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Red Flags to Look for When Buying a Used Truck

In the market for a used truck? Check out these red flags to be aware of before making a purchase.

Even in a time when vehicle history reports are easy to come by, buying any used vehicle can be an arduous task, but when it comes to buying a used truck, things can get even more difficult.

Generally speaking, trucks live harder lives than a car or crossover, as most of them are used for frequent towing, hauling or just worked hard.

Commercial/Fleet Use

The biggest red flag for buying a used truck is if it was part of a commercial fleet.

Since trucks are designed for working, fleet trucks are usually put through the harshest conditions possible, and these vehicles tend to idle frequently, which means that there could be a lot of hours on the engine.

Unless you’re getting a great deal on the truck, it is best to stay away from commercial or fleet trucks.

Too Many Accessories

There is a huge market for aftermarket accessories when it comes to trucks, because truck owners love to personalize their rig.

As a used truck, accessories rarely add value to a price (despite what the seller says), but the hidden danger lies in how things were installed. Looking under the dash, body, and trailer hitch area is usually a good way to get a sense of the quality of work done. Too many crimp-style connectors show that the work isn’t that great.

Off-Road Abuse

You can expect that any four-wheel-drive truck has been driven off-road to some extent, but you want to make sure you’re not buying a used truck that has been abused.

To do this, check out the frame and body mount areas as well as suspension components and tire wear. The easiest indication of an abused truck is doors that don’t seem to open or close easily and a crooked bed gap.

Towing Abuse

Too much towing can be a sign the transmission has been overworked. Unfortunately, the seller is the best resource to indicate how much the truck was used for towing, but not all sellers are honest.

Things to check include excessive wear or rust around the trailer hitch, dented rear bumper or tailgate and worn wiring harnesses.


Even if a used truck has all of the red flags listed above, the best answer anyone can give you is a stack of maintenance receipts – especially on higher-mileage trucks.

If the seller has taken the truck to a reputable shop to have scheduled maintenance and common repairs addressed, than chances are he has taken care of it. If there’s no proof of maintenance, keep looking.