Trucks and Trailers: financing as an Owner Operator

Financing your Car Hauler Dreams

If you just decided to make the jump into your own operating authority, you know money is a primary hurdle. Specifically, finding out where to get it.

You might’ve scrounged up the money for a CDL, training and testing. Now you can take the extra thousands you have laying around to buy yourself a shiny new truck to start hauling with, right?

Of course not! Here in America straight cash will get you anywhere you want – but 20 or 30,000 is a lot to cough up all at once. That’s why we have financing options. So how does a car hauler get the best deal possible, without being swindled?

What you need to finance a truck and trailer

 “You will need to have a minimum 2 years of experience driving.”

Ziggy, a sales rep at Arrow Truck Sales with 20 years of experience in the trucking industry, says that financing a truck and trailer is not for the faint of heart.

“You will need to have a minimum 2 years of experience driving,” says Ziggy. “That means they will pull your CDL and check your haul references to verify that experience.”

In addition to having a long driving record, you will need to put down at least 20% upfront and maintain a good credit score.

“I can get deals done with credit below 600,” Ziggy says about credit. “But you will end up paying thousands more and have to move through a secondary market.”

While credit score is the primary factor in financing your truck, companies like Arrow do watch out for other signs of bad credit.

“We work hard to work with all states and types of credit history,” Ziggy says of Arrow Truck Sales. “But If you have 2 bankruptcies, 3 repossessions and can only put 5% down…you’re not going to get financed here.”

Some factors – such as repossession – weigh heavier against your chances of getting a loan than a lower down payment.

How do I know if it’s a good deal?

“There is no such thing as a bumper to bumper warranty in commercial trucking.”

Unlike Consumer equipment, there are few financial protections in place for Commercial equipment once a contract has been signed. But there are signs Commercial Operators can be aware of before truck trailer car hauler

“There is no such thing as a bumper to bumper warranty in commercial trucking,” Ziggy quips.

Former truck salesmen at Super Dispatch expressed the exact same sentiment.

“Just read your contract,” Ziggy stresses. “Because the contract is going to specify exactly what is covered and what is not…., people will compare it to a new car. And the only conversation that is said about the warranty is when the customer asks ‘hey, doesn’t this have a warranty?’ and the salesperson says ‘yes, a brand new warranty.’ And because of the ads on the radio, they think it means bumper to bumper coverage. They didn’t say that. There is no such thing as bumper to bumper coverage in semi truck land.”

A Consumer Protection lawyer in Kansas City, Bryce Bell, has a few suggestions on auto loans that are applicable to commercial financing.

“Bait and switch financing agreements are a big one,” Bryce says. Bait and switch is a tactic where a salesperson “pre-approves” the percent of a lease agreement (say, 10%) on the spot, pending some official approval from the bank. This makes the consumer feel like they already have a great deal on a new car. Then a week later, the sales team calls back saying the bank didn’t approve it at 10%, but the dealership found another place that could approve it on the spot for 20%. Now the customer is more likely to accept this bad offer, because for a week they were sure it was as good as bought.

Beware of red flags before you sign the contract.

“Be sure to read the fine print of everything 5 times before you sign anything,” Ziggy says. “Any contract comes down to – if you signed it, you own it. If you were foolish enough to sign something that you didn’t understand – especially a 14 page document – then shame on you.”

How to keep a truck and trailer

Finally, once you have the truck, how do you make sure you keep up on those payments? Trucks aren’t going to run themselves (yet.)

Ziggy (as well as many Super Dispatch customers) says the most common problem a trucker faces is unexpected maintenance costs.

“The new trucks due to the government regulations, they have really screwed trucking up in the last 20 years. All the new pollution control stuff just wreaks havoc. Your truck can be running fine, your truck will be going down the road and all of a sudden there’s a little light on your dashboard that says check engine, check engine. Back in the old days, the only thing you had to know was, do I have oil, air, temperature? If the answer was ‘yes,’ you kept on trucking. Nowadays, that little yellow light… says ‘no, you’re going to the shoulder of the road, right now.’ And that’s going to cost you $4,500.”

If you’re an Owner Operator, try saving 5% of every load or a portion of your monthly income for future maintenance costs.

How have you financed your truck? What was your experience? Let us know below!


What kind of trailer should a beginning car hauler get?

Deciding your truck and trailer combination can be tough for beginning car haulers. Should you choose a tractor and double decker trailer? Do you get a Ford F450 and a wedge? These questions require a lot of thought. For a first time hauler, it is hard to make a decision. At Super Dispatch, we think the most important consideration for a beginning car hauler is trailer capacity.

How to decide what trailer size to buy

We created a flowchart to help you choose the best size trailer.

“Do you have a CDL?” is the most important question to start with:

Super Dispatch trailer CDL new to car hauling


Clearly, most of this decision will rest on the type of cargo you decide to haul. In this industry, certain cargo goes best with only certain kinds of trailers.

Best trailers for different kinds of car hauling

  • New cars are a high volume market and require larger trailers manned by experienced haulers.
  • The exotic car hauling market prefers enclosed trailers for extra protection.
  • Personal Vehicles shipping requires residential delivery so smaller trailers (attached to trucks instead of tractors) are more commonly used.
  • Tractors have fifth wheel steering and air brakes and thus can only be driven by CDL licensed commercial drivers.
  • Airport vehicle moves are some of the highest volume section of the industry, which requires large trailers (7-11 car haulers.)
  • Inoperable cars usually require forklifts to be moved, and can not be easily put on large double decker trailers.

The best all- around car hauling trailer

If you still aren’t sure what kind of hauling you will do, there are versatile trailers. Joey Slaughter, owner of Blue Ridge Transport LLC and author of The Beginner’s Guide To Auto Transport, suggests that new drivers buy trucks with 3 car wedge trailers.Super Dispatch BOL eBOL buying a trailer car hauler

“If you’re just beginning and have no equipment, I suggest starting with a three-car wedge trailer,” he writes. “It’s a reasonably inexpensive way to get into the auto transport business. I bought a new, three car trailer for approximately $7,000 and a used Dodge 3500 dually for $18,000 when I started. It’s easy to keep a three car trailer full, plus it’s a lot easier to maneuver in residential areas where a lot of deliveries are made.”

Super Dispatch’s product manager Vin agrees with Joey. He started hauling on a three car wedge in 2012, because of the easy profit margin.“If you can start with a three car, the first two cars will cover the cost of operation, and the third car is complete profit,” Vin says. Generally, only experienced car haulers can drive large capacity trailers. But do well hauling 3 and 4 cars at a time, and you will level up to hauling 7 or 11 cars quickly.

Stay tuned next week for our second piece about buying trailers! We will cover financing options, red flags to look out for and best buying practices.