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Clark: What’s happening in the used-truck market

Dec. 4, 2023
This year's used-truck market is competitive with a limited number of buyers; the post-pandemic purchasing frenzy is over.

While it might not seem like it, Dale Tower, senior vice president of remarketing for NationaLease, said used trucks are an easy-to-understand business. Speaking at a recent NationaLease meeting, Tower offered reasons for this view.

  • Light- and heavy-duty used trucks are actual commodities.
  • If you know the indicators to view, the future used-truck market is fairly predictable.
  • Freight activity is always the driver of used-truck sales.
  • The volume of used trucks available and the market pricing are generally driven by the current economy and what occurred with new truck sales three to six years ago.
  • Lately, the limited production of new equipment has greatly impacted used-truck availability and pricing.
  • The post-pandemic purchasing frenzy and subsequent product shortages were an incredible exception and certainly not on anyone's radar.

Tower shared information on used truck values based on information from Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. The average retail sale price of a Class 8 truck is approximately $50,000, the average whole price is between $40,000 and $45,000, and the average price at auction is $25,000 to $35,000.

In the past, exporting older used trucks was a common practice. However, Tower explained, "From mid-2021 to the end of 2022, our used-truck market was so hot that it effectively shut down our truck exports. Now that our used Class 8 used truck pricing is at a three-year low, there is unfortunately very low international demand."

Consider this: in 2021, exports of Class 8 used trucks totaled 17,400. In 2022, that number had dropped to 8,257, and we are tracking fewer than 6,000 units this year. "Everyone's radar should be tuned in for this export opportunity to turn back on," Tower said.

See also: Focus on used trucks: Class 8 sales trend up, costs to run them keep rising

Another sign the used truck market is troubled is what Tower calls "the sudden and significant increase in available late model trailers." He explained that last year, fewer than 200 advertised 53-ft. dry van trailers were newer than in model year 2018. This year, that number is close to 2,000. Today, retail prices for used 2018 trailers are in the low- to mid-20s, down significantly from their high of $70,000 just a few years ago.

Tower reminded meeting attendees, "We are in a very competitive used-truck market with a minimal number of buyers." If you have used trucks, you must advertise the best ones for the best money to generate interest. The trucks you advertise must be retail-ready. Trucks need to be clean, and to move the trucks, you may want to consider offering free delivery, free warranty, and new tires.

Tower also cautioned meeting attendees to stay away from the big negatives, which include 11-liter engines in tandem applications, small sleeper cabs, 6x2 axles, wide-base tires, manual transmission, high mileage units, and alternative-fueled models, including electric vehicles.

About the Author

Jane Clark | Senior VP of Operations

Jane Clark is Senior Vice President, Operations for NationaLease. Prior to joining NationaLease, Jane served as Area Vice President for Randstad, one of the nation’s largest recruitment agencies, and before that, she served in management posts with QPS Companies, Pro Staff, and Manpower, Inc.

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