What used trucks to avoid?
Pickup trucks are becoming more and more refined by the day, and they seem to distance themselves from their traditional purposes. In turn, they’re also becoming more and more expensive, which leaves prospective truck shoppers with limited options. That’s probably the main reason why most pickup truck buyers now look at second-hand markets in order to get the best deal for themselves. Shopping for a used pickup, however, has its drawbacks. Most obvious would be the truck’s poor condition and various hidden issues that only a trained eye of a professional mechanic can detect. This is something we can’t help you with. What we can do, on the other hand, is to list pickup trucks that have been known to have issues.
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.
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.
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.
So, here are pickup trucks plagued by reliability issues you might want to steer clear of when shopping for a used specimen.
Any Ford Truck With 5.4L 3V V8 Engine
This goes for F-150 series which were already covered, but due to engine’s malfunction proneness, I felt I had to put special emphasis on it so that fewer people end up with one of these engineering disasters. Ford has had a 5.4L V8 engine between ’97 and ’04, and it was fine. The 2-valve Condor V8 was practically indestructible so if you find a pre-2004 F-150 with it – go for it.
3-valve replacement, on the other hand, was a complete bust. Triton, as they called it, was intended as an improvement but ended up being a giant leap backwards. Spark plugs would randomly break off, as mentioned above, and repair costs would usually end up being in a region between $1,000 and $3,000. Better double that money and do a complete engine swap. Especially because, with Triton, you just know you’ll end up doing the same process all over again – and soon. I swear 5.4L 3-valve V8 has to be the engine with the worst spark plug design in automotive history. Kudos to Ford for that. As for you: if you see a truck with 5.4L 3-valve Ford Triton, run away from that abomination! Run and don’t look back!
Years: 2002-2005, 2007-2008
Avalanche is long gone from this world, but the used specimen is still at large and preying upon the unwary potential buyers. Avalanche wasn’t that bad if you turn a blind eye on its lower towing figures. Clever midgate design which allowed SUV to pickup conversion and vice versa was rather practical. 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. Finally, when it came to excessive engine oil consumption in 2007-2008, Avalanche has irreversibly branded a troublesome truck. Add to that cracking-prone dashboard, and you’ll get what I mean.
Years: 2004-2005, 2008, 2015
Being smaller than a conventional half-ton truck, Chevy Colorado might seem like the best choice for everyone not in need of a towing rig. It’s more efficient, less expensive, and easier to handle. Not everything is hunky-dory with Colorado, however.
First, two model years (2004 and 2005) were plagued by numerous problems including AC heater that only works on high or not working at all, engine start failure and check engine light that’s constantly on, water leaking into the cab, rusted frame, etc. 2008 year model has had its share of similar issues. Still, there’s the addition of fried electrical system and faulty radiator which contributed to the engine’s abnormal heating. Moreover, all of them were subject of 2004-2011 Colorado recall for a defective child seat and faulty brake light that could have lead to a potential crash. Finally, 2015 Chevy Colorado is experiencing numerous transmission problems, including sluggish shifting or even failure to downshift properly. There’s the random engine stall issue too, so you might want to skip 2015 Colorado altogether.
Years: 2000-2008, 2014-2015
There have been many ups and downs for Silverado, and a long span of nine problematic model years doesn’t have to mean all of them are bad. We’ll list the biggest issues, but be extra careful with second-hand Silverados – just in case. Rusted out brake lines in older Silverados are something that most pickup truck enthusiasts already know about. In addition, millennium models have had their share of engine faults as well. Most of 2004 and 2005 Silverado problems are related to steering, and clunking noise coming from that segment is the most common of them.
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. Newer 2014 and 2015 Silverados have all kinds of issues of their own. Poor paint that’s peeling off and A/C that doesn’t work are only some of them. Shaky and noisy suspension and automatic transmission that fails to work properly from day one are more serious issues. The way GM treats transmission misbehaviour as “normal operations”, doesn’t help either.
Years: 2000, 2002, 2004-2006
Revolutionary Dodge Dakota is another truck you won’t be able to get new and will have to rely on a second-hand alternative. The 2000 year models experienced a loss of oil pressure due to oil sludge buildup 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.
Years: 2004-2005, 2010
It might be the best-sold US vehicle, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of issues. 2004 and 2005 model years were the absolute nightmares for Ford F-150 owners. Those were the first two years of the eleventh generation, and Blue Oval still hadn’t figured things out back then. Engine problems don’t necessarily account for most of the complaints, but they’re by far the most serious issues. 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 throughout those first couples of years. Then, there’s the power window failure which also occurs in both 2004 and 2005 models. Finally, there’s the transmission failure as an icing on the cake. There were more than a dozen recalls.
Although Ford has addressed most of these issues in subsequent years, 2010 was also a bust. Believe it or not, the most common issue wasn’t engine-related. No, it was the self-shattering rear window. The rear window would simply off itself at random without any kind of impact. Problems with transmission, however, weren’t gone yet. Hard shifting from second to first, vibrations, and inconsistent shifting deserve to be mentioned.
Ford F-250 and F-350
Years: 2006, 2008, 2011
Both three-quarter-ton F-250 and one-ton F-350 have had most of their problems during the same years. In addition to F-250’s extremely shaky suspension, both pickup trucks have suffered from engine failures in 2006. Both trucks continued experiencing engine troubles in 2008 as well. Furthermore, F-250 also experienced premature braking and unintended acceleration. Finally, 2011 year models returned with death wobble suspension issues which were downright scary at times.
GMC Canyon and Sierra
Years: Same as Chevy Colorado and Silverado
Being Colorado and Silverado’s mechanical twins, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Canyon and Sierra, more or less suffer from the same problems. That’s why we’ll only list the most prominent issues here with a note that you should pay attention as to what plagues the aforementioned Chevy duo. Older Canyons had electrical and brake issues, while the 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. It needs to be noted that GM didn’t address the issue for the 2015 model year.
The jury is still out for the new resurrected Ridgeline, but we already know a lot about the older trucks. 2006 through 2008 were the worst years, with ’06 being particularly bad. While ’07 and ’08 experienced numerous issues like the peeling paint, premature rust, and A/C that doesn’t work, 2006 Honda Ridgeline experienced much more serious issues. Infamous #4 cylinder would often turn up rotten, indicated by puffs of blue smoke coming out of the exhaust. Replacing the spark plug can only get you so far before ultimately you end up being forced to swap the entire engine. And the 3.5L V6 doesn’t come cheap.
Buying a late second-gen Nissan Frontier would be a mistake due to its outdated styling (and everything that goes with it), but buying early second-gen models might end up being an even bigger ordeal. 2005 through 2008 Frontiers are pickup trucks with some of the most consistent transmission issues we’ve ever seen. And it’s not the tranny itself that’s dodgy. It’s the radiator design flaw that causes the problem. To be more precise, the radiator is prone to cracking after which the coolant would find its way into transmission. Antifreeze and transmission fluid mixture cause irreversible damage. So, there’s one great mid-size pickup if transmission replacements are your favourite activity.
Until lately, Nissan Titan has been one of the most outdated full-size pickup trucks in the market – a feat its smaller sibling Frontier still prides itself with. When it was still fresh, between 2004 and 2006, Titan exhibited various reliability issues. Most common of them was the rear axle seals leakage. One thing leads to the other, and if Titan loses enough differential oil, the entire rear end will fail. Of course, Nissan never recalled their faulty pickup trucks, and they let the issue resolve itself naturally.
Years: 2001-2003, 2011, 2013-2014
RAM 1500 and its spiritual predecessor from the Dodge era have had their share of problems (and they still have). If you’re in the market for an older Dodge, you’d be advised to stay away from 2001, 2002 and 2003 models. In fact, you should avoid them like the plague. They were bad back then, and time is one factor that certainly hasn’t helped them out. Transmission failures, severe oil sludge buildups, engine failures, and even cracked dashboards take your pick. 4.7L Magnum V8 seems to be the culprit in most cases. Furthermore, 2002-2003 Dodge Ram 1500 has been subject to a dozen various recalls. The 2001 model has been recalled on no less than 16 different occasions. No need to add anything else there. Finally, the last ever 2011 Dodge Ram features below-par safety ratings and the infamous Chrysler TIPM which wreaks havoc under the hood.
On the other hand, newer RAM 1500 suffers mostly from electronic issues. Troubles with the infotainment system, cruise control failures and radio that stops working aren’t that uncommon. Only diagnosis will cost you $150, and it’s often an entirely new system that needs replacing. Chalk another $2,300 there. Moreover, there are standard issues like various transmission twitches, electrical issues, engine problems, and so on.
RAM 2500 and 3500
Years: 2006-2007, 2012-2015
The main issue for both of Dodge’s heavy-duty Rams in 2006 was the AC/heater. They simply didn’t work properly in many cases. As far as more substantial problems go, it was suspension, steering and transmission. In other words, death wobble, more death wobble and shifting troubles. While the heater and cooler were taken care of for 2007, steering and suspension issues remained.
2012-2015 RAM 2500 models might have been better built, but they still had some issues you might want to check out. Death wobble, high vibrations and uncontrollable steering can be occasional problems, especially on 2012 and 2013 models. RAM 3500 suffers from death wobble and shaky suspension for 2012 and 2013, while 2014 and 2015 one-ton RAM 3500s seem to be better built than their three-quarter ton counterparts.
Years: 2005-2013, 2016
Due to low interest for the mid-size pickup segment on Big Trio’s part, Toyota Tacoma surfaced as a leader in the segment. Although it’s generally a reliable truck, Tacoma’s been the subject of a massive 700,000 vehicles recall for 2005 through 2011 models. Leaf springs at the back we’re prone to corrosion which could have led to the fracturing and coming into impact with other parts of the truck, like the fuel tank.
Older models were generally prone to rust and came with awful quality paint that used to peel like an apple. Then, there are engine problems like sudden acceleration or failure, while numerous Tacoma owners complained about the 2009 year models’ radio that turns off at random. While 2016 Toyota Tacoma is finally all-new and redesigned, that didn’t stop new problems from emerging. People complain about the loud annoying noise coming from the driver’s side door while cruising at highway speeds. Moreover, engine vibrations and slow automatic transmission engagement while cold will have to be addressed.
Tundra has been subjected to a massive 110,000 units recall for 2000 through the 2003 year models, for rust-prone rear cross members. Last model years of the first generation and first model years of the second generation were among the worst, however. Secondary air pump failure, check engine lights, and cold piston slap were only some of the issues. Dull, fading paint (especially on the roof) and radio malfunction are other things. The fact that 2005 through 2008 Toyota Tundra has been subjected to a dozen recalls speaks for itself. If you’re in a market for a loud piston-slapping truck with a 5.7L V8, then the 2007 Tundra is the one for you.
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 dependent 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 worthwhile; it may be impossible to predict whether or not your pickup will give you issues down the line.