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Buyer’s guide to modern vs classic semi trucks

Navigating the world of semi trucks can be a daunting task, especially when choosing between modern and classic models. Each offers its own unique benefits and potential drawbacks, shaped by factors like technology, maintenance, and style.

In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we will dissect the key elements of modern and classic semi trucks. If you’re looking to simplify the process of selecting and purchasing a semi truck, this semi truck comparison will help.

What are classic semi trucks?

Classic semi trucks refer to old semi trucks, often characterized by nostalgic designs and robust mechanical features. Sometimes featured in old truck shows, vintage trucks draw widespread admiration from attendees. This is due to their enduring quality and simplicity compared to modern semi truck types. 

Some enthusiasts even take it a step further, finding cheap used semi trucks for sale, and restoring them as a piece of trucking history. Many consider these classics from another era to be the best looking semi trucks on the market.

Unlike newer models that must be equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs), many classic trucks fall under ELD mandate exemptions. This is because these trucks predate the time when maintaining electronic driver logs became a regulatory necessity. Understandably, the exemption adds another layer of appeal for those who appreciate the simplicity of classic big rigs.

What is ELD in trucking?

ELDs are governed by regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They’re integral parts of the semi trucking industry, designed to ensure accuracy and prevent drivers from exceeding safe driving hours.

In essence, the ELD mandate says that commercial vehicles must use electronic logbooks for logging their hours of service (HOS). It stipulates that an ELD must be connected to the vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time. An ELD offers a more accurate and tamper-proof method of recording drivers’ hours compared to manual entries.

Furthermore, ELD rules for drivers include requirements for devices to switch automatically between driving and on-duty time. They synchronize with Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) to ensure time accuracy and consistency across different devices and regions.

Despite the rule, there are ELD exemptions for small companies and certain types of drivers. For instance, the mandate does not apply to drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000. Nor does it apply to those who use paper logs for not more than eight days within a 30-day period, or drivers operating under short-haul exceptions.

Ultimately, the question ‘can I drive a truck without ELD?’ largely depends on the circumstances. Some drivers fall under ELD mandate exemptions, but generally, most commercial drivers are required to use them under these regulations.

While ELDs represent a significant change in the way electronic driver logs are maintained, the FMCSA believes that drivers’ use of an electronic logbook for trucks will lead to a safer working environment and reduce fatigue-related incidents.

Advantages of buying a classic semi truck

Buying a classic semi truck offers several advantages:

  1. Affordability: Classic semi trucks are easily found by looking for used semi trucks for sale. They’re typically less expensive than newer big semi truck models.
  2. Uniqueness: Old trucks offer unique styles and features that distinguish them from modern trucks. This uniqueness can make your truck stand out and provide a sense of individuality.
  3. Simplicity: Classic trucks typically have simpler, more mechanical systems compared to newer trucks. This can make them easier to maintain and repair.
  4. ELD exemptions: Depending on the age of the truck, it might fall under ELD exemptions. This eliminates the need for electronic logging devices. This could simplify operations and reduce costs for those not interested in electronic logbook trucking.
  5. Investment potential: Well-maintained or restored classic semi trucks can hold or even increase in value over time. This makes them a potential investment.
  6. Enthusiast community access: Owners of classic semi trucks often form a tight-knit community of enthusiasts. These groups provide opportunities for socializing, networking, and support.
  7. Hands-on experience: Owning a semi truck from a classic era provides a more hands-on, authentic driving experience compared to modern vehicles with automated systems.
  8. Branding: Businesses can use a classic semi truck as a marketing or branding tool, demonstrating a connection to the history and tradition of trucking.
  9. Satisfaction: For many, the process of restoring and maintaining a classic semi truck provides a rewarding hobby and a sense of accomplishment.

While the decision to buy a classic semi truck will depend on a variety of factors, these advantages make them an appealing option for many buyers.

Advantages of buying a modern semi truck

Purchasing a modern semi truck comes with it own advantages:

  1. Advanced technologies: Modern semi trucks are equipped with the latest technology, such as GPS systems, automated transmissions, and safety features. This can improve the efficiency, performance, and safety of your operations.
  2. Reduced maintenance and repair costs: While new semi trucks are more expensive upfront, they can offer savings in the long run with lower maintenance and repair costs, and better fuel efficiency.
  3. Fuel efficiency: Newer models are typically more fuel-efficient than older trucks, which can save you a significant amount of money on fuel costs over the life of the truck.
  4. Warranty coverage: New semi trucks usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which can cover major repairs and maintenance for a certain period of time, providing peace of mind and cost savings.
  5. Customization: When buying a new semi truck, you often have the opportunity to customize it to suit your specific needs, whether that’s choosing a specific engine type, cab configuration, or adding specific features.
  6. Financing options: Dealerships usually offer a range of financing options for new semi trucks, making the purchase more accessible.
  7. Resale value: New semi trucks, when well-maintained, can have a higher resale value in the used truck market.
  8. Driver comfort: Modern semi trucks often offer more comfortable and ergonomic driving environments, which can lead to greater driver satisfaction and retention.

Which semi truck styles are right for you?

If you’re looking for big trucks for sale, approach your buying options with an open mind. While there are individual benefits to purchasing virtually all makes of semi trucks, it’s essential to consider your specific needs, budget, and operational requirements before making a decision.


What semi truck holds its value best?

The Peterbilt 389 is often cited as a semi truck model that holds its value best due to its high build quality, reliable performance, and strong brand reputation. In fact, some consider it one of the best semi trucks of all time. However, the exact model that holds value best can depend on a variety of factors. These include the truck’s condition, mileage, and the demand in the used truck market.

Who is required to have ELD in trucks?

Most commercial truck and bus drivers who are required to maintain Record of Duty Status (RODS) are required to have electronic loggidg Devices (ELDs) in their trucks. However, there are a few exceptions. These include drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000, and drivers who use paper RODS for not more than eight days in every 30-day period.

What type of semi truck makes the most money?

Reefer trucks, which are refrigerated semi-trucks used to transport temperature-sensitive goods, often generate the highest revenue. This is due to the high demand and rates for refrigerated transport. However, profitability can vary widely based on factors such as the specific freight being hauled, region of operation, and current economic climate.

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