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Good stuff gone: Older used trucks show up in June auctions

With practically no supply of late-model equipment, older used trucks skewing prices

Older used trucks are beginning to show up in auctions as more desirable, new used models become scarce. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

As prices for newer used trucks keep accelerating, older used trucks in rougher shape began appearing in June auctions, commanding less money but filling a yawning gap in capacity.

Pricing for lower-mileage trucks remains sky-high, according to J.D. Power Valuation Services.

That has created an opening for less-desirable trucks to bring down the auction gavel. Power’s benchmark group of 4- to 6-year-old trucks brought 5.1% more money.

Compared to the first six months of 2020, prices are up 85.8%. 

June’s auction results had two outcomes: Lower-mileage trucks bought stratospheric money; higher-mileage, rougher-condition trucks, especially model year 2016 and earlier, dragged down average auction prices.

“Overall volume was similar to [May], so we’re attributing the lower averages to an unfavorable mileage and condition mix,” according to Power’s Commercial Truck Guidelines report.

At retail, selling prices continue to accelerate with newer sleeper tractors breaking records. The average sleeper tractor retailed in June was 70 months old, had 450,889 miles and brought $66,759, according to the Guidelines report.

Cracking 6-figure prices

“For the first time since we started following the used truck market almost 20 years ago, the average price of 3-year-old trucks with 300,000 to 400,000 miles on them broke the six-figure barrier,” said Steve Tam, vice president of research at ACT Research.

“For the first time since we started following the used truck market almost 20 years ago, the average price of 3-year-old trucks with 300,000 to 400,000 miles on them broke the six-figure barrier.”

Steve Tam, ACT Research

“The feat is even more impressive when one considers prices for these late-model trucks that started the year at just over $70,000.” Tam said. “The law of supply and demand has created a scarcity situation, and there is no viable substitute to the venerable Class 8 truck. Hence, prices are through the roof, with no relief in sight.”

Every used truck model year from 2016 to 2019 garnered high prices in June compared to May, the Guidelines report said. 

“The overall value of the used sleeper tractor market based on the average selling price of every truck sold is the highest since at least 2007, which is as far back as our records go,” the Guidelines report said. “Recent results would most likely be higher if dealers had more inventory.

“Looking forward, we still see mild to moderate retail appreciation in the summer. Later in the year, economic factors should start moving back towards trend and truck availability should expand somewhat, limiting price appreciation. As long as new truck availability remains constrained and freight rates keep truckers energized, used truck pricing is on solid footing.”

Online auctions: Unprecedented demand

Ritchie Brothers (NYSE: RBA), a global asset management firm and auctioneer of used trucks based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said its online auctions have seen “unprecedented demand,” with tractors commanding 30% higher prices in the last three months.

“But it’s not just transportation. We are seeing pricing strength across the board as this seller’s market continues,” said Doug Olive, Ritchie Brothers senior vice president. “Online shopping continues to drive an extremely hot transportation market right now, with record-high truck prices.”

The sky-high comparisons may soon end, however.

“The industry is starting to see tougher comparisons, since it did not take long to shake off the immediate effects of COVID-19,” ACT’s Tam said. “The drop in sales was counter to seasonal expectations, which called for about a 10% increase. However, lack of inventory continues to hamstring sales efforts.”

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.