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Evaluating used heavy trucks: Part 2

This time we look at what’s available in the middle of the used truck price range

Earlier this year we began a series of articles looking to help potential buyers understand what’s available in the used truck tractor market when considering an addition to the farm fleet. We started with a look at a lower-priced unit of under $25,000. This time we’re moving up the price ladder to the mid range and using a $55,000 Freightliner Cascadia as a representative sample of that group.

To keep the comparison fair, all the trucks we reviewed for this series were the same make and model. Only the age and mileage varied (other than this is the only “day cab” version, which means it has no sleeper berth). That allowed us to highlight the major differences between trucks at different price points.

The specs: 2013 CA125 Cascadia day cab

Engine: DD15 (Demand Detroit) engine
Horsepower: 505
Torque: 1650 lb/ft of torque
Axle ratio: 3.73
Axle ratings: 12/40,000 pounds
Transmission: Eaton Ultra 13 speed
Mileage: 400,000 kilometres
Price: $55,000
Pros:
– Low kilometres, many more without much maintenance
– Fleet maintained, history available, clean interior
– Single trailer rated
– Flexibility: could put grain box on back and still pull a pup or pony trailer
Cons:
– Lighter axles
– Warranty expired
– Fleet colour (which buyers may not like)
– Not heavy enough to pull B train trailers

We drew on the technical expertise and knowledge of the staff at Freightliner Manitoba in Winnipeg to help us in this series. This time we spoke with Marty Cook, director of sales, for that dealership chain.

Moving up the price scale does one obvious thing, it gets a lower-mileage, more reliable truck. To demonstrate the difference, staff at Freightliner Manitoba suggested we take a look at a “day cab” model they had in stock. The condition of the truck was not only better than the model we looked at in the lower price range, it also offered a higher degree of flexibility than the sleeper cab-equipped truck we examined previously.

Most of today’s Class 8 trucks that have long-haul jobs use integrated sleepers, which means removing one to convert the truck to a day cab requires a lot of work, a conversion kit and partial disassembly of the cab. So it isn’t an easy job anymore. Buying a truck that is already a day cab will save that expense, if a buyer wants to convert it from a tractor unit to a straight truck and install a grain box.

Even for those who don’t want to go that route, having a day cab tractor unit will still meet the needs of almost all farmers who want to pull a grain trailer, but the easy conversion to mounted grain box is where the extra flexibility comes in. It would only require extending the frame, which would generally cost less than $5,000.

Marty Cook is the director of sales for Freightliner Manitoba. He says his dealership, like several others, will stand behind their used inventory.
photo: Scott Garvey

“You could put a grain box on the back too,” Cook says. “If you add it all up, you’re probably looking at around $90,000 with a grain box on the back. Which is great value. And that gives you flexibility on the farm.”

Part of that flexibility means the truck could still pull a “pony” or “pup” trailer to haul grain and carry as much as a conventional semi-trailer unit in one load, but it could also operate as just a tandem truck if that is all that’s needed on any particular occasion.

“With a medium-duty truck, which is a typical setup we would do on a new truck with a grain body, you’re looking at approximately $130,000 to $150,000,” Cook explains. “It’s also an automatic, nice to drive, but you lose out on that horsepower. You’d get around 350 with a medium-duty truck, so pulling a pup usually doesn’t work. But this one has 505 horsepower, so that’s where you get extra value, more horsepower and it’s $50,000 cheaper.”

This model did not have side fairings, which often get damaged on the farm.
photo: Scott Garvey

With only around 450,000 kilometres on the odometer, this truck fits the barely-broken-in category. And with the mileage logged on a typical farm truck each year, this one will provide decades of pretty reliable service.

“This one has about 450,000 kilometres,” says Cook. “So if you’re looking at the average life of the truck, if you’re using it as a grain truck, you’re probably looking at 30,000 kilometres a year, maximum. This truck will last a lifetime.”

The truck was equipped with a 13-speed auto-shift transmission, which means it drives like the automatic transmission in a pickup truck.

“Anyone can drive it, really,” says Cook. “You just hop in and put it in gear. That makes it really nice. You’ll have no problems pulling with this truck.”

Replacing tires can be a big expense. This truck had nearly new rubber that would last a very long time on the farm.
photo: Scott Garvey

A truck in this price range will certainly have fewer mechanical concerns than a higher-mileage, cheaper model, but Cook says every used truck that comes into his dealership is evaluated to see if it is in good enough condition to be put on the lot for sale. Although there are bound to be some good deals advertised as private sales, going through a dealership can add a level of guarantee the truck has already been looked over by a mechanic.

“We get our service team to go through the truck, and whatever they say it needs is what we do,” he says. “Most of the trucks we take back, we probably put about $5,000 into them before we send them out for sale again. Anything we’re selling on the lot is good to go.

“If our service team looks at a truck and says, hey, this truck needs $25,000 worth of work, we don’t sell that truck. It would typically go to an auction, which are typically those trucks you see on Kijiji for a bargain you can’t beat.

Representative of the truck’s overall condition, the interior was very clean and well maintained.
photo: Scott Garvey

While no dealership will give a used truck a full warranty, Cook says his, like several others, will stand behind their used inventory.

“If you pull the truck off the lot and you have a major failure, we’re helping you out with it,” he says. “That’s what we do.”

In the next article we’ll take a look at a sample truck from the higher-priced end of the used truck market, one that also has some remaining warranty.

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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