Tips for Buying a Used Pickup Truck

Tips for Buying a Used Pickup Truck

Affirm CollaboratorFebruary 11, 2020

Light-duty pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers are a hot commodity in the new vehicle market. In 2019 there were over 12 million light trucks sold in America alone. While manufacturers continue to meet the new truck market demands, there is a large market for used trucks, both gas and diesel. New trucks can be very expensive depending on the make, model, and what kind of options it features. They cost more than a lot of consumers are able and willing to pay, which is what’s driving the used-truck market. A smart shopper can find a used truck to fit their needs for a lot less money than buying new. There are millions of used trucks across the country for sale. Most people will shop a lot closer to home, thereby narrowing down the pool of potential trucks. Using all the tools and power of the internet, you will find what you’re looking for. Don’t get taken in by shiny chrome, bells, and whistles. Chrome wheels, giant tires, and custom exhaust look super cool, but that’s not everything. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig, right? Use some of our tips for buying a used pickup truck so you don’t buy a lemon.

Check for a Salvage Title

If the truck has a salvage title, then that means it was in an accident, deemed a total loss, and repaired anyway. Ask a lot of questions and find out what happened that led up to it being totaled and what kind of work was done on it. Ask a mechanic whom you trust to give it a thorough inspection to make sure there is nothing major wrong with it, like a bent frame or cracked block. There is no telling what kind of accident the truck was in and why someone decided to fix it anyway. Don’t find out the hard way after buying it.

Watch for Flood-Damaged Trucks

Trucks that have been flooded out can make it to the open market when they should be in the junkyard. If a truck was refurbished because of flood damage, it’s a good idea to move on to the next one. Look for bubbles under the paint, water stains on the seat belts, rust anywhere inside the cab or new carpet and seats. All are telltale signs the truck was under water at some point. Some flood-related problems are hard to detect unless you examine closely.

Do a Background Check

Doing a background check on any used vehicle you plan on purchasing is always a good policy. Websites like Carfax are a good place to start your check. Don’t forget that these services are only as good as the sources of information. If a truck was in an accident and the shop owner who fixed it didn’t report it to the insurance company, it won’t show up on any reporting. Also, check the VIN to see if there are any outstanding recalls on the truck.

Check the Warranty

Check to find out if the drive train and smog system components are still under warranty. Check the mileage against the truck’s drivetrain and the federal emission warranty to see if it’s still in effect. This is important for high-mileage trucks, when out-of-warranty engine, computer, and transmission repairs can trend on the expensive side. In this type of situation, a used truck from a dealer is a better option. They will offer a limited warranty on such things and have given a detailed inspection.

DPF Deletes Are Not Good

Some diesel owners have a bad habit of removing the diesel particulate filter, muffler, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler, or EGR valve for more power. Yes, doing any of these things will make the truck more powerful, but it’s against the law. There are federal smog laws that make it illegal to remove these parts. Replacing them can cost thousands of dollars, and without them you won’t pass any emissions tests.

Take It for a Test Drive

After you start up the truck, turn off the radio so you can hear the engine. Run the truck hard for about twenty minutes so you can see what it’s made of. Accelerate and brake hard, paying close attention to how it feels when stomping on the pedals and how responsive the systems are. Listen for any irregular noise coming from under the hood and the exhaust. Get a good feel for the steering wheel and if it pulls to one side or the other. You don’t want to find out you’re driving a pile of junk on the drive home.

Check the Transmission

If the truck is an automatic, always pull the dipstick and check the transmission fluid. It should be crisp and reddish with little to no smell. If the fluid is brown and smells like burnt brake pads, the transmission has internal issues. If its manual, short shift into high gear during the test drive and accelerate hard to check the clutch. There should be no slippage or chatter. Get it up to speed so you can hear the transmission at top end and listen for gear whine and driveshaft vibrations.

Shift Gears

While test driving, and if the truck is a 4x4, put it into four-wheel drive to see if it works properly. Drive in both high and low range. Listen for strange sounds and transfer case grinding. Make sure the front hub is locking or the front tires are driving. Slip it back into two-wheel drive and spin the tires to see if the limited slip differential is working.

Check Underneath

After the test drive, get low and look under the truck to see if anything is dripping. Leaks under the engine could indicate a serious issue on a front main seal or water pump or a failing gasket. Also check the rear transmission, transfer case, and axle housings for oil leaks. Give extra attention to the backside of the wheels for signs of oil coming from the brake lines and axle bearings. The owner may have washed the backside to conceal these problems, but they will show up after a test drive.

 Next Gen Diesel is the go-to source for high-quality aftermarket 68RFE transmissions for sale, parts, and rebuild kits. We have various options for Ram truck models from 1996–2019.

tips for buying a used pickup truck