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As the price of new trucks rockets skyward, the practicality of owning one as part of a small business or for personal use diminishes. Upscale used trucks aren’t much cheaper as recent supply chain issues impact new truck production, making late-model used trucks highly desirable. But is buying an older used truck a good idea?

Rows of pickup trucks parked outside a facility.
Used pickup trucks | Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Is buying an older used truck a good idea?

Buying an older truck, especially one under $5,000, presents a greater risk of problems, including unreported accidents or breakdowns, and provides less safety tech and fewer convenience features.

However, it’s easier to pay for a $5,000 truck upfront or make monthly payments that Car and Driver calculated at under $100 than to pay $600 or more per month for a base model new truck. If the older truck keeps working for a year, you’ll be ahead money. 

What are the best used trucks under $5,000?

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 pickup truck enjoys immense popularity among a diverse range of drivers. Small businesses involved in construction, landscaping, and delivery services use them. Still, families enjoy the easy access to rear seats in crew cab models and the safety they provide due to solid frames and large size. 

Start your search for a sub-$5,000 F-150 in the 10th generation range beginning with the 1997 model year. Finding a truck with a V8 engine, four-wheel drive (4WD), and a recent tune-up that included new spark plugs to avoid the dreaded two-piece plugs the factory installed should be easy in this range.

Bonus tip: shop in the southern part of the U.S. for trucks with less rust from driving on treated winter roads.

Ford Ranger

As modern small pickup trucks grow larger and unibody compact trucks offer a reduced towing capacity, going back to a ’90s Ford Ranger offers a practical package at a low price.

Car and Driver says that other older small trucks exhibit excessive frame rust and calls the Ranger “basic and frugal.” Look for a Ranger with a 4.0-liter V6, extended cab, and 4WD for the most functionality and resale value, but be aware that some models don’t have ABS or only offer it on the rear brakes. 

Ram 2500

Look for a second-generation Ram 2500 to get the most work-capable truck for the money. You’ll have to search to find one without excessively oxidized paint or a faulty 4WD vacuum actuator. For under $5,000, it’ll have a gasoline engine instead of the six-cylinder Cummins diesel.

However, it will pull its weight around the job site, campsite, or as a family shuttle to soccer fields and grocery stores. 

Are trucks under $5,000 worth buying?

While trucks under $5,000 usually have 100,000 miles or more on the odometer, they still have a lot of miles left, provided the previous owners performed proper preventive maintenance such as oil changes and tune-ups. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see older trucks on the road daily with 300,000 miles

Of course, there is a risk of breakdown, as there is with any vehicle of any age, and a truck in this range won’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. However, they will have airbags, decent safety ratings, and possibly Bluetooth or auxiliary input to listen to music from your phone or iPod, if anyone still has an iPod. 


What Happened to Cheap Trucks?