2021 Buyer’s Guide: Used Diesel Pickup Trucks
Back in the 1980s, General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler began building the very first of America’s diesel pickup trucks. Cars have evolved through the decades, but diesel pickup trucks still have that unique charm that made them so appealing back in the day.
If you’re interested in buying a used diesel truck but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck. We’ve put together the ultimate buyer’s guide to finding and buying the perfect diesel pickup truck for you.
Which Used Diesel Truck Should I Buy?
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing a used diesel truck. The main things to consider come down to your use case and your price range.
Your Use Case
Why do you want a used diesel truck? Are you a fan of the aesthetic and want to get into collectible used diesel cars? Do you want a heavy-duty truck for hauling things or for a job? Maybe you appreciate the durability and hardiness of diesel trucks and just want to own one for everyday use.
Consider why you want a diesel truck and what you plan on using it for to help narrow down what type of truck you should invest in.
Your Price Range
Diesel trucks can range significantly in price. Many older trucks are relatively affordable, but collectible cars and newer diesel cars are obviously quite pricey. Consider your price range and do your research to see what types of used pickup trucks you can get in your price range.
Generally, you can find younger used pickups for $30,000 to $60,000. Older vehicles, particularly those that are well-functioning from the mid-2000s, can go for $10,000 to $20,000.
Collectible diesel trucks are much harder to pin down but can easily be priced in the $100,000 range if they are particularly well taken care of. However, many classic collectible diesel trucks are only available at auctions.
Popular Diesel Truck Manufacturers
Dodge is still a major player in producing diesel pickup trucks. Their most popular model has been the Dodge Ram, which has seen quite a few different versions through the years. If you want a classic truck that is very dependable, you might want to look into Dodge trucks.
If you’re on a budget, Ford produces some very affordable but high-quality diesel pickup trucks. The F-350s and F-250s are popular choices, but you might also be able to find an old body style pickup from the late 1990s and early 2000s if you do your research. Ford trucks are pretty easy to modify and are generally pretty affordable when you get into used trucks.
The Chevrolet/GMC trucks of the mid 2000’s were some of the best pre-emissions diesel trucks out there. Because many of the pickup models of this time period are pre-emissions (including the 2500HD and 3500HD), they’re very easy to modify for improved performance. If you want a truck to tinker with, get a GM pickup.
What To Look for When Buying a Used Diesel Pickup Truck?
Now that you know what kind of diesel truck you want (or at the very least what you’d like the truck to do), it’s time to consider what you need to look for when browsing used diesel pickup trucks. The main things to consider are reliability, best miles per gallon, proper pricing, and age.
A good diesel truck should be reliable– nobody wants to shell out the cash for a used truck, only for it to be a nightmare when using it for your respective use case.
Luckily, there are some best practices for finding a reliable diesel truck. If you plan on towing heavily on a farm or pulling a trailer on a regular basis, you’ll want to opt for a 2011 or newer vehicle.
GM and Ford are excellent options, thought a 2013 or newer Ram can also be quite reliable.
Best Miles Per Gallon and Overall Mileage
When it comes down to it, miles aren’t everything when it comes to a used diesel truck. In fact, engine hours (such as idle time, highway cruising, and stop-and-go city driving) can tell you much more about the vehicle you’re considering.
One single hour of idle time can equal 25 miles, so a car that has a low mileage on the odometer can easily have the equivalent of 300,000 miles driven on the engine.
Oil change intervals can also be very telling. Finding out this information can be difficult and sometimes not even possible, but if you can, look for newer used diesel trucks that have an engine hour meter to get a more accurate idea of its milage. We’ll dig deeper into this later on in our guide.
Just as well, you’ll want to consider miles per gallon. This ultimately comes down to your use case. If you plan on driving your truck across the country or on a regular basis for work, a very low highway mileage may not be the best.
Unfortunately, older models tend to not have the best miles per gallon. It all comes down to what you plan to use the truck for and whether or not you want to deal with pricey fill-ups.
In general, a good MPG for a used diesel truck is 18-22 or higher for newer models.
Depending on the type of used diesel truck you want, the price range can be pretty broad. Your best bet for finding an appropriately-priced used diesel truck is to do your research on Kelly Blue Book to ensure the vehicle you’re considering isn’t horrendously overpriced for its condition.
Age is another important thing to consider when buying a used truck, particularly engine age. An older classic car may have once boasted a 30-year-old engine but has since been replaced.
When you’re researching, try to find as much information as possible about the engine that’s currently in the car you’re considering and the condition of the engine as well.
If you’re interested in a 1990s or 2000s model, you’ll also need to consider the wear and tear that a 20-30-year-old car can have, such as rust and deteriorated tubing.
What is a Good Mileage to Buy a Used Diesel Truck?
Diesel trucks in general are sold with higher mileage than your average used car. Generally, it’s best to consider trucks that have under 250,000 miles on the engine.
When the Mileage is Too High
As a general rule of thumb, it may not be wise to purchase a used diesel truck with over 500,000 miles on it.
If you want a vehicle to use for quite a few years or you plan on using it for quite a few miles, it may be better to opt for a used truck with under 250,000 miles. Diesel engines are a bit more reliable than gas engines, but a high mileage can still be a concern.
We mentioned earlier that engine hours are more important than what the odometer says, but a lot of the time the odometer is the only point of reference you have.
How to Finance a Used Diesel Pickup Truck
Banks have a tendency to not provide financing for older vehicles, simply due to the fact that they are more likely to break down before the financing process is complete.
You might be hard-pressed to find a bank that will finance an older diesel truck, even if you’ve been pre-approved. Credit unions might provide more luck if you have a credit score about 700, but your best bet would be to work with a used diesel truck dealer that handles its own financing program instead.
However, older cars (with the exception of classic collectible trucks) tend to sit under the $20,000 range. If your prospective used truck is in this price range, it may be better financially for you to just save up the cash and pay upfront.
Another option would be to seek out a personal unsecured loan, though you’ll need to pay it off as quickly as possible– the interest rates and APR on these loans can be substantial.
The Best Places to Buy a Used Diesel Truck
There are a ton of places where you can find a used diesel truck. For the most part, it comes down to three sources– owners, dealers, and auctions.
Owners will sell their vehicles on a number of different websites. The best ones to browse through would be Car Gurus, Carfax, and Carmax. Avoid general boards like Craigslist, as there are scams abound on such sites.
In general, buying a car from an owner can be a good idea if you want to pay a lower price. However, a dealer can provide financing options and even repairs for your car, which an owner cannot. If you still want to purchase a used truck from an owner, always ask for accident reports and a Carfax report.
It may also be wise to bring a mechanic with you (if possible) to ensure that the vehicle is in the condition the owner claims it is.
Dealers can be another great option and there is likely a used diesel truck dealership near you. Keep in mind that dealers may price their vehicles on the higher side.
Auctions are another option and typically auction off collectible used diesel trucks, so if this is the kind of vehicle you’re looking for, your best bet would be to look up used diesel truck auctions in your area.
The process is the same for most auctions. You’ll show up to the lot and take a look at the cars that are being sold and learn more about their care and condition. Then, you’ll compete with other buyers to get the truck for the best price.
What are the Most Common Breakdown Problems for Used Diesel Pickup Trucks?
Any older car may experience common breakdown problems, but used diesel pickup trucks have their own unique set of problems.
Tire problems are one common issue, so it’s important to make sure that you inspect your tires before making a trip, especially a long one. Ensure that inflation is where it should be and that your tread isn’t worn down.
Diesel trucks can also experience brake problems. A damaged air supply for the brakes can cause problems, as can corrosion and leaks in air pressure.
Every time you get your car inspected, make sure that you include regular brake inspections and only use high-quality parts when replacing any part of your brakes.
Shape Up Your New Used Diesel Truck at TLC Auto & Truck Repair Service Center
TLC Auto & Truck Repair Service Center is proud to serve diesel truck owners in the Farmingdale and surrounding areas. Purchasing a diesel truck can involve quite a bit of work in terms of repairs and tune-ups, especially if you’ve chosen an older vehicle.
If you’re having trouble with your new truck in Farmingdale, bring it over to TLC Auto & Truck Repair Service Center and one of our talented mechanics and service specialists will diagnose the problem as quickly as possible.
How was our guide to buying used diesel trucks? Drop us a comment below with your own tried and true tips for finding and buying used diesel trucks.