Buying a Used Truck? Use These Clues to Evaluate Condition

When depreciation is factored in, used trucks can become even more of a bargain, especially for buyers who want one to handle the hauling needs of a family or small business. Without the protection of a manufacturer's warranty, as most new vehicles provide, buyers of used trucks must understand that they will be responsible for handling repair needs that occur after the purchase is complete. 

Because of this risk, used truck buyers will want to thoroughly inspect any truck they are considering and be alert for any clues that could negatively affect their satisfaction level after the sale. If you are planning to purchase a used truck for your family or small business, here are some condition clues you will want to look for.

1. Aftermarket modifications

While less common on larger, commercial models, trucks that were privately owned and driven may have aftermarket modifications that could be concerning to buyers looking for a vehicle that will be dependable for many years of use. Some of the most worrisome modifications include: 

  • oversized tires and wheels that could have created a strain on suspension components 
  • exhaust modifications, such as the removal of catalytic converters or the addition of loud muffler systems
  • engine chips designed to boost performance and make the vehicle capable of faster speeds

Modifications of this type may mean that the used truck was driven frequently in off-road conditions or often pushed beyond its expected performance limits, all of which could put the vehicle at more risk of engine, suspension and drivetrain repair issues than other used trucks of comparable size and age. 

2. Former fleet models

When buying a used truck, it is common to find that many of the available trucks were originally used as part of a fleet of delivery, service, sales, or construction vehicles. While trucks that have been used as fleet vehicles usually offer good maintenance records, buyers should expect that they may have experienced engine and component wear due to more frequent idling than similar trucks that were not used in fleet situations. 

Long periods of idling increases engine temperatures, putting all components at risk of increased wear and heat damage. Potential idling issues should be suspected in vehicles that originate in areas where fleet drivers may have let the truck run for hours to keep the cab warm in cold conditions or cool in very hot ones. Idling is also a potential condition red flag in trucks used for deliveries or repair situations where the truck's motor was likely kept running to supply power to hydraulic equipment and accessories. 

3. Evidence of flood damage

While flood damaged trucks should be discernible by researching the vehicle identification number for past insurance claims, this is not always the case. If the truck was involved in a flood and then later repaired without filing an insurance claim, the VIN check will likely not link the vehicle to a flood. Since many of these vehicles may still be operable, they can be sold to unsuspecting buyers. 

Even if running well at the time of purchase, a used truck that has been flooded in the past is far more likely to experience wiring and electrical problems in the months after the sale due to corrosion. Some of the most common corrosion damage issues include non-working electric window and door locks, ignition systems, lights and instrument panel gauges and electronics, all of which can be difficult to diagnose and expensive to repair. 

Working with a trusted used truck dealer is the best way to ensure that the used truck you ultimately purchase will provide years of dependable service for your family or small business.