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6 Things to Look for When Inspecting Commercial Vehicles



Researching and buying commercial vehicles is a complex task. The most essential factor when purchasing trucks and vans is to acquire as much information as you can about the vehicle. Inspections are especially important for commercial vehicles, not only because they help keep you and other drivers safe, but also because violations found by the DOT can lead to fines, the loss of your driver’s license, or the vehicle being placed out-of-service.

Many buyers have a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) performed by a certified mechanic, though others perform inspections themselves. Before signing on the dotted line, here’s what you need to look for when inspecting commercial vehicles: 

Engine & Transmission

Be sure to:

  • Rev the engine
  • Check for leaks, smoke, odd sounds, and warning lights 
  • Review dashboard gauges

The Body of the Vehicle 

Look for:

  • Wear-and-tear
  • Cracks
  • Rust
  • Evidence of welding 
  • Integrity of the coupling devices

The Interior of the Cab 

Check the:

  • Steering mechanisms
  • Pedals
  • Seat adjustment
  • Dashboard functions 
  • Comfort of seat 
  • Visibility through the windshield
  • Cleanliness of cargo/storage areas

For sleeper cabs, check the cab’s amenities.

Fluids, Air Filter, and Exhaust 

Verify appropriate levels and cleanliness of:

  • Engine oil
  • Transmission fluid
  • Coolant

Inspect the air filter for excessive dirt.

Observe exhaust after cold start for: 

  • Black smoke = too much fuel in the combustion chamber or fuel injectors are not firing properly
  • Blue smoke = oil is burning somewhere in the engine
  • White smoke = too little fuel is burning or there’s coolant in the combustion chamber  

Tires & Brakes 

Look for:

  • Cracks or bubbles in tires
  • Uneven wear in tires (could indicate a drivetrain issue)
  • Noisy brakes
  • Emergency break functionality

Class & Technology Level

Ask yourself:

  • Is this vehicle bigger than I’m comfortable with? 
  • Do I know how to drive the truck or van properly?
  • Am I certified to operate this commercial vehicle?

Inspecting these six critical components of the commercial vehicle in which you’re interested is one of many steps in purchasing new or used trucks and vans. To learn more about shopping for and buying commercial vehicles, check out all of Commercial Truck Trader’s resources for buying commercial vehicles.


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Ethan Smith
Ethan Smith
is the Content Manager at Trader Interactive, managing marketing content development for ATV Trader, Commercial Truck Trader, Cycle Trader, Equipment Trader, RV Trader, and more. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to marketplace buyers and sellers.

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