Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A silver 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 is shown from the front at an angle after leaving a dealer that sells used Chevy trucks.

Things to Consider When Shopping for a Used Truck

Driving a truck opens up a whole world of possibilities. On moving day, you don’t have to panic looking for a vehicle to rent that will hopefully be large enough to fit everything. You can just load up your bed and save that money for decorating your new place. Your truck bed can also be the perfect place to put your sleeping bag and enjoy the night sky on a camping trip or haul those ATVs out to the desert for some fast thrills. When you have a truck, you’re the star of your friend group; you can do so much that your sedan and minivan-driving buddies simply can’t. It’s no wonder why trucks are so popular. Since some, like used Chevy trucks, retain their value so well and perform at top-notch levels for many years after their initial drive off the lot, pre-owned trucks are now a hot commodity.

If you’re shopping for a used truck, there are some things you should look out for. Shopping for a used truck isn’t the same as shopping for other used vehicles. There is some overlap, but you’re probably going to put your truck through some challenges that you’d never put a sedan through. It must meet a more specific set of standards. Trucks are built on different platforms than cars; they’re almost entirely different breeds of vehicles. So here are some things to know before shopping for a used truck.

Make an Inspection Part of Your Budget

All used cars should go through an inspection before going up for sale. Because of the heavy abuse trucks are put through, they need a specific type of inspection. Have a trusted mechanic check out the truck you’re interested in. They’ll take a more comprehensive look at things like the tires and brakes. It’s no surprise that trucks and their contents are heavy, so braking power must be effective. Suspension is another crucial component that needs a detailed look, and, of course, the engine is perhaps the most vital part requiring an examination. Only a trained mechanic can properly conduct this inspection, costing you anywhere from $100 to $250, so plan for this in your budget.

An orange 2021 Chevy Colorado Z71 is shown from the front at an angle.

Use A Trusted Valuation Tool

Use a trusted valuation tool like Kelley Blue Book to determine the true value of the truck. If you are shopping at a dealership, they will likely present you with a value based on a trusted resource. However, it’s always a good idea to do this research in advance—especially if you’re buying from an individual seller.

Consider a Truck’s Fuel Economy

Trucks have a lot going for them, but impressive fuel economy isn’t one of their attributes. There have been improvements in efficiency in recent years, so it’s especially important to consider the model year when shopping used. An older truck might have such poor fuel economy that you’ll lose all that money you saved buying used at the gas pump. It’s worth noting that there are some improvements an auto body shop can make to a truck to improve its fuel economy. Everything from installing new spark plugs to ensuring more complex features like the mass air flow sensor is working properly can improve this efficiency. So if you like the look of a truck, speak to your trusted mechanic and see if the fuel economy can be elevated through some minor adjustments.

How Important Is Modern Tech?

While some of the best deals can be found when you go further back in the years, you will want to ask yourself if you need more modern technology. Features like trailer hitch view cameras and blind spot monitoring are crucial if you plan on hauling and towing major items. Comprehensive visibility and driver assist features can mean the difference between a smooth ride and a major accident, and only the newer trucks have that sort of tech. While not opting for the more innovative features may reduce your overall price tag, when discussing larger vehicles like pickup trucks, these features can be lifesavers.

What Size Do You Need?

This is a question to ask yourself whether you’re buying new or used. Consider the size of truck you need: compact, mid-size, or full-size. Compact trucks are great for those who need a pickup that will double as an everyday car because they’re easy to maneuver in a crowded downtown street, as well as the great outdoors. A Ford Ranger is a good example of a compact truck. If you need a bit more room for hauling and more towing capacity, a mid-size truck would be your best bet. These still offer great flexibility and power and still cost less than a full-size pickup. The Chevy Colorado is a great example of a mid-size truck. If you know you’ll be doing some serious towing and hauling; you’ll need a full-size truck. These are more challenging to handle and maneuver, but if power is at the top of your list, a full-size is ready to meet those challenges. The Silverado 2500HD is a great example of a full-size pickup.

A black 2020 Chevy Silverado 3500HD is shown from the front while towing a loader.

Thinking of Going Electric?

This is another thing to consider as we move towards an electric-dominated world. Considering an electric truck can be beneficial for those tired of frequent trips to the pump. If you do go this route, it will limit how far back in a vehicle lineup you can go since electric trucks are only now becoming more viable options on the market. These might cost you a bit more than a fuel-consuming used truck; however, they will save you tons of money on gas in the long run. With more charging ports being installed around the country every year, electric trucks are becoming the way of the future.

Ask for a Service Record

Always ask to see the service record of a used truck, as this will tell you how well the truck has been cared for. Trucks that have skipped regular and important maintenance are more prone to big problems over time. Prevention is critical to the long-term health of a truck, and if the previous owner didn’t take good care of his, you could be the one to pay the price down the line.

Buying at a Dealership Is Your Best Option

There are, of course, many online platforms for buying a used truck. However, any time you’re buying used, you want certain assurances that you won’t be stuck with a lemon. If you buy a used truck that ends up running badly from an individual, you might as well just throw that money down the drain because you won’t be getting it back. For that reason, buying used from a dealership is the best way to ensure a quality truck that has been taken care of. Dealerships thoroughly inspect all used cars before putting them up for sale, including Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs. CPO vehicles have undergone rigorous and standardized inspections and are backed by impressive warranties, offering only the best quality pre-owned vehicles.

Research Is Key

Trucks empower you to do so much that you simply cannot do with a car. If you’ve noticed that your life requires you to do a lot of hauling and towing, then it’s probably time to own a truck. The great news is that trucks are some of the hardiest vehicles out there, so when you buy a used one, you can bet it’s still got a lot of life left in it. It is important to know what to look for when shopping for a used truck, because the challenges you need it for will require certain capabilities. Not all trucks are built the same. If you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to find a used truck that’s ready for whatever you throw at it and be your loyal traveling companion for many years to come.