Help me get a used truck
June 23, 2012 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy a used truck (I dont have the money for a new one). I have maybe around 7.5K to spend. Some people tell me that a gas engine with over 1K miles on is just asking for trouble, other people tell me they have over 2K on theres and its still running strong.

I need to buy a used truck (pick up). I have 7.5K to spend. I know that is not a lot. I am looking at various online sites to find my new vehicle.

I have asked people I know for some advice and it ranges from:
1) Anything with over 1K miles on it is nothing but trouble to
2) Mine got over 2K on it and its still running strong.

I figure both are true, but I need some advice how to end up in category 2 instead of 1.

Obviously I will have it checked out by a mechanic, and test drive it before I buy, but when I test drive the only thing I will figure out is if it turns on and moves (I dont know anything about cars).
posted by digividal to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mileage is only a rough indicator of how muuch life a vehicle has left in it. How it was maintained and driven matter a lot more. If the vehicle looks kinda ratty and messy and little bits are missing or not working chances are their are other things wrong or about to break. At your price range look for a higher mileage but overall in really good shape vehicle. A cheap low mileage vehicle is properly going to require more reconditioning. At least that is how it has gone for me.
posted by bartonlong at 2:53 PM on June 23, 2012


I'm pretty sure you mean 100K miles.

That being said, with $7500, that's the market you're likely going to be in. I would go for as new a vehicle as you can afford. Vehicles are going for longer and longer these days, so you should be able to get quite a bit of life out of a well-serviced vehicle over 100K miles.

Try to find someone who's kept maintenance records, or possibly try finding vehicles that mechanic shops are selling (people abandon vehicles with shops more often than you'd think). They usually once-over them and sell them for a little below the market just to get them out of the parking lot.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2012


K (well, k, actually)=1000, so 1K=1000. Do you mean 100K?
posted by Dasein at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Check out Cars.com and AutoTrader.com, both of which were immensely helpful the past two times I bought a car. See what's out there first, then check for things like CarFax reports, maintenance records, mileage, and the vehicle's condition. In 2001 (I think!) I bought a 1997 VW Golf with around 40k miles on it, for about the price you're speaking of. I've never bought a truck so maybe they're way more expensive, but I don't think you'll have a problem finding a truck with under 100k miles.

Oh man was I wrong! Just checked Cars.com for trucks in your price range (near me, I didn't know your zip) and the lowest mileage ones have around 80k miles. I guess people drive trucks more miles than regular cars?! Anyway! Still use those sites as a tool, and definitely get the truck checked out by a mechanic before you buy it. That's one of those pieces of advice I've always heard, never listened to, and regretted ignoring! Good luck and happy truckin'!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:18 PM on June 23, 2012


Yes i screwed up. I really did mean 100K and 200K I am sorry for the goof.
posted by digividal at 3:25 PM on June 23, 2012


I assume you have your needs narrowed down more than just "truck," right? Because there is a world of difference between a Toyota Tacoma and a one-ton flatbed, say, not to mention issues like 2wd vs 4wd, regular cab vs crew cab, etc. All of that plays into price in a big way; similarly, as a very general rule, the closer it is to a "work truck" (meaning hand-crank windows, vinyl seat and floor, very few amenities) the cheaper it will be.

That said, once you know what you are looking for, I'd say to simply buy based on condition -- how beat up is the truck? A lot of trucks get used mostly as commute vehicles and grocery getters. You want one of those, not one that has been used to run a landscape business or tow an overloaded trailer every day. Don't buy anything that has been lifted or lowered, or that has obvious signs of abuse (dented skid plates underneath, or the bed and tailgate bent and folded like old tissue paper). If you are looking at 3/4 and one ton trucks, avoid anything with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch in the bed, because it was probably used to pull a big-ass travel trailer or horse trailer.

Condition will beat both year and mileage any day of the week.
posted by Forktine at 4:01 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Forktine has a pretty good answer. Eliminate the 4x4's as those are usually driven much harder. Avoid any and all automatic transmission. I would also avoid selecting a domestic Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product, and narrow the search to half-ton single cab, or cab plus a small jump seat. I would avoid anything that has any special bells and whistles such as LED brake lamps, the ever so classy super-thump car stereo, any and all super-chip ultra gas mileage tech aftermarket snake-oil plug-ins, and lastly, dispel from your mind that the paint scheme has anything to do with price.

Factory paint, stereo, lights, hand-crank windows, 4 cylinder, 2 wheel drive 2003 Nissan Frontier for jobs around the ponderosa that we have driven over 115k miles and have only changed the oil on a regular basis plus one new set of tires at 75k. I did splurge on a bed coating that really has helped maintain what looks like a brand new truck. Good luck.
posted by vozworth at 4:26 PM on June 23, 2012


vozworth: " I would also avoid selecting a domestic Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product"

Whaaa? Say what nastiness you will about domestic automakers' cars in the 1970-90s, but trucks? Nuh-uh. I've got 200k+ on my 98 Chevy (GMC is the same thing) and apart from rust on replacement body panels, it still runs like a champ (gets better mileage than when it was new, even). I work for a plumbing company and my plumbers regularly get 300k out of their Ford vans, despite overloading them by at least a ton every day.

OP, your best bet is to look around and try to get a sense of how sellers treat their vehicles, and then take the vehicles to a trusted mechanic for a go-over. If you need a truck for truck-like activities, most vehicles available at your price point will still have quite a bit of life in 'em.
posted by notsnot at 4:52 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


notsnot, don't be gittin yer hackles up. Japanese component import with domestic assembly is still a better light-duty truck. Whole different enchilada when Contracting is involved. Pappy can't yank around a 412 gallon pumper kettle of type III bitumen without his precious one-ton dually.
posted by vozworth at 5:30 PM on June 23, 2012


I was wondering how ling this would take to devolve into a brand war. Didn't take long.

OP, I think the most important thing (assuming you are buying from a private party vs. dealership / used car place) is to ask for maintenance records. Keep looking when they say they don't have any, or just a handful of receipts in the glove compartment. Seriously consider trucks where the owner has a stack of oil change and other maintenance receipts an inch thick.

These are the people that take care of their cars, which nowadays means so much to the life of a car, no matter what the brand. With manufacturing tolerances being what they are, there's very little difference, mechanically, between car A and car B when it rolls off the line. So when car A is still going at 200k, and car B shits out its transmission on the freeway at 60k, the most likely factor is the owner and how they drive and maintain it.

Favor older sellers over younger; the older the driver, in most cases, the less they tend to beat up on their cars.

A well maintained truck with 100k on it can last you a long time. My 2004 truck is nearing 300k; it's primarily a commuting vehicle, with occasional road trips, and very occasional boat pulling. I change oil and all fluids regularly (bearing in mind that I have used the high-mileage semi-synthetics since about 75k), and the only major issues I've had was a new water pump at 150k, and a new tranny at 200k.

In short, proper maintenance is your best friend and should get you far. Driving conditions are a close second.
posted by SquidLips at 6:26 PM on June 23, 2012


I have a 1985 Chevy C20 pickup with well over 100k on a 350 V8. And it still works fine. I used to have a 1974 Ford F100 with similar properties.

You could buy a really nice early 2000s F150 or Silverado for $7,500. Sure, I'd prefer lower mileage than higher, but I absolutely wouldn't worry about 100k+ miles on either of those trucks if they'd been well maintained.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would also avoid selecting a domestic Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product

If you need a full-sized truck (half-ton or larger), you are almost certainly going to be buying an American truck. Luckily, they were well-made, and they sold gazillions of them so they can be found cheap.

If you need a small truck, then it's a trickier balancing act -- do you buy a lower-mileage, better-condition Ford Ranger, or a higher-mileage and more beat-up Toyota or Nissan? At least around here, the Japanese trucks can carry a huge price differential, arguably much larger than their quality differential.

Eliminate the 4x4's as those are usually driven much harder. Avoid any and all automatic transmission.

I had to use 4wd the other day to get across some gently sloping wet grass -- with no weight in the back, there was basically zero traction and it would have been rude to rut up someone's pasture. It doesn't add much to the cost (though you probably drop one or two mpg) and helps with resale. If you live in a place with real winters, definitely get the 4wd, otherwise treat it as an optional extra. Automatic vs stick shift is just a preference issue. A stick will save money because replacing a clutch is cheaper than rebuilding an automatic transmission, but either will get the job done and there are advantages to both.
posted by Forktine at 7:26 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we need some more info to give a good recommendation. All you've given us is your price range, but not the exact requirements of the vehicle you need. "I need a truck" doesn't give enough info for a decent recommendation. As Forktine said, "Because there is a world of difference between a Toyota Tacoma and a one-ton flatbed, say, not to mention issues like 2wd vs 4wd, regular cab vs crew cab, etc. All of that plays into price in a big way; similarly, as a very general rule, the closer it is to a 'work truck' (meaning hand-crank windows, vinyl seat and floor, very few amenities) the cheaper it will be."

tl;dr: Why do you need a truck, and what do you intend to do with it?
posted by mosk at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2012


Avoid any and all automatic transmission. I would also avoid selecting a domestic Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product

I have had at least a dozen half-ton trucks in the past 30 years, all domestic and all automatic trans, have never sunk one dime into transmission repair, this includes a lot of cattle trailer towing.

For your price and requirements a domestic is almost certainly what you will be looking for if you need a full sized vehicle and they are really well made compared to a lot of domestic non-trucks.
posted by Cosine at 8:14 AM on June 25, 2012


« Older You get home with two bags of ...   |  What kind of bear bike light i... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.