At one point in life, you need to own a truck. In fact, trucks are easily some of the most popular vehicles in American homes, with their hardy and versatile nature making them a useful resource to have. Whether you want them for the heavy lifting, extra space they afford, the manly look and driver centered styling approach, or even for getting the family to camps and the countryside, you will find a truck offers you extra utility. You can hardly go wrong with a truck, and their easy maintenance demands mean that ownership will not cause too much of a dent in your pocket.
The budget issue usually comes when seeking to make the purchase of a truck. the good thing is you can shed almost half the price it would cost you to buy a new truck by going for a used model. This can actually be a better option since it allows you to avoid the hype and biased reviews that accompany new models when they come out, so you usually have a more honest picture and reviews by the buyers of the model. Better still, at less than the original price, you have more funds to either go for the higher trim models or have money for customizing the truck to your needs. However, there are a couple of things you should know to help you make the right purchase.
20 Include the repair cost when making comparisons
When making comparisons, the first area is usually the price of the truck. This could either be comparisons made across different truck models or across the various dealerships you are considering to purchase from.
Most people tend to use only the given price when making comparisons, but this is the wrong way to do it. You have to use the total cost which factors in any repairs you will need to make on the truck.
These include any added improvements you plan on making and any repairs you discover you have to make in order to properly use the car. You should not assume the cost of repairs and improvements. Simple things like replacing nuts and bolts, new wheels, transmission parts, brake parts, door parts, new engine parts etc. and improvements like paint jobs, upholstery, and trims, infotainment system are quite costly when you consider their total sum. This will inform your choice on whether you stick with a truck which you maybe purchased at a far cheaper rate but requires quite some investment in sprucing it up, or you pick one which is quite expensive but has little need for improvements before use. Whatever you choose, you need to be aware of the full cost.
19 Private seller vs dealership
This is usually either one of the biggest considerations before purchasing a truck, or something hardly considered at all. Yet, it is an important part of the used truck buying process because the different options have different pros and cons. For instance, working with a private seller provides you with the advantage of getting the car from someone with an intimate knowledge of the car, and you can ask questions like why the truck is being sold and find a more recent history of checkups.
You also have more room for negotiations and testing the truck compared to a dealership. On the other hand, with a private seller, you are buying the pickup on an "as it is" basis, meaning there are no warranties on the truck. You also lack financing options if you need any, and you have to be prepared to put in the required legwork in paperwork and meeting the different private sellers.
Working with dealerships offers variety, warranties, and certifications of full inspections done by experts, trade-in options and more legal protection. On the other hand, you have to deal with pushy sales agents who may blind you to the bigger picture, little negotiation room, and quite higher prices.
18 Be on the lookout for the truck title
One of the first things to check before you even negotiate the price of the truck is its vehicle title. It not only tells you about the ownership of the title but even more importantly, it also lets you know the condition of the truck despite its looks and where you are buying from.
There are several types of titles including a clean title, a salvage title, a rebuilt title and a lemon buyback title.
A clean title is what you should be looking for and offers you the peace of mind that your vehicle does not have a history that could compromise its integrity. A salvage title means the vehicle was involved in a serious accident and written off as a loss as the cost of repair was deemed too high and usually major parts have been affected. Should the truck be repaired and subjected to inspections by professionals it earns a rebuilt salvage title. This does not mean it is a quality purchase and you should only pick such a truck if the repairs report indicates that the parts crucial to its performance were not affected by the accident. You should also avoid trucks with titles such as “flood vehicle,” and “lemon law buyback.”
17 Match your truck to your needs
It is very easy to buy more truck than you need and also very easy to be taken in with the majesty of a truck and forget about your real needs. This, in turn, results in you spending more than you really need of getting a truck that does just about everything right except what you bought it for.
Identify the purpose you have for the truck. If it is for use as a family ride then the main focus will be on the seating arrangement and capacity. If the main use is for towing then you will be focusing on its horsepower and towing capacity and the same goes for a truck picked for hauling, only you will be focusing on its hauling ability and size of the bed instead of towing capacity. In terms of performance, consider where you will be using the truck, in town, on the highway, in the countryside on off-roads, if it will be used for commercial or personal purposes, if it will be used on a daily basis or only once in a while (say for camping trips) etc. These are considerations that ensure you do not get an underwhelming or an overwhelming pickup truck once you start using it.
16 Consider your preferences
Once you have covered the real needs and wants, it is important now to work on your personal preferences and the convenience each truck model offers. For example, do not get a big truck if you do not have enough space for packing or you intend to use it for daily driving to town, since you will have issues with turning and parking too. Similarly, if you are an off-road fanatic you may have to forego comfort driving on the highway and get yourself a hardcore off-road. However, you still have to keep in mind other users of the truck.
Similarly, despite the extensive progress made in equipping pickup trucks with luxury items, not everyone appreciates that and no two models offer the same luxury elements. At times, the extra luxury comes at the expense of something else you may value more, so it is important to weigh all the options and what your experience will be in the truck. Another important consideration to make at this point is whether you want to have a gas or diesel engine. Each has its advantages and conveniences, while the budget may also play a factor, especially for a pickup truck intended for regular heavy lifting.
15 Take the car for a test drive
The only way you can properly evaluate whether the used truck will be a good fit is getting to drive it. Not just on the yard or a short spin in the neighborhood, but a real test drive long enough to allow you to properly get the feel and subject the truck to several tests and where possible in similar conditions to those it will be operating in mostly once in your possession.
In fact, it is recommended that you have two test drives instead of the usual one for brand new trucks. You are looking both at the quality of the driving experience as well as the mechanical soundness of the truck.
Some of the things to check and evaluate their quality include the truck’s electronics. The door and windows should all operate smoothly with the doors locking both inside and outside. Headlights, brake lights, and turn signals should all work. The infotainment system should work fine and the climate control system should also operate smoothly for the duration of the test drive. Check for the acceleration, cornering, braking and controlling of the car. Listen for any odd noises and take the car through different speeds since lower speeds may prevent you from detecting any mechanical or bodywork issues.
14 Get a report from CarFax for a background check
You want to be sure about the kind of accidents the truck has been involved in and the damage that resulted from it. From such a report you will be able to tell which parts of your truck have been affected and hence you are able to evaluate how the performance and integrity of the truck have been affected. The only way you can get a comprehensive review is by getting a CarFax report. A CarFax report provides important information concerning the car title, previous ownership, any reported accidents and even repairs history. If a truck has had several owners in a short time and given the fewer expenses that come with trucks, then you need to be wary of the truck. It may have a perennial issue that has not been resolved by previous owners. It gets its data from state agencies, police and the various repair shops. A CarFax report also allows you to be able to confirm the truck’s VIN number, model and year of make enabling you to verify claims made by the agent or private person selling you the car. You are also able to verify other kinds of damage the car may have been experienced including flood and fire damage.
13 Be on the lookout for used trucks that have recalls issued on them
A huge number of truck models are getting affected by recalls each new year. These recalls range from exploding airbags, engines stalling while driving, faulty safety belts and transmissions as well as the car circuitry among other things. These are issues that can easily result in problems like fires, a compromised safety system and crashes. While new cars cannot be sold when there is an open recall for them, there is no such protection offered for used cars and this means you can still be sold a used truck which has an open recall not fixed.
This is a widespread issue given recent reports that show that up to 25% of recalled vehicles do not get fixed.
This means you are at a high risk of getting stuck with a known faulty issue that warranted a recall but which the owner of the vehicle or the car dealer chose to ignore. To avoid this risk, you can start by getting a free recall check from CarFax, using the vehicle identification number. You can also check from the manufacturer’s website to see if the truck’s model and year and VIN have been listed as due for recall. Even when you are informed that the truck’s recall issues have been fixed, get a second opinion.
12 Request and examine the truck’s repairs and maintenance schedule
Even if the truck looks new and it is being sold at a reputable dealership, you still need to go through its repairs report and its maintenance schedule. A repairs report adds on to any information which you will get from the CarFax report filling out details you may have left out. This is especially true for minor repairs or those done at smaller mechanics who either do not file their reports with CarFax.
Once you have the repairs report, you have to look at the various areas which have been subjected to repairs and the kind of repairs done. If one area has been subjected to consistent repairs, then this points to a significant issue and you are better off avoiding the truck even if you are told the fault has been fixed permanently. A maintenance schedule is important and the records should match the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. Irregular maintenance schedules highlight a car that has not been given good care. This means that you will likely end up with a problematic car and even the person selling it does not have a clear picture of the mechanical needs of the car. Confirm the repairs and maintenance schedule with a professional mechanic.
11 Find out what the truck has been used for
One important part of your checklist is to know what job the truck was used for prior to being sold. When you are getting it from a private seller, you need to find out first why the truck is being sold, then for both the dealership and seller you need to find the tasks the truck was used for. This is important because you will use it to know what to look for when inspecting the truck and even gauge the kind of pressure it has been subjected to. It will help you know if the car can match your purpose, but more importantly whether to skip it or buy it.
You should be wary of the cars that have been used for commercial purposes and rentals. This is because they are hardly driven with care compared to personal cars. They also have more mileage and the sprucing inside is also not top notch.
Further, you should be wary of unnoticed mechanical issues since most are just subjected to general maintenance and could have a couple of knocks in parts and underneath. It is also not a good idea to get trucks that have been doing heavy duty work for long because most of their parts have been strained and will be prone to failure after a short period.
10 Make sure to check under the truck
Underneath the truck is the one place you should focus on when you are inspecting it. It reveals several aspects about the truck, its use and a number of mechanical issues that may be facing it. This inspection should be done in broad daylight and with the truck elevated. Some of the things to check for include leaks or damage and even repairs done to previous damage.
Other parts to check include the brakes, steering, the drive shaft, and u joints. These parts are usually subjected to much strain and movement meaning they are more susceptible to damage and will impact on the performance of your truck.
You also need to check on structural rust. This is important because while getting rust on the truck’s axle and springs is common, structural rust is dangerous because it is deeper and affects the integrity of the vehicle. The best test is to see if you can poke a hole on a metal piece, it means it has a structural rust and you should run since it is proof that the metal and brittle and weak from the rust. You should also consider the type of axle layouts and the configurations to be sure they fit your needs.
9 Check the engine oil levels and condition
The state of the engine oil will inform you how well the truck has been maintained and also give you an idea of the performance to expect and when to pass on a used truck. There are several key fluids you should check. Start with the engine oil first which should be easier to access. Check that it is at the right levels and also depending on the age or mileage of the car find out the oil change records and see if they conform to the recommendations of the manufacturer. Absence of any records, sporadic oil changes as well as a schedule not in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations point to an issue with the engine. The oil should be smooth and slick where there is grittiness or a presence of particles indicates the engine components are wearing down. Its color should be yellow or amber if it is in good condition. Where the color is black indicates the engine oil requires a change. Should you also notice a milky streak in the color then it is a pointer to a leaking coolant. To feel for the texture of the engine oil you will need to feel the oil from the dipstick between your fingers so be ready to get dirty.
8 Check the other fluids too
Once you are done with the engine oil, you have to check the transmission fluids including the transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant and the power steering fluid. The transmission fluid is what ensures the gears, clutches, valves and other parts of the truck are moving smoothly. Its level should not be low since it is part of a closed system unless there is a leak. You should check on its quality which should be indicated by its color either amber or red if it is good.
Any other color like brown and the presence of a burnt smell indicates a problem or need for a replacement. The coolant, on the other hand, is what absorbs the heat produced by the engine and keeps the whole mechanism cool.
Check to see there are no leaks and the required levels are maintained. If the truck has done more than 50,000 miles it should have a new coolant. The brake fluid ensures the smooth movement of the brakes and it is also in a closed system hence it should never get low. It should be the first place to check should the brake pedal have a strange feeling. It can be contaminated by water and it could also be leaking. Ensure the levels are right and the color is golden as proof of its good condition.
7 Check for rust and rot
One of the things you should be wary of is rust. As well as looking for the rust that is on top check also for raised body paint usually in the form of bubbles. It may seem easy to dismiss little patches of rust and think perhaps painting will clear them out. But the presence of rust is more than just an eyesore. It indicates the truck is either old or has been mishandled as far as truck maintenance is concerned. An old truck will do you no good even for light duties, but more pertinent, rust compromises on the integrity of the truck’s body it also leads to several mechanical issues and spreads fast from one point to another.
In some cases, you will find the rust being severe such that it results in holes on the metal components in various sections of the truck. Rust along the frame and bed of the truck is worse because it can easily cause the affected areas to snap. Frame rust also compromises the ability of the pickup truck to protect you from accidents and only serves to increase the risk of one. Rust and corrosion that occurs inside the body seams and along the fenders is also serious and should not be ignored.
6 Remember to check the interior just as thoroughly
Usually, the focus of inspecting a used car is the exterior and under hood - which is perhaps deserved - but it should not be done at the expense of the interior sections. While the test drive will reveal to you much of about the driver’s cabin, it will not help you in getting the feel of the passengers and overall comfort, as well as the space offered by the truck.
First, you have to inspect the upholstery, the seat joints and fixtures, and ensure there are no loose or broken parts.
When checking for space, check every aspect of it, for example, look at the foot space, the size of the seats and ability to sit adults, the luggage space and any special provisions for comfort. Besides space and the integrity of the seats, check to see other appliances like seat belts and window levers are working and in good condition and the chairs can be easily adjusted. Check also to see that passenger airbags are in place especially if you are getting a truck.
5 Have an idea of the bed and cab specifications you want
Unless you are looking for just any kind of truck (which is not a good idea), you will be best placed to have an idea of the cab and bed sizes and styles because they influence the power and space, among other things. Having an idea of what each size means will help you in making the right choice. The cab size and bed size also influence the length of the wheelbase which ultimately affect the overall size of the pickup. The cab is where the driver and passengers sit and its size is defined by number of doors and seats. The bed can also be referred to as a box, and it's used for carrying cargo. Its size is dependent on the distance from the inside wall to the inside tailgate. A standard or regular cab size has two doors and one row of seats with no space behind the seats. An extended cab comes with a rear pair of doors that are rear-hinged. It has space or small jump seat behind the single row of seats. A double cab pickup comes with four front-hinged doors with a rear seat which adults can fit in. The rear doors are however smaller and the rear seats have less leg room. A crew cab has all two pairs of full-sized doors and a rear seat that can comfortably carry adults with enough legroom.
4 Have a list of what you are willing to compromise on
Having given you much of what you should look for and be wary about, it is important to note that you are not likely to find a used car without fault or shortcomings in one area. The main reasons why people opt to sell their trucks are either mechanical issues, old age or the pickup have already done many miles and the need to upgrade. There are also those in the business of salvaging and rebuilding trucks that have broken down for various reasons before getting them back to the market.
This means you will have to make certain compromises at some point. For example, you could forego elements of luxury for a mechanically sound truck, and then choose to do the upgrading on your own later.
If you are seeking a truck for heavy duty work, then you would want a newer truck with more towing and hauling capabilities, and as long as these parts are in good condition then you can work out how to resolve any shortcomings the pickup truck may have. Having an idea of what you will be willing to compromise on allows you to have an easy time making the selection but does not mean you get you should get a poor choice. You should still identify the faulty issues and use them to get a good bargain and also use their cost to determine whether the truck is worth it.
3 Create a shortlist of three models you want before heading to the market
Despite the fact that they are used trucks, most of their features are largely influenced by the models and manufacturer. This means you will still have to do your homework on features and specifications of different models as you would when seeking out a new car. To give yourself room for choice it is better to have a pick of three models from different manufacturers across the sizes and power you want.
You should also have a range of years you want, avoiding the years that faced most recalls. The manufacturers may be using different names to designate the cab and bed sizes but the description stands across the industry. The Ford F-series, GMC Sierra, Chevy Silverado and Chevy Colorado, Ram pickups, the Frontier and Titan from Nissan and Tundra and Tacoma have similar sizes in the different trim levels. However, features and capabilities can vary significantly from manufacturer to another hence the need to identify which models will suit your purposes beforehand. The prices also are dependent on the model and while some models depreciate faster, some brands still hold value and can still be expensive in the used market despite having more miles or more years than others.
2 Ask for warranties from dealerships
Regardless of the pickup truck you choose to purchase or where you get it from you are most likely going to spend money on repairs at some point. This is why you need to get warranties especially if you are buying from a dealership. Most dealerships offer warranties for their pickup trucks as a guarantee for the quality of the repairs and maintenance that have been done.
The warranties are usually limited, but will help offset any repairs that may arise within that period. For private sellers, you need to check if the main parts like the engine and the drivetrain are still under warranty. The federal emission warranty is applicable to most pickups even up to eight years or eighty thousand miles.
If they have had any considerable repairs or new fittings to the car, you need to be sure that these have been covered by warranty to avoid incurring similar costs should the parts not hold up for the expected period. Better still, you can check with the dealerships to see if they can offer extended warranties as the ones offered to their new trucks. This is important especially when the pickup is set for frequent use which make it susceptible to breakdowns.
1 Get a qualified second opinion
Even the most-savvy car driver cannot do justice when it comes to inspecting a used pickup truck. A lack of experience, skill and equipment ensures this. Most buyers usually hesitate going the extra mile of having a third party qualified mechanic to do a more thorough inspection either because they do not know such services are readily available, do not want to incur the extra cost or expect to face difficulty in convincing the seller to allow them get the inspection done.
There are many services you can use for a quality inspection and you have the option of either using a mobile inspection or a garage inspection. You should consider the cost of the inspection as a form of investment as it allows you to discover what is wrong and what is also right with the car before investing your thousands of dollars in a purchase. It not only gives you peace of mind that you have got a good truck but more importantly helps you avoid getting a lemon or a problematic truck. Some of the things a qualified mechanic inspection covers include verifying the equipment and options available on the truck, determining the condition of the truck, any problems with its frame, and drivetrain that could be hidden, and engine codes that may point to issues with the car.
Sources: www.thedrive.com, www.caranddriver.com, www.trucktrend.com, www.capitalone.com