New Truck or Used?

Current Location: Fort Toulouse Campground, Wetumpka, Alabama

A couple of times, we’ve been asked why we chose a used truck instead of a new (or newer) one. Also, if we were to do it again, would we buy new or used? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Since around 2000, the three major heavy duty pickup truck manufacturers (Ford, Chevy/GMC and Dodge/Ram) have generally maintained competitive tow ratings, horsepower and torque. Sure, one may lead the other two one year, but everyone tends to keep up with the others.

At any given time in the past 15 years or so, each manufacturer has had good and bad years with their engines or transmissions. For Ford, in particular, the 6.0L diesel engine introduced in the middle of the 2003 model year gave Ford a black eye due to multiple issues that affected a good number of trucks that has been hard to shake. The previous engine, the 7.3L diesel, remains a very reliable engine and is still considered by many to have been the best diesel engine Ford has ever offered.

When we were looking at trucks, we decided to forgo the newest models and look at older models that were manufactured prior to the years when additional pollution equipment was starting to be added to the trucks (mid-2000’s). Malcolm has always favored the Ford trucks, so he decided to look for a nice, used 7.3L engine truck. He wanted a dual rear wheel truck for additional capacity and greater stability.

We found our truck about a year and a half before we were planning to buy our trailer, and almost a year before we originally planned on buying a truck. When we saw the condition of our truck as it was sitting on the dealer’s lot, we knew we couldn’t pass it up. The trucks we were looking at were, at a minimum, almost 10 years old by now, so a lower mileage truck that had obviously been treated well was a good thing to find.

Once the truck was purchased, it turned out to be in really good shape, but it became obvious that many components were just getting to the point that they needed to be replaced if for no other reason than due to age. Regardless of mileage, ten years of bouncing down the road and sitting in the southern sun takes its toll on various components. You can see on the “Our Truck” page what all we’ve had to fix or replace on the truck since it was purchased.

Most items were replaced before they had a chance to fail, but many were obviously nearing the end of their service lives. The transmission, in particular, was a totally preventive fix. The original transmission was pulling fine, but anecdotal evidence from other truck owners pulling heavy trailers showed that we were probably going to be living on borrowed time.

We are happy with the way our truck runs, drives and pulls the trailer now and have no regrets with our particular truck choice. However, if we were starting now, knowing what we do since buying the original truck, we believe we would probably buy a low mileage, nearly new truck now, probably something like a 2011 Ford diesel with low miles.

A 2011 model would still have a few years and miles worth of warranty remaining and we wouldn’t have to worry about wear items for two or three more years. Also, a 2011 has dropped about 25% of value to depreciation. A quick check within a couple hundred miles of us shows that nicer, low mile 2011 model Ford diesel dual rear wheel trucks are running in the $45,000 range.

We’ve only put about $32,000 in our truck and it should last a similar amount of time before we would have to put any major maintenance into it again. However, the insured value of our truck is only around $15,000 right now, so all the work we’ve put into it would go down the drain if we were to lose the truck in an accident or theft. The newer truck would maintain its full value for insurance purposes. So, we have a certain level of risk involved from a financial standpoint. Still, we’ve saved about $13,000.

If you are reading this and trying to decide which way to go, you’ll have to determine if you want to go through all the repairs and maintenance to an older truck, or if you feel better having a warranty to cover most everything for the first few years.

A final note on older trucks versus newer ones is that the combination of our truck and trailer actually exceeds the gross combined vehicle rating assigned by the factory to our truck. The engine will pull it fine, the brakes will stop it fine, it rolls down the road comfortably. However, newer trucks can haul our trailer with greater ease and with ratings and power to spare. So, it might be wise to find what trailer you want first before you buy your truck.



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