How to Save Money on Your Next Pickup Truck

So far, we have yet to see a pickup truck offered with an MSRP above $100,000 (although a loaded Ram 1500 TRX comes close), but there’s no denying that trucks are expensive these days. That’s partly due to inflation, but all the latest safety, driver-assist, and luxury features also help jack up the price of a new truck. If you prefer to buy used, though, you’ll quickly find that strong demand keeps resale value high. Compared to luxury sedans, trucks feel almost depreciation-proof.

Prospective buyers who have great credit and plenty of cash may not sweat paying the used-truck premium, but most people are on a budget. And with the future of the economy still so uncertain, it makes sense to save money where you can. So how do you save money when buying a pickup truck? Popular used car sales site CarMax had a few insights to offer.

Avoid the obvious choices

A 2021 Toyota Tacoma parked on sand
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

In the past, this wasn’t necessarily the best advice. Quality and reliability could vary widely, making it a lot riskier to buy a truck you weren’t familiar with. And depending on where you lived, there was also a chance the closest dealer was several hours away. On the other hand, a Ford or Chevrolet dealer was almost always close by.

These days, quality is up across the board, which means it’s a lot less risky to look at less popular options. If you’re in the market for a midsize truck, for example, you’re probably not going to get a particularly good deal on a Toyota Tacoma. It’s just too popular. A Nissan Frontier or Honda Ridgeline, on the other hand, could still fit your needs but cost significantly less.

Consider an earlier generation

2019 Ford F-150 Limited
2019 Ford F-150 Limited | Ford

Trucks don’t usually get updated as often as cars and crossovers, but every time one does get redesigned, it’s usually a good thing for used truck shoppers. With the new version on sale, there’s less demand for the old one, which can lead to lower prices. As long as the old body style still meets your needs, you can save a significant amount of money simply by buying a truck that’s a year or two older than the current design.

If there’s a redesign coming soon, we highly recommend waiting for it to go on sale before buying. At least if you have the luxury of waiting. When you need a truck quickly, waiting six months for a better deal isn’t really an option.

Don’t overbuy features

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman | Ram

Is it Smart to Buy a Pickup Truck for Sale by Owner?

Technically, this is a combination of two suggestions, but we think they fit together well. Basically, think about the features that you have to have, the ones you’d like to have, and the ones you can live without. You may have to spring for a higher trim level to get a feature you think is essential, but it also helps you avoid buying way more truck than you need.

This is especially true if your current truck is older or if you have very basic needs. Base models are less desirable than other trims, which means they can be a great deal. You just have to be OK with not getting the latest technology or most luxurious features. Then again, if it’s been a while since you bought your truck, the standard features may feel plenty advanced and luxurious in comparison.