Do me a favor, my friends–look back into your past, and recall your most recent memory of financing a car. Now, fast forward to the present, where we’re going to have a deep and meaningful conversation about how much a fire truck will cost you, in comparison. Is this a freewheeling topic of discussion meant to enable your driving dreams, and convince you to upgrade your daily transportation to something a little more…flashy? Not so much, but it is meant to be enlightening, and it’s going to help us to better understand just how much has to go into the care, maintenance, and equipping of one of the most easily-recognized emergency vehicles on the streets.
It’s a bit odd that one of the most iconic utility vehicles that are in use across the country (and all over the world) can so easily escape our commonplace, factual knowledge. How much does a fire truck weigh? What constitutes a “full crew?” How many people are required to drive it? What sort of licensing is necessary before you can get behind the wheel? Believe it or not, all of these things can factor into the total cost of a firetruck, which is a remarkably hard number to lock down.
If you’ve lived in one particular area for a long period of your life, you might not know that different models of trucks are used in different locations. Some are better-designed for urban environments than rural. Similarly, there’s a massive market for used fire trucks and truck apparatus, and the repair market for these monstrous machines is alive and well–local governments aren’t always forced to buy entirely new equipment when it comes time to upgrade from what they’re currently using. When we start to look at the sticker prices for some of this equipment, you’ll begin to see why this is a great thing!
Between all of these factors (and the addition of several more), it’s clear that there is no baseline by which to understand the price of a fire truck. The market is always shifting, just like the auto industry, and the prices that were quoted for equipment one year can differ drastically from the present based on innovation in fire truck construction.
So, let’s try to wrangle in some of these varying factors and come up with an answer that’s at least semi-plausible.
We’re going to break this brief guide down into sections, to better address the things that factor into a fire truck’s cost. First, we’re going to look at the cost of the truck itself. After that, we’ll take a look at the cost of the standard equipment that a fire truck has to carry. Lastly, we’ll examine some of the wide-ranging maintenance costs that go hand-in-hand with owning such a machine. Hopefully, when we add up the information gleaned from these three separate studies, we’ll have a satisfying answer.
Fire Truck Costs
No matter what type of fire truck you’re looking at, it’s going to be expensive. All modern fire trucks are going to run hundreds of thousands of dollars, ranging from $300,000 all the way to $700,000 for brand new models. Consider for a moment that these costs can be had before you factor in many of the other costs associated with owning and operating a fire truck, and you can start to see how costly they are.
However, that price will certainly change as you examine different types of trucks.
Types of Fire Trucks
Unless you’ve given the topic some serious research, you might now know just how many different types of fire trucks are currently sold and used by emergency services across the country. Different regions are going to have different needs, and many “specialty” trucks have been designed to be suitable for specific scenarios. It’s important to note that, even amongst the well-defined categories, there are many different models of trucks in production, each possessing very different features that make them more ideal for particular environments.
The most common types–which you’ve probably seen many times before–is the standard fire engine. It’s equipped with a limited-capacity water reservoir, and is large enough to carry several firefighters and their equipment anywhere they’re needed.
A turntable ladder truck is what you’re used to seeing when a fire truck deploys equipment to reach unusual heights. Cat stuck in a tree, requiring a dramatic rescue? It’d be unusual to see such a large vehicle deployed for the purpose, but in popular fiction, it often is. More realistically, these types of fire trucks are used to reach upper levels of burning buildings, and platforms that would be out of reach without special equipment. As you might assume, the ladders on these trucks operate on a turntable that makes them extremely versatile; suitable for nearly any aerial operation.
The tiller-truck is the two-piece beast that you’ve seen in extremely harrowing, dangerous situations. Whereas the above trucks only consist of one vehicle, tiller-trucks are actually a tractor/trailer combo that requires two drivers in order to get around–one controlling the front and one controlling the back. They’re almost always equipped with turntable ladders and are capable of transporting a large number of firefighters into dangerous territory.
The next step up is the aerial platform truck. These can take a few different shapes, and may simply be a trailer that’s moved by another vehicle. All feature a telescoping ladder that has a platform or basket at one end and is meant to deliver one or more firefighters to an out of reach spot. These are specifically used when a ladder can’t be deployed, and mechanical means are necessary to get firefighters where they need to go.
Heavy rescue trucks are meant for exactly what you’d assume–delivering firefighters and rescue crews to scenes that are either difficult to reach with a normal truck, or to scenes that require heavy equipment in order to access. Multi-vehicle collisions and railway accidents sometimes require a heavier duty truck in order for emergency crews to successfully reach them.
In rougher terrain, wildland fire trucks are necessary. Fighting wildfires in the wilderness would be impossible with trucks that are designed to move on streets and freeways; instead, trucks with a specific tread and build are necessary to move over difficult landscapes.
Whew! Now, imagine that each of those groups has a few different models of trucks to them, and you can easily see why the price of fire trucks can vary so wildly. Typically, however, aerial platform and tiller-trucks will cost the most money, simply because they feature more moving parts, more vehicles, and are both almost always equipped to deliver as many firefighters into the field as they possibly can.
Fire Truck Equipment
Naturally, the cost of equipment is going to change depending on the type of truck that’s receiving the equipment. A tiller-truck can haul a heck of a lot more gear than a standard fire truck, which means that the equipment cost is going to soar accordingly.
Think of all the gear that firefighters regularly use. Breathing apparatus. Hoses. Water reservoirs. Flame resistant clothing. Breach equipment. While it’d be easy to discount the cost of this equipment since it’s not techincally “part of the truck,” no fire truck that’s going to be put to its intended use is going to be able to do what firefighters need without it.
Therefore, you’re looking at several thousand more dollars, anywhere between $20,000 to $200,000, or higher.
Fire Truck Maintenance
Maintenance is another tricky subject to tackle. Different types of trucks aren’t just going to have different maintenance costs based on their size; it’s also going to differ based on the apparatus and equipment that the truck is carrying. Does it have its own water reservoir with a pump? Hoses? What about the turntable that operates the ladder?
It would be futile to find an approximate cost of maintenance, but you could certainly count on it adding up to several thousand dollars per year.
How Much Does a Fire Truck Cost?
Hopefully, we’ve shown by this point that it’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint the exact cost of any fire truck. We’ve provided some average estimates in our information above, but we can safely say that any modern truck is going to cost a few hundred thousand dollars, not counting the equipment or maintenance costs that are sure to accompany it. If we examine news and testimony from city governments that are struggling with these costs, it can help to shed some light on the significance of these high prices. Newer models of fire trucks are better at what they do every year. They carry more efficient equipment and help to keep firefighters safer. However, the prices on these newer models of trucks are increasing at least 5% or more every single year.
While it may be almost impossible to tell you how much a fire truck costs, you can be sure that it’s going to be prohibitively expensive for anyone outside of a city government with the emergency services budget necessary for purchasing a fire truck. If you have any experience on the subject or have any remaining questions, let us know by posting below!