Looking to buy a used pickup truck but not sure about what mileage range to look for? After all, you want a truck that will work well, won’t need constant (expensive!) fixing and be cheap. The number of miles on the odometer can be a good reflection of the state of the truck – at least to some extent – so which number should you be looking for there?
As a rule of thumb – the lower the mileage, the better. For gas engines, look for a truck with under 100,000 miles. For diesel, under 200,000 would be just as good. You could go with higher mileage – just pay more attention to the truck’s overall condition in that case.
And now for the caveats.
And there are quite a few of those, so keep on reading to find out more. If you’re buying used, there’s quite a lot you need to know about the mileage there.
The problem with buying used – wear and tear
Why are we even looking at the odometer?
Because the number of miles the truck spent on the road indicates the amount of wear and tear on its components. Every time that truck was driven, its various part took some beating. There’s no way around that – that’s just how machines work.
Your main concern as the potential future owner of that used truck is this –
Are there various parts that are so worn out you’ll have to replace them soon? If so, how expensive are these parts?
The last thing you want is to have to spend $5,000 on repairs for a truck you bought for $10,000.
And there’s a lot that can break down. Even if the truck looks great on the outside, any of the following items might be nearing the end of its life –
- Fuel injection system
- Fuel pump
- Water pump
- Power windows & seats
- Emission system
- Brake systems
- Belts & Hoses
- The radiator
- Steering system
- Air conditioning
Or any others, for that matter. Clearly, some of these may be very expensive to replace.
So, the question is – at what point of a pickup truck’s life are these items more likely to break?
While the classic answer gives you the 100,000 miles as the turning point, it’s worth noting that this isn’t necessarily the case with newer trucks. Modern pickup trucks – specifically those made after 2010 – tend to be more robust. Not only do they have better systems that can withstand wear and tear, they also have more sensors and lights that tell the driver when something is wrong.
That means that they were more likely to be given some TLC as soon as any issues came up. And good maintenance goes a very long way when it comes to pickup trucks.
With these newer models, as long as you make sure they were properly maintained, you can find trucks that can go into the 200,000 and even 300,000 and still be in great shape. Yes, even those with gas engines.
Which brings me to the next point.
Mileage for Gas vs. Diesel
Diesel engines last longer than gas engines because they’re stronger and built for more “violent” cycles. That’s why commercial diesel engines on large trucks can go on for literally millions of miles. Read more about the difference between diesel and gas engines in pickup trucks.
Two things to keep in mind though –
- A diesel engine is different from a gas one – but a diesel truck is more than just the engine. Other components in the truck can experience similar wear and tear to that of a gas truck.
- Modern gas engines are very robust. If maintained well, these engines can last for 200,000 and even 300,000 miles without much trouble. In other words, the longevity gap between diesel and gasoline engines is becoming more narrow.
City Miles vs. Highway Miles
Type of usage matters.
Some people intuitively think that a truck which was used only in the city – for getting the kids to that soccer game or running out to the store – will be in better shape. However, it’s quite the opposite.
With the same mileage, a vehicle that was used mostly in the highway is in better condition than one which was used mainly in the city.
Here’s an example which explains why:
Imagine two pickup trucks. Same make and model, same year, same mileage of 50,000 miles on the odometer.
Truck A was mostly used in short city drives. Getting to work and back. Picking the kids up from school etc.
Truck B was mostly used on the highway. Its owner has a business located two hours away from home and she drives there twice a month. Every time she started the truck, she would get on the highway and drive for two hours straight.
The average trip distance for truck A was 5 miles.
The average trip distance for truck B was 200 miles.
This means that these 50,000 miles signify a total of 10,000 trips for truck A. And only 250 trips for truck B.
For both trucks, every time the driver got into the seat, switched on the engine, began warming up the engine, pushed the a/c buttons, etc. – there was some wear and tear done to the vehicle’s components. This just happened 40 times more in truck A than in truck B.
What’s more, short trips take a heavier toll than long ones. The engine performs best when it’s warm, so during the first few minutes of each drive, it’s operating in less-than-optimal conditions. With truck A, that was most of the driving time. Not sure with truck B.
Clearly, the truck that was used mostly on the highway will be in much better condition, even though both have the exact same mileage. Simply put, highway driving is less strenuous on a vehicle’s drivetrain components.
How much should a used truck cost – depending on mileage
There are so many other factors going into pricing a pickup truck that mileage will only partially affect the price. The age of the truck, whether or not it’s still under warranty, the type of usage it had and its overall mechanical condition – all play an important role.
Having said that, many people use the following rule of thumb –
For every 100K miles on the odometer, the value of the truck is decreased by about half.
You should expect to see 15,000 miles on the truck for every year of ownership. So, a 10-year-old truck can be expected to have 150,000 miles on it. If the truck has been driven more than 15,000 miles per year on average, this might indicate more wear and tear (but keep in mind what we discussed about how the vehicle was used — city or highway driving). And you can expect it to cost about 60% – 70% less than its original price.
But, conventions aside, in the end, the price of a used truck is determined by the market. Essentially, it’s what the seller and buyer agree upon – nothing more and nothing less. If you’re patient and willing to wait for the right seller, you may just get a bargain.
How to find a low-mileage pickup truck
The easiest way to find a low-mileage truck is by searching online. Sites such as CarGurus and AutoTrader offer mileage range as a filter. You can use that as well as additional filters such as the vehicle’s year of make and proximity to your location.
Tips for buying a used truck with high mileage
We’ve covered the topic of buying a used pickup truck here. This is just a quick recap for anyone who’s considering buying a high-mileage truck.
- Check the vehicle’s service records. Maintenance goes a very long way towards the truck’s longevity. Regular oil changes and check-ups are very important and if the previous owner can prove that he’s had them done on time, that’s a big plus.
- Find out if any of the parts are still under warranty. With a high-mileage truck, this is rarely the case but it may just be with some plans, so do check for that.
- Check reviews of the specific model and visit owner forums to see what they report. This is especially important with older trucks. Some models have known issues that show up after a certain number of years – or beyond a certain mileage point. You could find out that the truck is nearing a major known fail point that will cost you a few thousands of dollars to repair. Edmunds is a great resource for vehicle reviews.
- Have the truck inspected by a mechanic who isn’t affiliated with the seller. Make sure everything is thoroughly inspected and documented in a written report. It’s worth spending the extra bucks on this.
- Test drive the truck. Take it out on the open road and drive it hard. Drive for at least 15-20 minutes to see if any issues reveal themselves once the engine is hot. If you’re getting a 4WD truck, go off-road and test that system as well.
Is a used truck really worth it?