back to articles | December 31, 2018 | Greg Thibodeau

Categories: Buying & Selling Cars Vehicle & Buying Research

Buying a Used Truck

Used Truck Buying Tips

Checklist for Buying a Used Light Duty Truck

When buying a used truck, follow this simple checklist as a precaution.

  • To be sure the used truck isn't stolen, be sure the seller has a license, title, and registration for the truck.
  • Make sure the VIN numbers on the truck's door, hood, engine, dashboard all exactly match.
  • Have a mechanic inspect & check out any used light duty truck.
  • Obtain and review the the CARFAX report on the truck.
  • Verify the name on the truck's title matches the name on the license.
  • Test drive used light duty trucks to check for problems.
  • Get any specifics in writing.
  • Buy directly from used truck's owner.
  • Insist on a written bill of sale identifying the truck, VIN#, and stating the truck has not been rebuilt.
  • Confirm ownership of the truck before you discuss sales price.
  • Is the price of the used truck too low or below market value?

Buying the Right Used Truck

When deciding which used truck to buy, limit your choices to trucks with a history of reliability. Always make a thorough inspection in broad daylight of any used vehicle, especially a used light duty truck. It's always important to have any used truck, particularly one bought privately, inspected by a mechanic. If your mechanic uncovers problems, they can be used as bargaining chips for buying the used truck.

Used Truck Research

You should check out the history of a used light duty truck before you buy. You can piece some of the history together by interviewing the former owner and looking at any service records that come with the truck. You can also buy a truck history report from at least two companies that track vehicle histories. Carfax offers fee-based background reports using information from motor vehicle records, police departments, and elsewhere. Usually, for less than $20, you may learn that a truck is a repaired wreck or that its odometer had been rolled back. One caution: Never assume these companies find everything. Always have a mechanic check out the truck completely. If you're buying from an individual, examine the title document carefully. It might disclose that the truck had been classified junk or salvage, or that it was repurchased by the manufacturer under a state lemon-law program. You also should ask whether anyone else had ever owned the truck. It is commonly believed that one-owner trucks are less risky than those that have had multiple owners. If you are buying from a dealer, inspecting the title can disclose the previous driver's identity. If so, try to contact that person and politely ask about maintenance, accidents, mechanical problems, and other details.

Before you purchase a used light duty truck be sure to check Kelley Blue book (can be found on the site under new and used pricing) for the value of the used truck. The price should be close to "blue book" value.

Where to Buy a Used Truck

We suggest buying a used truck from a new truck dealership. Nearly all franchised truck dealers have a used light duty truck department. These trucks have been taken as trade-ins or bought at auctions, or that have been returned after a lease. New truck dealerships often have late-model used trucks. These used trucks are typically two or three years old, and some still have a limited warranty. The important thing is that new truck dealerships tend to have a wide selection of newer used trucks and usually have good service departments, so they can take good care of your truck after you buy it.

Used truck dealers are a less safe option when buying a used truck, but they will sometimes go the extra yard to find a specific used truck for you to buy. Just be sure the used truck has been around long enough to have earned a good reputation for selling quality used trucks. The prices may be lower at used truck dealer, but quality often follows price.

The best prices on used trucks can often be had by buying from an individual. However, buying a used truck from an individual carries the highest risk. The owner may not even know of all the problems the truck has. If you are intent on buying a used truck from a private owner, be sure and research the truck, have it inspected by a qualified mechanic, and follow all the tips listed in the used truck buying checklist above.

Buying a used truck online can be a frustrating experience, but it is a great place to research prices before you go to a used truck dealership to actually buy your truck.

If you plan to buy a used truck online, be sure to just look in the local area. Always call before going to see any truck you see online to make sure the truck is still available and to verify pricing. Remember when buying a used truck online, it's inspect the truck in person, and follow the used truck buying checklist above.