Buying a pickup
Consider your needs before buying. Some “small” pickups (e.g. Colorado, Tacoma) have high capacities, but are easier to park, load, and drive than bigger ones. Sometimes the full sized trucks are actually cheaper or more fuel-efficient.
Trucks have a tremendous number of options which can bewilder buyers and, sometimes, salesmen. You can transform a comfortable vehicle that fits your needs into a bone-jarring fuel-hog; likewise, you can accidentally downrate a capable truck too far. Test pickups that are set up the way you will order them, because the capacity and gearing greatly affect their feel.
- Diesels are good for gas mileage and longevity; their low-end torque is helpful for towing and hill climbing. When you really rack up the miles, the diesel pays for itself; some also have very long maintenance intervals. The up-front cost can be high but the resale value tends to also be high.
- A low axle ratio (e.g. 3:1) increases gas mileage, but cuts towing capacity. One expert said that the same truck (diesel, automatic) would get over 20 mpg at 65 mph with a 3.08 ratio, but only 15 mpg with a 4.10 ratio; lowering the speed to 55 mph could raise mileage by 15%. Eight and ten speed automatics make the axle ratio much less important than it used to be.
- If you can avoid getting a “heavy duty” pickup (e.g. 2500 or 3500), it’s usually worthwhile to stick with the “light duty” version, which usually has a far more comfortable ride and (unless you get a diesel) better mileage. In Ram’s case, the 2500 and 3500 have different suspensions, so that the 2500 is much more comfortable than the 3500.
- Four wheel drive adds weight that takes a toll on fuel, braking, and acceleration, and adds more parts that can wear out.
- Larger cabs can be more comfortable but harder to park and turn, a bit slower, and less efficient due to the added weight.
Many truck buyers reflexively buy out of brand loyalty. Your needs are your needs; buy the truck that fits you.
Reviews of used pickups, from when they were new
- Chevy S-10 (2001)
- Chevrolet Avalanche (2002-04) - work truck or an upscale SUV?
- Chevrolet Colorado (2004) - sports car meets work truck
- Chevrolet Silverado (2004) - good handling and amenities from a capable pickup
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (2010) — smooth, strong pickup truck
- Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid — true hybrid, big-truck exterior, big-car interior
- Chevrolet SSR (2005) - Corvette-powered pickup convertible, boatloads of fun
- Dodge Dakota (2008) - little 302 hp V8 boosts the former midsize
- Dodge Dakota (2006) - full-sized capacity with a more liveable outer size and great V8 rumble
- Dodge Dakota (2001)
- Dodge Power Wagon (2005) - Perhaps the most capable off-road pickup ever made
- Dodge Ram 1500 (2004) - Hemi power and big capacity (see also Ram 1500 (2002)
- Dodge Ram 1500 Express (2011) — inexpensive Hemi action
- Dodge Ram Mega Cab (2006) - biggest pickup cab by a full foot!
- Dodge Ram SRT10 (2006) - America’s fastest pickup keeps its utility and comfort
- Ram 1500 (2009) - speed, cornering, luxury, and utility
- Ram 2500 diesel pickup — house-towing torque in luxury form
- GMC Sierra Heavy Duty (2003)
- Nissan Frontier (2002)
- Toyota Tacoma (2005) - fast muscle truck
- Toyota Tundra (2008) - king of the hill for one year