New or Used?

Should that next new-to-you heavy grain truck be brand new?

In the past, when it came to planning equipment purchases, grain growers generally budgeted for an older heavy truck in the farm fleet. And that made sense. Farm trucks have a history of not logging anywhere near the miles in a year long-haul, over-the-road trucks do. Therefore, farmers could usually tolerate the more frequent repairs that come with owning an older model and still be money ahead.

However, as farms grow in size, trucks are getting a lot more use, and lack of reliability can become a pretty big problem, causing expensive field delays. Does the old idea of looking for a bargain, used, high-mileage highway tractor and trailer or tandem truck still make sense? For some it will, of course. But for larger operations it might make a lot more sense to budget for a brand new truck to get the reliability needed for today’s commercial farming operations, in the same way producers consider the need for new, reliable field equipment.

Nathan Yelland, northern truck sales manager at Redhead Equipment in Saskatoon, says a significant percentage of his ag customers are now doing exactly that and opting for new instead of used trucks.

Advantages to buying new

“Traditionally, guys in the ag sector haven’t spent money on new trucks,” he says. “But it’s really the only piece of equipment that works all year round. More and more guys are buying new trucks because they’re tired of their old truck blowing a radiator line when they’re seeding or at harvest. And when you really compare a new highway tractor to a (farm) tractor, they’re pretty inexpensive.”

Expect to pay somewhere just north of $200,000, or a bit more depending on brand, model and features, for a new, reasonably equipped highway tractor.

If a truck can’t deliver seed and fertilizer to the field during seeding or move grain out of the field at harvest, that shuts down field operations just like any other machine breakdown.

“When you get to 25,000 acres, trucks are a major portion of the business,” Yelland notes. “On the farm, a tractor works two seasons, but a highway tractor works all year round. You’re using it for seeding. You’re using it for spraying. You’re using it for harvest. Then you’re using it to haul your grain in the winter and bringing in fertilizer.”

There are other advantages to buying new as well.

Along with new trucks come new features that make it easier for the driver, such as automated manual transmissions, or auto shifts as they’re often referred to. Yelland says most of his farm customers have seen the advantages in that powertrain and few, if any, ever go back to manual transmission models. Large transport fleet operators have moved almost exclusively to automated manuals for improved fuel economy, and many cite reduced maintenance costs due to eliminating driver-related wear and tear due to improper shifting as another benefit.

“Lots of guys really like the manual transmissions because they’re reliable,” Yelland says. “But with Mack, the mDrive has become more of our standard. Almost 90 per cent of our trucks are built with the mDrive automated manual transmission. (In agriculture) if I sold 100 trucks, 95 of them would be the automated manual, the mDrive.”

“New or Used?” was curated on 11/3/22 from