The world of used car sales can be tricky to navigate.

On the one hand, buying from a private seller could save you some cash. However, you can never be 100 percent sure you’re buying from an honest individual.

On the other hand, while buying from a dealer could be more expensive, you’re also paying for credibility and security. While there are some used car salesmen out there who have given the practice a bad name, most dealerships are upfront and honest.

Regardless, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to buy a used truck. Keep reading for a quick guide on how to buy a used truck the right way.

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

First, it’s always a good idea to know how much money you’re working with. Whether you’re buying a TV, a house, or a used truck, you need to know a general price range. The last thing you want to do is to find the perfect truck only to realize you can’t afford it.

We recommend getting pre-approved for a used car loan. This will give you an accurate estimate of how much you can afford to spend on a truck. However, you don’t have to accept the loan or even use that lender.

2. Figure Out Your Budget

Next, when you go to buy a used truck, realize that you don’t have to max out your credit. In fact, sometimes it’s better not to.

For example, if you get approved for a $35,000 vehicle loan, it doesn’t mean you have to spend that much. It may be better to opt for a less expensive truck to give yourself some wiggle room in your monthly expenses.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck by pushing for the most expensive options their credit allows. Take time to examine your finances and figure out how much you can comfortably pay per month on a vehicle loan.

3. Determine Your Truck Requirements

When you buy a used truck, one of the most important factors to consider is what you’ll be using the truck for.

Will it be a work truck? Will you take it off-roading? Do you want room for maximum passengers?

Trucks come in all different sizes and capabilities. For example, if you plan on using your truck for hauling trailers, boats, or RVs, make sure you find one with adequate towing capacity. If it’s going to be used as a family truck, you’ll want a crew cab.

4. Know Why the Truck is Being Sold

If you plan to buy a used truck from a private seller, be wary about deals that seem too good to be true. Too often, people are roped into a “deal of a lifetime” by dishonest people selling a truck with serious issues.

Make sure you know why the truck is being sold. A common buyer’s trick is to offer the private seller $20 to tell you “anything else” wrong with the truck, which they can keep whether you end up buying it or not. It may cost you $20 out of your pocket but could save you thousands in the long run.

5. Get a Vehicle History Report

No matter what source you choose to buy a used truck, make sure it comes with a vehicle history report. These documents should tell you all you need to know about the truck’s past.

A vehicle history report will tell you how many owners the truck has had and if it’s ever been a rental or lease vehicle. It will also note if the truck has ever had any extensive work done or been in any major accidents, as well as any recall issues by the manufacturer. Finally, the report may even give you a detailed account of the truck’s maintenance history.

6. Have the Truck Checked Over by a Mechanic

If you can, it’s always wise to take a used vehicle to a mechanic for a once-over before you buy it. The majority of the time, a dealership will have ensured the vehicle is mechanically sound, but these tips are all about ensuring you get the best truck possible.

However, if buying from a private seller, taking the truck to a mechanic is a must. If the private seller refuses, they may be trying to hide something.

7. Test Drive the Truck

Additionally, when you go to buy a used truck, test driving the vehicle is a must. Aside from determining if the truck has any problems, you have to know if you enjoy driving the vehicle.

On the test drive, pay attention to the aspects of driving that are important to you. Power, speed, comfort, road noise, maneuverability, turning radius, etc. However, this is also a good time to make sure all of the interior functions are working. Check the following functions:

  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Entertainment controls
  • Instrument panel (speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge, etc.)
  • Seat controls
  • Power windows
  • Turn signals
  • Safety features (ABS control, assisted parking, lane assist, etc.)

8. Ask About Warranties

If you’re looking to buy a used truck from a dealership, you may have the option to purchase a warranty on the vehicle. While typical used vehicles don’t come with them, a certified preowned truck will. It will be a little more expensive than buying a tradition used car, but CPOs come with various other benefits as well.

9. Shop Around for the Best Financing Options

Finally, assuming you’re not paying for the truck in cash, it’s a good idea to take a look at all of your financing options before signing any contracts. As we stated above, you don’t have to go with the lender with whom you were preapproved.

In some cases, dealership financing can give you the most attractive deals. However, it largely comes down to your credit score. Your credit will determine your interest rate and how much you can get financed for.

Looking to Buy a Used Truck?

If you’re going to buy a used truck, you’ll need to have your finances in order and come up with a plan. Pay attention to the tips above and be sure to take your time to make the best decision. Finally, don’t forget to check out some of our other articles before you go!