You can tell a lot about a person by the used truck they drive. Don't think so? Savvy used truck buyers today are demanding both rough and tumble power and still comfortable enough to drive every day. If that doesn’t say "I'm going to push my used truck to the limit, and want to look cool doing it", I don't know what does. Used trucks that fill this tall order may be few and far between. But, when it's time to purchase a used truck more consumers are taking a hard look at the bottom line of buying a used truck, as well as the performance and features that they need.

Recent trends in design have blurred the lines between traditional work trucks and the family sedan. More truck buyers are opting for used trucks that offer the ride, comfort and amenities of upscale vehicles, while delivering the same rugged durability and performance those trucks traditionally provide.

If you're in the market for a used truck, and don't mind doing a little research to make sure your pick is a good one, consider these steps:

1. Do an online search for the reliability of the model that interests you. Type "(your model) lemon" into the search engine field and scan the results. If this used truck has a lousy reputation for dependability and/or recalls, there will be a wealth of information on forums and message boards from people with experience with that particular model to inform your decision.

2. Buy a CARFAX report. This costs around $25, but may save you a ton of money in the long run. The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is generally stamped on a metal plate located along the bottom of the windshield. Write this number down and submit it to see if this used truck has been in any accidents, recalls, etc.

3. Take it to a trusted mechanic. Make your purchase contingent upon the results of an inspection of the used truck by a mechanic that has no ties to the dealership. If the dealer balks at this provision, take your business elsewhere.

4. Look for a used truck that is still under the manufacturer's warranty. Most late model, low mileage used trucks will still be under the standard manufacturer’s 36 Month/36,000 mile warranty, with the engine and transmission often under warranty for much longer. Double-check to make sure that the used truck’s warranty can be transferred to you.

5. Ask for the truck's maintenance record. This step is key because if the used truck has been cared for with timely maintenance (oil changes, scheduled check-ups, etc.), most of that documentation should be easily located. If this cannot be found, take the used truck to be inspected by an off-site mechanic whom you trust.

6. Look for a used truck that has a Certified, Pre-Owned sticker. Used trucks with CPO stickers have been rigorously tested and have had any needed maintenance taken care of before they appear on the lot. This certification is typically backed by the truck manufacturer and if a problem arises, most repair costs will be covered.

Which used trucks rate the highest in customer satisfaction?

When it comes down to which models of used trucks consistently receive the highest ratings from buyers, we separated used trucks into 3 categories: light trucks, mid-sized trucks, and full-size trucks.

Best Used Trucks - Light Category

· Honda Ridgeline

The Ridgeline scored consistently well with drivers for interior comfort, best road performance, and reliability. It boasts a 255-horsepower V-6 engine with full-time all wheel drive, and has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

Drivers particularly liked the innovative, lockable trunk located under the watertight truck bed and the dual-action tailgate for ease of loading. The Ridgeline received the highest rating for frontal- and side-impact crash tests and had the lowest chance for rollover among all the trucks tested by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

· Nissan Frontier

The Frontier is another model that continues to score well with consumers and professional reviewers alike. Nissan introduced the Frontier over 15 years ago, and its rugged dependability and performance continues to inspire innovation. Used truck models come equipped with a wide variety of engine configurations for economy and heavier workload performance, plus different body styles to appeal to the full spectrum of truck buyers.

The factory-installed spray-on bed liner and adjustable, sliding cleats for secure cargo hauling are incredibly popular features for these used trucks. Under the hood, each engine is quiet (for a truck) and responds well to the throttle under a variety of on- and off-road conditions.

Best Used Trucks - Mid-Size Category

· Toyota Tacoma

In the mid-sized class, the Tacoma towers over the competition for reliability and overall performance. It comes in 18 different style variations including regular, extended-cab, and double-cab body styles as well as short and long beds.

These used trucks come in 2- and 4-wheel drive models, and feature a wide array of 4-cylinder or V-6 engines to accommodate truck lovers desire for versatility and performance on- and off-road. The flexible deck rail system with 4 adjustable tie-down cleats easily handles every type of cargo configuration, and the resale value of these used trucks continues to out-perform every other used truck in this class.

Best Used Trucks - Full-Size Category

· Ford F-150

The F-150 dominates this class and has been the best-selling full-size truck for almost 30 years. Buyers praise its dependability, performance, interior comfort and ease of use on- and off-road. This workhorse comes in a wide array of body and powertrain configurations and features both V-6 and V-8 engines with exceptional towing capacity.

The F-150 is also the only used truck in its class to receive the NHTSA's 5-star rating for frontal-crash safety and boasts a more comfortable ride than the Nissan Titan in comparison studies. Overall satisfaction inspires used truck buyers to remain loyal to this line again and again.

· Nissan Titan

In a class where the Ford F-150 has been the standard for full-sized trucks for decades, the Nissan Titan gives Ford a run for its money. Reviewers regard these 2 trucks as near-equals in most categories, with the Titan getting a small edge in tow capacity and power from a standard 5.6 Liter V-8.

Used truck buyers claim that the Titan's ride is a bit harsher than the F-150, but both trucks offer virtually the same mileage and resale value. The Titan’s interior is regarded as less comfortable than the F-150, but Nissan continues to encroach on Ford’s market share with innovation and sheer powertrain muscle.

Whether you're looking for a used truck to help you run your business, make your work life easier, or simply as useful for casual fun as it is for serious labor, you may be in the market for a used truck. With a little research, you can find the best used truck for your money, and the best truck for your needs, no matter if you need the rugged durability of a full sized used truck, or the dependable towing power of a smaller used truck.

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