If two or more people in your family drive, there’s a good chance that you’ve had to share your vehicle – or borrow someone else’s – at least once because of a scheduling conflict. In the past, most households could survive with one car simply because there weren’t that many places to go.
But now, in an era when it’s common for both parents to work 9-5, and with teenagers needing a mode of transportation to get to and from school and a part-time job, there’s never been a greater need for a second vehicle.
While there are plenty of cheap, reliable used cars on the market to suit a variety of needs, the most practical second vehicle that won’t break the bank is an older model pickup truck.
Sure, a fifth generation Toyota Camry or a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee – both of which can usually be found for under $5,000 – would be a solid choice for a spare car. But neither vehicle has the space, comfort and functionality that only a pickup can provide.
The Versatility and Durability
Whether you need to haul up to six passengers one day – assuming it’s an extended cab model – or a dining room set the next, there’s no more versatile vehicle than a truck.
Even if you’re a pro at maximizing cargo space in a hatchback or minivan and somehow managed to squeeze box after box in the trunk with the rear seat folded down, there will undoubtedly be a few instances in life when you’re going to need a truck.
And, when the time comes, wouldn’t it be better to have a pickup of your own instead of scrambling last minute to find one?
But perhaps the best reason to have an older truck as a second vehicle is the fact that they were built to last, can withstand just about any punishment thrown their way and generally have a low cost of ownership.
This durability factor, coupled with inexpensive replacement parts, is the reason so many trucks from the 1990s and early 2000s are still on the road today.
What to Look for
While there are certain things that you should always inspect before dropping cash on a used vehicle, no matter the make or model, trucks are a little more complicated.
Besides vetting the body, engine and transmission, you’ll want check for any wear that seems out of the ordinary. For example, a truck that towed a trailer most of its life will have more wear and tear than one that was just a grocery getter.
Or a pickup that was primarily used off-road will have increased wear on the chassis and suspension.
Obviously, the best way to find out if a potential truck was a work-horse is to ask the seller. However, it won’t always be that easy since some older ones could have had three, four or even five owners.
If this is the case, check for evidence of towing – such as worn hitch, bent rear license plate or wiring for a trailer’s brake lights – and ensure that its underside isn’t bent from prolonged off-road use.
The Best Models
Though, after reading the last part, you may think that all used trucks are lemons that have been beat to death, this isn’t always the case. In fact, if you thoroughly check a truck before purchasing it, or know where to look, it’s possible to end up with a reliable pickup at a reasonable price.
However, with that being said, some models simply hold their value more and last longer than others. The following list outlines three of the best used trucks available on the market, in no particular order.
1988-98 Chevrolet C/K
Chevrolet C/K pickups are the quintessential American truck. They remained relatively unchanged during their 10-year production run and have a reputation as being a solid choice for an inexpensive pickup because of sheer availability.
And the best part? An extended cab fourth generation Chevy truck with less than 100,000 miles can be found on Craigslist for under $3,500.
1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma
Though compact trucks may not boost the towing or hauling prowess of their half-ton counterparts, they get better gas mileage. And sometimes all you need is an economy hauler.
However, finding a decent-shape Tacoma for under $5,000 may be difficult if you’re not willing to accept high mileage.
1994-2001 Dodge Ram
If you want something with a little more power for towing purposes, but don’t want to spend a fortune, look no further than a second generation Ram with an optional Cummins diesel that produces 235 horsepower.
While these trucks are known to have rust form around the rear wheel wells and on the tailgate, they can be had for cheap if you’re willing to do a little bodywork.
For more truck-related tips, or to have an older pickup you purchased inspected so you know it’s road ready, give Andy’s Auto a call at 412-478-9304 to schedule an appointment.