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Do you stop to stare when a fire truck blasts by? Do you twist your neck to catch a glimpse of these huge machines whenever a fire station’s door is open? Do you daydream of buying your own fire truck and driving it around town? Of course you do–fire trucks are pretty darn cool. Buying a used fire truck is actually easier than you think, and some of them are not that expensive.

Can a civilian buy a fire truck?

A fire engine truck driving through a city intersection.
Used fire engine | Cristian Ceoroiu via Unsplash

There’s no law against a civilian buying and owning a fire truck. Certain fire truck models are actually popular to buy used for various purposes. But in most states, a civilian cannot register a truck for road use until they have deactivated any fire-specific sirens and lights.

First, an important distinction: A fire truck has a ladder attached to it, a fire engine has a pump, hoses, and often a water tank too.

Unlike military vehicles or some police cars, there’s no restriction on who can own a fire truck or fire engine. This is because large trucks, truck-mounted ladders, and truck-mounted pumps aren’t controlled weapons or defense technologies.

When a fire department no longer has use for a used truck or engine, it may list the vehicle on a firetruck-specific classified board, or even on Ebay. Then, anyone who wants it can buy it.

How much does a used fire truck cost?

Brand-new, full-size fire trucks and fire engines can cost up to one million dollars. But according to Fire Line Equipment, they depreciate quickly. They can lose half their value in just five years. You can occasionally find full-size fire trucks and fire engines on Ebay for under $20k.

A fire truck wiht ladders driving down a city street.
Used fire truck | John Torcasio via Unsplash

Fire Line Equipment is a company that specializes in selling used fire trucks. Its experts estimate that a brand new fire truck or engine can depreciate 15% in its first year of use, 10% each of the next two years, then 7%, and 5%.

This depreciation adds up quickly. If a fire truck has been subjected to heavy use for a decade, it may only be worth a fraction of its original price. This is why fire trucks often sell for less than a brand new, fully-loaded pickup truck.

But the cost of owning a fire truck can be exorbitant. Servicing a fire truck can be as expensive as buying one. Insuring it to drive on the roads can also be very expensive. If your fire truck has a GVW over 12 tons or air brakes, you’ll need to maintain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate it on the roads. And some owners report their full-size fire trucks get six miles per gallon.

Do any celebrities collect fire trucks?

Fire trucks are actually a popular item for some car collectors. Both Jay Leno and Jeremy Renner have bought and restored multiple vintage fire trucks. And we can’t blame them. These guys have the money for an expensive hobby, are good with their hands, and a garage full of fire trucks is a lot more original than a collection of supercars.

A fire engine truck parked in a field.
Used fire engine | Terence Burke via Unsplash

Is a Heavy Duty Truck More Reliable Than a Light Duty Pickup?

Jay Leno was given an antique V12-powered fire truck by the Malibu fire department. He restored it and drives it around Los Angeles.

Though Leno’s truck looks stock, he’s actually added some cool modern features. These include a motorcycle lift and magnetic braking. Read more about Leno’s 1941 American LaFrance fire engine.

Jeremy Renner is also a huge fan of antique fire trucks. He’s always been a car guy and worked on his own vehicles. During the COVID quarantine, he got into buying old fire trucks and restoring them.

Some of Renner’s trucks are still fire-fighting machines. Others are custom-built, including one with a snow-cone maker and bounce-house for his daughter’s birthday parties. See Jeremy Renner’s fire trucks.