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October 21, 2013 2:15 AM, EDT

Used Sleeper Cab Prices Reach Record as Low-Mileage Units Arrive, ATD Says

By Seth Clevenger, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 21 print edition of Transport Topics.

Retail prices for used Class 8 sleepers have soared to a record high as models with lower mileage begin reaching the market, according to American Truck Dealers.

The average retail price of a sleeper cab sold in August, the most recent data available, climbed to $54,090 — the highest level since ATD began its current data collection method in 2008.

The average is up 8.3% from the same month last year and corresponded with a 3.2% decline in the average mileage on the vehicles.

August was the fifth month in 2013 to establish a new high for pricing, besting the previous record set in June by 2.3%, said ATD analyst Chris Visser.

Increasing supplies of newer trucks with lower mileage on the used market have helped lift average selling prices, he said.

For example, 2010 model-year trucks are now in “the fat part of their trade-in curve,” Visser said. “It’s about a 5-year-old truck and it’s bringing about $65,000 retail. That’s historically high for a truck of that age.”

Sales figures from ACT Research showed the average selling price for all used sleeper cabs has risen above the $41,000 mark for the past three months, compared with prices in the $39,000 range in April through June.

Meanwhile, the once-plentiful 2007 model year is becoming harder to find, and most of those trucks have racked up high mileage, putting some buyers in the position where they soon will need to turn to vehicles with newer emissions-reduction technologies.

Trucks from that model year, which were sold in 2006 and were the last to pre-date the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 emissions standards, led the used retail sleeper market in sales for more than two years before recently giving way to later models, ATD said.

Those 2007 trucks were the top-selling model year on the U.S. used market for 27 months — January 2011 to March 2013 — based on ATD data.

That came to an end in April, when 2009 trucks began a three-month run as the best-selling model before 2010s took over the top spot in July, Visser said.

“The big development in the past 12 months has been the reduction in the number of 2007 trucks that are sold retail, and the main reason for that is their age and mileage over time have crept up to a point where those are now auction and wholesale trucks,” Visser said. “Their place has been taken by the 2009 and 2010 model years.”

For 2013 through August, the dealers included in ATD’s survey have reported selling 1,276 used 2007 sleepers with fewer than 1 million miles. That’s down 42.5% from the first eight months of 2012.

Year-to-date sales of 2009 trucks, on the other hand, have jumped 83.8% to 1,373 as more of those models have entered the used market.

Cumulative 2013 sales of used 2010 trucks have totaled 985, a nearly fourfold increase from the 205 sold in the same timeframe last year.

ATD’s survey represents about 8% of the overall used-truck market.

Used 2007 trucks have had unusually strong staying power, in part because truck manufacturers built a lot of them. In 2006, when those trucks were originally sold, new truck sales in the United States soared to an all-time high of 284,008, according to data from WardsAuto.com. But the next year, sales slumped to 150,965 when the truck makers began selling vehicles with diesel particulate filters to meet the tighter federal emissions standards.

Although used 2007 trucks are harder to find at dealers’ lots, there still are plenty of them out on the road, said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research.

Based on its own data, ACT estimates there are between 75,000 and 80,000 trucks from that year still in service as first-owner units, Tam said.

By the time those trucks reach the used market, though, “they’re going to be pretty long in the tooth,” he said. “They’re not going to be worth much when they do finally hit the secondary market because of their age and mileage.”

Analysts agreed that, given the dwindling supplies and rising mileage of 2007 and earlier trucks, some buyers will have to invest in vehicles with DPFs instead.

“I think the opportunities to avoid it are evaporating,” Tam said.

Trucks with newer emissions systems are “the only game in town, if you want a low-mileage tractor,” said ATD’s Visser.

The 2007 models are still in demand, even though they’re becoming scarcer and “the miles are slowly creeping up on them,” said Al Rock, corporate used truck sales manager at Stoops Freightliner, an Indianapolis-based dealer with six locations in Indiana and Ohio.

When you are able to find a 2007 with relatively low mileage, “you’re going to have to pay up for it,” he said.