Day Cab to Sleeper Conversion vs Buying A Used Truck

Peterbilt 587 semi trailer truck at the dealership

In business, you’ll find yourself needing to trim back on expenses where you can, either because you’ve discovered you’re needlessly spending too much on one thing, or because you need to increase profits. But what do you do if that expense is something necessary for expanding your business, like adding something to improve your fleet or making it easier for fleet drivers to stay on the road for longer hours when necessary?

If all the trucks in your fleet have day cabs and you’re thinking of accepting long-haul trips that can take more than a day, then a truck with a sleeper cab would be a potential upgrade. But if you’re also trying to cut back on expenses, which would be the better option: buying a used truck or converting one of the day cabs to a sleeper cab?

Day Cab to Sleeper Cab Conversion

There are shops that specialize in converting sleeper cabs to day cabs to allow owner-operators and fleet managers to get a little more out of a heavily used truck than they would by selling the same truck or auctioning it off. Fortunately, the reverse is also true; there are shops that can help convert a day cab to a sleeper. However, they may not be easy to find. 

There are also a few things to take into account when converting a day cab to a sleeper cab, with space being the most important thing. Some truck models may not have enough space to allow for such a conversion without risking the integrity of the frame; in fact, there are models where converting to a sleeper cab would mean being unable to attach the trailer at the back. Still other models that have just enough space to allow a day cab to be converted to a sleeper cab, but it may turn out to be smaller and a bit less comfortable than any driver would like.

The effort involved and overall cost of conversion are two other potential issues. While some shops do sell kits that will let you handle the day cab-to-sleeper conversion yourself, there’s a lot of preparation involved, such as taking the cab measurements and making sure they’re accurate so you be sure the kit you purchase will be the right size. If you bring it to a specalized shop to have the professionals take care of the conversion, the final cost may be more than you were prepared for, including materials and labor. 

Buying A Used Truck

In the beginning, long-haul truck drivers spent hours on the road and then had to make do in a small sleeper cab that had just enough room for them to sleep, and not always comfortably. Sleeper cab designs have improved since then; not only are they bigger with more space, but they now take the trucker’s comfort into account and make it easier for them to live in said sleepers when on a job.

This is especially true when you get to trucks with custom extended sleepers; depending on the owner-operator’s budget and their imagination, custom sleepers may look like tiny homes on wheels than your average sleeper cab, though they may share a few design elements like a cabinet door pulls out into a dining table for one, or a dining area that turns into a bedroom.

The potential differences across sleeper cabs and the resulting difference in price are why it’s difficult to say with certainty how much a used truck with a sleeper cab will actually cost. 

A new truck with a custom sleeper can cost the original owner up to $300,000, so even if they can’t sell it at that price after it’s been in use for a few years, you may still find yourself shelling out at least half that price. 

On the other hand, a factory conversion would cost at least $150,000, so buying such a truck when it’s used may mean paying a little less than that, depending on how old it is. Much older trucks, however, may cost as little as $8,500; this is a steal compared to $100,000, true, but that’s not counting any costs for maintenance and repair yet.

In Conclusion

In the end, what you decide will depend largely on your budget, needs, and when you want to have the truck in hand, so to speak. Either option can take at least a week, including looking for just the right used sleeper truck, or the right shop to handle conversion; converting a day cab to a sleeper may take longer because of the preparation necessary to ensure space requirements are met. 

As far as costs go, a conversion may cost a little less than buying a used truck, but you may be limited in what amenities will be included while the used sleeper truck will have just the amenities you need or want. 

To make a long story short, if you don’t mind waiting and there are certain amenities you can do without because of space or budget constraints, then by all means, have a day cab truck converted to a sleeper. However, if you need the sleeper truck as soon as possible, want to be sure it comes with all the amenities, and you are prepared to shoulder the cost of a sleeper truck, then buying a used truck would be a sound investment.