Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A black 2020 used Ram truck is parked in front of a modern wooden fence and concrete building.

Pickup Shopping Guide: How to Find the Best Value

Shopping used is the best avenue for finding a quality truck at a low price. However, your goal is to find a truck with excellent value, not just a low price. Any old clunker could have a low sticker price, but finding the best value truck – high quality at a low cost – takes a cautious eye. First of all, look for a truck that ages well, like used Ram trucks, and try to find a recent year model.

When a car that’s only a few years old ends up in a used vehicle lot, this likely means that it was leased or owned temporarily, and the previous owner probably traded it in for an upgrade. Rather than dumping an old and well-worn vehicle on a new owner, the former truck owner just wanted something new. So once you happen upon it, it’s basically like-new to you.

Second, don’t even think about buying a used car from anywhere but an auto dealership. Dealerships only accept vehicle trade-ins if they’re of a certain quality level. Their goal is to re-sell it in their used lot, after all, so they want to buy vehicles that will give them the most bang for their buck. So you can trust that used cars at your local dealership are safe to drive, and in good condition, and ready to get right to work. Here are some more tips for truck shoppers on a budget. Get a great truck at a low price without making a regrettable investment.

Shop Certified Pre-Owned

In the upper echelon of used vehicles are the certified pre-owned ones. Unlike any ordinary used car (any vehicle with a previous owner), a certified pre-owned used car has been refurbished and inspected, with necessary repairs and replacements that make them essentially good-as-new. They’re accident-free, well-maintained, a relatively recent edition (as little as 1-year-old), and quality tested. Certified pre-owned, or CPO, trucks can only be purchased from an authorized dealer, and the auto brand gives each CPO vehicle their seal of approval. In fact, CPO vehicles are so reliable that upon purchase, you’ll usually get a warranty and service plan similar to that of a new truck.

Of course, all of these perks aren’t free. Certified pre-owned vehicles are more costly than other used vehicles. However, there’s a difference between price and value. Sure, a used car purchased directly from the previous owner is likely the cheapest option available to you, but you get no guarantees of quality and can find yourself investing in a lemon – a cheap vehicle that’s in such poor condition that you’ll pay more than what it’s worth in repairs and other upkeep. With a certified pre-owned truck, meanwhile, you’ll pay far less than you would buying new while still taking home a vehicle with like-new quality assurance. Therefore, a CPO truck is guaranteed to be an excellent long-term investment.

A slate gray 2020 Ram 3500 is towing a large camper on a highway.

Consider Ram First

So now you know how to buy, but the next question is what to buy. If you want the best pickup truck for the price, put a Ram at the top of your shopping list. Even used Ram trucks are reliable because they’re designed to be driven and worked well into six figures of mileage.

Ram trucks include the Ram 1500, a well-rounded half-ton truck that’s designed to drive like it’s a smaller vehicle, even with its dependable payload and towing capacity. The Ram Classic, meanwhile, is sportier and more compact, with an outstanding array of customization options so you can build a Ram your way. As for the heftiest Rams, look to the 2500 and 3500 HD (heavy duty) models, which have thousands more pounds of towing and payload potential. For example, the 2018 edition of the Ram 2500 HD can tow nearly 20,000 pounds!

Dependable, upscale by pickup standards, well-priced, and with excellent driving performance, just about any year edition of a Ram truck is a great investment. Plus, shopping for a used or CPO pickup truck like a Ram means getting top-of-the-line features at a much lower price. In fact, some of the Ram lineup’s most luxurious trims and top-tier towing packages may only be accessible to the average American shopper as a second owner.

Sure, Ram trucks can be customized to the high heavens with any number of high-end features that rival the luxury car market, but that means driving up a truck’s MSRP. For example, while a new 2017 Ram 1500 started around $30,000, the fanciest available trim, the Limited edition, could cost well over $50,000. Sure, this pales in comparison to the nearly $75,000 that you’d pay for a new Chevy Silverado in the High Country trim, but by truck standards, a totally outfitted, brand-new Ram may outprice some truck shoppers. But all that aside, let’s take a look at some of the exciting features you can get out of a used Ram without paying elevated prices. Search your local used Ram truck dealership to find some of these must-have features in recent Ram trucks.

What to Lookout For

A blue 2009 used Ram 1500 is parked in a desert in front of distant mountains.

Ram trucks released since 2009 have been available with a Hemi engine, a superpowered engine named for its hemispherical combustion chambers that produce even more horsepower. Once only available in Jaguar’s luxury sports cars, the Chrysler brand popularized the Hemi and made it more readily available by installing them in their affordable Ram pickups. Ram has since shown a commitment to producing trucks that don’t just transport cargo but have exciting powertrains and superb handling, too. Just about every Ram dated 2009 or after will have a competitive drivetrain, but a Hemi-engine Ram will be even more aggressive on the road.

As for towing and payload potential, Ram fine-tunes its trucks every single year so that each new edition tows and hauls better than its most recent predecessor. In this respect, the newer a Ram is better, and this is another reason why shopping for a recent, certified pre-owned Ram is a great value choice. However, some older Rams are finely tuned for even better towing potential. Look for a turbo-diesel engine Ram pickup, one of the 2500 or 3500 HD models, and enhancements like a wheel/gooseneck prep package for ultra-hardy towing.

More recent editions of the Ram also have superior infotainment and safety technology built right in. If you can find a Ram in an upgraded trim, you’ll find tech like the 360-degree surround camera, real-time navigation on the center console, and more. Rams are also known for having some of the best-designed interiors in the pickup industry, so ask about the trims/ upgrades in every used or CPO Ram that you find. You just might happen upon a model with features like heated and ventilated front seats, genuine leather upholstery, or an enlarged infotainment touchscreen display.

Ram Trucks Are a Classic

In terms of appearance, Ram has designed an instantly recognizable look, featuring a tough front grill and a boxier silhouette. However, some versions of the Ram, like the Ram Classic or an HD Ram in the Power Wagon trim, have a blacked-out grille and a sportier, more aerodynamic look that’s still characteristically Ram. Therefore, just about any well-maintained, used Ram will look sharp and modern.

Overall, there are plenty of amazing Ram features to enjoy. The best way to explore build options and find a truck that’s constructed to your needs and budget is to visit a local Ram truck dealership. Explore their inventory and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. A used Ram dealer should know exactly which of their trucks has precisely what you’re looking for, so you can find the best used Ram truck for you.