Summer is coming, and that means it’s time to break out the warm-weather toys: boats, jet skis, dirt bikes, and more. If you are a Powersports fan—or even if you’re just looking to get some serious work done year-round, you need a truck that will haul your loads without letting you down. This short list highlights some of the best options on the used market for the driver who needs to tow reliably, comfortably, and safely.
Since the only practical reason to buy a truck is to haul and tow, before you even start trying to figure out what truck to buy you need to figure out your needs.
Are you going to be towing once a month? Once a week? Daily? Are you going to be towing 5,000 lbs, 10,000 lbs, or 20,000 lbs? Do you see yourself towing off road, in the snow, or other low-grip scenarios? All of these things will shape the truck you need.
If you're after a truck that can haul thousands of pounds worth of concrete and tools, it might be best to look into the big guns which can be narrowed down to three choices:
In the used market, lower prices compared to new trucks can make that doable for many buyers. But chances are good you don’t need quite that much capacity. Remember that trucks with huge towing and payload capacities are equipped with very stiff springs, making for a rough ride when they’re unloaded and chances are good your truck will see more use unloaded than loaded. They were built for intense, heavy workloads and would be less efficient than a smaller truck if you're just carrying motorcycles or a table saw.
If you really do need to haul very heavy loads on a frequent basis, or over long distances or hilly routes, then this is where your search begins and ends. You’ll want to aim for one of the Big Three pickups mentioned above, equipped with a diesel engine, the factory tow package, and, depending on the size and nature of your trailer or hauler, a dual rear axle.
If you’re not going to be doing mega-grade work on a daily basis, chances are good you will find a more ordinary size of truck fits your lifestyle and your use case better. Say you want to tow the family boat or a pair of jet skis out to the lake a dozen times this summer. You’re going to be aiming for a half-ton or three-quarter ton truck, depending on the size of your boat.
For medium-sized pickup trucks your best options are:
There are good alternatives from Nissan and Toyota, but the American brands still dominate pickup truck sales for a reason. Parts, maintenance, and availability of good deals on the used market are all much friendlier to the second or third owner.
For the trucks that are only used to handle the most basic things, like helping friends move, taking dirt bikes to the track, tailgating, or even towing a small boat, Japanese trucks are cheap and reliable and do the job. They're also easier to park than a larger truck, so getting a truck that's bigger than you need is a major inconvenience.
Some great choices for smaller pickup trucks are:
Depending on the kind of truck you end up getting, the generation is going to matter a great deal. F150s are solid trucks from their inception, but for other trucks like the Tacoma, choosing the correct generation can make all the difference.
Trucks from the 2007 and up model year:
Trucks from the 2000-2006 range:
Trucks built before 2000 can be great buys for the right owner, but be prepared to do significant maintenance work, up to and possibly including replacement of the transmission or other major driveline components.
As with the heavy-duty trucks, don’t forget to look into the options the truck was equipped with from the factory. You’ll want the original equipment tow package at the very least, as this will mean your truck is outfitted with the proper mechanical and electrical equipment for towing up to its theoretical maximum capacity. Heavier-duty axles, optional four-wheel drive, and secondary fuel tanks can also make towing safer, easier, and more rewarding.
Whichever pickup you choose to haul your summer toys (or do your heavy lifting at work), you’ll find a great selection of them in your area on Instamotor—and great deals, direct from the seller to you.
Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.