New trucks put plenty of power at your command, but used trucks are also easy on your bank account. It’s a combination most of us can get behind. If you’re ready to save big on a modern workhorse, but don’t know where to start, our used trucks buying guide is here to help.
Before you browse the market, really think about what you want from your used truck. Consider the differences between midsize, full-size, and heavy-duty models. Move up this list to tow and haul more weight.
To keep costs down, we recommend buying only as much truck as you need. For example, many midsize trucks can tow around 7,000 pounds. If that’s enough muscle to tow your fishing boat, there’s no need to spend more on a full-size model. However, if you’re planning on trekking into the mountains with your 20,000-pound family camper, you’re going to need a heavy-duty used truck.
Every truck nameplate also comes in a variety of trim models. These trim models offer varying levels of comfort, convenience, and safety features. Decide which features you want, how much you want to spend on them, and shop for used trucks accordingly.
You should also do your research where warranties are concerned. Many automakers will transfer warranties to subsequent owners, but this isn’t always guaranteed. Coverage length can vary from brand to brand, too.
Shop at a Reputable Dealer
We recommend shopping for used trucks at a reputable car dealership. Why? When shoppers visit dealerships to purchase brand new cars, they tend to trade in their old ones. And this means that dealerships get first dibs on the best used trucks. If a trade-in vehicle meets or exceeds the dealer’s high standards, the dealer will put it on sale. If not, the trade-in is destined for sale elsewhere, such as at an auction. By shopping for used trucks at the dealership, you can count on quality.
A reputable dealer will also be able to answer your questions. Trucks are designed to tow and haul, so you’ll want a complete history of engine and transmission repairs. Because many used trucks have seen their share of off-road action, you should also ask questions about the condition of the undercarriage.
After test-driving a bunch of used trucks, you’ve found that one you love. Now what? We recommend giving the object of your affection a thorough inspection. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Rust: Check your used truck’s iron components for signs of rust.
- Water damage: Are there any water lines on the cabin roof? These might be indicate leakage.
- Cabin odor: Does your nose detect a hint of mildew? This can be another sign of water damage.
- Worn upholstery: If the seating upholstery is on the verge of spilling its insides, you could be facing costly upholstery repairs.
- Pedal and steering feel: Your used truck’s steering should feel precise, not loose. Pedals should be properly pressurized, and they shouldn’t feel soft or spongy.
- Worn shocks: A bounce test isn’t always a great indicator of wear, but it will tell you if the shocks are totally caput. If you bounce a corner of the truck and it keeps bouncing back, that’s a bad sign.
- Worn tires: Check each tire for tread wear. If the treads are low or uneven, ask the seller to throw in some new tires. You’ll also want to check for cracks in the tires, a telltale sign of dry rot.
Get a Second Opinion
When you’ve found a used truck that meets your expectations, the next step is to have your trusted mechanic perform a complete inspection. A professional mechanic has the proper diagnostic tools and experience to spot any costly issues.
Once you have the full picture, you can make a final decision about whether to keep this used truck or continue shopping.