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Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A grey 2018 Chevy Silverado and grey 2018 Colorado are in a field in front of mountains.

Choosing the Right Used Chevy Truck

Buying a vehicle from a used truck dealer isn’t always as simple as you might think. There’s a lot that goes into the process of picking the right truck at the right price. Specifically, when you’re in search of a used Chevy truck, there are certain things to keep in mind when picking the perfect truck for your lifestyle and budget.

Even though many of Chevy’s trucks are quite popular, especially the Silverado and Colorado, it doesn’t mean every model year and iteration of the Silverado or Colorado is right for you. Do you want a compact truck or a light-duty truck? Do you need a heavy-duty truck or something for commercial purposes? A chassis cab or a cutaway? Planning on getting into towing? How about trailering? Plowing, maybe? These are all the questions that arise when it comes to picking the proper truck at the right price. Hopefully, we can help you decide when you visit a local used truck dealer how to find the exact kind of used Chevy truck for you.

What Size Truck Do You Need?

A white 2017 Chevy Silverado 2500HD from a used truck dealer is parked in front of trees.

Before you get into any of the features, the exterior preferences, or the interior accouterments, you need to first define what size truck you need. Typically they break down into categories. Trucks will usually be labeled as midsize or full-size and either light-duty or heavy-duty. Now, these names are not always so cut-and-dry. A mid-size truck may also be referred to as a compact truck, while a full-size light-duty truck is a half-ton and a full-size heavy-duty truck is a one-ton.

Mid-size or compact pickups are designed for a lot of basic everyday traveling, some light towing, and some moderate cargo hauls. For Chevy, a mid-size pickup would be the Colorado. It’s not as big as the Silverado since it has smaller dimensions, a smaller engine, lower tow and trailer ratings, and lower capacity figures. Some people might ask, “Why even bother with a mid-size truck then?” The reason is, mid-size trucks are often the cheapest, they typically have better fuel economy, they’re easier to handle, they make great starter trucks, and they can be excellent off-road rides when properly equipped.

You might prefer a full-size or half-ton pickup like the Silverado 1500 if you need higher tow ratings, more luxury amenities, and more trim options. Full-size pickups also come with larger engines and more powerful drivetrains. Even if buying used, you may not mind the price hike to gain access to certain features, but this truck can do a lot more than the mid-size truck.

If you do commercial work or heavy towing or trailering, then a heavy-duty pickup like the Silverado 2500 or 3500 will be required for the task. These trucks usually have fewer luxury amenities on lower trims but come with additional drivetrain capabilities, such as dualies, which is a dual-rear-wheel drive option that sees the rear axle packed with four wheels instead of two. These trucks have the biggest engines, the highest towing capacities, and are the best work companion of the lot.

What’s the Difference Between Half-Ton and One-Ton?

As we mentioned earlier, pickups may be referred to as a half-ton or one-ton, but what does that mean exactly? This refers to haulage ratings, even though most light-duty or full-size trucks can haul or carry cargo that exceeds one ton. The “half-ton” appellation relates to a truck’s payload capacity. Light-duty trucks used to be able to carry about half a ton worth of payload in the bed and cabin (aka around 1,000 pounds), but these days trucks like the Chevy Silverado 1500 can do a heck of a lot more than that when properly configured. Even still, most light-duty trucks stick with the “half-ton” moniker for classification purposes.

A “one-ton” heavy-duty pickup, for instance, is rated for being able to have a cargo capacity of up to one ton or 2,000 pounds. The Chevy Silverado 3500 is an example of a popular one-ton truck. There is also such a thing as a three-quarter-ton pickup that can haul at least 1,500 pounds. The Chevy Silverado 2500 falls into this category. However, no matter what rating they have, all of the Silverados are still full-size pickup trucks.

Are you planning on using it for landscaping, moving, hauling supplies, or lugging around tools across town? If your typical payload is under 2,000 pounds, then a half-ton or light-duty pickup would suit you well. If you plan on hauling lots of heavy cargo, maybe commercial lawn equipment, electrical supplies, or using it for moving heavy cargo around and about, then a heavy-duty pickup like the Chevy Silverado 2500 or 3500 would probably be a better fit for you.

What About Medium Duty, Chassis Cabs, and Cutaways?

For commercial trucking, you might see truck classifications thrown around, such as medium-duty, chassis cabs, and cutaways. If you don’t plan on getting into commercial trucking, then there’s really no reason to look for a used Chevy designed for commercial trucking, especially chassis cabs and cutaways, which are designed for upfitting. Upfitting is where you customize the truck to add custom rear attachments to the vehicle, such as a utility box for tools or equipment, a flatbed for towing, or a hydraulic dump for construction and hauling. Medium duty trucks are typically designed for commercial hauling or transport, so if you had a small business and needed a truck for commercial hauling, buying a used Chevy designed for medium-duty purposes would be something to consider.

What About a Pickup for Off-Roading?

A red 2020 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is off-roading in mud.

This is a great question. Not everyone wants a pickup for towing and trailering purposes; some people want a pickup just to have fun. They want a great 4×4 to tackle nearby trails, or maybe take cross-country trips, or maybe just something for awesome leisure driving. While towing and trailering fit right up the alley of something like the Silverado 1500 or 2500 HD series, casual off-roading might be a better fit for a used Chevy Colorado, especially a trim like the Z71, which is specifically designed for off-road purposes. High-quality wheels, an altered suspension, and all-terrain tires make the Colorado an easy-pick for budding off-road enthusiasts.

Alternatively, if you’re a bit more experienced, or maybe you want something with more heft to it, a used Chevy Silverado Z71 off-road package might be a good option. It has a bigger powertrain than the Colorado, comes with heavy-duty filters, suspension upgrades, and drivetrain modifications while also enabling you to tackle plenty of hills, mounds, dirt roads, and muddy paths.

The major difference between the two is size and costs. If you’re working with a strict budget but want an off-road truck, you can opt for the Colorado. If you want more power under the hood and a few more luxury benefits, you can pay more for a used Silverado Z71.

What Trims Should I Consider for a Used Chevy Truck?

Trim selection is just as important as choosing the right used truck to purchase. When buying used, you no longer have the benefit of picking and choosing packages that come with a trim, so you basically have to choose a pre-packaged trim when buying from a used truck dealer. Lower-end trims cost less, but you also get fewer features. Higher-end trims are harder to find used and cost more, but you also get more standard features without requiring optional packaging. Since the Chevy Colorado has fewer trims than the Silverado, it’s usually slimmer pickings when it comes to optional packages attached to a used truck, but again you also have the benefit of cutting down the costs by anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 between a used Colorado versus a used Silverado.

The price obviously increases with higher-quality trims, so if you want more than just a basic used pickup, and maybe you want additional power or ventilated seats, maybe leather-appointed trimming, then expect to pay more. You can occasionally find used Chevy Silverado trims with the extra luxury features attached. While it may cost you more than a Chevy Colorado, the benefit is that it’s still much cheaper than a current model year MSRP.

Shopping for a Used Truck Means a Lot of Choices

Hopefully, this helps give you a brief idea of what to look for when purchasing a used Chevy truck and how to go about picking the right truck for you. There are a lot of possible truck options out there, and it can be a lot to decide exactly what works for you. Just remember to take into account what you need to do with your truck and talk to your local dealer if you need help picking the right size and capability.

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