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

When you are shopping for your next used pickup truck, one dilemma may arise. Should you buy a truck from a private seller or from a dealer? Which option will end with the best deal? How do you make sure you are buying a good truck? Is it smart to buy a pickup truck for sale by owner?

Used pickup trucks for sale on a dealership lot
Pickup trucks for sale on a truck lot | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There isn’t really an easy answer. There is a chance you get a truck with problems when buying from either a dealer or if you buy a pickup truck for sale by owner. On the other hand, you can end up with a great used truck from either scenario as well. In fact, some may argue that a dealership buy is a better decision while others would say the opposite. The decision becomes increasingly difficult the more opinions you receive on the matter.

Buying from a dealership

If you are buying a used pickup truck from a dealership, you’ll be looking at what’s called certified pre-owned trucks. They will give info on service and accidents. Due to the fact that resources on the trucks are limited, they can only tell you what they know. Additionally, you will have the option to finance the purchase with the financing offered by the dealership. However, they only know what’s recorded on paper for the truck.

Buying a used pickup truck from a commercial sales situation can be a great option––especially if you’ll need financing options. However, the truck you are looking at wasn’t the seller’s personal vehicle for any extended amount of time. At least in most situations, you’ll be buying a used pickup truck that came to the lot as a trade-in.

A car lot with used Chevrolet Colorado trucks
Chevrolet Colorado | Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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A used pickup truck from a private seller

Buying a used pickup truck for sale by owner also has its positives and negatives. For one, it can be just as difficult to trust a private seller as it is to trust a commercial salesman. In the end, both sellers what the same thing: your hard earned money. Still, sometimes you can can connect with a private seller and feel trust in terms of their info on the used pickup truck you are thinking about buying.

If you do feel trusting of the private seller, it’s likely they will give you a detailed history of the used pickup truck. This truck has likely been their driver for years and now they are parting with it. Even history that didn’t necessarily go down on paper may pass by word of mouth between the private seller and a prospective buyer.

The 2011 Toyota Tundra , like this one that's parked on a dirt road, is one of the best Used Toyota Tundra model years
2011 Toyota Tundra | Toyota

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Buying a truck for sale by owner

If you feel trusting of a private seller you are dealing with, you’ll want to move forward with several questions. These questions, for instance, should include things like asking to look up the VIN or test driving the used pickup truck. Also, according to AutoTrader, it’s important to ask about how the truck has been used.

A 2009 Ford F-150 on display at an auto show
A 2009 Ford F-150 | Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images

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Are you going to buy a truck for sale by owner without finding out a little bit about the truck’s life with the current owner? No. You’ll want to know if the used pickup truck has been used for strenuous work or just commuter-type daily driving. You’ll want to ask the owner things like “has this truck been used off-road much?” As well as “was it used for commercial purposes, or strictly personal?”

Owners treat their trucks differently. A daily work commute pickup truck might have sat in the driveway on the weekends. Or, it may have been taken out for weekend off-road adventures every Saturday. This truck might have been driven by one person its entire life to date. Or, for instance, it may have been a shared work truck between three people who operate a business as a team.

Honda Ridgeline on display at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto
An older Honda Ridgeline | Seyit Aydogan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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The details matter

Overall, it will come down to your gut feeling and how good of a deal you are getting. It’s often easier to haggle with a private seller. However, it can feel a little more sketchy than walking away with a folder full of paperwork to set in the passenger seat when you drive your freshly-bought certified preowned truck away from a dealership.