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I Need A Really Cheap Work Truck. What Can I Get?

So, you’ve decided you need a “beater” work truck. Something cheap and functional, but also presentable. How cheap can you go for the best pickup truck out there? Let’s establish some parameters and then dive into four random Craigslist cities to see what we can get. For a truck to be a cheap work truck …

So, you’ve decided you need a “beater” work truck. Something cheap and functional, but also presentable. How cheap can you go for the best pickup truck out there? Let’s establish some parameters and then dive into four random Craigslist cities to see what we can get.

For a truck to be a cheap work truck it has to be fairly clean, and the rust has to be minimal. Rust holes and flapping panels just don’t cut it. This isn’t a “winter beater” it’s a work truck. Diesel or gas, two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive; it isn’t important if it has lower miles and looks clean. 

What we expect are higher GVWR trucks that get worse gas mileage than half-ton trucks. Also, we’re expecting high-mileage warriors. Probably paint will be iffy on some. Whatever we find we’ll look for the best based on condition, mileage, appearance, and more recent work performed. We also expect that the cheapest will be those trucks that were cheaper when new. In other words midsize trucks.

A white pickup truck with a snowplow attached.
Ford F-150 Work Truck| Getty Images

If it’s got new tires and a reman engine put in 20,000 miles ago, this rates higher on our list than a recent repaint and a two-inch lift. Function and longevity rule. Finding a truck that’s lifted with 38-inch tires but has close to 400,000-not so good. Get it? 

We’ve picked Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas/Houston, and Charlotte, NC, as our search cities. These are private party listings and titles are clean, meaning no salvage titles.

Each listing will include a few nuggets about the truck, mileage if it’s posted, and a link to the post on Craigslist. 

Let’s see what’s good and cheap in work trucks:

Los Angeles Craigslist

Long Beach

1998 Chevy S-10: $1,500

2WD, 2.2L 4 cylinder, 5-speed manual trans, 160,000 miles. Motor Biscuit: Looks clean with only minor driver’s seat wear. No body damage and the paint looks good.

Van Nuys

1999 Dodge Dakota $1,800

2WD, 5.2L six-cylinder, 201,000 miles, automatic, new tires, new brakes, front bushings replaced. Motor Biscuit: Slight damage to the front fender but not really noticeable, flat black paint is not the factory paint. Fairly presentable in photos.

Costa Mesa

1997 Ford F-150 Super Cab: $1,900 OBO

4WD, 4.6L V8, bed liner, automatic. Motor Biscuit: Factory clear coat noticeably separating, tires will need replacement within 10,000 miles, interior looks really nice, no mileage listed. Here’s a used, full-size pickup for the price of midsize trucks.


2002 Chevy S10 ext. Cab: $2,250

2WD, 4.3L V6, automatic, 229,000 miles, AC, full power. Motor Biscuit: Ad says no issues, we see a couple of minor dings, looks to be original white paint, alloy wheels, interior looks nice. Condition in pics belies the mileage.

Phoenix Craigslist


1998 Ford F-150 Reg. Cab Long Bed: $1,500 OBO

2WD, V8, automatic, 210,000 miles. Motor Biscuit: Interior looks fairly decent, factory white paint peeling so truck looks a bit beat but no body damage. Again, another example of a full-size truck selling for a midsize price. 


1991 Ford F-150 Short Bed Reg. Cab: $1,900

2WD. 5.8L V8, 110,000 miles, automatic, dual tanks. Motor Biscuit: Sounds like a truck purchased to fix up that owner never got to. It is running but might need a gas tank, gas lines blown out, and possible brake attention. It could be a nice runner with a weekend’s work, or not. Overall condition looks very good inside and out.


1994 Dodge Ram 2500 Reg. Cab: $2,200

2WD, V8, 70,000 miles, automatic, new tires, tight steering, AC. Motor Biscuit: Overall looks fairly clean. White paint isn’t perfect, it’s not bad for a work truck. This has the heavy-duty suspension. Could use a new tailgate but those are on eBay for under $150.


2004 Ford F-150 Reg. Cab, 8Ft Bed: $3,000

2WD, converted to CNG, 101,000 miles, 5.4L V8, new tires, tow pkg., trailer brakes. Motor Biscuit: A bit more expensive than the other listings but it’s super clean and with the CNG at $2.10 a gallon this would be an extremely economic work truck to operate. Plus, you can use carpool lanes. Inside and out it’s clean. 

$9000 Ford Pickup
1979 Ford Pickup | Ford

Dallas/Houston Craigslist


1991 Dodge Ram Reg. Cab: $2,700

2WD, 318ci V8, automatic, 120,000 miles, locking toolbox. Motor Biscuit: Last year for the old body style, it’s a clean truck that needs the AC leak fixed, seat reupholstered, and speedo fixed–easy fixes. So you can be driving a fairly low-mile Dodge pickup that’s almost a classic.  

Fort Worth

200 Nissan Frontier Ex. Cab: $2,400

2WD, 4-cyl., Sony audio, alloy wheels, 230,000 miles, automatic. Motor Biscuit: Clean truck with a lot of miles, but would be worth a look-see based on pics. It has a “rebuilt” title so you need to know where the damage was and see how well it was fixed. Blown airbags or bent frames you should pass.

Mt. Vernon

1995 Chevy ¾ Ton Reg. Cab: $2,500 Firm

2WD, V8, automatic, new tires, 250,000 miles, locking toolbox. Motor Biscuit: The condition of the truck looks good-not perfect but presentable. Chrome wheels and what looks like a lot of tread on tires. Not bad for a full-size Chevy.


1994 Ford Ranger Reg. Cab: $1,500 OBO

2WD, 120,000 miles, 4-cyl., manual trans. Motor Biscuit: The body and bed are in good shape but not perfect. The interior looks clean, overall very presentable. Says it needs a battery but if that’s all that is wrong and you could pick up the truck for $1,200….

Charlotte, NC Craigslist


1996 Chevy S10 Ext. Cab: $2,500

2WD, 4.3L V6, 5-spd. manual trans, 149,000 miles, bed liner.  Motor Biscuit: Post says lots of parts have been replaced. Appears to be very clean with no body or paint damage. 


2001 Dodge Ram Ext. Cab: $3,000

4WD, 187,000 miles, 5.9L V8, automatic, dash recovered suspension lift. Motor Biscuit: Overall clean. One small dent in the back of the bed. Alloy wheels and lots of tire tread. A little more money than others but might be worth it?


2002 Dodge Dakota Club Cab: $2,300

2WD, 155,000 miles, V8, automatic, matching cap, alloy wheels, new tires. Motor Biscuit: Another clean Dodge with no dents and factory paint looks nice. The interior also looks very clean. The matching painted cap is a nice bonus.

Lake Wylie

2004 Dodge Dakota Sport Ext. Cab: $2,900

2WD, V6, automatic, 213,000 miles, alloy wheels, bed liner, very clean interior. Motor Biscuit: NC must be Dodge country. A nice-looking black truck with just a minor dent in the front fender. This is the higher-end “Sport” model.