Buying second hand

Provided the vehicle purchased is right for the job and has been well maintained, even high-mileage used trucks can prove to be exceedingly durable

Good sales to customers north of the South African border are helping to keep the country’s used-truck market healthy. A number of dealers recently canvassed by FOCUS indicate that about 70 percent of sales are to customers who live outside South Africa.

Although the market is supported by a wide selection of used heavy vehicles that are in good condition and with reasonably low mileage on their odometers, local customers still appear to lack the business confidence to commit to a purchase. That said, there has been a slight increase in used-truck sales volumes locally since the general election in May.

According to some dealers, many South African customers tend to have false perceptions regarding the trouble-free life that can be obtained from modern, used trucks. They say that when the right vehicle for the job is purchased and the unit has been well maintained, even high-mileage used trucks can prove to be exceedingly durable.

Used trucks fitted with end-tipping bodies and water tankers are in high demand, indicating that the small end of the construction industry is starting to recover from the downturn. The high demand has created a shortage of used, dedicated tipper chassis that are specially designed for the application.

Potential buyers scouting the market for used five or ten cubic-metre capacity tippers need to take cognisance of problems that may occur when an end-tipping body is mounted on a truck chassis that has not been designed for the application.

• The vehicle will be incorrectly geared for tipper operations, resulting in limited grade and start ability. For tippers working on construction sites this could be a major problem.

• Incorrect gearing will shorten the life of the clutch.

• Fuel consumption is likely to be high.

• Without the correct sub-frame and body-mounting chassis, problems could occur.

• Damage could occur to extra-large fuel tanks that are not required for tipper applications.

• Close coupled power take-off – which is ideal for tipper applications – is not available.

• Rear brake boosters that are mounted too low will be subject to damage when the unit tips the load.

Since these are some of the costly problems that may occur, customers are advised to check with the truck manufacturer that the used tipper they intend to buy was built as a dedicated model.

Buyers of used tippers should also take careful note of the body that is fitted to the vehicle. They should check that it has been built by a reputable bodybuilder and that service and parts for all of the associated systems are readily available countrywide.

In addition, they should check that the hydraulic power take-off system is close coupled, which helps to eliminate the need for continual maintenance of the PTO driveshaft.

Considering the problems that could result from purchasing the wrong vehicle, potential buyers are advised to consider a used truck from an established dealer – one that has a good reputation as a provider of back-up service and support.

Warranties that provide peace of mind are also recommended. There are many dealers who recondition and refurbish used trucks before they sell them, sometimes to the extent that it is difficult to tell at a glance that the vehicle is second hand.

Finally, when making the decision to buy a used truck instead of a new truck, major considerations should be the job to be undertaken, as well as the back-up support that is available from the dealer and the truck manufacturer.

Published by

Vic Oliver

Vic Oliver is one of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, and has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.
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