Purchasing a new fire truck is a major investment for any fire department. With high-powered water pumps, extendable ladders, advanced safety gear, and heavy-duty construction, today’s fire trucks come equipped for any emergency response.
But all of these features come at a price – so how much does a fire truck really cost?
This article provides a detailed look at the key factors that determine fire truck costs, including the different types of trucks, standard vs. custom features, and new vs. used pricing.
How Much Does a Fire Truck Cost?
Fire trucks cost anywhere from $250,000 up to $1.5 million or more, depending on the size of the vehicle, the tank or ladder capacity, the type of engine, quality of construction, safety features, specialty equipment, technology, and more.
According to FirefighterNOW, for example, the cost of fire trucks can range from $300,000 to over $1.5 million, depending on factors such as the type of truck, whether it is new or used, and the optional equipment added. The article mentions that as of 2012, the cost of a new fire truck was about $563,000, and by 2019, the price had increased to $974,998.
Municibid Blog also writes that the final price of a fire truck in 2019 was reported to be $974,998. The article discusses the factors that influence the cost of a fire truck, such as chassis length and the options included.
Types of Fire Trucks and Their Costs
There are four main types of fire trucks used by most fire departments:
Pumper trucks are standard fire engines equipped with a water tank, hose, pump, and other tools for battling structure fires. A new custom pumper truck can cost $300,000 to $600,000. More basic models start around $250,000.
Ladder trucks have an aerial ladder and water hoses for accessing tall buildings and elevated areas. These specialized vehicles cost $800,000 to $1.2 million new.
Rescue vehicles like heavy rescue trucks and extrication units transport technical rescue equipment for emergencies. They range from $250,000 for a basic model to $1 million for a fully equipped heavy rescue.
Tankers provide large volumes of water for areas without fire hydrants. A standard 2,000 gallon tanker starts around $250,000 while larger water tenders can cost up to $500,000.
Tower Trucks – Tower trucks, also called aerial ladder trucks, have an articulating or telescoping ladder with a bucket at the end for overhead firefighting tasks. New tower trucks range from $800,000 to $1.2 million.
Conventional Pumper Trucks – Conventional pumper trucks designed for fire suppression start around $250,000 for basic models and up to $600,000 for custom trucks.
Turntable Ladder Trucks – Turntable trucks have a large stationary ladder mounted on a rotating turntable, allowing the ladder to swing around. Turntable trucks cost $750,000 to $1 million new.
Command Support Units – Mobile command centers on fire trucks or RVs typically run $200,000 to $300,000.
Foam Tender Trucks – Foam trucks with tanks of foam concentrate and water cost $350,000 to $600,000 depending on tank volumes and equipment.
Hydraulic Platforms – Hydraulic platform trucks for elevated water delivery run $700,000 to $900,000.
Heavy Rescue Vehicles – Fully equipped rescue trucks for technical rescue operations can cost $500,000 to over $1 million.
HAZMAT Trucks – Specialized hazmat trucks start around $600,000, with some fully outfitted units over $1 million.
Factors Affecting the Cost of a Fire Truck
The exact specifications, features, and size of the fire truck determine the price tag. Here are some key factors that affect the bottom line cost:
- Vehicle size and tank/ladder capacity – Larger trucks with longer ladders and bigger water tanks able to hold many gallons of water cost more.
- Type of engine and horsepower – More powerful diesel engines add to the price.
- Custom or commercial chassis – Custom chassis cost more than commercially-made ones.
- Specialty firefighting equipment – Additional gear like thermal imaging cameras, hazmat tech, or rescue tools on top of the normal fire apparatus increase the price.
- Safety features and technology – Advanced safety gear and tech upgrades like WiFi raise the cost.
- Quality of construction – Military-grade aluminum bodies and stainless steel materials bump up the price over standard builds.
- New vs used – New trucks are 2-3 times more expensive than used fire trucks over 5 years old.
Breaking Down the Expenses of Buying a Fire Truck
The purchase price of the truck is just one part of the total costs for a new fire truck, which also include:
- Base vehicle cost – This makes up around 50-60% of the total expense for a new, fully equipped truck.
- Body, pump, and accessories – These features account for around 40-50% of the price.
- Sales tax and fees – These add several thousand dollars depending on local tax rates.
- Maintenance and insurance – Maintenance runs $10,000-15,000 the first year, and insurance is $5,000-20,000 annually.
- Training on new equipment – Crew training costs around $5,000-10,000 for a new truck model.
- Fuel – Gas or diesel can amount to $5,000 or more per year.
Funding Options for Fire Trucks
Because of the high vehicle costs, most fire departments pay for new trucks through:
- Capital budgets – Money allocated over a period of years for major one-time purchases.
- Federal grants – Programs like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant help fund a portion of the costs.
- Municipal bonds and loans – Lower-interest financing from government lenders spreads costs over time.
- Lease-to-buy agreements – These agreements let departments pay smaller monthly lease payments until they own the truck after several years.
Long-Term Costs for Fire Departments
The long-term costs of operating a fire truck often equal or exceed the initial purchase price over the truck’s lifespan. These ongoing expenses include:
- Maintenance and repairs – These average $20,000-40,000 per year for parts, labor and annual testing for the average fire station.
- Replacement parts and upgrades – Items like tires, radios, and pumps need replacement every 3-5 years.
- Fuel and oil changes – Gas or diesel can cost $20,000 or more annually depending on use.
- Insurance premiums – Insurance averages $10,000 to $30,000 per truck each year.
- Fire truck replacement – The typical 15-20 year replacement cycle starts the costs over again.
While a new, fully equipped fire truck often costs fire chiefs $300,000 to $1 million, the long-term expenses of maintenance, operation and eventual replacement can actually equal or exceed the initial vehicle purchase price over a 20-year lifespan. This means many more years to save lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most expensive fire truck?
The most expensive fire trucks are typically custom-built specialty units with high-end features and technology. For example, large airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) trucks can cost $1.5 million or more.
These trucks have extra capability for working around aircraft and transporting large volumes of foam. Other ultra-high end trucks are heavy rescue units equipped for technical rescue situations, which can cost over $1 million fully outfitted.
How much does a rescue engine cost?
A rescue engine is a versatile combo pumper truck equipped for both fire suppression and vehicle extrication. It usually costs around $500,000 to $700,000 new when fully equipped with rescue tools like the Jaws of Life.
More advanced heavy rescue trucks with more extensive equipment like winches and stabilizing struts can cost $800,000 to $1 million.
How much does an airport fire truck cost?
Because of their specialized capabilities, airport fire trucks are some of the most expensive models. New ARFF trucks usually range from $500,000 up to $1.5 million per vehicle.
Their specific features include carrying large volumes of water and firefighting foam, extra compartment space for gear, wide wheelbases for stability, and very powerful engines to reach incidents quickly on large airfields.