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Old 01-21-2014, 10:54 AM   #1
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Buying a used 3/4 ton diesel.....advice?

For a variety of reasons I've come round to thinking that a 3/4 ton diesel is probably going to be my preferred towing vehicle. While I can always run down to the dealer and pick up a new truck, the more economical option is to find a reasonably low mileage late model used truck. The last 2 times I bought vehicles I bought new and I haven't bought a used vehicle in over 15 years. I got burned once buying a used Toyota truck that had been wrecked and rebuilt but still had frame issues that I didn't know about or detect until later. So I've been a bit gun shy about buying used and not quite sure where to start.

Ideally I'd like to find a late model diesel with say no more than 5 years and/or 50,000 miles on it. Ford/GM/Dodge, I don't really have a preference. But I'm not exactly sure where to start. For those of you who have recently bought used trucks, how do you go about it. Specifically.

1. How do you search? Craig's List? Auto Trader? Dealers?
2. Do you buy from private sellers or dealers or any other way?
3. Is there a good inspection checklist somewhere on the internet that I can print and take with me for doing an initial truck inspection?
4. Do you bring them into a mechanic for a professional inspection before purchase, and if so, do you specifically search out a diesel mechanic, or just a regular shop that knows trucks?
5. What is the best price reference for determining the fair market value of a private sale or dealer sale on a truck?
7. From my initial poking around, it seems that there isn't really that much depreciation of late model diesel trucks. If I'm looking for a late model truck am I perhaps better off just going new and getting exactly what I want?
8. Are there any particular models to search for or avoid? I've already read about the Ford 6.0 liter Powerstrokes. Just wondering there are any other especially good or bad trucks.

Thanks for any advice.
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:07 AM   #2
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We have a fleet of 300 trucks- (6) 3/4 ton diesel crew cab pickups and (1) 1 ton diesel crew cab pickup. We are currently looking to buy about 7 more.
To try to answer the questions:
1. All of the above.
2. All of the above.
3. We look them over, but mostly go on gut instinct. If it is super clean, like new in appearance, has obviously been well maintained, and the price is reasonable- we buy it.
4. Refer to number 3. We have our on mechanics on payroll.
5. That is all over the board. We find good ones from $15,000-$30,000- depending on mileage.
7. We got lucky and bought a 2008 from an individual with 80,000 miles from an individual for $26,000.
8. Our preference is GM 6.6 Duramax/Allison.

You'll find one. They are out there. Most of them are fully loaded and super clean. The ones we buy were mostly camper pullers or horse trailer pullers.
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:17 AM   #3
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Maybe I got lucky but in '08 I bought a 2006 RAM 3500. It was listed on E-bay but had expired and I contacted the seller and worked out a deal. Private seller in St. Louis. My son and I flew from NJ to St. L and picked it up and drove straight home with it. It had 28k on it and has been great. Sometimes the bear eats you and sometimes you eat the bear. We got lucky on this one. Beware, your results may be different.
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:32 AM   #4
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Last time I bought a truck I got bit by the bear but that was partly because I was hurrying. I was moving from Seattle to Alaska and searching quickly for a 4x4 Toyota that I could put a canopy on and load all my belongings into and ship to Juneau on the barge so it would be waiting for me when I got there. So I rushed into a purchase without really doing a proper inspection. I figure where I live now in Waco should make it reasonably easy to find the perfect truck as I am 1.5 hours from DFW and Austin and 3 hours from Houston and San Antonio so I have 4 major cities to search in and this is definitely truck country.
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Old 01-21-2014, 12:11 PM   #5
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In our current searching we found a nice one in Beaumont, TX on Autotrader.
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Old 01-21-2014, 01:34 PM   #6
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I am not sure the old plan of finding a "good, clean used one" stands up any more.

The vehicles I have seen in that category are not much cheaper than new.

Shop at the end of the month or even quarter. From the prices I have seen, I believe a new one is the better deal.

And, you will get a rig without french fries and soda straw wrappers in the cracks under the seat.


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Old 01-21-2014, 01:51 PM   #7
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And new it comes usually with a five year warranty on the transmission and diesel engine.
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Old 01-21-2014, 02:15 PM   #8
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Research, research, research (as the owner of one of the infamous 6.0L Powerstroke diesels). The owners forums will have threads with common issues with them. Keep in mind people who are posting are having problems, so any vehicle will look worse online than it is in reality, but it should give you an idea of what kind of problems you might have.
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Old 01-21-2014, 04:18 PM   #9
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Bought ours from Carmax. Couldn't be happier.
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Old 01-21-2014, 09:21 PM   #10
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X2 on what m.hony writes

The other end of the questions is: how long will you own it and how many miles will it accumulate in that time?

I bought mine with high miles at three model years old. In six years with an additional 75k miles (now at 195k) depreciation has been $3k.

There are always buyers for diesel trucks. Ford is the worst bet (newest motor is still unproven) and Dodge has the longest engine life (by design). Check the year model of GM, first.

A manual can only be had in a Dodge. 2WD is always a better buy than 4WD, initially and long term.

If what you find concerns you in terms of price vs. age, then take a long look at the latest Dodge. The fuel burn is almost as low as mine. There have now been enough changes that I would consider a new one. The AISIN transmission option will always pay for itself at re-sale and it has no peer in the competition.

Oh, and I would not ever again buy a 3/4T unless it came with IFS + rack & pinion steering (as mine has, but not the latest). A 1T doesn't ride differently enough to warrant the step down otherwise, and one may as well have the max payload available. Look into factory air-ride (not air assist). That'd be the one to have as an RV'er.
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:33 PM   #11
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I looked around for a used late model 3/4 ton for few months but might as well been chasing unicorns. Around 50k miles, most trucks were at or over $40k in the PNW. I ended up buying a brand new 4x4 RAM 2500 diesel crew cab, Laramie, leather and loaded, for about $48k, which was stickered at $58k, and reflecting $3.5k in rebates. It is nice to have the warranty, and the newer features. 2013's are heavily discounted now, though I would consider 2014's due to the coil spring rear suspensions. I think the newer models with DEF are more reliable too based on what I read in the Cummins forums.
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:45 PM   #12
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Another insight into prior owner use is to divide total odometer mileage by total engine hours. If the result is 30 or greater then it has seen mostly highway miles and wear and tear should be minimized due to fewer stops and starts. I have used this as a key decision factor on diesels and never regretted it.
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeeMore View Post
Another insight into prior owner use is to divide total odometer mileage by total engine hours. If the result is 30 or greater then it has seen mostly highway miles and wear and tear should be minimized due to fewer stops and starts. I have used this as a key decision factor on diesels and never regretted it.

This is valid, but let me expand. A result of "30" means it has averaged 30 mph...hardly "mostly highway miles" . The figure used for determining a guestamite of idle time is 33 miles per hour of recorded meter time.

If you are looking for a MOSTLY highway miles truck....look for the calculation to be closer to 50 miles per recorded hour.
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Old 01-22-2014, 09:05 AM   #14
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Tow Vehicle Purchase

TexDive, I think you're on the right track. Each manufacturer has a website that displays tow capacity of various configurations of their products, for at least the last ten years. That's a good place to start: eliminate trucks that can't tow your rig up and down mountains.

Each of the search engines you mentioned are helpful. AutoTrader ended up working for us, but Craigslist had some good rides too.

Carfax is pretty reasonable and often has a good history of what's happened to each vehicle by VIN. It will definitely tell you accident and recall history, and usually tracks every service done by a dealer.

If you buy from a private owner, you will probably get your best price and chances are he or she will be fairly truthful with what they know of vehicle history. An old rule of thumb on private sellers is "Look at their home. If it's taken care of pretty well, they probably also take care of their truck."

Cartalk has a buyer and seller pricing guide (Click and Clack) that adjusts for mileage, features, and condition.

There are class action suits against Ford and Chrysler over diesel lemons. We bought a '07 Dodge Ram anyway, for its clean Carfax, Cummins engine with exhaust brake, and have been pleased with it. Others love their Fords. I'm guessing that some of the trucks from the problem years are lemons and others oranges, i.e., pretty good. Don't know about Chevy, but there didn't seem to be a lot of those on the market, at least not a year ago when we were looking.

Patience and persistence are your keys. Work at it and you will find a good puller.

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