Best Semi Truck Brands for a New Owner-Operator

April 12, 2022

Best Semi Truck Brands for a New Owner-Operator

Finding the right truck for your business is an important step to becoming an owner-operator. Unfortunately there is no single brand or model of semi truck that is best for every owner-operator. So you need to evaluate for yourself what features are most important to you and what type of truck fits into your budget

When considering what brand to buy, it is wise to keep these factors in mind:

  • Safety
  • Life span
  • Reliability
  • Price
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Horsepower
  • Design
  • Technology

Questions to consider when choosing a semi truck brand

Below are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to a particular brand or model of semi truck. Figuring these things out before you go truck shopping will make narrowing down your choices easier and faster. 

What is your budget?

Are you going to finance your purchase or pay cash? And are you going to buy used or new? The price tag is going to have a significant effect on which big rig you purchase.

What kind of driving will you do?

Are you going to drive long-haul, short-haul, or local only? You may also decide you want the flexibility to drive all three. 

How heavy are the loads you’ll be hauling?

Some truck brands are more suited to truck drivers who carry loads of a certain weight. If you know your focus will be on heavier loads, you will want to consider those brands that specialize in heavy duty trucks

What style of cab suits your needs?

What cab features are important to you? Noise reduction, safety, technology, sleeper space, and aesthetic design are all features to consider.

What is a good first semi truck?

Peterbilt is known as one of the most reliable semi-truck brands. Owner-operators who drive long-haul are drawn to Peterbilt trucks because of their focus on fuel economy, safety, and reliability. They also have a robust network of dealerships nationwide, so if you do have a mechanical issue while on the road, you can get service right away. However, they focus on medium-duty trucks that have aluminum bodies, so if you are going to be hauling a lot of heavy-duty loads (vehicles over 26,001 lbs), this American brand may not be the perfect fit for you.

Freightliner is the most popular semi-truck brand among owner-operators who do short-haul runs. Freightliner truck cabs are beautifully designed and have great fuel efficiency since the cabs are so aerodynamic. Freightliner also paid close attention to noise reduction in the cab. With owner-operators spending so much time in their big rigs, noise reduction is especially critical for many truckers who sleep in their cabs while driving OTR. Not to mention that their prices are lower in comparison to the competing Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. They manufacture several models and styles of commercial trucks from on-highway, medium-duty, severe duty, and natural gas vehicles. Soon they’ll be rolling out their new line of all-electric commercial vehicles, so the odds are good that they have a truck to suit your needs.

Mack, Volvo’s class 8 truck manufacturer, is a very high quality brand in the trucking industry that is extremely popular for owner-operators who haul heavy loads. The GuardDog Connect functionality in Mack trucks helps drivers stay alert and awake on the road and ensures you get to your destination safely. Mack’s focus on trucker safety, fuel efficiency, and new technology has sales on the rise, making it the second highest in sales behind Freightliner.

Can you make money as a truck owner-operator?

A common question CDL drivers have is whether or not they can make more money as an owner-operator versus a company truck driver. According to, the average base salary of an owner-operator is $169,583.00 per year. But keep in mind that this does not mean that you will make that much. Your take home pay as an owner-operator will depend greatly on experience, types of loads, and how many days you’re on the road. 

You also want to keep in mind that without a company to pay your expenses, you are responsible for things like fuel, maintenance, insurance, and the cost of your big rig. Once you factor in these expenses, your net pay will look very different from your gross pay. 

Below are some strategies to maximize your income. 

Keep Moving

Keep your truck full and moving as much as possible. Too much downtime between profitable hauls can have a devastating effect on your ability to make a living. Use load boards to find the best loads and brokers and keep your truck moving. 

Understand Your Pay

It is critical to know how each load pays you, when they pay, and by what method. Are they sending a paper check after 30 days? Are they paying with a wire transfer upon delivery? Keeping track of payments and making sure no one stiffs you for a load is vital. 

Get Cargo Insurance

Hopefully you already know that you need insurance to drive your truck, but you may also want cargo insurance. Cargo insurance protects you if your load is stolen or damaged. This is especially important as you begin to make more money. 

Reduce Expenses

Creating a budget and sticking to it will help you maximize your profit. As an owner-operator it’s important that you keep your spending while driving long-haul to a minimum. Pack snacks and meals; find economical options for things like laundry, showers, and fuel when you’re planning your trip. Don’t get caught on the road with no option but to pay a premium price because of a lack of planning. 

Becoming an owner-operator is exciting. There are a lot of things to consider when planning the transition from company truck driver to being your own boss. Do lots of research and stay organized, and you’ll be making money as an owner-operator in no time. 

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