Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

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Steal or Splurge on your Summertime Truck

It’s finally summertime. Time to throw on your board shorts and load up your trunk with your surfboard, beach chairs, barbecue grill, and maybe a kayak or two. Oh, and of course your cooler full of iced-down snacks and beverages. But then you realize your car’s trunk fits approximately 1/10th of all of things you need in order to have the most fun in the sun.

My friend, it’s time to upgrade your summer ride to a vehicle that can do it all: get you from A to B with all the gear you need to make your summer the ultimate summer.

You need to ditch the trunk, and get a truck.

Luckily, there is no shortage of fantastic used trucks for sale. Why buy used? Because with the money you save buying used, you’ll be able to buy enough groceries to keep your barbeque grilling and the coolers stocked all summer long. Of course, you can buy used and save tons, or you can buy used and save some. This is where you need to decide if you’re going to steal or splurge.


The Steal: The Nissan Frontier

Looking to spend under $20,000? Then, according to U.S. News and World Report, you can’t go wrong with a Nissan Frontier. Taking up the top four spots in their rankings, the 2009-2012 Japanese-made Nissan Frontier is an affordable compact pickup truck that offers plenty of bang for your buck. The Frontier seats 4-5 people, depending on if you buy the King cab or crew cab configuration. Typical fuel consumption is around 19 miles per gallon in the city, 23 on the highway. Of course the features are a little outdated, but who cares? You need to be more worried about having the sun shining and the windows down than you do having all of the fancy tech features. But just as baseline, the 2012 Nissan Frontier SV trim offers keyless entry, power windows, and a stereo with a CD player. Super basic, and that’s not even the base model.

But here’s the thing about buying used: you can upgrade and still save money. So do yourself a favor and look at older models in higher trims. For example, the 2009 Nissan Frontier top trim level, the PRO-4X, loads up the truck with keyless entry, full power accessories, a trip computer, a leather wrapped steering whee,l and offroad upgrades like Bilstein off-road shocks, splash guards, fog lights, a Utili-track cargo-management system and 16-inch alloy wheels. Find a used 2009 Frontier with a Technology Package and you’re also adding Bluetooth, satellite radio, a ten-speaker sound system, a six CD changer and an auxiliary jack. Find a model that also includes the Value Truck Package, and you’re going to be riding like it’s 2017 with heated, power leather front seats.

It’s worth it to buy used when you can get a model that someone else has already splurged on, so be sure to look for models that come with that little something extra if you’re going to get a steal.


The Splurge: The Chevy Colorado

Looking to splash out a little on your used car? If your budget allows you to spend more than $20,000 and you want a truck that’s only a few years old, check out the 2015 Chevy Colorado. Ranked number 1 in the Compact Pickup class in 2015, the Chevy Colorado also either seats four or five passengers, depending on the model. A standard Colorado is going to come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine netting you 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. Looking for more power?  Another option is to find a used Colorado that has the 3.6-liter V6 engine – that will net you 305 horses and 269 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel economy is decent on the 2015 Chevy Colorado with an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway for the 2.5-liter engine. Pretty much on par with the Frontier, you shouldn’t let fuel worries hold you back from the Colorado. All engine options return decent fuel numbers, although of course you lose a little mileage as you go up in power.

The base model Chevy Colorado comes standard as an extended cab only, and features air conditioning, a four-way power driver seat, power windows, a rear-view camera, daytime running lights, automatic headlights, a six-speaker sound system, a 4.2 inch color display screen, along with both USB and auxiliary jacks. Certainly solid enough for a base model, but again, since you’re buying used, you may be able to move up the trim levels to acquire additional features. A fully-loaded, top-of-the-line 2015 Chevy Colorado is going to be a premium used truck purchase, possibly rivaling buying a new 2017 Colorado with fewer bells and whistles. It’s worth your time to take a cruise through the new Chevy lineup to make sure you’re getting what you really want, and not paying extra for over-the-top features you may never need.


Making the Purchase

No matter if you’ve decided to go with the splurge or the steal, when it comes time to buy your used truck, be sure to follow the basic rules of used car shopping. Do some personal reflection and come up with a budget that is actually realistic. Engage your friends and relatives and find out if they know of a reputable used car dealer – if not, hop online and read reviews of local used car dealers. Then when you find the dealer you want to work with and the truck you love, be sure to run the CARFAX to find out if there are any major accidents or recalls in the truck’s history. You may even be able to take the car to your trusted mechanic, and be sure to know if your truck is covered under extended warranty from the dealer. Finally, secure the best financing possible by talking to your local credit union or bank – don’t just trust the dealer’s finance department.

And then, load up your new-to-you truck with beach chairs, boogie boards, and bocce balls and drive off into the ultimate summer sunset.