Truck Buying Tips
What enables people to get a great view of the road ahead? What machine do many people get to know as if it were almost a member of the family? What enables drivers to pull a boat, pound through deep snow or just plain venture where other vehicles won't? Of course, what else but a truck.
More and more people are realizing that the cost of new trucks can really throw a budget into reverse. In many instances, today's new truck prices compare to the cost of a new home just a generation ago. What is the driver who needs to go off-road to do? Well, a two to four-year old used truck can be purchased at a savings of 25 to 50 percent as compared to its cost when new. Additionally, the numbers of well-built, dependable trucks have increased during the past decade.
Variety is the spice of life. Certainly, the number of two and four-wheel drive vehicles has increased during the last five years. Since the bottom line for buying a used truck is to save money, realize that information and knowledge translate into purchasing power. Therefore, it is worthwhile to gather information.
In order to get the best truck for the driving at hand, consider the following questions:
Size/Market Segment: Most trucks fall into either the compact or full-size category, although there are a few models designated as midsize.
Price: Base model compact trucks are some of the cheapest vehicles on the market, but loaded premium models can run into the low $30Ks. Full-size trucks range from the low-$20Ks to the low $50Ks.
Engine/Fuel Economy: Compact trucks offer four-, five- and six-cylinder engines that deliver respectable mileage. Full-size trucks offer six-cylinder engines on base models, but most trucks use V8 or even V10 engines that return marginal fuel economy numbers at best. Most full-size trucks also offer diesel engines that provide plenty of towing power and better mileage.
Safety: Most trucks offer basic safety equipment like front airbags and seatbelts for all passengers. Some newer full-size trucks offer more advanced systems like side curtain airbags and stability control.
Drivetrain: Almost all trucks offer both manual and automatic transmissions, as well as two- and four-wheel drive. Many vehicles also offer traction-aiding devices like limited-slip/locking differentials and electronic traction control.
Passenger Capacity/Interior Space: There are three basic body styles for trucks: regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. Regular cabs have two doors and seat between two and three comfortably. Compact extended cabs add mostly extra storage space, while full-size versions can seat three additional passengers. Rear clamshell doors make it easier to get people and cargo in and out of the back of extended cabs. Crew cabs have four full-size doors and seat between five and six passengers comfortably.
Versatility of Interior Seating: Most trucks with extended or crew cabs offer the ability to either fold the entire rear seat up or at least one half or the other. Some newer full-size trucks also allow you to fold the front-passenger seat flat to provide a handy table like surface.
Towing Ability: Compact trucks can tow between 3,000 and 7,000 pounds, depending on how they're equipped. Full-size trucks can tow as much as 12,000 pounds with certain engines and suspension configurations, although most range between 8,000- and 10,000-pound capacities.
Bed Capacity and Conveniences: Most compact truck beds are 6 1/2 feet long, although a few models offer longer beds. Almost all full-size trucks offer long and short beds that range between 6 1/2 and 8 feet long depending on the brand and/or cab configuration. A few models offer a spray-in bed liner, a cargo light and adjustable tie-downs as factory options. Built-in storage compartments are another convenience to keep an eye out for as you're shopping.
Operating Costs: Compact trucks are relatively fuel-efficient and cheaper to insure because of their low buy-in cost. As you add size and cylinders, expect a corresponding increase in fuel and insurance costs. Adding four-wheel drive to any truck will add to annual operating costs as well.
Find the Right Truck for Your Towing Needs
There is a group of pickup truck owners that can be classified as the "Overbuyers." You may have observed them at your local boat launch: They're the ones towing a 16-foot aluminum fishing boat behind a Ford F-250 turbo-diesel. For whatever reason, they have more truck than they really need.
Some folks do need the brute strength afforded by today's heavy-duty full-size pickup trucks, but there's also a set of buyers who don't require construction-site capabilities. To help you find a truck that will meet your towing needs, we've compiled the guide below. It's important to understand that towing capabilities depend on numerous variables, including driveline, cargo-bed configuration, and engine and transmission choice, among others. So once you have a model in mind, be sure to confirm it will be able to safely tow what you want it to.
What Do You Have to Tow?
This list features examples of things regularly towed by pickup trucks and lists a handful of models fit for pulling them. All pickup trucks are from the 2006 model year, and it is assumed that the ones mentioned are properly equipped to tow the load in question.
Kawasaki Jet Ski 900 STX and trailer
Coachmen Clipper 106 12-foot-8-inch popup camper
U-Haul 6x12-foot trailer
Coachmen Capri 270QBS 28-foot camper
Chaparral Signature 240 26-foot boat and trailer
Exiss XT300E Limited three-horse gooseneck trailer
Top 8 Crew Cab Pickup Trucks
Crew cab trucks are gaining in popularity every year and automakers have revved up production to accommodate the increasing number of buyers for this versatile body style. Here's a selection of 4WD crew cab trucks in varying price ranges and from different manufacturers. There should be one to suit your tastes and needs.
1) Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab Laramie 4WD: Dodge's version of a crew cab features a powerful V8 Hemi engine and excellent towing abilities. The interior is spacious and the Laramie package adds more comforts to an already well-appointed cab, including power pedal adjustment, available heated front seats, and power driver's seat and zone A/C on some models. The Laramie is available in 2WD or 4WD configurations. The estimated fuel mileage isn't for everyone--11 mpg city/16 mpg highway.
2) Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat 4WD Styleside : The full-size F-150 is flexible--its many cab and bed options allow you to build a truck that suits nearly every style and need. Interiors are nicely done, but you might not find them as roomy as other crew cab models. If towing and hauling are important, the F-150's best in class abilities can probably handle the task. A good ride and excellent handling make the F-150 a truck you should explore.
3) Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5 4WD: The four-door Double Cab Tundra is new for 2004. It isn't quite as large of a truck as other full-size versions, and it's interior isn't as spacious or comfortable, but the slightly smaller, more maneuverable size makes it a good choice for many. Pass on the Tundra if you have heavy-duty hauling and towing needs.
4) Toyota Tacoma Double Cab V6 4WD: If you need a compact crew cab truck and aren't interested in tacking on a ton of options, take a look at the Tacoma Double Cabs. Toyota always gets high marks for reliability and longevity, so put this on your list of compacts to explore.
5) Nissan Frontier Crew Cab: The revamped Nissan Frontier Crew Cab is powered by a 4.0-liter DOHC, 24-valve V6 engine with a best in class 265 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque. The new truck offers more power, more size, more off-road capabilities, more towing and cargo capacity, and more comfort than its predecessor. It's available in 2WD and 4WD configurations.
6) Chevy Colorado Crew Cab Z71 LS 4WD: All new for 2004, Chevy's compact Colorado truck replaces the S-10 line. Crew cabs are only available with a 5-foot bed, so scratch this one if you need a longer cargo area. The interior is basic, but functional. Heated seats are available and so is OnStar and XM Satellite Radio. The Colorado is the first compact to offer roof-mounted side curtain airbags. Colorado articles and photos are among the most popular destinations on About Trucks/SUVs. Take a close look at its many options.
7) Dodge Dakota Quad Cab Pickup Truck: The new Dakota offers a best-in-class towing capability of 7,000+ pounds, and its optional V8 engine gives it more power overall than prior models. Dodge made the new Dakota's interior more roomy and comfortable, and its air bag system now features an occupant-sensing feature for the front passenger-side. Other safety features available are side curtain airbags, front and rear. Heated cloth seats are available, too.
8) Nissan Titan Crew Cab: A powerful V8 and a spacious, well-designed interior are the first two reasons to consider a Titan Crew Cab. This full-size truck offers plenty of useful features for you and your passengers. Side airbags and stability control are two safety options you might want to consider.