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What Is the True Cost of Owning a Semi Truck?

Owning a semi truck and becoming an owner-operator might seem like a great choice above working for a corporation. However, before you make the decision you should consider the true cost of owning a semi truck. 

How much a truck costs is not the whole picture. There are factors listed below that you want to take into consideration before starting the owner-operator journey.

Average Cost of Owning a Semi Truck

There’s no exact way to tell you exactly what the cost will be to own and operate a semi truck. That’s why it’s important to understand the key factors that play a part in how much owning a truck will cost you. 

Your owner-operator expense does not end at just the semi truck cost. In fact, it relies entirely on how you operate it, including fuel, maintenance, leasing vs owning, and your documentation. 

You should carefully weigh the costs out along with the pros and cons of being an owner-operator versus a company driver before you consider buying a semi truck. We’ll go into more detail about the averages of each cost of owning a semi truck.

How Much Money Can You Make Owning a Semi Truck?

Owning a truck can be a profitable business. In fact, some owners earn anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per week. However, this does not include truck expenses which impact overall profitability. 

Additionally, as you can see there’s a large difference between the $500 per week and the $10,000 per week. As an owner-operator starting out, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be getting your shipments from and if you have a trusted book of business. 

If not, you might be starting on the lower side of the scale until you can make a name for yourself in the industry. 

What Do Most Owner-Operators Make Per Mile?

When you’re an owner-operator, you have a greater potential to make more money per load than typical drivers. On average, owner-operators make 70% of the load. So for loads that pay $2.50 per mile, owner-operators make $1.75 per mile. On the flip side, company drivers tend to make anywhere from $0.38 to $0.52 per mile for the same load. 

How Much Does It Cost To Run a Semi per Hour?

How much it costs to run a semi per hour varies greatly. There are a lot of factors to consider when you determine the hourly costs. 

Sources have reported costs per hour as low as $22 and an hourly cost as high as $370. The subjective metrics, such as the value of time calculated, are what makes it hard to determine the actual hourly costs. 

Factors That Impact the Cost of Being an Owner-Operator

There are factors that impact the overall cost of being an owner-operator. And while these costs are to be considered on an everyday level, the COVID-19 pandemic opened our eyes to a new normal, which included a drastic inflation we saw across the U.S. 

With this new normal, fuel prices and maintenance costs have skyrocketed. So when you’re making your consideration to become an owner-operator, be sure to understand the owner-operator monthly expenses you have now may increase or hopefully fall at some point in the future.  

Buying a Semi Truck

The cost for buying a semi truck will also vary greatly depending upon what you’re looking for. You can buy used or buy new, and you can also lease instead of buy. 

If you’re looking to purchase a used semi-truck, your expenses will likely be between $50,000 and $100,000. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a new truck, you should expect to spend $125,000 or more. A lot of the pricing will depend on the make and model of the truck you choose.

If that upfront cost seems too daunting, or you’re not quite ready to take on all the risk, you could consider leasing a semi truck. Many owner-operators that choose to lease their semi trucks spend up to $2,500 monthly. Again, the cost will vary depending upon the truck you select and how much money you put down. 

Documentation

You’ll need to have your legal documentation in order to comply with state, local, and federal requirements. Below, you’ll find the cost you can expect to pay for the different types of documentation you’ll need:

  • BOC-3 Form: $20 to $40
  • Business Registration/LLC fee: $50 to $300
  • HVUT: $550
  • IFTA Decal: $10
  • IRP Credential: $1,700 based on percentage of miles
  • MC/DOT Number: $300 
  • PrePass: $14.99 monthly

Insurance

There are nine types of insurance policies that semi truck drivers should consider. Most drivers have reported they spend an estimated 4% of their total expenses on insurance costs. These policies will help protect you against liabilities while operating the truck and protect you from physical damage in the event of an accident or a weather-related event.  

Fuel

Fuel is one of the largest factors that owner-operators need to consider when it comes to the cost of owning a semi truck. On average, drivers spend up to $70,000 annually on fuel alone. 

With the cost of fuel on the rise, it’s important to look into discount programs and discount cards. You should also calculate how much you think you’ll be spending on fuel before deciding to move forward with your purchase. 

You can do this by taking the price of fuel per gallon then dividing it by the average miles per gallon of your vehicle. After you have that figure, multiply it by the number of miles you anticipate driving each week. 

This will give you a weekly gas cost. Multiply that number by 52 to get your anticipated annual cost. 

Freight

If you don’t have work, you won’t be making any money. Finding freight can cost money with some load boards, and other times it’s completely free. 

Additionally, there are brokers that you can work with, but you’ll be required to pay them a percentage. Be sure to consider the associated costs of finding work in your calculations. 

Repairs and Maintenance

When you own your semi truck, you’re responsible for all maintenance and repairs required as well as the price tag that goes along with it. The cost for maintenance and repairs will depend upon whether you purchased a new or used truck, how much the parts cost, who or where you trust with your maintenance and repairs, and other factors. 

Most owner-operators see an annual cost for maintenance and repairs that is above $15,000. Tires alone can cost you upwards of $4,000 each year. You’ll need to be sure you have the funds to pay the repair costs if things go awry.  

Taxes

Unlike being a company driver, you will not have taxes taken out of your pay. Instead, you’re required to pay your taxes on a quarterly basis. It’s highly recommended that owner-operators set aside 20% to 30% of their earnings for taxes alone. 

Permits, Licenses, and Tolls

Owner-operators are also required to pay for their own permits, licenses, and tolls. This can add up quickly if you’re not prepared for the cost. On average, most drivers who continuously travel along toll roads spend approximately $3,600 per year. 

Food

When you’re on the road you don’t have easy access to a kitchen or a full-sized refrigerator or freezer. The more you stop to eat out, the more you’ll spend on food. Coffee stops, food breaks, and snacks can quickly add up to thousands of dollars per month. 

Consider utilizing a mini fridge in your cab or even a cooler to help cut down the costs of eating out. 

Understanding the Expenses of an Owner-Operator

As you can see from above, there are a lot of expenses to consider before you decide to become an owner-operator. Each of these is a significant factor that will play a part in your overall income. 

Additionally, with the economy, inflation, and other circumstances, these factors can increase costs at any given moment. Be sure to take the time to weigh out the pros and cons of the cost of ownership and determine if it’s right for you. 

Truck leases for as low as $625 a week with Roehl

Designed to give experienced drivers or previous lease purchase/owner operators with limited financial resources a pathway into truck ownership.

Truck leases for as low as $625 a week with Roehl

Designed to give experienced drivers or previous lease purchase/owner operators with limited financial resources a pathway into truck ownership.