The single greatest component to add value to an over-the-road highway tractor in 2005 — and for the foreseeable future — is arguably an odometer. That is, an odometer with a low mileage reading.

To adjust values based on miles, The Truck Blue Book has used the fairly industry standard mileage range of 100,000 to 150,000 miles per year for a highway tractor.

Exceed this average range and the first deduction is a $375 penalty for being between 150,001 and 200,000 miles. Somewhere along the road, perhaps due to standard engine manufacturer warranties or four-year fleet trade cycles, 500,000 miles seems to have become the mileage of the “average” tractor offered to the first used buyer.

While this average seems to remain in place, the value gained on a four-year-old used highway tractor with 450,000 miles is appreciably more today than it was a decade ago.

MILES COUNT

Today, The Truck Blue Book would give a credit of $600 for that 450,000-mile tractor. But were the miles under 400,000, that tractor, by The Truck Blue Book, would garner an additional $1425. However, I have heard current adjustments could be much higher.

Mileage in the 300's can easily add $5,000-$7,000 of real value to a large aero-styled, sleeper-equipped used tractor. And a “traditional” blunt-nosed tractor with full owner-operator specs would gain an additional $10,000 of value.

But please take note that the additional value picked up for low mileage assumes a deal involving a highway tractor meeting trade terms.

This current value pick-up should give fleet equipment purchasing managers pause to re-think lease terms, trade-ins based on model year; and trade cycles based on a calendar of three or four years.

The used value gain of low miles might exceed penalties of early lease terminations.

At the very least, negotiate in lease or purchase contracts a bump in actual value for trades with low mileage.

Try to avoid a certain per-cents per-mile add (typically $.02/$.03 per mile to a certain cap of total dollars), as right now you will not realize the full gain in low mileage value.

Since the limited supply of late-model used tractors (2003 to present) is fueling the increased values, too many low-mileage tractors hitting the market at one time would diminish the large value add.

Adding a wrinkle that is yet to be clearly defined is the value added, if any, for tractors with pre-2002 emission engines — let alone those with pre-2002 engines and low miles. It's understandable that the greatest value difference will be for 2003 model-year units where both engine types were available.

WILLING TO PAY

Used-truck buyers are seeking tractors with pre-'02 engines and are willing to pay more. Figures I'm hearing are at least $2,000 and maybe up to $5,000 or more. Add in low mileage and the dealer has a winner. This development in could result in a valuation notation in the Blue Book engine charts.

With the 2007-emissions compliant engines looming on the horizon, low mileage may become even more of a selling point.

The used buyer would likely seek a tractor with a 2002 engine — and be especially keen for such a truck falling within the average mileage range for a five-year-old tractor.

So, when that next new purchase arises, be sure to select an upgraded odometer — and keep an eye on it!