Comparing Pickup Trucks: How to Buy a Pickup Truck

March 18, 2013

When it comes time to purchase a pickup truck a lot of thought goes into deciding what kind to buy. Modern pickup trucks have come a long way in just a few short years. What started out as a sparsely appointed workhorse, has become every bit as comfortable as a modern sedan. The market is full of pickups designed to meet a variety of needs. With a little bit of research and thought, the right truck can be chosen for the right job.

Sales on the Rise
Sales of pickup trucks over the last few years have definitely increased. Over the 2009-2010 period, the sale of larger trucks has risen by more than 10 percent in the U.S. This is the biggest increase for quite some time. The purchase of trucks by owners who already have one in their possession has risen as well, so demand is certainly still there for pickup trucks.

What Does the Future Hold?
In the next few years it is expected that the latest trends for sales will continue to increase. Large trucks are becoming more popular than others in the market at the moment, so it might be worth considering purchasing one of these if this is what you need.

Full Size vs. Midsize
Once the decision to buy a truck has been made, the next thing to decide is whether to purchase a full or mid size truck. The biggest factor in the decision making process is, "what is the truck going to be used for?" If the only job the truck is to perform is the occasional trip to the hardware store, then a midsize might be better suited for the job. There are advantages the midsize has over a full size. They are easier to drive because they are smaller, and they get better mileage than their full size counter parts. If the truck is going to do any major hauling or towing, then get a full size. They usually have larger motors, stronger brakes and tougher frames which make them better suited for larger jobs.

Regular vs. Extended Cabs
The question of whether to buy an extended cab or not, really depends on the size of your family. If the truck is going to be your only mode of transportation and you have more than one child, then an extended cab will fit your needs better. If the chances of more than 3 people riding in the truck, at one time, are slim, then the regular cab would be the better choice. This is an important decision, because the price difference between the two cab styles can be significant.

2-Wheel or 4-Wheel Drive
Everyone would like to have the added security of 4-wheel drive, but then they never actually use it. Trucks equipped with 4-wheel drive are more expensive to purchase, more expensive to fix, get lower mileage, and have higher insurance premiums. If you live in an urban or suburban environment, where the chance of ever going off road is low, then a 2-wheel drive might be a better purchase. If you work in construction, farming, live in a snowy climate or find yourself driving off the paved road frequently, then a 4-wheel drive is needed. In the long, run a 2-wheel drive truck will cost less for those that don't need the extra capabilities.

Diesel vs. Gas
The decision to purchase a diesel truck relies on a few considerations. Is the truck going to be used for heavy towing? Are there going to be a lot of miles driven in a short amount of time? Does the truck need to be a 1-ton or larger to perform the job required of it? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the diesel makes the better choice. Diesel trucks are built much heavier than their gas powered counterparts, allowing them to perform the job better. The frames are stronger, the engine and transmissions are stronger, and they usually come equipped with a towing package (which normally includes extra springs, wiring for trailer brakes, and onboard trailer brake controls). The engine design allows them to travel more miles between engine overhauls, than their gas counterparts.

The biggest disadvantage is the price. The price of a diesel truck can be as much as $10,000 over that of the unleaded version. Diesel engines are more efficient and use less fuel over the long run, so that extra cost can be offset if the truck is used for long distance driving or heavy work. That is why a diesel is best reserved for those who need the extra capabilities.

Car Insurance
Many buyers forget that car insurance costs can vary significantly from truck to truck. If one truck has side airbags and another does not, you may find the insurance on the one without side air bags to be much more expensive than the other truck. Before you finalize a purchase, be sure to get insurance quotes on every vehicle you are considering.

Cost of Maintenance
Like car insurance, the cost of maintenance can vary from one truck to the next. When you are at dealerships test driving vehicles, be sure to ask about the approximate maintenance costs at each specified interval. Speak to a service adviser who works with the brand of truck you are considering. They should be able to highlight any expensive maintenance services as well as the cost of a regularly scheduled oil change. A truck with higher maintenance costs will have a higher price per mile to keep on the road, and unexpectedly high maintenance costs can offset any advantage that a low initial selling price offers.

How to Buy a Pickup Truck Online

Buying a pickup truck online can get you a great price on a truck. Whether you are in the market for a new or used pickup truck, the tools available via the Internet can help you complete the research necessary to get a great deal on your next purchase. You can use a service like CarsDirect to get competitive quotes and pricing information on pickup trucks. If you are considering a Ford F150, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram or any other model, this will help you navigate the online purchase process.

Define Your Needs
Even if you plan to find your next pickup truck online, it can be helpful to visit a dealership to look at vehicles and complete test drives. Be sure to set the right expectation for the salesperson by letting them know you are just completing some preliminary research but you will request a quote via email once you decide what vehicle is best for you. This will allow you to test drive vehicles and consider options in a low-pressure environment. Completing more research after visiting the dealership will also let you find if there are any online sales you can take advantage of.

Get Fair Market Pricing Information
After you determine what type of truck will best fit your needs, it is time to complete research on the fair market pricing. If you are shopping for a new vehicle, use a site like CarsDirect to determine the invoice prices of trucks under consideration. The invoice price is representative of what the dealership paid for the vehicle before receiving any additional monies from the manufacturer. A dealership may own a new truck for less than the invoice price, but it may be difficult to negotiate a price lower than invoice. If you are shopping for a used truck, you want to negotiate a price close to the wholesale or trade-in value of the truck. You can find this information online by using a service like Kelley Blue Book.

Request Quotes
Once you have determined the truck you want and the price you will pay, it is time to request quotes from dealerships. You can request quotes via CarsDirect, or contact dealerships via email. If you request quotes via CarsDirect, dealerships will respond with pre-tax quotes that mention what you can buy the car for. If you contact a dealership via email, you can make a specific offer and wait for the dealership's response.

Compare Quotes and Choose a Vehicle
As your price quotes begin to filter in, you may find that some are more competitive than others. In any case, make sure to follow-up via phone to confirm that the dealership is pricing the vehicle as aggressively as possible. If one quote is much lower than the others, contact the dealership and make sure that they are not including employee pricing or other discounts for which you may or may not qualify. After choosing the quote for the right vehicle at the right price, contact the dealership and let them know you want to move forward. Your final step will be to visit the dealership and take delivery.

How to Stay Updated on Pickup Truck Sales

Using the variety of resources available via the Internet, it is easy to stay updated with pickup truck sales on new and used trucks. Depending on current sales volume and the level of inventory at dealerships, pickup truck sales may be instituted any time there is a surplus of inventory.

Truck Month
All major manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Dodge and Toyota, have dedicated truck month sales focused on selling a large volume of trucks. These sales can occur at different times of the year, but truck month sales are commonly advertised in the second half of the year. During truck month, you can expect large cash rebates in addition to the near-invoice pricing you can negotiate using the tools available at CarsDirect. Most manufacturers will also let you waive the large rebate in exchange for low or no-interest financing. Remember that the large rebates offered during truck month sales come from the manufacturer. This means you can negotiate a great, low selling price on the truck before the rebate is applied. Always aim for a selling price near invoice before you include the additional discounts afforded by manufacturer rebates.

Model Year Changeover
When a new model year is being ushered in, most dealerships still have a large selection of trucks from the previous model year. In turn, you can expect manufacturer and dealership discounts whenever a new model year is being introduced. During these model year changeover sales, you can expect the largest cash rebates of the year, as dealerships must move the year-old products before they lose too much value. When the model year change is in full swing, you may be able to find manufacturers who offer low or no-interest financing in addition to the rebates. This gives you the flexibility to choose whether you want a lower balance financed or less interest paid. Be sure to choose the option that works best for your situation. In any case, the absolute best values come at the end of a model year, but remember that these vehicles are a year old and have already depreciated to some extent.

Winter Sales
The first few months of the year are very slow at most dealerships. While January incentives on trucks are generally lower than average, as manufacturers try to get a feel for the new year's market conditions, February and March can bring some large discounts, particularly if sales are falling behind the manufacturer's goal. These winter sales are often the first opportunity to receive large rebates or special interest rates on pickup trucks from the new model year. Be sure to keep in touch with dealerships via CarsDirect, or contact Internet sales departments directly to be kept in the know of these special sales.

Where to Find Pickup Truck Reviews

There are thousands of pickup trucks on the market. From the new $50,000+ Ford F-250 Super Duty to the 20-year-old used Chevrolet pickup, there is something out there for everyone. Making a decision can be very stressful because of this. Fortunately, buyers have many weapons at their disposal, such as magazines and the Internet. However, be wary of unsubstantiated or unreliable sources.

There are many great print sources out there. Pick up a Truck Trend magazine at your local store if you're looking for a new truck. If you're looking for a used pickup, you definitely want to purchase a Consumer Reports issue on automobiles. This is a larger issue that gives you all sorts of information on cars, such as reliability, value, estimated used car prices and much more. In addition, you can get much of the same information off their website. Other sites such as,, and Truck Trend can be good sources, too. Just make sure to click on where it says "Used Cars".

Checking just one of these sources is never a good idea. You always want to get different opinions. For example, two leading car magazines gave a "Truck of the Year" award to two different trucks. Use their ratings and reviews to form your own opinion.

3 Common Pickup Truck Sale Scams

Whether you are in the market for a new or used pickup truck, there are some common scams you should avoid. Many sellers are eager to offer their trucks at bargain basement prices. If you get a very low offer, it is worth it to be careful and think twice before completing a transaction. If you make a poor decision and purchase a truck with past damage or a bad title history, you could lose money.

Bad Title History
Each year, thousands of trucks are involved in serious accidents, ultimately being declared total losses by insurance companies. When a vehicle is declared a total loss, it is issued a salvage title and it may be sold at an auction or dealer sale to an automotive rebuilder. Although vehicles with salvage and junk titles can be thousands of dollars cheaper than trucks with clean titles, it is not worth it to take on the risk of a bad title history. Not only can it be difficult to finance a vehicle with a bad title history, it can also be difficult to get full coverage insurance. It is tough to recommend a salvage vehicle unless you have a reputable mechanic inspect the vehicle and you plan to keep it for many years.

Flood Damage
If a vehicle for sale is offered out of the South, it is important to check if it has flood damage. Not all severe flood damage is reported to insurance companies. Some tell-tale signs of flood damage on a truck include rust in the bed, a smell on the inside of the vehicle, and carpet that seems to have been replaced. The flood may have damaged the engine as well, and it is also possible that water has damaged the engine electronics. If a deal sounds good to be true or you notice any of these symptoms, the vehicle may have flood damage.

Manufacturer Buyback
Dealerships can get great deals by buying trucks that have been repurchased by the manufacturer through the use of lemon laws. While these vehicles may be in excellent condition and have clean titles, a manufacturer buyback vehicle likely has a spotted history. While lemon law varies by state, the vehicle has had an ongoing issue with a particular system or part on the vehicle. If you see a newer truck sold as-is without a warranty, when it would otherwise be covered, you may be dealing with a manufacturer buyback. Be sure to ask the dealership about this and, if needed, find a more reliable dealer.

Pickup trucks occupy three of the top 10 selling spots yearly, with the F-series, from Ford, being the highest selling vehicle year after year. With so many different options available it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one to buy. By taking the time to look at the projected use of the truck and the area it will be used in, will help to simplify the process considerably. For more information on what trucks are available, or help on how to purchase a used car, please check here on CarsDirect.

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