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Used Pickup Truck Buying Guide

For towing, a full-size SUV or midsize SUV with a torquey engine and tow package can do nearly everything a pickup truck can. Furthermore, SUVs are often a bit easier to live with day-to-day. Why, then, would you need a truck?

used pickup truck buying guide


SUVs almost always offer better fuel economy, thus saving you money in the long run. Additionally, their suspensions are tuned for more passenger comfort. Moreover, SUVs are more likely to rack up safety accolades than pickup trucks.

Full-size pickup trucks are the most popular trucks in America. Therefore, they are revered as the flagship products of the Detroit Three automakers. In 2021, the three best-selling vehicles in America were full-size trucks: the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevy Silverado, respectively. U.S. car and light truck sales in 2021 totaled just over 15 million vehicles. These three full-size pickup trucks accounted for 1.85 million of those sales.

Active safety systems, once common only to luxury cars, have made their way into the truck market. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and similar technologies are now available on most pickups. However, in most cases, they are only standard on the most expensive trims or as added-cost options.

Yet, truck builders have used every trick to improve truck fuel economy. In its 2021 Automotive Trends Report, the EPA said that trucks had seen a more significant improvement in fuel economy and emissions than any other vehicle category in recent years.

Electric pickup trucks are a small but rapidly growing segment offering the functionality of a truck and the sustainability of an electric vehicle. Here's every 2023 model-year battery-electric truck ranked from worst to best.

When you shop for a used truck, these are the most common vehicles online or on the lot. But they range from bare-bones work trucks with few options to luxury trucks with every creature comfort imaginable.

Our sister site Kelley Blue Book is the only site with more than 100 years of experience evaluating the value of every car. Use our car valuation tool to figure out how much to pay, and look for Good Price and Great Price ribbons on used truck ads on Autotrader in your area.

Edmunds classifies pickups in compact, midsize, full-size light-duty and full-size heavy-duty sizes. Knowing what you need and what you want in a truck is important if you expect to get the right tool for the job and not pay for more capability than you'll use.

One of the great things about pickup trucks is that you can custom-tailor the majority of them with optional equipment. That way, they'll perform the work you require during the week, handle your adventures on the weekends, and reflect your personality at all times. So, while base prices might range from about $21,000 for a basic compact truck to $40,000 for a bare-bones heavy-duty crew cab, you can easily spend double those figures for fully loaded models equipped with all of the extras.

Picking a crew cab gives you the most space for people and items you'd rather not store in the cargo bed. At a minimum, a regular-cab pickup seats two people, or three if you choose one with a bench-style front seat. Extended cabs have rear jump seats or a small rear bench seat designed to occasionally accommodate passengers. Crew cabs offer expansive rear seating, the largest trucks supplying enough room for tall passengers to stretch their legs and relax.

Two of the main reasons to buy a pickup truck are for the towing and hauling capabilities. Across all truck classes, though, the numbers vary, and dramatically so. Broadly speaking, compact trucks top out at about 5,000 pounds of maximum towing capacity depending on the model. Going with a midsize truck will get you a little more towing capacity, around 5,000 to 7,000 pounds. Light-duty full-size trucks max out at around 12,000 to 13,000 pounds depending on the model and configuration. Heavy-duty trucks, thanks to their more robust construction and available diesel engines, can pull upward of 35,000 pounds depending on the model and configuration.

Payload capacities (the maximum weight of stuff you can put in the bed) are also highly variable, even within a singular pickup's range of configurations. As with towing capacity, heavy-duty trucks can handle the most payload. Knowing what you expect to do with a truck dictates the right one to serve your needs.

If you don't need overkill towing and hauling capabilities, or you're on a strict budget, a compact pickup truck might prove perfect for you. This is a new class of pickup truck, although you could also say it's a revival of the type of compact trucks last seen during the 1980s and 1990s. For now there are only two models to choose from: the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Choosing the right pickup truck isn't easy. It helps that few auto manufacturers sell them, but the blizzard of cab styles, drivetrains, trim levels and optional equipment lists can prove daunting. What's most important is to identify the truck class that will best serve your requirements while fitting into your budget, determine which model is most appealing from a design and equipment perspective, and then find that truck in dealership inventory or custom-order exactly what you want. We here at Edmunds are ready to assist you every step of the way.

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.

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:

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. Follow up with the shop that did the work to find out more details.

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.

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.

One of the best indicators that a used pickup is everything the seller claims is if it has a detailed logbook or service record and receipts of performed work. Oil and filter changes at regular intervals in accordance with the owner's manual, receipts showing any/all work done, and any other dated records can be a good indication the seller isn't trying to hide anything. It also indicates the engine and transmission should have a longer life than a pickup whose owner let routine maintenance lapse for long periods of time.

It's always good to do a background check on any used vehicle you are interested in buying. and are two sources that offer such services. Keep in mind that these services are only as good as the sources feeding them the information. If a pickup has been in an accident, for example, and the owner or the shop doing the repair work didn't report it to an insurance company, that repair work will not show up. It's also advisable on a later-model used truck to check the vehicle identification number to see if there are any outstanding recalls that need addressing. Go to to find out.

Vehicles that have been flooded can make it into the open market when they should have been scrapped. If a pickup was refurbished because it was flooded, our advice is to avoid it. If the truck has bubbles under the paint, new carpet and seats, mold or water marks on seat belts, seats or headliner, or has rust or mud anywhere in the cab, beware. Do a thorough inspection; lift the carpet and look for signs of corrosion in the cab or under the hood. Check for moisture inside the instrument panel. The biggest issue with flood-damaged pickups is that water submersion wreaks a slow, cancerous death on mechanical, electronic and fuel systems. Flood-related problems are difficult to detect unless you check the less obvious parts of the truck. 041b061a72


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