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How to Buy a Dry Van Trailer in 6 Steps

Buying a dry van trailer can be daunting, but you don’t have to be overwhelmed. With some homework, owner-operators can find the perfect dry van that will be a crucial component of their business for years while protecting cargo every step. This article explains six decisions you’ll need to make when selecting a dry van trailer that will get your shipment where it needs to go and how Finloc’s asset-based lending experts help you navigate the process of adding to your fleet.

What is a Dry Van?

A dry van trailer is a common sight on highways. It’s the semi-trailer on the back of trucks built to haul cargo in a giant fully-enclosed box that shields the shipment from the elements and can be locked. They are attached to the tractor unit and range in size from 28 to 53 feet long, with a standard width of 8 feet. The 53-foot, 18-wheeler versions are typically used for long distances and carry up to 45,000 pounds while fitting 26 standard pallets. Smaller versions, such as the 28-foot one, are ideal for urban routes and smaller shipments.

Dry van trailers average $30,000-60,000 for a new version but can run up to $90,000 depending on the size and specifications. They can’t carry oversized shipments like a flatbed trailer but are the perfect match for protecting goods in an enclosed container that isn’t temperature-sensitive.

How to Buy a Dry Van in 6 Steps

If it’s time to pick out a dry van trailer, proper research will ensure you select the one that best fits your business. Here are six steps to follow to make sure you have the right tractor-trailer to haul your cargo:

1. Consider Specific Needs

For what purpose do you need the dry van trailer? This should be the first question you ask. Also, what specifications are necessary? Here is a list of other questions you should ask when deciding what to buy:

  • What kind of freight will I haul?

  • Will I need to modify the door, floor, or roof?

  • Is another type of trailer a better fit?

  • How much capacity do I require, and can the floor handle that much weight?

  • How much can I spend?

  • How much maintenance is required?

  • Will doors at the front or back be all I need? Or do I need side doors?

  • How much lighting do I need inside the trailer?

  • What type of roads will I be driving on?

  • Will my cargo fit in a dry van trailer?

2. Buy vs. Rent

Buying and renting both have their advantages. Buying gives you constant access and is a cost-saver if you plan on owning it for a long time. Buying a dry van trailer helps grow your fleet and assets. It also means the trailer is available to you whenever you need it. Buying also means that, unlike renting, you may sell the asset and do not have to abide by rental agreement terms. Renting can cost up to $1,500 monthly for a new version but may go under $1,000 for older models. Renting may be the proper choice for growing companies that don’t yet want to make significant expenditures. Renting also saves on maintenance costs and could be a better decision if you only need to use the trailer seasonally instead of year-round. Renting also allows you to upgrade more often and is a solid choice if you just need the equipment for a job or two.

3. Used vs. New

The savings on a used dry van trailer is challenging to pass up and may cost half as much as a new version. But new dry vans have the advantages of lasting longer and being in pristine shape. New ones may be tailor-made to fit your specific needs, come with a warranty, and have no wear or tear that comes with thousands of miles of hauling cargo. If buying used, a dry van trailer less than a year old may cost $25,000, while older ones come much cheaper but also involve more maintenance.

4. Maintenance Costs

Dry van trailer maintenance costs are often a considerable expense to ensure they stay in usable condition. Upkeep averages $1,500 a year, which fluctuates depending on the age and state of the dry van. Preventive repairs and regular maintenance help avoid expensive repairs. The most significant maintenance expenses are usually tires, brakes, suspension, flooring, and bearings.

5. Obtain Insurance

Insurance is a must if you want to operate a dry van trailer. Accidents are costly, and you’ll need to cover many areas, so you are protected each step of the way. Depending on several variables, insurance may cost close to $10,000 per year. Some dry van trailer insurance coverage includes:

  • Physical Damage

  • Collision Coverage

  • Comprehensive Coverage

  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage

  • Trailer Interchange Coverage

  • Motor Truck Cargo

  • Property insurance

  • Liability insurance

  • Cargo insurance

  • Trailer Interchange

6. Find the Best Financial Strategy

How will you pay for the purchase? If you are not buying it straight out, you have several options for asset-based lending, even if your credit score is on the low side. Here are some options for dry van financing:

  • Express leases: These types are short-term and may be verbal between the parties.

  • Vendor leases: This is a rental agreement to use the equipment for a specified period without needing to buy it

  • FMV leases: Fair market value leases allow the lendee to use the equipment before deciding to lease, purchase, or return it. 

  • Sale-leasebacks: This is when you sell the asset and then lease it back from the buyer, retaining access to the equipment while earning money from the sale.

  • Equipment loans: Financing to acquire new or used equipment.

Turn to Finloc for Your Dry Van Trailer Decision

Bringing a new dry van trailer into your business is a significant investment that shouldn’t be made lightly. Dry vans are versatile, widely available, and essential to any growing fleet management company. Finloc offers several financing options that reduce the potential headache of purchasing one. Schedule a call with Finloc to see how they can help you navigate buying a dry van trailer, whether it’s your first or if you’re adding another one to your fleet.