Shopping for a Pickup Truck? Here's What You Should Know

Ram Deliveries 2 II

By Jim Travers

There's nothing like driving off a dealer lot in a new pickup truck. However, the experience leading up to that point isn't always fun — and can even be stressful and overwhelming. Worse, you may pay more than you should and maybe end up with a truck that doesn't meet your needs.

The best way to have a smooth, stress-free, pickup-shopping experience is to do your homework ahead of time. Start by determining how much passenger room, payload capacity and towing capability you need. Read expert reviews and visit online owner forums for insights and potential pitfalls. We'd also advise checking reliability ratings. Gathering basic information before you set foot in a dealership will give you an edge and could save you thousands during negotiations. Here are some pointers to consider:


  • Check for incentives. Manufacturer websites will typically list available incentives by model. Other incentives may be available to you, such as offers for military personnel or students. Check around ahead of time — don't rely on the dealer to tell you what's available.


  • Know the value of your trade-in. National Appraisal Guides have valuation tools that let you key in basic information to get an idea of what your current vehicle is worth. Keep in mind that accessories don't always add much, if anything, to value. If the accessories are detachable, consider keeping some favorites for your new truck or selling them separately.


  • Choose your dealer wisely. Some dealers are upfront than others. Ask for references from friends and colleagues before shopping and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.


  • Shop for financing ahead of time. Your bank or credit union may offer better finance rates than the dealer along with a painless pre-approval. It's worth shopping around, even if you end up financing your truck with the dealer. It's also a good idea to know your credit rating ahead of time, because that will be a factor in the loan rate you get. Credit bureaus such as Experian and finance companies such as Credit Karma offer free credit score reporting that is quick and easy.

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  • Consider buying from stock. Unless you're set on a certain color or set of features, buying from dealer stock can save money and time. Dealers are more likely to negotiate on a truck that's been sitting on the lot for a while. As a bonus, you won't have to wait for your new truck to come in.


  • Shop at the end of the month. Those rumors you've heard about finding better deals at the end of the month are true. Dealers really do have monthly sales goals and are more likely to deal toward the end of the month. Carmakers reward high-performing dealers with their own incentives, and more sales also can increase dealers' allotment of desired models.


  • Don't be afraid to walk out. Finally, keep in mind that one of the most effective negotiating tactics is also one of the easiest. If you don't like the deal, move on. Chances are, you'll hear from the dealer before you get home. If not, you can always go back if you don't find a better offer on a better truck. photos by Mark Williams


All true.

That said, don't be willing to compromise if it means not getting a color or capability you really want. Unless you're the type that says a car or truck is, "mere transportation", get something you'll be happy to own or lease.

I am/was one of these truck shoppers. I've spent years studying trucks of all brands and sizes. While I know many here do not agree with my opinions, I've chosen a truck that best meets my needs and wants, even if it isn't ideal. What I'm losing in compact size, I'm gaining back by not just taking what's on the lot (though I would have had a certain dealer exchange not gone sour due to the dealer that had the acceptable truck simply refused to communicate with the dealership through which I was working (over 100 miles away, so they weren't going to force me to go to them, no matter how hard they tried.)

So, I have placed a special order for a '19 model that has what I want, up to and including paint color. I'm willing to wait simply because I'm not willing to compromise.

At times ordering is a necessity.
Most dealers in my area have two types of trucks:
Loaded, and appliance white fleet vehicles.
Sure there are minor differences, but essentially all at the top end.
And then come the questions: do you really need 4x4 AND a low range? How often do you tow, do you really need that Max towing package?
Most of the time the sales person is there to talk you into buying their inventory.
Best bet is to test drive, research, determine what you MUST have and what you want. Be realistic too. If you’re buying a RV that weighs 7,000 lbs, don’t get a truck that can tow 7,000 lbs, get more. If you’re towing a 2,200 lbs pop-up, you don’t need a Super Duty.
Further, have your financing secured before you go to the dealership. Know what you can afford, that way you don’t get the bait and switch with the Finance Guy.
Best vehicle buying experience we had financing in-place, we had cash from the private sale of the vehicle being replaced, and we had done ALL the research prior.

At times ordering is a necessity...Best vehicle buying experience we had financing in-place, we had cash from the private sale of the vehicle being replaced, and we had done ALL the research prior...Posted by: James | Aug 26, 2018


Having worked for a dealer I can assure you that dealer staff are there to help you. But I don't understand something you said.

If you are going to order a vehicle anyway, why rely on the local dealership? If you have your financing already arranged, why not make phone calls to dealerships outside your area?

Yes you'll have to travel to pick up your new truck (or pay to have it delivered), but you'll stand a better chance of getting the most favorable terms (and availability) if you broaden your possibilities. This may require a bit more homework, but I say let your fingers do the walking.

Good article and good comments. Dealers for the most part want to sell from stock. I got a deal on my Isuzu because it was the last year for Isuzu to sell light passenger vehicles. I got a very good deal on my I-370 but is was for the most part more than what I originally wanted. The dealer did not pressure me to buy that particular truck it was more like I saw it in stock on the internet. It was the only truck on the lot that was fully loaded--crew cab, 4x4, tow package, heated leather seats, fog lights, power windows and locks, self dimming rear view mirror, cruise and a few other options. It is black which was not my choice of color but for 21k for a new truck with 5 miles on the odometer it was a good buy.
Normally I would not buy more than what I need and want but it was too good of a deal to pass up.

Sites like are a good place to start your search. You can find what is in stock around your area and broaden your range if you are willing to travel to get what you want. One of my neighbors used several sites and ended up buying outside our metropolitan area which ended up saving he a couple of thousand extra and got exactly what he wanted.

all great topics to select.

I choose the website bc you can put in your area code and it will pull up the trucks within 500/miles that have the truck you want.

That's how i found my 6.2L. Only 2/SLT white ones within 500 miles with the $12k off.

If u have a trade it never hurts to call 2, 3, or 4 dealerships and get them to give u most for your trade. Dont settle for one quote! Especially if they all have a truck of your liking.

When I haggled my 17 sierra 5.3L. I called both dealerships and they both fought for sale. Ended up getting trade down from $9500 to $5200. If they want to sell. They will move the truck.




My dealer did not want to deal on the ZR2, list price or nothing, I bought one 425 miles away for $6.5k less then sticker and they delivered it that night.
When we bought our GC, I had been watching one on the lot, knowing how long it had been on the lot helped. when working with the dealer, they told me the company I work for had a deal with Jeep. I went on-line and saved another $900 from what the dealer gave us. Wife is good at walking away.


Try using a broker.

For someone who won't be satisfied with less than every box checked, a broker can save you the extra cost of ordering. Dealers will order for you, but they prefer to sell from stock, even if they have to work through a broker.

All good advice... not so much for trucks but for any vehicle buying at all.

I knew what I wanted and waited until I found it. I didn't want a big truck and chose a 2008 Ford Ranger. I'm a happy camper!

Nice to see the website accepting Comments again. Long spell last night when I could not make the comments post.

Used trucks are a gamble. Digital odometers are hacked.

You can also add that if you are a Costco or Sam's Club member you can let them search for the vehicle you want. I know of several people who have bought vehicles thru Costco's car buying service and got the exact vehicle they wanted and still saved money.

Pretty good tips and not only applicable to trucks but also for other vehicles. It pays to deal with a good dealer for your future needs and assistance.

@Tonneau cover

Where I live they really compete for your business and they work hard. Around here they are closed Sunday, but the rest of the week it's 10-12 hour days. Open early, stay late.

Dealers are in the business of making people happy. Ask your friends, folks at church, and your relatives who they like to buy cars from.

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