How to Buy a Postal Van or Truckby Brandon M. Dennis
Although, it’s not unusual for retired postal workers to purchase a used postal van or truck for their personal use, there are special considerations that they should make about how to buy one in the first place as well as the legal responsibilities that they must adhere to.
Where to Buy A Postal Van or Truck
Buying a postal van or truck can be difficult, as it is a well-regulated, government-sanctioned, commercial vehicle. While you probably won’t be able to find a mail truck in your local classifieds, there are a few places you can check, such as online auction sites, local dealerships, auctions that specialize in used commercial vehicles or websites that specialize in selling open-market vehicles in general. One of the best places to look at is GovDeals.com, a website specifically dedicated to selling government-owned, decommissioned, surplus and confiscated vehicles to the public.
Things to Look For
Depending on the source of the vehicle you find, the condition, price and legal status of the vehicle may be questionable. Thoroughly go over each of these points with the seller and a third-party mechanic.
While the condition of a used postal truck can vary depending on who and where you buy it from, it should be free of any major rust damage, especially to the undercarriage of the vehicle. If you intend to use the postal van or truck as a recreational vehicle, ensure that the brakes, engine and transmission are all in a reliable condition that would allow you to drive the truck for at least six months before it needs any major mechanical work. If you do not need to actually drive the vehicle, you can rely on your own judgment as to whether the truck meets your requirements.
Obviously, the price is also a major concern to address when purchasing a postal van or truck. Although prices may vary depending on location and condition, a good range to expect is $3,500 to $5,000, at the time of publication, unless you’re buying a new surplus vehicle, in which case the price could be as high as $15,000 to $25,000.
Because postal trucks are government-sanctioned vehicles, ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell you the truck in the first place. If the truck is to be used for recreational purposes, it should be outfitted with all of the proper doors and seat belts that a regular car or truck would be required to have. For the most part, following the same regulations that are required of food trucks or ice cream trucks will suffice.
The Buying Process
Because you won't need a commercial driver's license, or CDL, unless the truck weighs over 26,000 pounds, the buying process is usually similar to buying a regular vehicle. Once you have chosen a dealer and the truck that you want, you will need to either pay the total price of the truck upfront or make financing arrangements. If financing arrangements can be made directly with the seller, you will most likely be required to pay up to 20 percent down, followed by a monthly payment of $200 or more. Because dealership financing often involves a high interest rate, seek a loan from an external source, such as a bank or lending agency.
Once you have secured financing, you will need to present all of your documents and a valid driver's license along with your down payment. Depending on the condition of the vehicle, you may also need to arrange for the vehicle to be transported to your address or have someone with you to drive one of your vehicles home.
Aside from making sure that the vehicle is fit to drive on the road, there are a host of legal issues that mail truck owners should be aware of. While postal trucks and vans are technically considered commercial vehicles, you don’t need a commercial driver’s license to drive one unless the truck weighs over 26,000 pounds. While a postal service delivery driver must hold a chauffeur's license, because they are driving for pay, someone who owns and operates a delivery truck for recreational purposes does not need any special licenses.
If you purchase a mail truck with a steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle, you may need to obtain a permit, depending on your local ordinances.
Postal trucks do not have actual license plates, but instead use an identification number that is posted in the upper left-hand corner of the back of the truck, near the roof. Therefore, you will need to ensure that you have a properly mounted license plate before driving the truck or van on the road.
Brandon Dennis holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Central Florida with a minor in journalism. Since then, he has enjoyed working in the automotive aftermarket and has done so for the past six years. He is also currently seeking an ASE Certified Technician Certificate.