trucks as a regular stocking strategy. I can tell you that from my experience, whatever effort I went through to get good used commercial trucks was worth it. I typically averaged 50+ used upfit trucks a year and the gross profits were much stronger than on new trucks.

For this market, you have to have a bit more courage and autonomy. The used car manager is not a fan of paying anything close to book value typically, but you will not buy much in the way of commercial trucks that way. I've paid as much as $3,000 over book value and still made over $3,000 gross. It just depends on the truck. The closer it is to new, the more you have to see the difference in used cost versus new vehicle invoice so you don't get too close. Two to five year old units are probably the best. Commercial trucks as a general rule tend to acquire more mileage more quickly, so you will find a lot of high milers, but you will find plenty with acceptable mileage levels.

I generally looked through the Truck Trader and similar magazines myself for opportunities. I would find them sometimes from other dealers who did not want to stock them or that were looking for a bid on a trade in. I also had 3-4 wholesalers looking for me as well. Many times they might call me from an auction in LA or someplace to see if I was interested. I would buy van bodies on Isuzu chassis and others from Budget Rent-a-Truck and other such firms. They usually sell them for themselves, but sometimes you can pick up a few here and there. Sometimes I would apply dollar cost averaging strategies to get a number of buys and then average out the costs. You have to get creative to find them.

One of the largest fears is reconditioning. If you're in the commercial market for a while, you will be able to look a truck over pretty well and be a good guesser. If there is doubt and you have the time, the best scenario is to run a quick check in the shop. Brakes can be pretty expensive on commercial sometimes, so that can save you some money. I recommend that you do the reconditioning needed to make it look good. If the bed needs a repaint from a lot of scratches, etc., you will get a great deal more for it by cleaning it up fully. If the rear bumper has been hit a few times, get it straightened or replaced. Make it something you are proud to offer and stand behind.

Of course, the largest fear is the wholesale value versus what you are in the truck. Frankly, this you will have to get past if you are to be really successful in the commercial market with used trucks. Instead, make sure to use your experience and have a strategy and a plan A, plan B and even Plan C on how you are going to move the truck. I rarely wholesaled a used commercial truck. I wanted to retail them. The first day you see the truck you are thinking about buying, you should have a plan developed or developing quickly in your head. Used commercial trucks are generally easy to market to a wide audience.

Don't be foolish. Be business like. See the opportunities. Pay attention to detail. Be aware of reconditioning needs to make the truck right. Buy it with reality in mind and still have flexibility. You have to have your shop participating with your thinking so you can keep things in line. Do not step up to make the deal by overvaluing the trade. That creates a false gross. Step up if the vehicle warrants it and it is necessary to buy it as if you were going to buy it anyway. Don't let the deal you're on dictate your thinking. That will keep you on a good path.

All in all, this can be an awesome market. If you are serious about growing your department, you can't do well without it.

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