Tips for buying a used ambulance
Used ambulances are a lot like used cars in terms of mechanical wear issues, but they also have the added complexity of the medical and electrical equipment in the rear patient compartment. Unlike the average car, a lot of people will be depending on your ambulance to function properly, and in many cases the situation could be of life or death importance. So here are some things to consider before you buy a used ambulance so that you can be confident in your purchase.
Types of Ambulances
It is important, to consider what type of ambulance you need for the patients you serve and the community you are in. Factors like fuel economy, storage space, or off-road use are all significant factors in buying the right vehicle.
If you do mostly non-emergency transports, then a Type II Ambulance is ideal for its better comparable fuel economy, and tighter dimensions on the road — it is basically just a standard van.
If emergency response is your main thing, then you will probably want an ambulance with a larger rear module that will offer more functionality on-scene. Type IIIs tend to be the standard, all-rounder choice, but many fire and rescue squads prefer the larger Medium Duty ambulances because they offer more space for gear and equipment. Many Medium Duty ambulances are even outfitted for SCBA use and storage, catering specifically to fire-rescue applications.
Many departments who operate in more remote areas may serve patients, or perform rescue operations, in areas that are off-road and could not be reached by a conventional vehicle. This is where 4×4 ambulances come in. Most 4×4 ambulance applications are of the Type I variety, based on a truck chassis, but there are 4×4 conversion kits available for Type IIIs and Type IIs from companies like Quigley.
The basis of an ambulance is usually a commercial van or truck chassis from a major automobile manufacturer, such as Ford, GM or Mercedes. You can research reliability and mechanical maintenance costs by asking a mechanic about the specific model chassis or also by checking on manufacturer-specific online forums.
The basics are as follows:
For diesel engines, the most reliable vehicles are undoubtedly Fords fitted with the 7.3L turbo-diesel V8 engine (1995-2003 models).
For 2004 and 2005 model years it is usually a better idea to go with a GM product because the early Ford 6.0L diesels are notorious for having expensive problems.
After 2006, Ford’s 6.0L diesel did begin to get better, but it would never rival the 7.3L. They basically got to the point where the problems became manageable, but still hardly ideal. There are some modifications you can make to Ford 6.0Ls that can make them much more reliable, but most of it comes down to just being diligent about maintaining it properly. Too many companies avoid maintenance to save on costs, and with a Ford 6.0L, that is a grave mistake.
As far as GM products go, they’re sort of right in the middle. Their 6.6L DuraMax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine doesn’t quite measure up to the 7.3L’s legendary durability, but it is a heck of a lot better than Ford’s 6.0L.
In terms of Sprinters, the repair record is pretty good. Mercedes-Benz has been making diesel engines for quite a long time, and their 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 is right up there with the 7.3L. Mix the durability with the better fuel economy of a much smaller engine, and it is easy to see why Sprinters are quite the hot commodity these days.
Everything wears out over time, that is a fact of life when buying any used item. The trick to making a smart purchase is to either find something of great quality that will last longer, or to buy something that has been refurbished.
Most ambulance dealerships sell their vehicles as-is, without much fixing up, and a brief detail job, if you’re lucky. If you are buying a used ambulance that hasn’t been refurbished, your best bet is to find something that was top quality when it was brand new. Look for vehicles from solid ambulance manufacturers like Braun, Horton, PL Custom, AEV, Crestline, or Road Rescue, and you will at least be starting with something that was built well to begin with.
All of that said, your best bet for buying a quality used ambulance is to find one that has had some refurbishing work done to it. It is a mistake to think that any used vehicle will be 100% perfect, but at least a refurbished ambulance has been gone over with a fine-tooth-comb and has had any outstanding issues repaired. During the refurbishing process, all of the ambulance’s systems are tested, and it is shown to be a fully functional emergency vehicle before it is delivered to its new owner.
About Us (Full Disclosure)
Our company, Global Emergency Vehicles, was founded on the simple idea that buyers of used ambulances, and the patients they serve, deserve a better product than most ambulance dealerships offer. Our team of technicians goes over each of our vehicles with our 125 point inspection, and fix any outstanding issues they find. We do our very best to ensure that we deliver the best quality used ambulances possible to our customers for the budget they have to spend, and at the very least, they know that our refurbished used ambulances are a more solid than the un-refurbished units they would find elsewhere.