10 Tips for Buying a Used Truck

While a new truck purchase over a used one may be preferable, for many, the cost of that new truck puts it out of reach financially. For those who have never purchased pre-owned before, there may be concern that a used truck might come with problems. By following the 10 Tips listed below, you should be able to find the best used truck that meets both your needs and your budget.

  1. Know What You Want

As you are probably aware, pickup trucks come in a whole range of makes, models, and configurations. You can get them with extended beds, extended cabs, crew cabs, with a shell, drop-in/spray-on bed liner; the list goes on and on. Before you start your search, figure out what features and configuration best fit those you need to have and what you would like to have. Start with what your truck must have; for example, if you’ll be driving off-road, or in rough winter weather you probably need four-wheel drive. If you regularly haul heavy equipment you may need a super duty truck. And if you will also be using it for personal use, you may need large seating capacity and amenities suitable for travelling with the family.

Next, think about all the convenience features you would like to have. Of course, if they push the price to high, you can always eliminate some of these non-essential items. With all that laid out in advance, you won’t waste time looking at trucks that won’t work for you.

  1. Inspect the Exterior

One sign that a truck may have been abused is excessive wear or damage to the exterior. Check for significant damage to the paint and clear coat. A nice coat of wax, as well as excellent care of the paint and finish is usually an indicator that the previous owner maintained the truck well.

Look closely for dents and dings. Some minor ones are to be expected, but you don’t want to buy a truck in need of extensive body repairs. Also make sure the panels are all straight and even, and that the paint is the exact same color from one panel to the next. Uneven panels and slight color variations usually mean there has been repairs made to the body. And don’t forget to check the bed for damage. Pay careful attention to the wheel arches, where gouges, rust, etc. can hide. If there’s a drop-in liner, try pulling it back slightly to see if any corrosion has accumulated on the metal.

  1. Inspect the Interior

Most people will usually look over a truck’s exterior carefully, but too often they don’t give the interior the same attention. That’s too bad because the inside matters quite a bit as well. Excessive wear on the seat cushions and sides of the seats can indicate that a truck was used for a lot of short trips, which may have put more of a strain on the engine and transmission. Broken components, even cupholders or the center console lid, might give you a clue about how careful the previous owner was with the truck.

  1. Check Under the Hood

Pop the hood and look over the engine carefully. Any accumulation of oil, coolant, or other fluids in the compartment could indicate a leak. If the battery terminals or other parts appear to be coated with corrosion, that also shows how the truck was cared for. Check all the fluid levels. If anything is low, that might be an indication of a leak or other serious problems.

  1. Have It Checked Out

If you are buying a truck that is being sold “as is,” it’s important to have it inspected by a reputable mechanic. Checking over the chassis, which includes the frame and suspension, can provide valuable clues about the truck. Sloppy welds could signal damage to the frame that was possibly repaired due to an accident. Excessive rust or corrosion on any of the metal should also be a concern. Worn or damaged parts certainly need to be considered when evaluating if the price is fair. Your mechanic can give you a repair estimate, which, if you still want to buy the vehicle, you can use to have the seller make the repairs, or drop the price by that amount.

  1. Check the Tires

You certainly want tires that aren’t worn or balding. The quickest way to check the tread depth is to look for the wear bars, or you can use the “penny test” to check it. Insert a penny into the tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, that means the depth is less than 2/32 of an inch, and that tire needs to be replaced. Another important factor is how even the tread is. Uneven wear could indicate a wheel alignment is needed, or there may be problems with the suspension. More wear in the middle of the tires indicates over inflation, while more wear along both edges usually means under inflation.

  1. Fire Up the Engine

Pay attention to how easily the engine starts when you turn the key, or push the ignition button. Struggling of any kind could indicate an ignition or fuel system problem. Let the engine idle for a few minutes while you check things over. Notice if the RPMs stay at a constant level, and that everything with the engine sounds normal. Clicking or pinging noises could indicate a serious problem.

  1. Take it For a Test Drive

When you take a truck out for a test drive don’t just drive it down the road and back. You need to really test it out. While it’s unlikely you can take it off-road, you do need to get it up to highway speeds, checking for any wheel shimmying or unusual sounds. Brake hard to see make sure you can stop quickly and smoothly.

  1. Try Everything

Pull over into a parking lot or other open area away from other vehicles. Try every feature on the truck, including the four-wheel drive, sunroof, windows, door locks, sound system, navigation, glovebox lock, etc. You don’t want to finalize the deal and then realize you paid for things that don’t work, some of which may be expensive to get fixed.

  1. Think It Over Carefully

Finally, you should think about the decision to buy the truck or not. There’s no secret rule for how long this should take, but in a buyer’s market, if you wait too long you risk losing a good truck, so keep that in mind. On the other hand, you need to take enough time to be comfortable with your decision; after all, you don’t want to end up sorry about it once it’s too late to change your mind.

At G&E Motors, we’re proud to say we have the very best deals on high quality used trucks in Bucks County, Philadelphia and South Jersey. We have over 20 years of experience stocking and financing used vehicles for customers of all financial levels and budgets. Every car and truck in our inventory has undergone a 115-point quality inspection by our in-house certified technician, and comes with a 30-day/1000-mile warranty, and a Carfax Report.