There are a lot of different kinds of trucks out there right now and they all come at a wide variety of prices. Some are big, some are small. Some are pretty bare bones and some are essentially luxury vehicles. Whether you're buying a truck for everyday driving or for occasional use, there are some important factors to take into consideration to make sure you get the most out of your purchase. This checklist will help you determine which type of truck is right for you and if certain features are worth the extra money.
1. Passenger capacity
2. Power and engine size
Deciding on engine size is an important decision, and bigger is not necessarily better. If you're buying a truck for everyday commuting and don't plan on transporting large items, then a 4-cylinder engine can save you money on gas. These are available in smaller trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Four-cylinders are fine for transporting small payloads, but if you need to tow something bigger than a small U-Haul trailer, you'll need to go bigger.
If you're buying a truck to tow a boat or bigger trailer, then you will a V6 or V8 engine. Trucks with these engines tend to be heftier, pricier -- the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado are two examples -- and less fuel efficient, but also more versatile and powerful.
Make sure your truck is powerful enough for the items you plan to transport by researching payload and towing capacities. For example, if you have a skiboat and trailer that weighs around 4,000 lbs., you'll need to ensure that the truck you're interested in purchasing has a tow rating of at least that much -- and preferably a bit higher.
3. Two-wheel drive vs. 4x4
Deciding whether a 4x4 truck is worth the extra money has a lot to do with weather and your driving habits. If you live in a place that doesn't see a lot of rain or snow like Los Angeles, and plan to use your truck for commuting, then a 4x4 truck is unnecessary, as opting for this drivetrain will significantly reduce your gas mileage.
If you live in a polar vortex state like Minnesota or Michigan, or you plan to drive the truck off-road the truck for work or pleasure, then the improved traction of a 4x4 truck can prevent you from getting stranded in the muck or snow.
4. Manual vs. automatic
If you're deciding between a manual and automatic transmission, you should take into consideration the traffic conditions where you will be doing most of your driving. If you plan to spend a lot of time in traffic, then an automatic transmission will save you a great deal of unnecessary shifting. If traffic isn't a concern, then a manual transmission can improve your control over the engine without the burden of excessive shifting.
Manual transmissions are pretty rare in trucks -- and vehicles in general -- these days, but they are available on the base trim levels of a few models. They can be more fun to drive, but aren't as effective when it comes to towing and sitting in traffic.
5. Camper shell
If you're buying a truck for the purpose of transporting large items in the bed, a camper shell can be very useful for preventing theft and keeping your belongings safe from the elements. For instance, if you're moving furniture and it starts raining outside, you'll be very thankful that you don't need to worry about your belongings being ruined.
The cost of camper shells can vary quite a bit, but a nice one will generally set you back about $1,000, give or take a few hundred dollars.
Stan Markuze is the founder of PartMyRide, the online marketplace for used original auto parts.