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Buying a recovery truck in UK or Ireland

By Edited Aug 12, 2016 0 4

Top ten points to help you choose the right truck for you.

Buying a recovery truck in the UK and Ireland can be a daunting process. It isn't as simple as buying a family car yet that is something that is often remarked upon as one of the most stressful transactions in your life. Buying a truck is much more complictated, and requires us to think long and hard about what we are doing and why. Here are a few pointers to help you.

  1. Work out what you need it for. If it is to be used solely for recovery, you must work within a 100 km radius and only carry disabled cars. Anything over and above or beyond this will require you to have an operators lisence.
  2. What do you hope to carry? The average weight of a standard family hatchback is 1750kgs. take 400kg off (as a guide only) for a small car and add the same on for a executive model. In order to carry these weight you need to take SWL (safe working load) and Pay load (legal load capacity) into consideration.
  3. Who is going to drive it? Drivers licenses issued in the last decade automatically entitle you to drive 3.5t gvw vehicles. If you need to drive a vehicle larger than this you need get the appropriate license.
  4. Beavertail or tilt and slide/slidebed? A beavertail is cheaper, but not as user friendly. If your car is damaged in any way this generally makes it harder to use a beavertail.
  5. What size should i get? Recovery trucks are usually made in 3.5t, 7.5t and 10 t brackets, in response to licensing restrictions. If you keep in mind that a chassis weighs on average 1780kg for a 3.5 t gvw and 3450 for a 7.5t, and that a bed that is sufficently engineered to perform its duty will weigh at least 500 kg for a 3.5t and 1750kg for a 7.5t, your figures need to add up. I would advise you NOT to buy any 3.5t tilt and slide (use a beavertail instead), instead look towards a 7.5t if you are moving standard cars and move to 10t if you expect to move weightier stuff.
  6. New or used? It should all come down to budget as new trucks will quickly lose value and used trucks can hide a multitude of sins. Often, middle ground is found by putting new beds onto second hand lorry's. Use Recovery Vehicles or the Irish Recovery Network to help you check out a lorry.
  7. What should i keep in mind? Most of the big guys are generally good. They can be a bit pushy and they will all have had something bad said about them, but the best recommendation is to talk to recent customers. Customer service is nearly as important as product and this will tell you a lot. Ask for the details of a few customers and give them a phone. Always get the quotes written, always get a few and don't listen to what the companies say about each other as some people have been known to be misleading!
  8. What is the basic standard? Your body needs to have LOLER certification in order for you to meet the health and safety guidelines. You will probably need to do this yourself but you will need your manufactuer to provide swl certs, lift test certs, winch details and you will need a few things on your truck like an in-cab pto buzzer, side marker tape and an emergency stop.
  9. Who are the main players? The main names in the uk over the last two decades have been boniface and dyson. They are the most expensive. The gap between these manufactures and the rest of the pack, in terms of quality has shrank and the main set which used to include names like TRS, Dave Bland, TRUK, Ceejay, J and J, Swinlays and Thorntons seems to have evolved into a two teir system. In Ireland the only manufacturer to meet the standards is Nugent Coachworks and they seem to be impacting greatly in the UK due to their high standards and tidy finish. They cost 10-15% less than their uk counterparts due to their geography but more people are talking about them.
  10. What should I look out for? Stay away from 3.5t slidebeds as they are a legal bomb waiting to happen.  Look forward and put your staff on retainers to get their bigger license. In the larger market, take into account where your money is going. the price of steel has risen dramatically so some companies are cutting corners and getting cheap steel in or even cheap kits made in Asia. Also there are no end of cheap components so be careful. A standard steel remote control bodywill cost £14,500-£18,000  + Vat including paint, fitting and side skirts (£12,500 in Ireland) and anything priced cheaper is probably dubious and not certified.

Good luck!



Sep 13, 2011 10:12am
There is a major advantage on the 3.5t vs 7.t as well, and that is fuel costs. The smaller ones are roughly twice as efficient - you can save the cost of the vehicle over 100,000 miles!
Sep 13, 2011 12:56pm
Hi GooKing. Indeed, 3.5 t vehicle by their nature are more economical than 7.5t's or bigger, by the basic GVW's are against 3.5t's. Most 3.5t vehilce kerb weights for chassis and cab are 1750+kg. Beavertail bodies are usually around 175-275kgs depending upon material and slidebeds add a further 150-200kg for rams etc. This means that the kerb weight of a ready for the road beavertail is usually approx 2250kg with the best made tilt and slides closer to 2500kg. If you add 1 full tank and i driver at around 100kg, your payload is between 1200kg and 900 kgs at best. As very few cars are this light, this realy limits the practicality. So, to summerise, yes it is more econmical but at best very limited and at worse illegal when carrying a small family car.
Kind regards
Sep 14, 2011 3:24am
There's a UK company that makes custom lightweight recovery vehicles on a 3.5t chassis called KFS Special vehicles. It's all aluminium, and gives a 1600kg payload - enough for pretty much all hatchbacks, but would not manage 4x4s or the biggest saloon cars.

I suppose you would also need to consider any junk in the boot as well!
Sep 14, 2011 7:48am
Hi again. The weights I provided in point ‘2’ are the average weight of family cars at point of breakdown. I think you will find that if you compared the weight given by the manufacturers, and the weight of said car in general usage, these figures will differ. That said, let not split hairs.

If we look at the practice of putting recovery bodies on to 3.5tgvw chassis, there is need for clarity. I would not like to name any companies here so we will just talk about the market in general. There are two main accepted types of breakdown assist vehicles on a 3.5t chassis, the beavertail and the slide-bed. I don’t class beavertails as recovery vehicles, they are breakdown assist vehicles. Semantics I know, but health and safety are closing in on what “vehicle recovery” actually consists of, especially when you talk about the use of ramps.

Due to the growing emphasis on correct weights, driven as much by diesel costs as the law, people are forced to work within poorly set weight restrictions and as a result manufacturers have looked at how to strip the weights of their product down to best provide payloads.

In the past factory supplied chassis cabs were modified to reduce the kerb weight in order to provide higher payloads for slide-bed systems of 3.5t's. This was done with the belief that the chassis would be able to take the weights. I know of a handful of pending court cases where the chassis has failed at the point of modification and these vehicles type approvals were invalid due to unauthorised post manufacture modification.

On the other side of the coin I am aware marquee companies who modify but then actually go to the hassle of type approving the finished vehicle. They are renowned in the business yet they only actually offer a maximum of 1380kg payload and they only rate the bed capacity at 1500kgs.

If we look at the figure you provided of 1600kg payload, my first question is, is that certified and is this vehicle a slide-bed or a beavertail? Of the last five vehicles you are aware of, what exactly was the official payload provided in the certification? Was there any modification of the chassis from factory specification and how does this affect the original manufacturers type approval? What is the specification of the chassis used?

With all said, personally, I reiterate point ‘10’ which is to stay away from 3.5t slide-beds as they are a legal time bomb waiting to happen. If a marquee recovery name will only provide a 1380kg max payload, then I would say that this is sailing close to the wind for many standard breakdown assists, thus limiting the actual suitability of the vehicle. The weight limits in regards to liscencing should be changed as they are not in line with modern usage, but until this happens i think people have to be very wary of carrying around such weights and values on the back of light vehicles.
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