Q.What should I look for in a used truck? I'm looking to spend around $2500. I'm getting a pickup to haul stuff and travel to and from work (5 miles one way). I'm mechanically declined. What should I ask the seller? What potential red flags should I look for? I've seen some decent looking pickups in want ads and in front of people's homes, but I'm unsure what I should be looking for.
A. First, check www.kbb.com and www.edmunds.com to make sure you are paying a fair price. For $2500, you should be able to get an older high mileage vehicle with few mechanical problems. You'll want to check all the major systems - brakes, exhaust, suspension, and steering. Wear items like tires can add up. Make sure the entire interior and exterior lights and controls work. Check all the fluids under the hood and make sure they are topped off and the right color. Check for blue or white smoke at the tailpipe when the truck is idling and under load. Check for signs of leakage on the engine and under the car. Check the drive shaft u-joints.
On the road, make sure the truck tracks straight with your hands off the wheel. Make sure the wheel sits straight. Make sure the truck brakes in a straight line under heavy braking with your hands off the wheel. Make sure the engine pulls smoothly to redline, and doesn't make any weird noises. Turn the vehicle at full lock left and right and listen for weird noises. Make sure the transmission shifts smoothly through all gears, and doesn't slip if it is a manual.
If you are not comfortable with inspecting all these things yourself, you really should have a mechanic do it.