Truck drivers are an unappreciated breed of professional driver. Not found on a racetrack (usually), drivers put in more mileage than anyone else on the road. There are trucks all over the world and the people who drive them vary in personality like anything else, but they all share a demanding job. Whether they drive for Wal-Mart or deliver on private contracts, they commandeer the road in an array of trucks; Cabovers, Day Cabs, Double Sleepers, and so on.
As for some (like myself), the knowledge of the open road is passed down from generation to generation. My father has been driving for over 20 years delivering loads to all of New England, and I too share this passion. What stops me and almost any aspiring driver who looks to own their own truck is the price of a big-rig. Most go for easily over $100,000, and most used ones over $50,000. This is justifiable as a semi is very handy and can pay for itself proving to be a valuable investment, but for those of us who don't have $50,000 sitting around, or the credit to borrow that kind of money from a bank are left to contracted driving in a company truck or dreaming.
I've compiled a list of semi-trucks I've found not just for under $50,000, but under $10,000. Note that these trucks aren't perfect, but based off the ads I scrolled through I kept in mind that you could get in this truck and drive it away with little to no issue. They're not beautiful or even have sleepers, but it's a start, and we all have to start somewhere.
20 Ford L9000
This is a 1994 L9000 powered by a straight-6 Cummins L-10. Made just before the name changed to Sterling, Ford built these Semis throughout the 70's up until the late 2000's. 'L' series trucks are used in all sorts of mediums from dump trucks to tank trucks, a fifth-wheel semi is the one we're looking at. Being a '94 makes this the Aeromax design introduced in 1988 after Kenworth redesigned the T600 to be more aerodynamic. It has a 10-speed w/ overdrive and a differential lock which is especially good in snowy conditions, also an A/C for those hot summer days. Not a bad find for just $7,500, and this isn't the only one, continue scrolling to reveal more of these affordable old Fords.
19 Freightliner FLD120
Down in Texas, this Cummins 10.8 liter FLD120 sits for $6,400. Not pretty necessarily, but it doesn't have to be. A 330 horsepower 9 speed with a differential lock and 6x4 drive sits underneath the hood! You're never getting stuck.
The mileage on these may be high, but that's to be expected from something that is made to work, and with a Cummins, it's sure to last longer if it's well taken care of.
The ad says the A/C is half decent at best, but least you won't be scorching hot. Looking through the ad shows the body to be in ok condition, and the drivetrain is solid. It looks like this truck still has some 'go' in it!
18 Mack CH600
The Mack CH series is a classic workhorse, and this one is no different. It might not look very promising, but this Mack comes with a Mack 12.0 six-cylinder engine that puts down 427 horsepower. It has surprisingly low mileage compared to some of the other trucks on this list at a little over 350,000 miles. Tandem rear axles and a powerful motor help to handle the heavier loads and with the low mileage, I wouldn't be scared to take it over some of the other offers in this list. $9,000 may be on the steeper side of the range I was aiming for, but this could be a worthy investment, even if the rig needs a little work.
17 Freightliner Columbia 112
Ah, another day cab. This Columbia may not be much, not even having dual-rear axles, but the reason for the (somewhat high) price may come with the age as the truck appears to be made in this Millenia.
Also, it has been fleet maintained, which is an important advantage that could ultimately be in your best interest when buying a truck, as most likely the oil has been changed and any issues with the truck have been taken care of.
This could also depend on the legitimacy of the company in question, so remain wary. Otherwise, this truck is a simple one; 10 speed with overdrive behind a capable Caterpiller C13. A good example of a potential bargain.
16 International 8100
None of these older 8100s are very expensive, just a quick search reveals dozens across the country. Some single axles, some tandem. All day cabs from what I can tell and prices ranging from around $7,000 to what is potentially our peak of $9,950. For the sake of trying to find the best bang for our buck, I found an 8100 with tandem Rockwell rear axles powered by a 330 Cummins ISM with an electronic engine brake. Just over 500,000 miles is about the average on these rigs as I see them a lot. With that in mind, you might be able to find a cheaper one that's better-taken care of in a state surplus auction.
15 Sterling A9500
The other "Ford" on this list, the Sterling is just the same as the previously mentioned L9000. This one sports aerodynamic fairings and 6x4 capability which will prove a good idea in some of the rougher parts of the country.
This one is definitely the peak of the price range, costing $10,000 exactly, but for that, you get a decent rig that's been well taken care of as a fleet truck.
The Mercedes MBE-4000 engine pushes 450 horsepower and only has about 100,000 miles on the odometer. This is another great example for what is out there in the way of great trucks for good prices.
14 Kenworth T600
The Kenworth T series has been made for years, and through its different variants, still is a good contender as a decent, affordable option. The T2000's are priced at the higher end of our budget, and this family-owned, farm used Kenworth T600 is in good working order with about 565,000 miles on the Cummins L10 motor. The ad says it runs well and it may be old but its solid. The pictures were taken with attention to detail which is important, especially if you can't readily go see the truck yourself and want to get a good idea of what you're really looking at, whether you go get it yourself or have it transported.
13 Peterbilt 358
A true classic big-rig. The example I found was a bit ragged looking, but if you're looking for an old truck to maybe slowly restore over time them this is a good option. The 318 horsepower Detroit Diesel utilizes a 5+4 speed transmission, for those of you wondering what a 5+4 is, there is a good demonstration on ddryq's Youtube channel of how it looks to drive one of these dual stick trucks. It's hard to tell what this truck has been used for all these years, and it's bare bones structure may not have many amenities, but at least it gives you a place to start with an awesome resto-mod build.
12 White/GMC Aero WIA
One of the most capable cheap semi-trucks on here, this old White/GMC has the tandem Axles as well as a sleeper, check and check on the list of over-the-road hauling. Higher mileage (886,000 miles) could mean the truck needs a little tune-up.
The 9-speed transmission may not be much, but as I've said before it's something, and any 'something' with a sleeper that runs is something that I wouldn't pass up easily!
This is another truck with good photos of the inside and motor to give a good idea of what's there, along with a picture of a sticker, detailing the truck.
11 DAF CF85
Don't worry. I didn't forget about all of you on the other side of the pond. In the Eurasian continents, our common U.S built trucks don't seem to fit so well as cab-overs are the truck of choice to navigate the slender streets. Seeing a DAF here in the states is more probable than seeing say a Mercedes. In Great Britain, you can get a good DAF at the upper end of our budget at 7,250 Pounds (about $9,500). The one I found had a Paccar 410hp Turbo, was a one-owner rig with an untested A/C, and over 1,000,000 km (about 621,000 miles) which is about 160,000km or 100,000 mi. a year! This isn't the only DAF for there are many for cheaper, but it's not a bad example and one to consider when shopping on a budget whether you're in the U.K or the U.S.
10 Renault Premium 420
This truck is from our neighbors in France! This 6x2 with a mid-lift axle actually has an automatic transmission! Along with a sleeper cab, this is a great lorry to start with as it's only 4,750 Pounds ($6,207).
As it is the only Renault on this list, don't think that there aren't deals to be had out there for these trucks.
Premiums of course go for the lesser price compared to the Magnum. Although I've found one for just over our budget at 8,750 Pounds ($11,434), being an over-all larger and more capable semi-truck compared to the Premier may justify the extra 4000 Pounds you have to spend to get one.
9 DAF XF105
A look around for a cheap XF initially will prove difficult, at least that's what I got at first. A little more beyond the first few pages of any truck buying website will prove more fruitful, but with this also comes the chance of the truck being sold already. With that said, a 460hp 2-wheel drive XF can still be had for just under 5,250 Pounds ($6,881), and that was the cheapest I came across. More of them can be had under $10,000. You won't find many of these tractor trailers in the U.S. if at all, but DAF is available plenty in the way of street sweepers.
8 Volvo FE613
Another very good contestant in the under-$10,000 bargain trucks, this one is complete with tandem-axles and a sleeper cab. These Volvos come with a very durable Detroit Diesel 60 that was made from 1987 to 2011. This Volvo as the pre-electronic controlled DDEC motor which would turn up in 1992.
With Volvo and Detroit Diesel's reputation for reliability and dependability, this rig is a no-brainer!
Though you may get a little dirty doing a tune-up, the trucks reputation and survival should speak volumes to any potential truck buyer.
7 Marmon D
So this one is a stretch, but nonetheless a MARMON!!! For those of you who aren't sure what a Marmon is, Marmon is U.S based company that has its roots in 1855 America. The company has since been re-established to Marmon-Harrington, making transmissions and transfer cases. When they stopped producing truck in the 60's, the Marmon company went on until 1997, where they were dissolved by Navistar. The truck I found goes for about $8000 but could use a motor rebuild for anyone willing to get dirty and jump in to save an example of a truck that is quickly disappearing from the roads.
6 Volvo VNL
Back to the basics, this is a simple single axle day cab Volvo. As I've mentioned before the Volvo name is known for reliability and along with that Detroit Diesel 60 I spoke about earlier, another great option in the semi market.
Any model from Volvo that you can find is a gift as some I've scrolled through have awesome A/C units, a modern day essential.
The 9-speed transmission on some of these does the job for general hauling needs. As much as these little trucks aren't so good in snow, they are great in cities, food for thought.
5 AM General M916
Where I live the lumber trade is still big money, and this AM General will go anywhere. The 6x6 powered through an automatic transmission behind a turbo Cummins with 400 hp is the sure thing to help you through any haul with ease. These army rigs can be had for cheap in any state auction across the country. The one I found is no different as it went for almost $9,000, a bargain for a truck made to work hard and haul anything through almost any terrain.
4 Kenworth K100
This 790,000-mile example is the only one I could actively find, as the others with sleepers may have had the tandem axles, but were incomplete and either needed the engine finished or needed the engine re-worked altogether.
This may be a single axle but the sleeper makes up for it with, being one of the only sleepers on this list.
A Cummins diesel with 350 horsepower driven through a 10-speed transmission is a basic combination, but definitely not a bad place to start given how simple it is, and for $7,950, it's not a bad price to get you going either.
3 GMC Astro 9500
Continuing in the cab-overs category is a GMC, which is a strange sight in today's common semi-truck line-up. The one I found, though older (1981), only has 257,000 miles on the motor. The motor is a 350hp Cummins 855 with a 9-speed transmission on board. The truck is fitted with power steering, "jake" brakes, and a sliding 5th wheel, all pretty handy for hauling all sorts of trailers. The GMC trucks may not be as popular as the industry makes them seem today, but GMC is a worthy option to pay attention to as there are plenty and since they're made here in the states, finding parts is a sinch.
2 Iveco Stralis 450
Iveco is another company from across our eastern ocean, Italy to be more specific. The 450 hp motor along with the mid-lift tandem rear-axles is perfect for hauling just about anything.
The one I found cost 6,950 Pounds ($9,109) which may be close to the ceiling money wise, but it comes fully loaded with a twin sleeper and all sorts of simple amenities that other trucks do not provide.
A turbocharged Iveco motor driven through 12-speed semi-automatic transmission is sure to keep the motion going through the rear differential locking axle. Now only if we could get these stateside for this kind of money...
1 MAN TGA26
Made in Germany, MAN (which is now a part of Volkswagen who also owns Scania), can be had for cheap despite their high regard overseas. They're used across all of Eurasia and Australia, but not found very often in North America, at least not according to my knowledge. Although I did find some great deals on these, from around 5,000 pounds (about $7,000 and up), the one I grew a liking to was a 440hp D20 engined mid-lift 6x2 with the XXL cab. Having a 12-speed automatic is good for just about anyone (personally I'm lost without a clutch pedal) and the power-steering makes this a decent buy. Low mileage and reportedly a strong motor, these are all good things to look for in a truck.
Sources: TruckLocator.co.uk, TruckPaper.com, Truckssnl.com, TruckersReport.com, VolvoTrucksUSA.com