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BUYER’S GUIDE: Tips for Buying a Truck

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Buying a pickup is complicated by a huge number of styles and options within a wide price range. You can buy a bargain basement model for the price of a small sedan or opt for a special edition that costs as much as some luxury cars.

Much of that decision depends on what you’ll be doing with your truck. You may only need to haul some bark mulch from the local home improvement store on weekends or you may need the capability to tow a boat or equipment on a daily basis. Whether you’re a solo driver or have a crew with you also plays a part in what kind of truck you need.

Here’s how to decide which truck is the right truck for you.

Passenger Capacity

Those who only need room for two will do well with a regular cab. This has just a front seat with room for only two passengers. These trucks often cost less than larger models and can be had with fewer amenities for those who want a simple truck that does the job and nothing more.

A crew cab has four doors and a full back seat for those who want to be able to carry more people. These are better if you want to take friends along for the ride. They are also a better choice if you’re looking for a work truck and may need to bring a crew from one destination to another.

You’ll get the added benefit of having a place to put cargo without exposing it to the elements. You may not care if it’s raining when you’re making a run to the dump with trash in the bed, but when you have groceries or shopping bags it’s a different story. A crew cab protects your belongings from the elements without having to deal with buying a cover for the bed.

The downside to a crew cab is that it takes away from the bed length. You can find a crew cab with a longer bed, but that also means a longer wheelbase. The larger the truck the harder it is to maneuver it and find a place to park. You’re not fitting that kind of truck into a tight spot at the mall and are looking at a real parking challenge if you venture into the city. It’s a trade-off that needs to be carefully considered.

Related: Review – 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD High Country with Duramax Diesel

Bed Length

This goes hand-in-hand with the cab size and is a key factor in deciding which truck to purchase. Sizes range from 5.5 feet all the way up to 8 feet for those who have longer items to carry. If you are expecting large, bulky loads, then opting for a longer bed is to your benefit.

Getting a longer bed might seem like a great idea, but make sure you really need all that extra room. Not only does it make a truck’s handling more cumbersome, long beds won’t fit in smaller parking spaces. Some garages are even too short to handle long truck beds. Be sure you can still park your truck where you want if you go for a longer bed.

You’ll also pay a premium for the longer bed. Buying one just in case will cost you so be sure you really need the room to carry that cargo.

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Towing Capacity

Trucks are all about carrying your stuff whether it’s a fully loaded bed or a trailer hitched up to the rear. Make sure you’re buying the right truck for the job you have in mind.

If you’re towing smaller loads, then a light-duty truck will do fine. There’s no reason to opt for a heavy-duty truck unless you enjoy paying more for fuel and for your truck. On the flip side, if towing capability is a priority, then make sure the truck you’re buying is rated to tow the load you need to move.

Also, note that a vehicle’s tow rating includes the weight of the trailer and the load it’s carrying. Make sure you figure both weights together when you’re calculating your needs.

Manufacturers figure a vehicle’s towing rating based on numerous factors including the vehicle’s structure, suspension, engine type, drivetrain, and tire ratings. It’s not an arbitrary number or a rough guideline. Towing more than what is rated can damage your truck and put you and your passengers at risk of injury. Don’t do it.

Related: Review – 2015 Toyota Tundra Platinum CrewMax 4×4

Check on Your State’s Fees

The government takes their cut anytime you buy a new vehicle. There are registration fees and taxes to be paid and the government’s cut can be bigger than expected for trucks.

This all depends on the rules in your state. States that base the registration on vehicle value will be collecting a big chunk on luxury trucks. Some states even tack on extra fees, especially if the fuel efficiency of your new truck is considered low.

There may also be special licensing requirements that mean not only extra fees but testing to ensure you’re capable of driving the truck safely. Check with your state before you buy so you’re not caught off guard paying unexpected and potentially expensive fees.

Related: Review – 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch Powers Luxury Truck Trend

Choose Interior Options and Packages Carefully

The wide range in truck prices has a lot to do with the mind-boggling number of options available. Trucks come with interiors equal to luxury cars and all the most modern safety features, but it’ll cost you.

Think about how you’ll be using your truck every day before you make your decision. A beautiful interior with rich leathers and ornate trims might look good, but if this is going to be a work truck, then you might want to reconsider. A crew can be tough on a truck’s interior and it’ll be hard to keep it looking pristine for long.

There are also features designed to make the workday easier. Look for steps to help you up into the bed, large interior control knobs that won’t force you to remove work gloves, and seating surfaces with rugged materials that will hold up under heavy use.

Many features are only available in packages. See which packages offer the features you want, rather than features you’ll never use. Sometimes you’ll find the same feature bundled into several different packages to give even more choice.

Those wanting a fully-featured truck will do well to look at the special editions. These cost more at the start, but they often have convenience features already included at a price that’s better than trying to add them individually to a lower-end model.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin