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12/10/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Opinion: Selecting the Right Trailers, New or Used

By Jeff Weber

Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Ervin Equipment Inc.

This Opinion piece appears in the Dec. 10 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Before adding one, two — or several hundred — trailers, a fleet manager needs to determine what equipment’s right for the application and to do it by knowing what’s out there, what’s right for an operation, and the most basic choice of all, whether to buy new or used.

There are strong benefits to purchasing both new and used trailers. Overall, new trailers offer the longest life, as well as the luxury of having the exact specifications to fit an operator’s needs. Made-to-order trailers also carry the highest outright cost and require a significant amount of time to manufacture.

Used fleets, by contrast, often have near-immediate availability. Realistically speaking, fleet owners are not always able to afford a brand-new fleet of trailers. Since used trailers are less expensive, carriers can purchase more trailers with less capital. In these cases, they often wait for another company to trade in its fleet after the typical five to seven years of use.

While trailers lack the headache that can come with a motor, they are not immune to aging. Working parts become worn after years of use, which drives up the cost of ownership. For this reason, fleet managers regularly use the age of a trailer to evaluate remaining life when preparing to buy. A trailer’s age also can dictate how a carrier can use it.

New trailers only are necessary for a few industries or operators. For example, operators who need a specialized trailer often are forced to purchase new, and fleet owners who put great value into the appearance of their trailers likely prefer new as well. It’s also an investment companies are much more likely to make when their business — or the economy — is thriving.

Used trailers, depending on how they have been maintained, should last up to 10 years, maybe even 15. However, many fleet managers only want to keep a trailer until it reaches the 10-year mark. After that, the cost of ownership is bound to rise. Most managers don’t want the burden of costly repairs, especially on a trailer that’s a decade old.

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