5 Tips for Buying a Reliable Used Truck

What is the most reliable used truck? Unfortunately, there is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer to the question. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a pre-owned pickup that’s going to last. The most reliable city truck for a driver in Los Angeles won’t be the same model as the most reliable farm truck for a driver in middle-of-nowhere Montana. 

To find the most reliable, long-lasting trucks, you need to look at the whole picture and shop smart. We offer up five simple tips for buying the most reliable used truck for your needs. Or, at least, to help you start.

5. Start with the most reliable truck brands

White Toyota pickup truck with bullbar on the front and Colorado plates
Toyota pickup truck with bullbar | Peter Pryharski via Unsplash

Most shoppers can tell you that Ford, Toyota, and Chevy make the most reliable trucks. To find the makes and models best known for durability, you can always check out Consumer Reports’ most reliable used trucks and MotorTrend’s best used trucks. And, of course, all of the quality reporting done by MotorBiscuit’s truck specialists. 

Shopping for brands known for reliability and durability is a great starting point. But, don’t let it be the be-all and end-all when comparing used trucks. Be sure to also research truck engines that last the longest—durable engines and durable bodies don’t always come in the same package.

4. Clean records only—no accidents, no floods

Just knowing what brands to shop for isn’t enough to be able to pick out a winner among the thousands of used trucks for sale. The most reliable trunk make, model, and year can still be a lemon if it’s been through a flood. When thumbing through your used truck buying guide, be sure to always check a vehicle’s record to know if it’s had an accident.

Well Rigged advises that the only time to buy a used truck with accident damage on its record is if the current owner can prove, with documentation, that the only damage was minor and cosmetic. Think hail storm damage, not a rear-end collision. And it’s best to just steer clear of any used truck with flood damage. That’s too much of a gamble.

3. Look for one-owner, private truck sales

Why skip the dealership to find the most reliable used trucks? For one, private sales tend to go for less than a dealership offer. You could save $1,000 or more by buying a used truck through a private sale by the owner, and still get a great, reliable vehicle.

The second reason to buy directly from an owner (preferably someone who’s owned the truck for the life of the vehicle) is that you’re more likely to receive a detailed vehicle history and service records—and possibly even receipts. If you search for used trucks for sale by owner, you have the opportunity to ask where and how the owner drove and stored the truck, and whether they had to make repairs.

2. Get maintenance records and check who performed service

Close up of a book of papers with small, colorful bookmarks poking out
File with markers | Chiara F via Unsplash

Want the best full-sized used pickup truck? Find the truck that’s been maintained to the letter. A used truck for sale with a full history of maintenance is ideal, but likely rare. Look for a truck that offers some record of service, and check where that service was done. Maintenance performed at a dealership can be more consistent and usually follows the recommended schedule more closely than service performed by different mechanics.

A lack of maintenance records or service receipts is one of the biggest red flags when buying a used truck. Be very aware of what the seller can tell you about the vehicle. Buying a more recent-model-year used truck gives you a better chance at getting a full service history, and a better chance at getting a truly reliable truck.

1. Accept a more rugged ride when shopping for a reliable used truck

Well-maintained, classic Ford F-150 small pickup truck in red, parked in front of a beach with a surfboard strapped into the bed
Old Ford F-150 | Evan Middleton via Unsplash

It’s 2022—we all want some comfort and luxury in our vehicles. But the more bells and whistles in a used truck, the more potential for things to break. When people reminisce about how “trucks weren’t built like they used to be,” it’s because trucks from ye olde 1970s had almost no features. No complicated mechanics controlled by computers, nothing to go haywire.

If you want a genuinely reliable used truck that will stand the test of time, consider base model trucks that take it back to the basics.

What to avoid when buying a used truck

To find the most reliable, long-lasting truck, there are a few things you want to avoid: 

  • Used trucks with no service or maintenance records
  • Used vehicles with a history of being dangerous
  • Pre-owned trucks with flood damage
  • Work trucks that aren’t fit for work
  • A used truck with multiple past owners bought from a dealership
  • Used trucks that are likely to have paint and body problems
  • Trucks with a long list of tech, comfort, and infotainment features that could cause problems down the road

Follow all the tips above, and you should be in good shape to pick a reliable, long-lasting used truck that you’ll love and that will really give you your money’s worth.

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