Wheels Worth Your While: The Ultimate Truck Buying Guide

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Americans are keeping their vehicles longer, with trucks being the longest at an average of 13.6 years. So if you are looking to buy a new truck, you want to find the right one that will last you and your family for many years to come.

There are a few things you need to think about when shopping for your truck. This includes comparing the features of the truck with your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

Follow this truck buying guide, and you are sure to find the right truck for you.

Expect to Pay More 

If you’ve only ever bought cars, prepare for the price jump to trucks to be a bit jarring. Many trucks and SUVs have many of the same features that you will find in luxury cars.

Before you start shopping for a new truck, review your credit score and budget. A good rule of thumb is that your truck payment shouldn’t be more than 15% of your total monthly income.

To lower your monthly payment, you will need to put more down upfront. Can you afford to put 15% of the sale price down?

It is also a good idea to get pre-approved before you start shopping. This applies even if you decide to finance through the dealer.

This will set a solid baseline for the vehicle that you can afford. It will also give you a good idea of what your interest rate will be.

Decide Between Mid or Full Size 

How you plan to use the truck will dictate many of your buying decisions. If you don’t intend to haul anything major, then a mid-size truck will work fine. Look for a Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, or Chevrolet Colorado.

If you plan to haul or tow, then you may need a larger truck. If you plan to tow, then the four-wheel drive will be an excellent feature to have.

Light, Medium, or Heavy Duty 

Once you know that you’ll be towing, you need to calculate the weight of your towed item. Don’t forget to include the weight of the trailer in your calculations.

This will tell you if you need a light, medium, or heavy-duty truck. The old school method for classifying trucks was by their payload. This isn’t really used so much anymore.

These days you will see trucks described as one of three categories. This will be numbers that are tacked onto the end of the truck’s name.

  • 1500, 2500, 3500
  • 150, 250, 350

For example, the Ford F150 has an impressive towing capacity for its size. However, it is a light-duty truck, so it won’t be able to perform the way an F 350 would.

What Engine Do You Want?

When you consider what engine size you want, it can be tempting to think that bigger is better. However, this comes with a big caveat.

You need to balance a big and powerful engine with a fuel economy you can afford. Now trucks have always had a reputation of being gas guzzlers.

This isn’t necessarily the case today. There are many fuel-efficient and alternative energy options available.

You also have the option of buying diesel. These engines tend to perform better when it comes to towing. Though you should check fuel prices in your area as diesel can be expensive in some regions of the country.

Axle Ratio

Another thing you need to think about is the axle ratio. This will directly affect your fuel economy. Use this number as a guide for the performance of the truck.

The higher the number, the better the truck will be at towing, but the worse your fuel economy will be. Don’t depend on the window sticker fuel economy ratings to give you an accurate picture of the performance of the truck. Look at the actual axle ratio.

Consider the Bed and Cab Size 

There are a few basic cab styles you’ll see for trucks, crew, double, regular, and access. The one you choose will depend on how much interior room you need. If you don’t need a backseat, then regular is the way to go.

You then work your way up through access, double, and finally crew. A crew sized cab has four full-sized doors and a generous backseat.

Bed Length 

If a generous interior isn’t essential, then maybe you are more concerned about a large bed. Keep in mind that the size of the cab can affect the length of the bed.

Those that want to cart around items or do heavy work will prefer a larger bed. Truck beds range from 5 to 8 feet long.

No matter what size bed you choose, you’ll want to protect your bed from scratches, wear, and tear. Be sure to view here your options for lining your bed with a protective coating.

Outfit Your Truck With Trim and Options 

Before you get started drooling over trim packages keep in mind that they will add extra to the total cost of the vehicle. You can head online and create your dream truck with all of the bells and whistles.

The problem is, that truck may not exist in real life. So try to be flexible when looking for your truck. Decide which features are a “must” and which are a “nice to have”

Know the Fees and Regulations 

Keep in mind that depending on where you live, choosing a super large truck will cause you to incur extra fees. California considers light-duty vehicles a commercial vehicle. They assess an additional $80 fee.

Follow This Truck Buying Guide

When it comes to buying a truck, you need to think about more than just trying to buy the biggest one possible. By following this truck buying guide, you buy the right sized truck for your needs.

Consider the engine, cab, and bed size. Then think about how many bells and whistles you want. Finally, you’ll want to make sure you can afford the truck that you want.

Check out the auto section of our blog for more great articles like this one.