What To Look For When Buying A Used Midsize Truck (Explained!)


There are several options when you need to buy a used truck. You need to spend several hours comparing prices, features, towing capacities, and several other features. You also need to factor in the cost of buying a used truck instead of a new one. 

You need to consider your needs and your budget before you start comparing trucks. Doing so helps you narrow down your options significantly. 

What Should You Look For When Buying A Used Midsize Truck? 

You need to check the history of the truck, the maintenance records of the truck, the reputation of the model and model year, and the general condition of all parts of that truck. From there, you can schedule an inspection and later a test-dive of the truck before you buy. 

Trucks are loved for their versatility. You can drive them on the highway, in the city, and beyond the pavement. You can have a truck as an everyday ride, or you can have it as a workhorse that allows you to haul and tow load. 

Your needs should determine the truck you go for. For instance, if you need a commercial truck, a heavy-duty truck will meet your needs the best. 

These trucks, designated 2500 or 3500 (or 250 and 350 for Ford) have the power to tow more than 15,000 pounds, which is what you may need for commercial applications. 

If you need the most versatile truck, you can go for a full-size truck, such as a Ford F-150, which offers the best of large trucks and the maneuverability of a small truck. 

If that is still so big for you, you should go for a medium-size truck, such as a Ford Ranger or a Chevrolet Colorado. These medium-sized trucks may not offer a high towing capacity, but they allow you to navigate busy city streets and highways. 

Once you have decided that a midsize truck will meet your needs, check our guide below to pick the best truck.

What Is The Most Reliable Used Midsize Truck? 

Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger is one of the more recognizable trucks in the U.S. Most of these trucks were built to last. It is not uncommon to see someone driving a Ranger from the ’80s. 

The 1988 Ford Ranger 2WD is one of the most popular Ford Ranger models. It features a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that mates to a five-speed manual transmission. It has air conditioning, but you do not expect it to win in a highway race. 

Another older Ranger is the 2000 Ford Ranger 2WD. It was one of the bestselling trucks of its time. 

One of the best features was the trailhead option package that makes the truck look like a 4WD model. It was also engineered to handle any type of terrain. 

The 2003 is another great model. It comes with a short bed and an extended cab, making it a more comfortable option. It has a relatively impressive mileage at 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city. 

Other great models include models from 2007 or later models. You will find several classic Ford Rangers still on the highways. When well maintained, the Ford ranger can last longer than 200,000 miles. 

However, we advise against models from the years 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006. These model years saw several recalls due to issues with the engine and the transmission systems. 

Except for these few years, almost all other models have an impressive track record and will meet your trucking needs. 

Honda Ridgeline 

The Honda Ridgeline sports a stylish unibody pickup design. It offers a smooth and upscale driving experience. Ridgeline has been on the market since 2006. 

When it came out, it was one of the most misunderstood trucks, thanks to its boxy style. The first generation of the truck was a success. The models from 2006 to 2014 sold without any major issues reported. 

People who bought the truck back then and those who buy them today as used trucks will enjoy the tone-down features of this work truck. Under the hood of the truck is a V6 engine that delivers so much power to the wheels. 

The only model years not recommended are the 2017 and the 2018 models. These two models have low-reliability scores with drivers online. 

Although the 2017 Honda Ridgeline won the Truck of the Year Award in North America, it did not impress everyone – this might have something to do with the fresh design that Honda launched with this model. 

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline had three recalls while the 2017 model also had three recalls from the NHTSA. The issues reported were in transmission and fuel systems. If you have to buy a Ridgeline, just avoid these two model years, and you will be good. 

Chevrolet Colorado

If you seek adventure, the Chevrolet Colorado will serve you right. You can explore the world in this truck as it offers high reliability and efficiency scores. You can choose a compact version of the Colorado, which appeared in 2012 and earlier. 

Most of the Colorado models will meet your needs as they do not have any major issues that can be deal-breakers. We advise that you avoid the model years below:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2018

In 2004 and 2005, owners of the Chevrolet Colorado complained of engine misfiring and brakes malfunctioning issues. Repairing these issues would cost the owners about $2,000. 

This was not so much and most owners of the Colorado were able to fix the issues. 

The 2015 model had a high number of issues, including transmission system issues that were experienced after about 10,000 miles. Later on, the 2016 model had the same transmission issues. You need to steer clear of these two models. 

The 2018 model had a bad shudder. It shakes violently after you have driven it a few miles after buying. Most of the other models will meet your needs perfectly if all you need is s medium-sized truck. 

Toyota Tacoma

The Tacoma is a workhorse. It is engineered to crawl on rocks and haul and tow a lot of loads. The first generation of the Tacoma came out in 1995 and most of these models are still on the road. 

Tacoma doesn’t offer the quietest and smoothest rides, but when you need power and off-road capability, it delivers. 

The resale value of this pickup truck is high, and it might be one of the most expensive used medium-sized trucks you will buy. 

If you want a used Tacoma, the first generation of the truck has impressive reliability ratings. This generation ran from 1995 all the way to 2004. The 2004 model has more features than the others, but none of them has any real issues that can be a deal-breaker. 

The second generation of the Tacoma ran from 2005 to 2015. Most of these models have very high dependability ratings, and you can go for any of them, except the 2009 model.

The 2009 model had interior and engine issues. Drivers reported that the radio had bad wiring as the volume would go up without warning. The model also had engine issues and could get so loud with a rattling noise. 

What Used Midsize Trucks To Avoid?

The 2016 and 2017 models also had issues that made them fall out with Tacoma owners. Drivers reported transmission problems where switching gears was a slow process. The gears would also shift erratically and the truck would fail when under hard throttle. 

Drivers also noted that the rubber mounts on which the engine sat were not strong enough to absorb shock, and this left the engine at risk of damages. This also caused the engine to produce loud noises and the car to vibrate throughout the journey. 

The 2017 model had the same transmission issues as the 2016 model where the gears took too long to shift. Because of these transmission issues, it was not possible to accelerate the truck, and this caused the truck to burn so much fuel. 

GMC Canyon 

A GMC Canyon is a great choice when you need an affordable medium size truck. You can buy a model from 2012 at about $8,000. Most of the Canyon models between 2007 and 2012 had few or no issues. 

Those that had minor issues were the 2007 model and the 2008 model. The 2007 model had engine issues such as excessive oil consumption, and they would also stall. Later, the 2008 model has electrical issues, but most drivers were able to fix their issues without any major event with their trucks. 

The 2015 model had transmission issues where the truck would shift into the wrong gear. This issue was easy to fix and owners only needed a $150 fix. 

Ram Dakota

The Ram Dakota, which was previously the Dodge Dakota, is also a great midsize truck. When fitted with the Hemi V8 engine, the truck performed exemplary. The Ram Dakota was discontinued in 2011, but there are rumors that it may come back for the 2021 model. 

The Dakota can be your go-to truck when you need a midsize truck with the power almost of a V8. For instance, the 2004 model has a 3.7-liter V6 engine that performs as if it has a V8 engine. 

The continued Dakota had some engine and transmission issues between the 1999 and 2003 models. These trucks used the Dodge 45RFE transmission, which was unreliable most of the time. Note that, like the Frontier below, the Dakota is a compact truck with a low towing and payload capacity. 

Nissan Frontier

If you are looking for a compact midsize truck and an inexpensive one, the Nissan Frontier is a good choice for you. The 2015 and 2016 models are the most popular, and they meet your needs when you want a midsize truck that can drive off the road. 

Under the hood, the Frontier Pro-4X features a 4.0L V6 engine that tows up to 6,500 pounds. Inside, the truck has a simple interior that makes it comfortable. Some of the features include the Nissan Connect, which allows you to integrate your smartphone, leather seats, and fold-up rear seats. 

If you go for the 2017 model, you will have the S Work Truck Package that has bed rail caps, a spray-in bed liner, splash guards, and rubber floor mats. 

If you decide to pick even newer used Frontiers, the 2018 Frontier has a wider range of available features. These features include a rearview camera, new Midnight Edition, standard air conditioning, a five-inch color display, cruise control, Siri Eyes Free, and Bluetooth. 

Their Midnight Edition is for buyers looking for style. Its gross black grille, black step rails, black aluminum wheels, and body-color bumpers make the truck look impressive. It also has black badging, black door handles, and black exterior mirrors. 

The Frontier has had a redesign since 2005, but it still performs excellently. According to Car and Driver, the bestselling years for the Frontier were 2016 and 2018. You can go with these two models if they are available on the market. 

Because the Frontier hasn’t had a redesign, it has carried on without any major issues. However, if you go for the newer models, from 2015, you will realize they are missing in so many features that other used trucks have. 

For instance, the 2013 and 2014 models do not even have a touchscreen. Further, even the newer models such as 2018 do not have Apple CarPlay, which is now like a standard feature in other models. However, you get to buy the car at a relatively low price. 

If you are to avoid a model year, avoid the 2005 and the 2008 models. These two models have transmission issues and their radiators developed cracks before the vehicles drove for 10,000 miles. 

The 2012 and 2016 models also have had some acceleration and transmission issues, but not grave enough to affect the sales of the truck. 

Nevertheless, we advise that you avoid any model years with issues, no matter how minor the issues were. 

How To Pick A Good Used Midsided Pickup

When shopping for a midsize truck, consider the following factors:

The Payload and Towing Capacities

Every automaker advertises the maximum payload and towing capacities of their vehicles. However, it is not easy to reach the max capacities unless you have the most advanced engines from the models, and you use some unconventional methods of towing. 

Note that midsize trucks will tow less, but they still meet the needs of most individual users. You need to overestimate your towing requirements so that you can get the best towing capacity. 

Further, you need to get a truck that carries just a little above our towing needs. 

This way, you are sure you will never get to overload your truck, and you will have no safety issues. You can see the payload and towing capacity from the manual of the said truck. 

Further, you can check the compliance certificate on the door of the truck. 

Some trucks come with a towing package that offers better suspension, better brakes, more efficient transmission, and a bigger radiator. You may also need larger extendable mirrors that give you better visibility of the trailer. 

What is Under the Hood 

You will find most models to have a four-cylinder engine. Some more advanced models have a V6 engine while others, such as the discontinued Dodge Dakota, had a V8 engine. 

There are even some that feature a five-cylinder engine, such as the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado. 

If you want more power, then a midsize truck is not for you. Most models have an automatic transmission, but you might still find a few used models with a manual transmission. Luckily, these small trucks have the fuel efficiency that you need for an everyday drive. 

Most of the midsize trucks have a 2WD drivetrain, but you might still come across one with 4WD. With 4WD, you will have the traction you need to navigate rugged terrain. 

You will also get low-range gearing that allows you to venture off the road in an easy manner. 

Check Truck History

Before you even test drive or inspect a truck, you need to review its history. You only need the vehicle VIN to start checking its history online for free or pay for the report. 

The vehicle history search online will show you whether the truck has a title or has any damages from fire, flood, or any other event. Avoid salvage trucks or trucks with a title as this will make ownership complicated. 

They will only cost a few thousand dollars, but getting them back to shape will be a huge task. 

You also need to ask the seller about other aspects of the truck’s history. Ask for oil change records, maintenance history, and any recent upgrades.

If the truck has had any major upgrades, ask your mechanic how that will affect its performance. 

For starters, you can ask why the seller is selling the truck, especially if they are individual sellers. Ask for any accident records that do not appear on the vehicle history records online. 

Inspect and Test-Drive the Truck

When you look at the maintenance history of a truck, you understand what the original owner replaced and then you are able to know what you need to upgrade or replace soon. 

You need to be particularly keen on the state of the engine and the transmission system. 

If most of the major parts of the truck have had a replacement, then it means the truck is worth the purchase. You need to check the safety of the truck as well, including the brakes, lights, and other safety features. 

When you go for an inspection with your mechanic:

  • Check the oil in the engine and the transmission system as it shows the overall health of the truck
  • Check for signs of rust on the exterior and interior surfaces of the truck’s body
  • Look for any obvious signs of body damage
  • Consider the mileage of the truck
  • Check the tire tread
  • Check interior features such as the seats, the radio, and other systems

When you buy a truck, you need to plan for the replacement of parts and any repairs needed on the truck. 

You also need to consider insurance and other costs of owning a truck such as fuel. We advise that you pick a reputable dealer so that you are sure you have the best quality truck. 

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Buy A Used Truck? 

The best time of the year to buy a truck is after Black Friday all the way to the end of the year. Most of the dealerships try to maximize their bonuses by making quotas. This means there will be better deals for the buyers. 

We all want to pay less for a truck and enjoy its benefits. There are several ads during the holidays as dealers try to make quick sales. Like all other retail stores, there is a Black Friday for dealerships. 

Every dealer wants to close the books for the year with a high number, and this is where the discounts come in. Start researching and shopping for a truck in October and buy one by December. 

If you cannot wait for December to buy a truck, you need to go during months when there are new models. Dealerships want to clear older models when the new ones come in. 

Even if they do not have newer models, they will want to get rid of the older stock to get space for the new stock. 

There are other months that you can get great discounts on a used truck. These months include:

  • May – Manufacturers and dealers have several discounts and incentives during the Memorial Day Weekend. 
  • October – It is close to the end of the year and dealerships are doing as much as they can to end the year with a big number. You have the chance to negotiate up to 8 percent off the original price in late October. 
  • The period between May and September offers the best discounts from dealerships. 

The period between January and April has the least discounts, and you should avoid shopping then if you are not in a hurry. 

Should I Buy During The Holidays?

Holidays bring with them great sales events, discounts, and special rebates and financing. The December holiday is perhaps the best time to buy a truck as there are several offers. 

However, you can also buy a truck on the Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, Labor Day, Black Friday, Veterans Day, and New Year’s Eve. If you want to take advantage of these holidays, you should get pre-approved for a loan. 

Estimate your monthly payments and ensure you compare the deals from different dealerships. 

You need to go to the dealership on a day when there are fewer buyers. Weekends are busy, and you may not get enough time to ask questions. You may also not have enough time to negotiate as there are so many buyers all asking for attention. 

Visit at the middle of the week during mid-morning hours, and you will have all the time to ask anything you want. 

What Is The Best Used Truck For Gas Mileage? 

There are so many elements that make up the best used midsize truck. You want a truck that is reliable, without so much wear, with a powerful engine, and one that will serve you for many years to come. 

Fuel economy plays a role when shopping for a truck. Some of the most efficient used models are:

  • 2017 Chevrolet Colorado – 22/31 mpg city/highway
  • 2017 Toyota Tacoma – 23/29 mpg city/highway
  • 2017 GMC Canyon – 22/31 mpg city/highway

Best Used Midsized Trucks

There are so many midsize trucks to choose from. We advise that you get the best dealer and then choose your truck from there. When you know your trucking needs, it is easier to choose the best midsize truck. 

There are pickup trucks designed for offroad use while others are best driven on roads. All these are available and all you have to do is take your time and pick the best. 

During the test drive, ensure that the truck offers a comfortable seating position for the driver and gives great outward visibility. Also, ensure that you can reach all the dashboard controls. 

We also advise that you hire a mechanic to help you inspect and test the car before you buy. 

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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