If every country song is true, there are only three things a man loves in this world: his wife, his dog, and his truck. The stats back it up, too. In 2017, nearly 3 million pickup trucks were sold in the U.S.
While men do love their trucks, they, as with women, don’t always know how to choose the best one for them. But don’t worry, if you’re thinking about buying a used truck and don’t know what to look out for, we’ve got you covered.
What to Look for When Buying a Used Truck
Used trucks aren’t too different from cars when it comes to buying used. There are some special things to look out for, which we’ll cover below. But at the end of the day, you need a vehicle that sits at the intersection of affordability and quality.
Below are 10 things you need to do to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
1. Ask Why It’s Being Sold
Intuitively, this was probably going to be your first question anyway. You rarely seem to get any forthright information from this question, but it’s important to ask all the same.
This is especially true if you’re buying off of a site like Craigslist. If the seller answers this questions ambiguously, they may be trying to sell you a lemon.
2. Review the Maintenance History
Any seller worth his salt will have documentation regarding the maintenance history of the vehicle. These records will show if the car has required any major servicing or repairs from an accident.
The records should also show that the owner has taken in the car for maintenance like oil changes at regular intervals. This should be a good sign.
However, if the car is constantly being brought in for freak accidents and busted engine parts, you may want to reconsider.
3. Check For Rust
Rust is one of the most tell-tale signs of poor maintenance. Rust on the body or underside of the car can indicate a few things. The most important of which is how old the car is and how well it’s been maintained.
Rust may indicate that the car has rarely been washed or has been kept outside for long periods of time.
If you live up north, winter damage and rust can be brutal on a truck. You’ll want to check for rust on the axle of the truck, as salt on icy roads can be very corrosive.
4. Knock the Tires
Tires are an oft-overlooked facet of used truck buying, but it’ important. You need to check the tires’ treads to see how much is left. You’ll want to ask the seller how many miles have been put on the tires and when they think they should be replaced.
If the tires look bare or cracked from dry rot, you may be able to talk the seller into dropping the price by the amount it would take to replace them. Tires, especially big truck tires, can be costly to replace.
5. Check the Towing Capacity
You’ll, of course, want to see if the truck you’re looking at can tow what you actually want it to tow. If you’re going to be taking your boat down to the marina every weekend, you need to make sure it can actually do that.
6. Check for a Brake Controller
If you’re looking at a larger truck with tons of towing capacity, you’ll want to check the cabin for a brake controller as well. If one is present, this likely indicates that the truck has done a good amount of heavy towing.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the truck has been well-cared for. But it may indicate that the truck has had more extensive wear-and-tear in its life, particularly the drivetrain.
7. Budget for Repairs
Identify all of the things that you’ll need to fix or replace on the truck. You won’t be able to get exact numbers, obviously, but try to get a rough estimate of the total cost of repairs.
Then, like with the tires, you can try to haggle with the seller to bring the price down by the amount of money in repairs that need to be done. Here, you’ll need to speak authoritatively, listing off all of the issues with the vehicle for the seller.
Negotiating is as much about confidence as it is about being right.
8. Choose a Reputable Dealer
To avoid buying a lemon or a car that needs a ton of repairs in the first place, however, you should try to find a reputable dealer. On Craigslist there’s no way to validate someone’s reputation, so try finding a used car dealer or even eBay first.
They’ll have reviews of their business and you’ll be able to hold them more accountable for your issues.
If you live in Fresno, California, you may want to check out Clawson Truck Center (see page for details).
9. Investigate Financing Options
If you don’t have the cash on hand for a used truck, you’ll need a loan. When exploring your lending options, look for a bank or other lending institution that will give you an adequate loan with as little APR as possible.
If you’re buying a big truck, like a semi, you may be subject to a different set of criteria when seeking out lenders. Used trucks, in general, may also have to meet certain financial requirements.
10. Budget for Insurance
In most states, having auto insurance is the law. Just as you would with the used truck in the first place, you’ll want to shop around for the best insurance option.
Depending on what kind of truck you’re buying, and what you’ll be using the truck for, insurance can be expensive. You’ll want to save some room in your monthly budget for this expense alone.
Want More Vehicular Advice?
These 10 tips for buying a used truck should hopefully guide you towards an affordable, quality vehicle that won’t require a ton of maintenance.
However, the best-laid plans of mice and men have often been led astray, so if you need assistance getting your used vehicle in top shape, check out the Auto Repair and Maintenance section of our site.