New Truck or Used Truck


Senior Member
This got started under the "Axle rating" thread and I think there's prolly more input to be had.

I believe in running new equipement, but necessarily new trucks.

No sucessful business becomes that way by running junk, we all agree on that.

If money or credit were not a hurdle, what would you buy & run?

GeoffD Veteran
Here is my reply, Just copied from the axel rating thread:

It comes down to two things reliablity and looks.

I work in the utility construction biz. I my service area is just about the whole state of Maine, and have been to NH before for jobs.

I send guys to jobs 2,3 even 4 hours away. They don't want a beater truck, and I don't blame them. We have contract jobs with major utilities, and do jobs for other private contractors. When a gas maine breaks at 3 am in the morning, guess what my guys have to get up and fix it. I don't need to hear at 3 am that a truck won't start and they can't get to the job or something like that. My trucks need to run every day, they need to leave the shop every day, and ya know what if they don't i have lost big time money. If they have to call someone else, if they can find someone else, because we can't get there. We have to pay for the other company to do the job, as well as a "fine" to the company we have the contract with. If we are doing a contract job, and we have 15 days to do the job, and we take 17 days we, we could be paying the a "fine" for as much as 5K a day or more. If it takes 2 days longer, because we have a truck in the shop for 2 days, where does that leave us?

It sometimes sounds like I have trucks just sitting around, but when the ground isn't frozen, and there isn't any snow. We are working very hard, when we are done with installs and under ground work, in the winter we change modes. We park the backhoes, and exevators, and the loaders go to do snow, and the tri axels may sit around. However the pick ups and 1-tons and even the F 650s are out doing service up-grades, where exevation isn't required.

If I had a service radius of 20 miles, you bet I would run trucks longer. I look at it this way, bigger service area, more money, at the same time more expenses, trucks need to be replaced more often.

Could you tell your employees get in that 1985 F 250 with 400,000 miles on it, and drive to Fort Kent, almost to Canada, about a 4 hour ride from my shope, where you can drive 50 miles and not pass a car, or a town?

Granted I keep a truck till it has 150K on it at least. Then it is either replaced, or kept in a more local service area.

I am just tired of being "picked on" for having to use new truck, to keep the biz on track.

I will tell you, that if all I did was plow snow, I would be running older trucks, and keeping new ones much longer. I have nothing against useing older trucks, their is nothing wrong with it, when you have a small service area.

However for me Time is money, I can't afford to have a truck in the shop for days on end waiting for parts. I don't have enough tome to keep fixing trucks all the time, my Mechanic is busy enough as it is. It's plain and simple an old truck will spend more time in the shop, and thats fine for most work.

Oh yea, why is my Mechanic busy: My Mechanic has a lot of stuff to maintain.

He has to maintain/fix, exevators, loaders, backhoes, tractors, snowblowers, tri -axel dumps, tandem axel dumps, compactors, generators, trailers, pick-ups, 1-tons, and just about every other thing you can think of with a motor on it.

I am very lucky I have found someone that can fix all that stuff. I don't want to add to his load, by constantly maintaining an older truck.

The Ford's are not breaking down every day, thats a fact. It just when you have this much stuff to maintain, you don't need to deal with any more. Trust me newer truck equal less breakdowns, and less up keep. Guys are also less likely to beat a newer truck. I had an employee dent a licence plat when connecting to a trailer. Later that day, he said "gee Geoff, sorry about the dent in the licence plate" Even though there work trucks, the guys put pride into them.

These are the reasons I buy new. If I wasn't in this biz, you bet I would buy used, and run longer.

BTW I do buy used equipment and trucks. Just depends on what it is going to be used for. My plow trucks, are needed everday all year round, thats why I go new with them.


[Edited by GeoffDiamond on 11-29-2000 at 12:57 AM]


Senior Member
One of the things I like about my older trucks is ALL the parts are available locally. My local garage always get me in within a few hours.

I'm virtually guarenteed to not have a truck down for more than 24 hours. That's real valuable with a plow truck.


My take:

Older trucks aren't less reliable, if they are/were abused they will quit, just like a new truck.

Lets take a late 70's Chevy 350 in a 3/4 ton:

no emissions junk, not 1 million vacuum lines, no computer,
you open the hood and there the engine is, only things that can go wrong are:

Alternator (plow truck would get new high-output one anyway)
starter (well never seen one go out but, week spot)
carburetor (get a new one)

I mean what else can go wrong on these things?

no vacuum operated hubs, one of the most unreliable things ever made, no electronic overdrive auto's that have to be rebuilt ever 20,000 mi., no electronic stuff to fail,

my point is, you do a little work when you buy and old truck and it will pay you big returns!

+ they are American made, and so are a great majority of parts on them.


cutntrim - Veteran
Geoff's justifications for buying "new" make perfect sense to me. For us it's the opposite - we work never more than a half-hour drive (more in traffic) from our storage garages. My partner and I were just discussing the argument of "new" vs. "old" today. If we were to buy "new", a 1-ton 4x4 set up to trailer and plow would be about $35,000CDN before taxes. We run three trucks, and will no doubt expand to four when our plowing route gets larger. We just can't justify (or afford) to pay around $700 per month per truck. Not when our used trucks can do equal the work, for a LOT less cost. Our philosophy has been to purchase quality, used trucks, and new mowing and plowing equipment. Better to have one used truck too many, which can act in a backup role if another one is in the shop, than to dole out big bucks for new trucks. This way we aren't paralyzed when one of our trucks is down for repair. The cost of owning and insuring three used trucks is still cheaper than making payments on two new ones.

DaveO Veteran

I plow with an old truck. An 83 F150 with the big six(300).

Yes it is easy to fix compared to todays technotrucks. Does it do the job, ABSOLUTELY. It is also stronger than most all new 1/2 tons.


There is always something that fails. Whether it's the wiper motor, or the fan motor, or the front axle. I have rebuilt 90% of this truck, so I know what is left to fail. You have to have a LOT of time to run an older truck, they require more maintainence. Also finding parts is sometimes harder.

An older truck is probably better suited for a backup vehicle, unless you rebuild it 100%.

And YES, NEW trucks breakdown too..HOPEFULLY less often



Senior Member
S. Maine
We trade in our trucks every 3 to 4 years. We run a busy all year round lanscape company and cant afford breakdowns. While we were growing we bought used trucks but some of them were someone elses problems especialy former used plow trucks the worst. You do have to start somewhere but if the finances are available why risk breakdowns and other possible faliures at your expense when you buy new its called WARRANTY!!!


Senior Member
Our new Dodges were down FAR more than our older ones.

Our diesel missed almost 2 months of one winter waiting for a transmission. Even now the dealer schedules work 1-2 weeks out.

What good is Warranty if your truck is down?


Senior Member
S. Maine
We buy new at local dealers all our trucks no used. If our truck was down they would let me have the company truck to finish jobs off. Only thing was no sander would have to sub out but thats no problem. Thats why we run 2 to 3 trucks and dealer gives us benifiets to loaners even with PLOWS.


Senior Member
That's awesome!

A truck with a plow for a loaner. We have 1 company here with 18 trucks and only after 7 (seven) were at the dealership with repair did they let them take the 1 demo with a front blade.

You miss the salter, I'd miss the rear-plows (esp. on driveway routes) and the V-Plow. (And the clutch-pump.) (And the Blizzak tires.) (And the back-up light/flasher)

Either way a loaner on a plow truck is priceless.


Senior Member
S. Maine
LOL lazer I would miss the diesel clatter and diesel smell. I hope if that ever happens to us I will remember to put gas in the loaner and not diesel, BAM!!! that deal would ended real fast!


Lazer brings up a good point,

so what if it is under warranty have to wait forever to get it back from the dealership, where on a older truck roll some duct tape around it and its ready to go again, downtime 5 minutes

speaking of downtime, takes me 30 minutes to do a full tune-up on my truck (plugs, wires, air filter, pcv, dist. cap)

where on a new truck takes 30 minutes to find the spark plugs on the engine :(



Senior Member
S. Maine
((COWBOY)))We maintain condominiums that run 1 to 2 million dollers on water front, sorry duct tape truck would hurt the image, not dissa you but we maintain high visible commercial accounts that 100's to 1000's of people see our equipment on a daily basis and a old duct tape truck would not keep the accounts coming in. If it was my choice personally if one person with a ratty old truck was going to bill me $800.00 per storm and some one else comes up in a nice looking and maintained truck and his bid was $900.00 per storm I would take him in a second, the other guy with the ratty old duct tape truck would give me the image that he or she doesnt take care of there equipment or does not put a return profit back into business. He may break down, he may have problems hard telling. Sorry but took keep a professional image your equipment does say alot about your company!!!


Senior Member
Sorry I was just having a little fun,I was not trying to insight a riot.

We have had this DISCUSSION before and most of you know my opinion,but for those that don't I'll rehash a little.The fact that there seems to be so much black and white here bugs me.If its not new It's "junk" or "a duct tape machine".If you service some high test establishment thats great but how does a well maintained 86 3/4ton pickup make you look any less professional than a new one.Do you think that a newbee to the bussiness asking advice on a plow truck should invest in a $30,000 rig?Maybe they need a well maintained used truck to see if they really can make a go of it, then move that truck to backup when they are a little most established.

I also see where in some cases the need for a new truck for year round dependabliltiy is important,so I am not saying new is bad for everyone.We only have short trips to make so the oldest truck we plow with is a 85 and the newest is a 93,my guys need to be running the brand new construction equip they have rather than running around in new pickups that makes me no money during the nonsnow season.

Just seems as picky as this site tends to be about specifics on everything,often more needs to be known about the person asking advice so that an accurate response can be given and we can do away with the pat answer of a truck that alot of people dream about and would love to have an excuse to buy, but in reality, it may not be right for them. All that money the rest of us are making to afford them has been hard won and my take some time for them to aquire and driving a well maintain used truck may keep them in buss. long enough to see another year.

Of course as always this is just my opinion.


2000 Club Member
Our fleet is as follows
98 Chevy k-30
86 k-30
88 k-30
84 k-20
Sub trucks
99 Ranger
97 Dodge
96 Ford
99 Ford 250 SD
All plows are newer, but I also dont see the need to buy new all time. I am building the 86 k-30 right now, and when we are done I will have about 4K into it, it will be all new front to back, and more hd than most new trucks. I am sure there will be a few bugs to work out, but all in all it will be a good plow truck.
The 88 k-30 was bought from a neighbor,he has owned it since new, and took good care of it. Truck has 80K on it and is in great shape. My price 8K. My 84 I bought for 2500 with plow and have put about 1k into it over the last year. It made me about 15K last winter, pretty good return on investment. So I will have 3 trucks that when all is said and done will have cost about 1/2 of one new truck. Both the 86 and 88 have never plowed, so they havent seen years of abuse.
All are painted and lettered real nice, and Mr. Exec at the condo doesnt really care what the plow truck looks like as long as he can drive the beamer in the am.
So good used is the way to go for me.


Senior Member
AMEN to cutntrim;
I think the general concensus goes that when you start out, you almost HAVE to buy used, unless you already have a nice truck. When you get bigger, you generally upgrade to newer/nicer trucks.
I prefer the 73-87 chevy trucks, like Chuck. Love the body style, & I can get body or motor parts Anywhere! I try to stick with mid to upper 80's. I currently have an 87 Silverado that has had about everything replaced but the body, & just got an 80 shortbed as my other plow truck that is a good looking truck with new motor & tranny to boot.
I believe you should buy the best YOU CAN AFFORD, & keep it well maintained, & appearance should be nice too. That goes a long way in presentation. I would rather see a nice 86 ford than a ratty 98 dodge (saw one a while back).
Also I don't have a heart attack if I get a scratch on my WORK truck. That's probably why I don't get a newer truck (plus I can't afford that kind of $$ yet).
If I had an operation like Geoff D., I'd probably have to have newer trucks. My operation is smaller, & routes are more local, so I can do fine with well maintained older trucks. Plus like others have said, I can do alot of the work myself, can get into the engine compartment & sit on a fender, & I KNOW what has been done & what may go wrong with it, because I know what has/hasn't been fixed yet.
SO for now, with MY situation, I'm doin the used truck thing. I think that when I get bigger, I still won't put a plow on a new truck to get beat up. I'd rather use a used fleet truck to do plowing, esp. if I have employees!

[Edited by yardsmith on 11-29-2000 at 03:01 PM]


Senior Member
S. Maine
((Diggerman)) I wasnt saying an older truck say a 86 GMC was bad at all if it looks nice and has the apperance of a professional looking truck "GREAT " my response was to that foolish post that they put duct tape on there truck to keep going, my answer is if it needs duct tape you need a new truck!! It DOES NOT look professional. My friend that owns a local landscape company im in competion with has a real nice 84 Chevy 1ton painted up nice lettered the nine yards now thats a professional looking truck. You will gat 200% more business with a real nice looking truck no matter of make or year. We work with many real estate management companys and they see our equipment new or old its all maintained and professional apperance. I also could care less about small unseen scratches and if were bad enough to see i would get them fixed we will put our trucks almost anyplace other people would go to a pratical reason.


anytime you bring out the duct tape word people get emotional,hehehe

well I was just joking about that duct tape, and just meant if you were in a bind older trucks are easier in the field to fix.

AS I'm just starting out there would be know way for me to be able to afford a new truck, or even 90's. When I had my 74 Dodge, I couldn't wait to get a 90's truck, if not new. But I was lucky enough to recieve my 81 Chevy pickup which has really turned me as far as new trucks go.

Thing I like about older trucks (talking 73-87 trucks) is the interior. I like metal on the doors (very little plastic, or whatever the material is that these trucks have as door panels), no headliner, the way the interior looks, which is what you are looking at while you are driving, these GM trucks have the best dash I have seen. And I like metal, old trucks just have more metal.

But as far as older trucks, and a good impression-
A 70's or early 80's truck that is in good condition/taken care of; turns my head a lot more than a new truck, which is what most people have.

just my take, didn't mean to start a war here :)


GeoffD Veteran
Dino, how is the Ford doing?

Another thing that comes to mind, is time. Like I said before my mechanic is busy, he isn't overworked, because most of the stuff he does is PM. However If i told him, he had to rebuild trucks, replace bed, fix rust, repaint ext. These are time consuming jobs, not something that can be done in an hour or so. If it takes hime 2 days to get an older truck ready to rock, there are a lot of other things that wouldn't get done.

Thats all I am trying to say, is that my Mechanic doesn't have the time to deal with the extra work, or replacing beds, axels, trannys, ect. Now like I said if you have the time to do the work yourself, I don't. You are saving big money, I am sure by running the older trucks. Like I said if you got a small service area, their is nothing wrong with it. I have great respect for you guys that can start with two frame rails, and build a truck that runs, because I couldn't do it.

Like I said, I buy used construction equipment, 2 or 3 years old, and save a bundle that way. I will proabably replace my tri-axels with 4 year old ones, when the time comes. This is equipment that isn't used every day all year round, so the savings with used works great for me.

I will be "rebuilding" our equipment trailer this year, because I will have some slack time this winter. Yes it's going to cost about 5K to rebuild it, but you know what It will last another 10 years.

Anyways good luck to all plowing this winter.