Shopping For a Tank

Aluminum, steel and stainless steel all have their advantages. PROs looking for a new rig should match the best tank material to the work they’re performing.

Interested in Special Events?

Get Special Events articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Special Events + Get Alerts


I’m somewhat new to the industry and I’m shopping trucks and tanks. I think I’ve found a truck, but I see there are different types of tanks. I see the shiny aluminum and painted steel tanks. And I see sales of stainless steel tanks. I’m not sure which is the best way for me to go. What do you think?

Mark Burnside

Tacoma, Wash.



It’s been a while since we’ve discussed the material used in building vacuum tanks. Rather than tell you which type of tank is best for you, it might be best to discuss the advantages of each type.


Right off the bat, aluminum tanks are lighter. Consequently, since they weigh less, a PRO is able to carry more of a load. For some contractors, that extra weight in waste makes a lot more money. For others, it doesn’t make enough of a difference. So understanding how much you can carry is very important. For example, if you’re pumping septic tanks, then you might want a 3,300-gallon tank to hold three 1,100-gallon septage loads. If you’re only pumping restrooms, having the extra capacity in your tank will allow you to work longer before having to dump.

One issue with aluminum is that the bright, shiny exterior dulls quickly and requires some upkeep. Getting on jobsites where dust and dirt is flying, aluminum tanks will show where they’ve been. Having a place or knowing of a place to wash the tank regularly is critical if presenting professional-looking equipment is important to your business. Aluminum tanks are beautiful when they are washed and clean.

As for price, the recent economic downturn brought the price of aluminum tanks down. For years they were selling at a premium. More recently, aluminum tanks are fairly comparable to steel tanks in price.


Steel tanks have been around forever. They are strong, but unlike aluminum, they are somewhat heavy and carry less of a load. They are durable and if maintained right can last 20-25 years. They can be painted any color; this can go a long ways toward effectively branding your company. Customers will identify your truck by your colors or the custom paint job.

And you might make sure your manufacturer is painting with polyurethane paint. It lasts longer than regular paint and keeps its shine for a longer time. The steel tank is susceptible to rust, which may shorten its life, but that can be remedied by a coating inside the tank. For some, the pumped material itself coats the inner walls of the tank, so no coating is necessary.

As for price, steel used to be the bargain. Low price, strong durability and easy to maintain. At present, a steel tank may be marginally lower in price than aluminum, but it is a competitive marketplace.


The beauty of stainless steel is that it will not rust and, theoretically, will last longer than you will. Tank manufacturers make stainless steel tanks and leave a bright, shiny finish, or they may choose to paint the outside. When built right, using the proper thickness of material, these tanks just keep on going. When your truck dies, you simply take the tank off, put it on a new truck and start pumping.

As for price, the stainless steel tank, like aluminum, has come down over the years and competes well with aluminum and steel tanks.

Overall, all three types of tanks are now competitively priced. This competition has been a bonus for the pumping contractor. Choice is now more a matter of personal preference based on the type of work being done.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.