I’ve always believed that if you’re not obsessed with all the latest tech, an older, higher trim-level truck that was taken care of is far better and cheaper than a new, entry-level one. You can even get a good full-size one for half the price of a mid-sized model.
Since the used pickup truck market is estimated by some to be four times bigger than that of new trucks, there are a lot of options out there. However, because these vehicles are put to work far more often than any passenger car, finding a used one that was well maintained is much more difficult.
Set a budgetThe first thing you should do is determine what your budget is. If you have around $15,000, look for trucks that cost between $12,000 and $14,000, always leave a little wiggle room. You’ll need the money for a pre-purchase inspection, insurance, or minor repairs, don’t spend everything you have available on the truck alone, unless it’s a really great deal.
Know what truck you’re looking for
If you really want the best for your money, don’t make the mistake of narrowing your search down to the most low-mileage truck you can find or to a certain brand.
Go online, set your budget, and see what models are available, then do your research on those you like. Check how reliable they are, what known issues they have, or what powertrains are better in the long run.
Go out and inspect a few trucks
Once you’re face-to-face with a truck and its seller or dealer, don’t let him or her be in charge of the process. Take your time and inspect everything thoroughly yourself.
Look for any damage or rust, check the tire tread, pop the hood, and check oil and coolant levels, make sure all electronics are working, open all the doors, and tailgate and take a test drive.
Understand the truck’s history and check service records
When it comes to maintenance, it’s important that you don’t settle for a good story and ask for proof like service records. If none are available, then you should be very skeptical and walk away, but if you really like the truck, ask the seller if he’s willing to pay for a pre-purchase inspection and make sure you choose the service provider.
In case you do get service records, analyze them thoroughly. Every maintenance operation or repair is logged with the vehicle’s mileage at the time, so if you see a 30,000-mile (48,280 km) gap between oil changes, then the truck was clearly not well-maintained.
Consider the truck’s mileage
On the other hand, if you’ll be driving it around town, for short distances, then one with more miles shouldn’t be a major problem. If you did your homework thoroughly, you have an idea about when this type of engine requires a rebuilt so it will be easier to decide if it’s worth it.
Finally, we suggest that you check multiple trucks before you decide to buy one. As mentioned before, there are many options out there and you shouldn’t settle for the first truck you see.
Once you decide what truck you’re going to buy, take the car to a garage for a thorough inspection, regardless of how well it looks or how comprehensive its service history is.