Before purchasing a used truck, obtain a CARFAX report on the specific vehicle. While these are not foolproof, they typically reveal significant issues. Take a serious look beneath the truck to check the integrity of such components as the brakes, drive shaft and steering components, as well as to determine the absence of major fluid leaks or otherwise obvious damage.
Examine used trucks during daylight hours, as it makes inspection and identification of dents or other defects easier to spot. Ensure that there are no raised spots on the vehicle, particularly the roof, a feature that usually signals rusting beneath. Perform a careful inspection of the coolant reservoir, for off-color fluid or low levels may suggest that the truck consistently overheats. Start the engine for sound and turnover.
Take the truck for a test drive, with a minimum of 10 miles being ideal. Halfway through the drive, pull the vehicle over, shut off the engine, allow it to cool several minutes, and restart it to make sure it's smooth. If possible, also stop the truck in a vacant lot or other safe place to check brake response in a simulated panic situation. When choosing makes or models, decide what features are necessary for your needs, such as gas mileage, four-wheel drive, towing strength, bed capacity and overall size.