Car Buyer Labs

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A blue 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 is shown after leaving a used truck dealer.

How to Find the Best Deal on a Used Truck

There’s no way to sugarcoat that trucks are expensive, especially when you look at what it costs for a brand-new model. To avoid sticker shock, many truck enthusiasts and interested buyers are turning to used models. Although buying a pre-owned pickup is a great alternative to buying a new one when you want to save money, finding the best deal overall on a truck can be challenging in itself since not every bargain you find is a good deal. Trucks are not created equal, and neither is the used truck dealer trying to sell you that bargain. If a pre-owned truck seems like the best option for your next vehicle, here’s a guide on how to find yourself the best deal.

Choose Wisely When Looking for the Best Bargain

When you see a beautiful, barely broken-in, two-year-old off-road Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison with a cheaper price tag than a 2019 Colorado Trail Runner of the same model year on your local used truck dealer’s website or sitting on their lot as you drive by on your way to work, you might be tempted to seal the deal without further investigation. Honestly, who wouldn’t? The ZR2 Bison typically comes with a greater price tag than the Trail Runner due to being more equipped and capable off-road. However, the cheapest is not always the best nor the most budget-friendly approach to buying a used vehicle, especially when you’re in the market for a truck.

Drivers do not choose pickups for their fuel efficiency. People drive trucks because they are purposeful. Many pickup models today do offer great fuel economy and even spacious cabins with enough seating and accommodations to make great family commuter vehicles, but their primary purpose is their capabilities. You pay more for a truck because you get the power and strength required for towing, hauling, and other work tasks like plowing and off-road capabilities. Unfortunately, their capabilities also mean pre-owned trucks have likely been pushed to their limits, even if they appear like showroom quality with minimal mileage. And when you find a used truck with a price tag that seems too good of a deal to be true, as with many things, it probably is. This is where research will come in handy for you.

There are obvious things to look for when browsing through a selection of used vehicles, like a clean VIN and vehicle history report on specific models to ensure the vehicle doesn’t have any hidden damages from a major accident, but there is much more to investigate before deciding on a specific model. Do yourself a favor if you’ve started looking through a dealership’s inventory already, and start your used truck search over. Begin by researching reliable automotive brands and models, and make sure you’re looking at an inventory from a reputable used truck dealer.

Some brands are known for their quality vehicles built for longevity. Others have a history of needing costly repairs within a short period of time. Some automotive brands and their models claim supremacy over their rivals, but some brands like Chevy have histories over a century old that have helped them earn and prove their favorable reputations. When trying to choose a used truck dealer, you’ll find that they too will claim that they’re better than the competitor, but few, if any, will have a century-old reputation to prove they are.

A red 2020 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown driving on a trail through the woods.

Find a Dealer You Can Trust

Customer feedback is a great way to narrow down your dealer search, but it is not recommended to use alone to persuade your decision. Sometimes, a dealership may be too new for you to base your decision solely on its few reviews. People are also more likely to leave negative feedback than positive. Both reasons are precisely why you should also consider what each dealership has to offer to drivers.

A used truck dealer you can trust will offer a variety of services and programs tailored to your needs. They’ll offer an expansive inventory of different makes and models to appeal to any driver, as well as services to keep their vehicles in great condition. They’ll also offer other programs and incentives to show their appreciation for their customers and their loyalty, like used vehicle warranties and returns, preferred customer programs with discounts, and others like free washings with their repair or maintenance services. Some even offer a shuttle service to use while you wait for the maintenance to be completed on your vehicle. All of these perks prove they have their drivers’ best interests in mind.

Find Reliable Used Trucks

In a quick internet search, you’ll see both Chevrolet and Ford are at the top of the list for reliability and quality and have been for generations. You’ll also find that the full-size Chevy Silverado 1500 and Ford F-150 are two of America’s favorite trucks. They’re durable, attractive, powerful, multi-purposeful, and affordable. What more can you ask for?

However, there are more than just two reliable pickups to choose from. The midsize Chevy Colorado that you were gawking at with the impressively low price is also a dependable truck, and so is the midsize Ford Ranger. Toyota, Nissan, and Ram are also great truck brands with comparable models. So how do you find the best reliable used truck? Doing research cannot be reiterated enough.

Finding reliable brands and popular models is only the beginning. You need to determine what you need a truck for, whether for commuting, a family vehicle, a work truck, off-roading purposes, or a combination of all and determine which brand and model meets all of your requirements. Once you’ve narrowed your selection down even further, then you can jump on the search engine again to begin filtering out the trucks you should avoid.

A black 2019 Ford F-150 Limited is shown driving on an open road.

Determine Which Used Trucks You Should Avoid

As great as both the Chevy Silverado 1500 and Ford F-150 might be, they too have certain models that are not recommended. The Silverado had a problematic streak from 2012 to 2019. The 13th generation F-150, from 2015 to 2020, was its worst. Sure, there are great model years in between the years with the most complaints and recalls, but you would never know without researching first.

When buying a brand-new vehicle, the general rule of thumb is to try and avoid the first years of a new model or generation. With a new design, it typically takes a few years to get all of the kinks out of the new build. Thankfully when you buy used, you have the upper hand by avoiding the initial recalls and knowing the model’s quirks before you buy it. Looking at Consumer Reports and general vehicle complaints found on the internet are a great way to help you determine which trucks you should avoid and which are worth finding at a used truck dealer.

Where Can You Find Affordable, Reliable Used Trucks?

Used pickups are a great bargain when compared to brand-new models. But for the best deal on a used truck, you need to look beyond its initial cost. While the price tag of a pre-owned truck may seem enticing, you need to do your homework before you sign for the keys based on the price alone. To save on future headaches, investigate why the price of that amazing Colorado ZR2 Bison is so low.

Is it a desirable model from a reputable automotive brand? If so, request a vehicle history report from the dealer or pull one yourself because if there’s hidden damage, like a frame repaired with Bondo, you’re going to end up losing money in the end. More importantly, look further into what the used truck dealer offers to its customers outside of impressively low prices because most of the time, if the deal seems too good to be true, it might very well be.

Start your used truck search off on the right foot. Research reliable brands and their best pickup models. Compare those to your truck requirements to narrow down your selection of suitable models, and then determine which years to avoid for each model based on recalls and driver complaints. Give yourself a baseline of options to search for after you slim down your used truck dealer options. You’ll make the process easy and find yourself the best deal on a used truck.