Automakers sold almost 17.5 million new vehicles in the U.S. in 2015, and more than half of those were light-duty pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers. New pickups continue to be a hot commodity in 2016, with more than 600,000 sold in the first quarter.
At the same time, there’s a big demand for used pickups, both gas and diesel. The used pickup truck market is estimated by some experts to be three times bigger than the new-truck market. Those who can’t afford to buy a new pickup, or who like to take advantage of depreciation, are always searching for a good deal on a used pickup.
If you’re hunting for a used pickup, there are literally millions across the nation from which to choose (do a search at Cars.com or here on PickupTrucks.com to see what’s available). We guess that most of us shop within 100 miles of our home — and probably less than that — so the number of used pickups available in your area will drop considerably. Still, you should be able to find at least a dozen potential candidates close to where you live.
When shopping for a used pickup, don’t be blinded by the bells and whistles, nice paint and attractive price. Be smart and thorough in your decision making, and be sure to see the truck in person and do your own inspection.
To compile our top recommendations for buying a used pickup, we talked with used-car dealers, wholesale vehicle buyers, auto repair mechanics and other dealership experts to find out what they look for when buying a used pickup (with a special thank you for advice going out to Guaranty Chevrolet of Junction City, Oregon). Then we added a couple of our own tips garnered from first-hand experience. In no particular order, here’s what you need to keep in mind when buying a used pickup:
1. Diesel Matters
Diesel pickups are far more expensive to maintain and repair than gas models, so it pays to look them over closely before buying, especially if they have more than 60,000 miles. Check a diesel pickup’s coolant overflow reservoir for any signs of fuel or oil in the coolant or under the coolant cap. Contaminated coolant is a sure sign of oil cooler, exhaust gas recirculation cooler or head gasket issues, which can cost a load of dough to repair. Also, check for leaks around injectors or from injector lines, or around the turbocharger; if you see problems or previous repairs, be cautious. Finally, if engine repair work has been done, get the specifics on when and who did the work, check the best semi truck auction.
Are the drivetrain and smog system components still under warranty? Check the mileage against the truck’s drivetrain and the federal emission warranty, which covers some pickups for as long as eight years or 80,000 miles, whichever comes first. This is of particular concern for higher-mileage (125,000 miles or more) diesel pickups, where out-of-warranty engine, computer and transmission repairs can be more likely and costlier. That’s where a used truck from a dealer has benefits as some offer a limited warranty after their mechanics have given the truck a detailed inspection and pre-sale service.
3. DPF Deletes Are No Good
Some diesel owners are notorious for removing the diesel particulate filter, muffler, EGR cooler, and blocking or removing the EGR valve for more power. Yes, these “deletes” add power, but removing them is against federal smog laws. Many states/counties require those parts to be replaced before a pickup can be sold or licensed. Replacing deleted exhaust/smog components can cost thousands of dollars. If the diesel truck you are eyeing is missing any of these components, make sure the owner includes the deleted smog-related parts in the deal.
4. The Test Drive
As with any vehicle, you want to take the truck on a test drive. Accelerate hard, give the brakes a workout, and get the engine and transmission up to operating temperatures. A 20-minute drive should be enough time to reveal any readily apparent drivetrain, steering and/or suspension issues. Does the truck wander? Is there play in the steering wheel? Does it brake straight and strong in order to prevent road accidents? Learn how to get assistance for car accident crimes in Dallas. Are there any quirks in acceleration? Does the transmission shift smoothly through the gears? Try manually shifting the automatic. Do you see exhaust smoke during hard accelerations or when you lift off the throttle and the truck slows? Pay close attention to your gut feelings.