Buying a used vehicle can be a great way to save some money, yet to still have a pretty solid car that will serve you for many years to come. That is, only if you choose wisely. Choose poorly, on the other hand, and a used car will end up costing you a lot more than a new one in the long haul. And just like with every class of vehicle, the same rules apply to pickup trucks.
Pickups have never been more popular than right now. What used to be a ubiquitous vehicle, used mostly by the working class all over the country, has turned out to be an all-time-favourite vehicle of many people around the globe. But not only are pickups becoming more and more popular, but they are also becoming more and more refined and reliable.
However, one should still be cautious when it comes to some of the older models. From recurring technical issues to low-quality build in parts, some pickups should simply never be bought used. Luckily, some have proven themselves to be long-lasting and truly well-made. So without further ado, let’s take a look at ten used pickups to buy and then you should avoid.
Every year, car manufacturers in America produce more than 15 million vehicles, with more than half of them being trucks, vans, crossovers or SUVs. This figure shows the number of cars America’s market consumes each year, as well as the incredible number of available used cars. With such a massive number of used cars for sale, it is important to know which cars to buy and which to avoid and why.
Since pickup trucks are one of the most popular vehicle classes in America, almost all major manufacturers offer at least one model. So, every year there are a few million new trucks on our roads, as well as a few million used trucks for sale. Today’s pickup trucks have come a long way from those dusty, dirty and tough trucks of yesterday. Modern technology, materials and designs have made them more user-friendly vehicles.
There are even lifestyle models for people who want to give the appearance of working hard, but never use their trucks as workhorses. With each passing year, manufacturers present new options, body styles, engine choices, versions and trim levels, so finding the right truck can be a difficult task.
Shoppers must consider the what model, engine, cab configuration and trim level to look for, along with the standard things when buying a used vehicle. They include the condition, mileage, wear, warranty, possible recalls, damage, salvage title and more. One way to shorten your list of options is to understand which used trucks to avoid. If you want to make sure to buy the best-used truck possible, keep reading to learn which models in each particular year may cause you trouble.
Pickup trucks are incredibly useful. Whether you’re tailgating, hauling, gardening or camping, pickup trucks are a sure way of getting things done. However, some trucks are more reliable, and thus worth buying, compared to others.
An example is the Cadillac Escalade EXT. With an average reliability score of 4.5 out of a five from JD Power, the Cadillac Escalade EXT is one of the most reliable pickup trucks worth buying. Cars US News notes, “With its midgate, shared with the similar Chevrolet Avalanche, the Escalade EXT easily carries longer cargo, despite its short cargo box.”
Other trucks are less reliable, and therefore you’d be best to stay away from them. An example is the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. It scores an average reliability score of 2.5 out of a five from JD Power. Cars US News states, “While the Explorer Sport Trac ended its four-year run in 2010, it remains an attractive option on the used truck market, despite a lower-than-average overall reliability score.”
Shopping for a pickup truck can be expensive, so you decide to save a few dollars and get a used one. In theory, this should work out fine, as long as you don’t accidentally buy one of the used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs.
How do I know which pickup truck to buy, or, more importantly, not to buy? Well, you’re going to want to go to an auto mechanic to get the final verdict, but what I can do is give you an idea of which trucks are continually plagued with serious issues. If you stay true to this list, you’ll have a lot more success on the secondary market.
Buying a truck can be stressful, so best to avoid a clunker and cause yourself unnecessary torture. That cheap truck may seem like a budget-friendly option, but once you’ve considered the costs of repairs that come with owning an unreliable car, the “true” value of the car will be close to nil. So, keep that in mind and avoid these money pits at all costs.
Although used pickup trucks are among the most popular modes of transportation, rising prices over the years have made it increasingly difficult to find a reliable vehicle for a reasonable price leaving shoppers more and more dependant on the used vehicle industry. While purchasing a vehicle second-hand is undoubtedly more cost-efficient, internal mechanical issues are more prevalent within used pickup trucks and are not so obvious to detect. It’s very common to purchase a used pickup that drops in performance as time passes regardless of its good appearance at the time of purchase. These repairs are often time-consuming and more costly than what the vehicle is worth. While it may be impossible to predict whether or not your pickup will give you issues down the line, extensive research has led us to provide a guide on trucks with a bad track record to make purchasing a second-hand vehicle as easy as possible, so on we go to the list of v6 engine or v8 engines pickup trucks, you should avoid at all cost.
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Truck makers have made great progress over the years. With few exceptions, today’s pickups perform better, are more capable, and are more dependable than models produced in the past.
Despite this progress, however, some trucks still turn out to be more reliable than others. And, reliability is important when it comes to trucks, especially used trucks, which have owners that plan to put them to work and may not have lots of cash left over at the end of the month for repairs.
With this in mind, US News has reviewed JD Power reliability data for 20 2009 to 2017 pickup trucks. On the following slides, we will name models that have turned out to be exceptionally reliable. We will also call out trucks that fall behind the competition.
While our reliability scores are a good starting point for buyers seeking a dependable truck, used vehicles should be checked thoroughly before purchase by a competent technician who has no interest in the outcome of the sale. Even a model noted for exceptional dependability can be troublesome if the previous owner was abusive and skipped important maintenance. It is also a good idea to check a vehicle’s recall history before buying it. You want to make sure that all safety defects have been addressed before venturing out with family members or cargo.
Don’t be an easy mark; these are the used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs.
2010 Dodge Ram 1500
The Dodge Ram has been one of the most popular pickups for a long time—and for a good reason, too.
Normally, the Ram 1500 is a well-equipped and reliable truck that could serve you for many, many years.
Unfortunately, 2010 was a bad year for this vehicle, and if you are shopping for a used Ram, you should definitely avoid the 2010 version. This particular model is equipped with the V6 engine, which is relatively weak and has poor fuel economy. In addition to that, the 2010 Ram 1500’s base equipment isn’t nearly as impressive as one would expect.
One of the most popular light-duty trucks is the Dodge Ram. A superior vehicle, it is just the 2010 model year Ram equipped with the V6 engine you’ll want to avoid when shopping for a used truck. The reason for this claim is due to the base 3.7-litre V6 engine, which is relatively weak with just 215 HP and 235 lb-ft of torque. Besides, it has poor fuel economy figures for a V6 engine. In fact, there are no differences in fuel economy between the V6 and V8, but with the bigger engine, you get more power.
Second, the base equipment is lacking compared to other trucks in its class. This model earned a three-star rating during NHTSA crash testing, which is bad. So, despite the good looks and low price, avoid this model and choose the newer Dodge Ram, which would be a much better purchase.
The Ram 1500 scores an average reliability score of 3.2 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power. Cars US News states, “Previous-generation Rams are noted for their exceptionally comfortable ride and plush cabins. Reliability has varied, though the 2013-model-year Ram stands out with its five out of five scores from JD Power.”
It’s a safe bet that if you buy a used Dodge Ram 1500, you’ll be dealing with transmission issues somewhere down the line. If you’re lucky enough to avoid those, you still have severe oil sludge build-ups, possible engine failure, and cracked dashboards to worry about. These clunkers have been subject to various recalls over the years, and are to be avoided.
The newer models even suffer from a below-average safety rating, as well as a host of electronic issues. Troubles with cruise control and faulty radios are also pretty common with these trucks.
Dodge Ram vehicles are notorious for electrical issues, transmission, and engine failures. Many driver’s reports are having to have their transmission or engine rebuilt completely.
The 2019 Ram pickup truck is completely redesigned and highly ranked in our evaluation of full-size pickups. It is the previous generation, introduced in 2009, however, that forms the basis for this analysis. These previous-generation Rams are noted for their exceptionally comfortable ride and plush cabins. Reliability has varied, though the 2013-model-year Ram stands out with its five out of five scores from JD Power.
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2003 To 2005 Chevrolet Colorado
The Chevrolet Colorado made in the early 2000s will come with a pretty low second-hand price tag but beware, because it might end up costing you a lot more down the road.
Over the years, many problems were recorded with this vehicle, but the 2003-2005 models have been particularly problematic.
The owners have been complaining about numerous things, most often about the engine and rusty frames, as well as about the faulty electrical systems and the air conditioning. Luckily, Chevrolet fixed most of these issues later on, so if you want a Colorado, you should definitely look for some of the newer models.
2004,2005 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon have been recalled three different times for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the exterior brake lights and lack of proper instructions on where to place the child seat. Many owners have also reported issues with the ABS system, where the ABS light is constantly on. Water leaks have also been reported during heavy rain. Additionally, it is common for the AC unit to malfunction.
Later models share many of the same issues as the earlier model Chevy Colorado including the recalls. In addition to those issues, the 2008 model has issues with emissions where it may not pass its emissions test. The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado had a total of six recalls over the years due to problems with the frontal airbags, power steering, brake fluid leaks, seat-frame attachment hooks, and the airbag module. Drivers also report numerous issues with the transmission that leaves the vehicle reluctant to shift.
The current generation of the Chevrolet Colorado compact pickup truck, introduced for the 2015 model year, is better by nearly every measure than the previous-generation Colorado, which ceased production in 2012. When it comes to reliability, however, it is the previous generation’s 2010 and 2011 models, with reliability scores of four out of five that take top honours.
Fuel economy was another selling point for these older Colorados. Not as appealing were front-seat comfort, rear-seat room, and the sluggish performance delivered by the standard four-cylinder engine.
The Chevy Colorado was a popular compact truck that was practical and came with extra options and designs. However, it proved to be of poor quality, and the 2003 to 2005 model years were especially problematic. Buyers reported numerous problems with the air conditioning and electrical systems, as well as the engine and rusty frame.
In later years it had some problems, but from 2003 to 2005 were the worst. It may come with a small price tag, but the Chevrolet Colorado from the early 2000s can cost you big money in repairs. It could never be as dependable as a compact work truck should be. Fortunately, Chevrolet introduced a new model recently and seemed to have fixed up all their truck problems from the past.
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac scores an average reliability score of 2.9 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power. Cars US News states, “Fuel economy was another selling point for these older Colorados. Not as appealing were front-seat comfort, rear-seat room, and the sluggish performance delivered by the standard four-cylinder engine.”
Being one of the smallest trucks on this list of used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs, doesn’t make its problems any smaller. It might seem more efficient, less expensive, and easier to handle on the highway, but that’s only on the surface level.
For one, sometimes the engine just can’t be bothered to start. Put AC control issues in the mix, and a check engine light that never seems to know what the hell it’s doing, and you’ve got a vehicle that will make you want to pull your hair out. Engine stalls have also been widely reported, so it’s best to skip Colorado altogether.
Ford Trucks With 5.4-Liter V8 Engines
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From 2003 to 2010, Ford produced many trucks with a modular 5.4-litre V8 engine that featured an innovative three-valve cylinder head. Despite being relatively powerful, those engines were known to develop serious issues, especially when they crossed the 100,000-mile mark. The main problem is the camshaft phaser, a device that changes the angle of the camshaft to open the valves. When this system fails, the idle becomes rough, and the engine loses power. The first sign of trouble is strange engine noises.
The repairs are costly since they require a new phaser, and possible a new set of camshafts and valves, among other things. Besides the F-Series, Ford put this engine in the Expedition, the Explorer and the Lincoln Navigator. So, if you are looking to buy a used Ford truck, avoid engines with the 5.4-litre V8 and three-valve heads, especially if they have covered a lot of miles.
Between the years 2003 and 2010, Ford put on the market a series of trucks with a 5.4-litre V8 engine, which seemed like a really good idea at first because of the innovative three-valve cylinder head and all the power this engine delivered. Unfortunately, the time has proven that those engines were prone to developing all kinds of issues. Motor-junkie.com reports: “The main problem is the camshaft phaser, a device that changes the angle of the camshaft to open the valves. When this system fails, the idle becomes rough, and the engine loses power.” Since the repairs require a new phase, they can be pretty costly.
2007-2008 Chevrolet Silverado
Over the years, there have been numerous ups and downs for the Chevrolet Silverado. And while some of the model years were exceptionally good, there are also those you should avoid at all costs – and the worst of them seem to be the 2007 and 2008 Silverados. According to Autowise.com, the “…2007 Chevy Silverado is probably the one you’d want to avoid, especially if it has the 5.3L V8. Apart from guzzling fuel, that one also guzzles oil. Owners have reported they had to pour up to a quart or two of oil over every 1,000 miles or so. And that hasn’t changed for 2008 as well.”
The Chevrolet Silverado is one of the main light-duty trucks out there. In fact, Chevy has produced them in the millions so far. But, on the used car market, their reputation is problematic. Not all Silverados are bad, but some model years tend to be troublesome. Pay attention to the early 2000 to 2005 Silverados for steering issues, engine faults, and rusted brake lines. Apparently, rusted brake lines are a common issue with Silverados of that age.
The newer models can develop electronic issues and may have shaky suspensions. However, the biggest potential problem is the small-block 5.3-litre, V8 engine with a big thirst for fuel and oil. Some users have reported it uses a quart of oil every 1,000 miles, which is excessive. Also, there are known issues with the automatic gearbox. So, if you are looking for a Silverado, be sure to check all those things to find a decent pickup truck.
The Silverado has become a notoriously poor truck to buy second hand — for a plethora of reasons. Rusted out brake lines have been a major complaint, costing owners several hundred dollars a pop. Engine issues are also on the list, as well as mysterious clunking noises coming from the engine.
Some of the old models have also suffered from poor engine design, causing the thing to hemorrhage oil and guzzle precious fuel. Shaky and noisy suspension and an automatic transmission that fails to work properly is many of the truck’s more fatal issues.
Millenium model Silverado’s have had many issues over the years, with some years having had up to 20 recalls since production. The 2007 Silverado is a particularly bad model with some drivers reporting having had to add oil every 1,000 miles. Like other models, Chevrolet’s, 2014 and 2015, Silverado continues to experience issues with the AC unit in addition to having transmission failures within automatic models.
2002-2005 And 2007-2008 Chevrolet Avalanche
For many reasons, the Chevrolet Avalanche has branded a troublesome pickup, and you should probably avoid purchasing it if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on maintenance and repairs.
This truck comes with several issues that no car-owner wants to deal with.
Autowise.com reports: “Early models had their problems with the cladding of the paint, but GM has later addressed the issue. Speedometer malfunction was another problem in early Avalanches. People would often get surprised after being pulled over for unintentional speeding. Then came transmission failures in ’04 and ’05 and other various issues.” Excessive engine oil consumption was also a problem in 2007-2008.
With an average reliability score of 4.0 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power, the Chevrolet Avalanche is one of the most reliable pickup trucks worth buying. Cars US News continues, “A clever midgate, which is a folding partition between the cargo box and the passenger cabin, allows for carrying long items after the rear seat is folded.”
Last, on used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs is, of course, another Chevy. There’s a reason for that old chant “Chevy, Chevy, their the best, drive half-way and walk the rest.” This discontinued Avalanche is one to steer clear from when shopping for a cheap, used truck. So, if you’re an easy mark, be warned.
Speedometer issues were pretty widely reported, and it’s kind of important to know how fast you’re going — the cops won’t buy your faulty speedometer excuse anyway. The dashboard is also very crack-prone. Throw in transmission failures and other various issues related to the essential operation. Finally, excessive engine oil consumption in the Chevy Avalanche has permanently branded this truck troublesome.
It seemed like a good idea at the time for Chevy to introduce a truck derived from an SUV, and the Avalanche is exactly that – a Chevy Suburban truck. It has all the comforts of a Suburban SUV with a small truck bed in the back and updated roofline. Although they discontinued the Avalanche, they produced it from 2001 to 2012, so there are a lot of them. This makes the price affordable; however, there are more than a few problems with this model. In fact, most of them are involve assembly quality, like the components Chevy installed.
For example, the speedometer can malfunction, which can get you in trouble with the law. There have been transmission and oil consumption problems with the 5.3-litre V8 engine. There are even reports of cracking dashboards. So, if you want to buy the Avalanche to combine comfort with the advantages of a pickup, you will be disappointed. The payload and towing capacity are unimpressive. And, if you need a working vehicle with space for at least five people, choose a double cab or a crew cab truck.
Drivers consistently report these vehicles having problems with the ABS system, where the light is constantly engaged and repairs have been expensive. The dashboard has also been known to crack in later models in addition to being excessive when it comes to oil consumption, even worse if your engine control module is failing too.
The Chevrolet Avalanche is a Chevrolet Suburban with a short cargo box in place of the Suburban’s large (and enclosed) rear cargo area. A clever midgate, which is a folding partition between the cargo box and the passenger cabin, allows for carrying long items after the rear seat is folded.
For people who want the ultimate in hauling and towing capabilities, the Avalanche falls short. But for people who want a vehicle that can double as a family transporter with pickup capabilities, the Avalanche works nicely. For reliability, the 2011 model tops the group with a five-out-of-five JD Power score. Production ended with the 2013 model year.
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2000-2008 And 2014-2015 GMC Canyon And Sierra
The 2000-2008 and 2014-2015 GMC Canyon and Sierra come with a series of the same issues as the Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado of the same generation. Autowise.com reports, “Older Canyons had electrical and brake issues, while 2015 GMC Canyon, for instance, suffers from the dodgy automatic transmission which downshifts roughly. Older Sierras had their share of issues including both electric and mechanical failures. 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 has uncanny headlight issues, which lead to extremely poor visibility.” Luckily, GMC addressed those issues, later on, so the newer models shouldn’t come with the same old problems. However, think twice before purchasing some of the older Canyons or Sierras.
The GMC Canyon scores an average reliability score of 3.1 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power. Cars US News states, “It is the previous generation’s 2010 and 2011 models, however, that have earned the highest reliability scores from JD Power, garnering a commendable four out of five ratings.”
The GMC Sierra stands out among full-size pickups for its powerful-yet-fuel-efficient V8s, its towing and hauling capabilities, and for the 2009 to 2016 model years’ reliability. The most reliable years have been 2010, 2012, and 2013, which produced trucks that earned a five-out-of-five score from JD Power.
The Sierra underwent a complete redesign for 2014. Still, even following this event, which often produces a dip in quality and reliability, the 2014 through 2016 models earned a four-out-of-five score for reliability. Only last year did this rating fall to a below-average 2.5 out of five scores.
2000, 2002, And 2004-2006 Dodge Dakota
You can’t buy a new Dodge Dakota today, but if you are sure that Dakota is what you want to buy, you should definitely avoid 2000, 2002, and 2004-2006 models. Autowise.com reports: “2000 year models experienced the loss of oil pressure due to oil sludge build-up and brake problems. Brake troubles continued in 2002 as well. Dakota’s brakes would simply lock up at random, requiring calliper, pads and rotor replacement. Fast forward into 2004 and Dakota’s experiencing irregular shifting. Add to that engine’s rough idling and more brake troubles, and you got yourself a clunker.” With all the other solid used trucks on the market, you should probably avoid this one.
With an average reliability score of 3.7 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power, the Dodge Dakota is one of the most reliable pickup trucks worth buying. Cars US News continues, “Its towing and hauling prowess was directly related to the availability of an optional V8 engine, a rarity in the compact pickup truck field.”
Do you see a bit of a pattern here with Dodge, huh? The Dodge Dakota isn’t even made anymore but is still among the used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs. So, if you see one in a used lot, I’d keep looking.
These discontinued beasts suffer from oil pressure problems, oil sludge build-up, and brake problems. The brakes in this thing would lock up at random, costing the driver new callipers, pads, and rotors — if they were fortunate enough to come away with their life.
As you may already know, there are full-size trucks like the Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado, and there are compact size trucks like the Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger. However, during the late ’80s and ’90s, there was also a mid-size class of trucks led by Dodge Dakota. As one of the industry’s leaders, Dodge noticed the buyers of full-size trucks often didn’t need all that power and space. They also observed the buyers of compact size trucks often needed more power and usability. Their solution was a mid-size truck.
They conceived a model with smaller dimensions than a full-size Dodge Ram, but with optional all-wheel drive, as well as an impressive towing capacity and payload. They priced it between the big and small models, so it would appeal to a wider audience. Dodge was right, and in 1987, after they introduced the Dakota, sales went up significantly. It was the first mid-size truck on the market, so it hit the spot because it was affordable.
It was also highly functional and came with a better fuel economy than the bigger models. Up until 2011, the Dakota was in Dodge’s truck lineup until they discontinued it. This means you will find a lot of Dakotas on used car lots, but there are some potential problems with models from the early 2000s.
First, the V6 engine proved to be unreliable and thirsty. Second, it drivers failed to perform regular maintenance, there would be an oil sludge build-up, and eventually, it caused engine failure. Third, the most dangerous problem was how the brakes would lock up at random, which could cause a crash. Although they sold it with replacement brake callipers and rotors, it could be an expensive fix. Despite the cool design and affordability, you may want to skip the 2000 to 2006 Dodge Dakota built.
2004-2005 And 2010 Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 scores an average reliability score of 3.1 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power. Cars US News states, “For buyers seeking an F-150 with the best reliability score, however, it is the previous generation’s 2009 model that stands out, scoring a four out of five in JD Power research. No newer F-150 has been able to equal that reliability level.”
While 2010 was a really bad year for Dodge Ram 1500 because of numerous issues with the engine, Dodge addressed all of those problems, and as a result, we got a pretty impressive 2012 Ram 1500 that is definitely worth buying. According to Kbb.com, “This half-ton pickup is known for being a capable hauler that also has a carlike ride. Whatever engine you get, power delivery is smooth, as is the transmission, and there are powertrain options that can make the Ram a mighty beast.” Other impressive features this vehicle comes with are things such as the cool interior options and some really smart storage solutions.
One of America’s best selling trucks is also on the list of used pickup trucks you should avoid at all costs. Many of these older models are just plagued with expensive issues. Engine problems aren’t the most common of its issues, but they do occur more than owners would like.
Spark plugs that break off inside the head or pop out, loud noises from the motor and all kinds of other engine failures have accompanied F-150. Then, there’s power window failure and much-dreaded transmission failure. Needless to say, there have been dozens of recalls with various models of the F-150 since its inception.
2005-2008 Nissan Frontier
The first thing that a person notices about the older Nissan Frontiers is the really outdated style. However, that is not the biggest issue we have with the 2005-2008 Frontier. Apparently, this vehicle has a long history of transmission issues. According to Autowise.com, “It’s the radiator design flaw that causes the problem. To be more precise, radiator is prone to cracking after which the coolant would find its way into transmission. Needless to say, antifreeze and transmission fluid mixture causes irreversible damage. So, there’s one great mid-size pickup if transmission replacements are your favourite activity.” With that in mind, you should probably choose an option that will cause you less trouble down the road.
With an average reliability score of 3.8 out of a possible 5 points from JD Power, the Nissan Frontier is one of the most reliable pickup trucks worth buying. Cars US News continues, “Some years have proven to be quite reliable for the Frontier, with the 2009 and 2015 models scoring a top five-out-of-five score for reliability from JD Power.”
The Frontier was a popular mid-size truck Nissan available in various versions, like the Toyota Tacoma and Dodge Dakota. In most cases, this was a dependable work truck without any major issues. However, the 2005 to 2008 models they built had big problems. Almost every Frontier Nissan built in that period experienced transmission failure. To make things worse, the transmission itself wasn’t the biggest problem.
The radiator was prone to cracking, and when that happened, usually after 100,000 miles, the coolant found its way into the gearbox, mixing with the ATF oil, creating irreversible damage. Some coolants even chemically dissolved the oil, making the transmission run without any lubrication. This caused overheating of the gearbox and engine break down. So, the Nissan Frontier is an affordable truck, but the first thing you want to check out is the transmission. You will want to be sure they have replaced it and solved any problems with the radiator. If not, run away from this model.