So it's time to retire that half-ton with the utility body and some hard miles.
"If it's a trade-in situation, a lot of times we'll just take what the dealer offers," says George White of Reynolds Asphalt and Construction Co. in Euless, Texas. "The owner of our company is not interested in what we can get out of them; he just wants to get rid of them."
This is a common situation for a small fleet, especially for a truck with a vocation-specific upfit. That's OK, because the workhorse is paid for and its use has been taken.
But you could be getting a better return on your investment by understanding the truck's true value and investigating alternative remarketing options.
Know the Value: Guidebooks
Just as you wouldn't sell a passenger car without knowing its value, you should have at least a basic understanding of what your truck is worth. The problem is, unlike a Toyota Camry, a truck can be configured a thousand different ways - from contractor, utility, stakebed, refrigerated or dump bodies to vans with interiors for HVAC, telecom, locksmiths, electricians and many more.
Truck Blue Book (truckbluebook.com), Black Book (blackbookusa.com) and NADA (nada.com/b2b) produce printed and online valuation guides for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that include adds for common equipment, though they are not brand specific and do not include highly specified bodies. All three guides are updated monthly and provide retail, loan/finance and wholesale values with vehicle make, mileage, condition, option and configuration adjustments.
One way to value a specific body is to price the cab and chassis, with appropriate options, and then depreciate the cost of the body from new along with the truck, says Chris Visser, editor of ATD/NADA's Official Commercial Truck Guide. Another option is to call the body maker directly for its idea of the value, Visser says.
Truck Blue Book costs $340 for a one-year, online subscription; Black Book's Official Medium and Heavy Duty Truck and Trailer Guide costs $174 per year. The NADA Commercial Truck Guide will run you $300 for 850 valuations. While these guides may not be cost effective for small fleets, NADA offers an online "Mini Pack" of three values for $25.
Know the Value: Online Marketplace
While not official valuation guides, online sales channels are a good resource for real-world transaction values and asking prices on specific types of trucks - and they're free to research. Thousands of trucks are sold daily through Craigslist and eBay, while Commercial Truck Trader (trucktrader.com) is the commercial truck industry's largest online classified advertising service. Truck Paper (truckpaper.com) is a clearinghouse for truck sales through classified listings, auctions and dealers.
Ritchie Bros. (rbauction.com) has an online Fleet Valuator, which provides actual auction results from any or all of the company's six worldwide regions.
"I go online to see if I can find prices on something close to what I am selling. Then I take the [online] asking price and cut it in half," says Steve Mingura of Coast Aluminum in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Mingura looks at the tires, bed, engine, transmission and body condition to determine the worth of the vehicle. "I look at the truck as if I was the buyer and value it that way," he says. "Most of the time I am right on."
Find the Right Sales Channel
Once you are armed with pricing data, the next step is to broaden your potential used truck sales channels.
Dealers: You may find that the most cost- and time-efficient disposal method is to sell or trade back to the dealer. But have you thought about broadening your dealer base? Investigate the franchised and independent dealers in your area who sell commercial equipment. Dealers list on Craigslist, eBay and Truck Trader. Check out their inventory online; it will give you a good idea if they'd be interested in your type of truck.
Auctions: Unlike passenger car auctions, most truck auctions are open to the public. Just as important as knowing your local dealers is understanding the auctions in your area, including what types of equipment they sell and on what days. "You don't want to wind up at an auction on the day they're only selling paving equipment, especially if there's no reserve," says Terry Williams, managing editor of Truck Blue Book.
Ritchie Bros. is the world's largest industrial auctioneer, and it offers two sales options for fleets: It can sell on consignment (70 percent of Ritchie Bros.' business is done this way) or, for the more risk-averse, Ritchie Bros. offers a "risk management" deal in which it will buy the truck outright and auction it off.
All Ritchie Bros. auctions are open to the public and are unreserved. "If it gets listed, it's going to sell," says Dean Siddle, vice president and senior valuation analyst. "The risk management contract appeals to some fleet owners because it takes the risk off their shoulders and puts it onto ours."
Salvage auctions are another option, as parts often are more valuable than the truck as a whole.
Online: eBay is an inexpensive way to get vehicles in front of a lot of potential buyers.
Penske, the largest seller of used trucks in the nation, opened up an eBay store last year and claimed 50,000 hits in only a couple of months. "As large as we were, people didn't know they could buy directly from us," says Jack Mitchell, vice president, remarketing, Penske Truck Leasing. "Outside of the advertising on our Web site, [eBay] has driven a lot of people to us."
Mitchell says that to be successful on eBay, the seller needs to be very descriptive and honest about the condition of the truck. Many posts will include as many as 50 photos. Cleanliness will go a long way toward selling the truck, Mitchell says.
"On a retail sale, it's all about cosmetics: How clean is the cab? Has it been 'Armor All'd'? Have the frames been painted?" says Mitchell.
Penske also sells through its own Web site (penskeusedtrucks.com).
Commercial Truck Trader gets 1.5 million page views a week. The site divides sales into light-, medium- and heavy-duty categories and then subcategories such as utility and service bodies. Listings start at $30. "The private [fleet] seller will likely sell his truck at a rate higher than what the dealer will offer, because he'll always be able to sell closer to retail in an open market," says Mark Bondi, director of sales and marketing for CommercialTruckTrader.com.
Truck Paper has a similar division and offers an online auction, though its focus is more on heavy-duty equipment.
Employee Sales: An employee sale will recoup a near-retail price and cuts out the middleman.
Mingura lists vehicles for sale on a flier that he sends to the company's shipping offices and six branches. If the truck hasn't sold in two months, he uses a broker to sell outside of the U.S., primarily to the Philippines.
Jeff Barron of Ellis Brooks Leasing suggests trying employee sales through a sealed bid auction. Barron recounts replacing eight "well-used" F-250 chassis with bodies. "I was going to get maybe $1,000 per truck from wholesalers but the company offered them to the employees through a sealed-bid auction and gained 50 to 150 percent more," Barron says.
There was a minimum bid listed for each truck, and the highest bidder had three days to pay or lose the bid. Barron helped them write the bid sheet with all the necessary disclaimers and releases. "The employees looked at it as a perk. It was a win-win for everyone," he says.
Hang a 'For Sale' Sign: Another simple option is to park the truck near an industrial area with a "for sale" sign on it, says Barron. "This is a lot easier than classified ads or Craigslist. The potential buyer has already seen the unit in person before they call for more information," Barron says. "It saves time and energy."
Donate to Charity: "Donating to a local charity is also a win-win, assuming the company can use the deduction," says Barron. The charities pick up the units and do all the DMV paperwork.
Leasing: Many companies are avoiding the remarketing problem altogether through leasing.
"We have [disposed of trucks] every way imaginable, but it's getting harder than ever to navigate through all this than it ever was before," says David Ziker of Ziker Cleaners and Uniforms in South Bend, Ind. "We're looking at full deals with a leasing company that handles the finance, acquisition, maintenance and disposal."
While Mingura says Coast still owns about two-thirds of its trucks and cars, the company is moving toward full maintenance leasing. "We're trying to do as many short-term leases as possible now in case the market has another downfall," he says.
Body or Chassis Switch Out: Depending on the condition, keeping the body and replacing the chassis is an option.
This works best with the most generic types of bodies, says White of Reynolds Asphalt. Dealers generally don't perform this service, though the bodybuilder might, White says. For instance, Royal Truck Body of Paramount, Calif. has a refurbish and transfer program. The cost for a body-chassis swap could run $500 to $1,000 or more, especially if there are PTO (power takeoff), wiring or hydraulic issues.
White has a Ford F-550 with a mechanic's service body and a crane, welder and compressor. He plans on remounting the body onto a new truck when the time comes.
Beware that the fit on the new truck might be vastly different due to model changes, White cautions. And when and if it comes time to sell, the new upfit combination may need to be recertified and include owner's manuals and maintenance records.
"The liability exposure may be just too great," says White. "Sometimes you're better off to take it and cut it up for scrap iron."