Mile-High Expectations
April 3, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a used pickup, 2005 or newer, but they all seem to have very high miles. Is this normal?

I'm not against buying a high-mileage vehicle, I've done it before, but they've all been twice as old and half the cost. Now, I'm shopping for a pickup, something with towing power like a F250, maybe F150 (something like a work-truck, not a car-like mini-truck) -- and even 2008 model vehicles have 150,000 to 200,000 miles on them. I have yet to find a used truck with under 100,000 miles, unless it's a two-year-old truck off lease (and even those -- a 2012 with 97,000 miles?), which is way out of my budget.

So my sub-questions are: are trucks simply used that much more than cars and minivans? Is a 2008 truck with 120,000 miles on it (the lowest age/miles ratio I found) just getting 'broken in', or is the reason it's on the lot is because the last owner realized it was about to fall apart? And, every vehicle I've ever bought needed new ball-joints at about 150,000 miles; should I just budget to get those done no matter what, or are trucks built better?
posted by AzraelBrown to Shopping (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd say that it's pretty normal. . . even now more so than in the past. IMHO there's a few reasons for this:

1) Locality: People who buy pickups tend to either live in rural areas and drive a lot of miles simply due to necessity, or they live in places like Houston where it seems like every guy has to have a pickup and they commute a lot of miles. I have to have a pickup for my job, and I hate living in a city with it; I'd much prefer a smaller car, and I use public transportation whenever I can. It's reasonable to assume that most people who live in cities feel similar. The good news about that is that by examining the carfax report you might be able to make a judgement about the quality of those miles, either city (lots of stop and go) or rural highway miles.

Are you still in the location in your profile? Because that right there explains the high mileage. . . especially if you're seeing a lot of trade-ins from people in the oil biz and agriculture. A second thing about locality is that in some places a pickup is really in demand, especially used ones, which drives up prices.

2) Use: Most people drive a pickup for a reason. Usually those reasons mean driving a lot. If you've got pickups there from the NW part of the state I can see 500 mile weeks easy.

3) So I'm around pickup owners all the time, and without really getting into it. . . .there's a lot of complaints about how "cheap" the quality in pickups have gotten in the last few years, and A LOT of opinions out there about pickup brands, etc. - remember the auto bailout? - and A LOT of opinions about the future of the auto industry. . . .so I've noticed lately a lot of people have been hanging onto their pickups like they're gold even more so than usual. I'm not saying that's reasonable, but it means a lot of miles.

4) A brand new pickup is freaking expensive, and a used one just less so. People who can afford to trade in their trucks every year are so are going to do it, but the next owner is much more apt to hang on for a really long time. I'll be honest - I don't know anyone off the top of my head who has had their pickup for just a few years. Mine is a used 2007, and I'm going to hang onto that sucker for at least 3-5 more years.

5) The economy. I'm not foolish enough to speculate precisely how it's affected truck turnover, but it seems reasonable to think that a lot of owners might have been waiting for some time to get new trucks, even more so than cars since trucks are SO expensive.

I'd say your decision (and budgeting for maintenance) comes down to your budget, the quality of the mileage, and the care the previous owner has taken. It might be worth looking into used pickups in other locations. I drove ~4 hours to buy mine; once I got away from the high priced, highly competitive market in Denver where the demand is so high the inventory is brought in from everywhere else the prices dropped about 2-3k. (Mine was an 07 with 85k miles, if you're curious.)
posted by barchan at 12:55 PM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're shopping used work trucks, yes they are driven that much.

I concur with barchan's #4 and #5.

Light truck sales tanked in 2008 and have slowly recovered since then. I suspect people kept their trucks longer and have now started to trade them in, thus the high mileage you're seeing.
posted by LoveHam at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2015

Best answer: Are you looking at trucks that are former commercial trucks from contractors, oilfield and ag service, etc? Because those get driven all day, every day, before being sold at whatever point the fleet manager decides they are no longer viable. These days, that can be a lot of miles (and sometimes with terribly hard use) and I'd never buy one.

Trucks used as family car replacements get the same driving treatment as family sedans, with some people selling every two or three years and others keeping them longer. You might want to change where you are looking, or look for fancier trucks with more options, which might be driv n by the boss but are never given to the hourly workers.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:05 AM on April 4, 2015

Response by poster: FYI: We ended up buying an off-fleet 2006 F-250, with 150,000 miles (seemed right for the age), and the previous owner is a company I know wasn't beating their trucks up too hard (delivering tractor parts to sites), and since I saw many other 2006 F-250s with over 200,000 miles on them I figure this one will last long enough to pay off the loan -- plus the price was right.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:59 AM on May 6, 2015

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