Blog
December 29, 2020
Trucking Lease-Purchase Programs: The Road to Becoming a Flatbed Owner-Operator

If you’re a flatbed company driver who aspires to be an owner-operator, a lease-purchase program may be your ticket to starting your own trucking business and becoming an independent trucker.

A trucking career can feel a bit, well, transient without a long-term career plan. Hauling load after load. Moving from city to city. Living paycheck to paycheck. But there are ways to take control of your destiny if you’re a disciplined driver with an enterprising outlook.

Lease-purchase or lease-to-own programs often get a bad rap, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all trucking lease-purchase agreements are created equally. They vary widely, and truckers thinking about leasing their semi should weigh several factors before signing on the dotted line. Lease-purchase contract considerations include:

  • Upfront costs
  • Lease rate versus pay rate
  • Length of commitment
  • Company logistics supports
  • Quality of trucking equipment

The bottom line: Be sure the lease-purchase agreement is structured in a way that helps you achieve—not defer—your dream of becoming a flatbed owner-operator. The best trucking lease-purchase programs are designed to benefit goal-oriented drivers who know what they want and how to get there in the shortest amount of time.

If a lease-purchase program or lease-purchase trucking company sounds appealing, keep reading to learn how they work, what makes the best agreements or companies stand out and why now might be a good time to start leasing a big rig.

What is a lease-purchase program and how does it work?

Whether you’re looking to buy a house, boat or semi truck, financing is a great way to pay for life’s biggest purchases. If you don’t have enough set aside to buy a truck outright, a flatbed or semi truck lease-purchase program may be the most promising path to ownership.

If your trucking company offers a lease-to-own option, the first step will often be filling out an application. Some carriers have strict requirements for drivers looking to lease, while others make their programs more accessible. Zero-down lease-purchase trucking companies like JLE don’t require a down payment or credit check when applying for a lease-to-own semi.

Once approved, drivers work with the trucking company to negotiate the lease for the truck they intend to eventually buy. Depending on the value of the rig and payment terms, the length of the lease is typically three to six years. Some companies immediately classify lease-purchase drivers as owner-operators and offer them specialized support as well as exclusive independent trucker benefits and perks.

Drivers will pay a weekly rental rate on their tractor and trailer, plus any applicable insurance and taxes. Some lease-purchase options also include a maintenance reserve that drivers pay into until they reach a set limit. The fund is then used to offset truck maintenance costs during the lease term. Any unused balance is returned to the driver at the end of the lease.

Once the lease contract is up, the truck is yours—unless your agreement includes a balloon payment. With balloon payments, trucking companies require drivers to pay a larger sum at the end of the lease before they take full ownership of their truck. Often viewed as late-in-the-game obstacles for would-be owner-operators and independent truckers, these looming payments are fortunately less prevalent than they once were.

What are the benefits of lease-to-own semi trucks?

On the fence about leasing a semi truck you want to own in a few years through a lease-purchase agreement? As with any big decision, you want to feel confident you’ve made the right choice. While lease-purchase programs don’t make sense for every truck driver, they offer some enticing benefits that are hard to ignore.

Affordability

When there’s a hefty price tag on something you want, it’s nice to be able to spread the cost out over time. Lease-purchase drivers have the benefit of paying as they go. And if your trucking company compensates you well, those lease payments are even less of a burden. JLE, for example, pays 75% of linehaul and passes 100% of accessorial pay to lease-purchase drivers.

Dedicated support

The best lease-purchase trucking companies provide extensive sales and dispatch support to their future owner-operators. The sales team sources, negotiates and puts customer freight on their deck at higher rates than the open market, while assigned dispatchers assist with pre-planning and scheduling.

World-class equipment

If becoming a trucking owner-operator is your end goal, you’re going to want the best tractor-trailer money can buy. With a lease-purchase agreement, you can lock in a high-quality, late-model semi truck at an affordable rate. JLE offers top-of-the-line Kenworth and Freightliner rigs with AC power inverters, refrigerators and 72-inch mid-roof sleepers.

Perks

Sometimes it’s the little things that tip the decision-making scales. Certain companies looking for owner-operators or lease-purchase drivers offer special additional perks to sweeten the deal. Privileges can include fuel price breaks and access to discounted health benefits.

In It for the Long Haul: The Upside of Owner-Operator Trucking

Becoming an owner-operator trucker is appealing on several fronts, and it’s a perfectly attainable goal if you play your cards right. Start by determining what type of equipment you need, then find the right owner-operator trucking company to be your long-term partner. With a favorable lease-purchase agreement, you’ll be on the road to realizing your dream.

Who could fault you for wanting to become an independent trucker? There are some very tempting reasons to set your sights on achieving owner-operator status.

More money in your pocket

Owner-operators expand their earning potential by receiving a set percentage of the freight bill versus a per-mile rate. On average, owner-operator pay is about 5% higher per hour than company drivers. But the most successful owner-operators can really rake it in, earning 52% more per hour than most company drivers.

Be your own boss or build your own fleet

Owner-operators always call the shots. They’re able to shape their trucking career based on how much they want to work, earn or be at home. For many, reaching that level of flexibility is a sign they’ve arrived. And for more ambitious owner-operators, there’s always the prospect of building out a full trucking fleet to become even more profitable.

Are you ready to take the next step toward leasing and buying a semi truck and becoming an owner-operator? If so, JLE’s lease-purchase program is among the best in the industry. On average, our lease-purchase drivers are netting more than $1,700 in weekly settlements, and the top half are bringing home an average of $2,300 a week after expenses.

If you’re ready to achieve your trucking goals with a company that values your hard work, start our online application process today and see for yourself why JLE is a finalist for the Truckload Carriers Association's “2021 Best Fleets to Drive For.”