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Detonation: Used-Truck Frenzy


John Lehenbauer
Feb 6, 2018
Photographers: John Lehenbauer
I have never been a fan of car, truck, motorcycle, or anything-else shopping, especially for used vehicles. The word “shopping” brings up ideas of having to drive all over to look at different vehicles and talk to owners and salespeople. When I start the shopping process, I tend to be critical of the people selling and think about what their true intentions are. Are they honestly selling the truck, or are they trying to take advantage of me by hiding information about something that may be wrong it?
There are a lot of good, honest people out there who are simply trying to sell their vehicle, and they will tell you everything they know about it. Unfortunately, there are also people who willingly try to dupe you out of your money, the ones who will tell you everything is “perfectly fine, perfectly normal” even though the transmission is puking its guts out. They are the same type of scoundrels who will try to sell you a box of yellow rocks and tell you they’re just heavy lemons. Unfortunately, I have run into those types more than once.
Even though I’m not really one to shop for a vehicle, I do like to buy. It is much more invigorating to have the cash in hand to take something home. Buying is to the point. You already know exactly what you want and how much you’re willing to pay, and you understand exactly what is being purchased. You accept responsibility for any issues the vehicle has, and you are ready to take it home. This is the point at which any headaches associated with shopping have long been alleviated.
The reason I bring up the topic of shopping is that I have been arbitrarily looking for a used diesel truck. Buying a new one is not in my budget, unless the Powerball ticket I bought comes through for me (I can always hope). So, my free time is spent browsing the used-truck advertisements looking for a good deal, which here in California can be few and far between for a diesel pickup. When I’m out and about, I always keep my eyes peeled for an oil-burner someone is trying to get rid of. Sometimes you get lucky and a deal just about falls in your lap.
Photo 2/2   |   Trucks can look a little worn on the outside and still be mechanically sound, but you never really know. You can only go by information you are given by a seller, and whatever is revealed upon your examination of the truck.
While looking for a rig, I try to be open-minded about the type of truck to look at and not let any preconceived ideas about certain brands (and years) sway my interests. Any diesel truck built by one of the big three (GM, Ford, and Dodge/Ram), regardless of year, can be built into a nice truck. Even some of the less-sought-after pickups have some performance potential and sometimes are a bit cheaper, which in itself makes them somewhat appealing. Though improving power for some trucks might be easier done with an engine swap (and if you’re going that far are you really saving money?), a lot of the cost rides on the desired end result. Is it meant to have big horsepower or be a reliable tow rig?
I’m trying to be as brand neutral as possible, but I find myself being drawn to certain makes, body styles (extended and crew cabs), and model years more than others. It’s a matter of personal preference—nothing more. Even though I know it’s best to keep my options open, especially since I am on a budget, it is still hard not to be drawn toward my preferred criteria. On the flip side, I could possibly be swayed into getting something that isn’t exactly what I want if the price is right. I have an imagination that allows me to see potential in almost any vehicle; it just comes down to how much time and money I want to spend.
In addition to a particular model of truck, there is also the engine under the hood to consider. I fully understand every engine has different attributes that may make it more or less desirable. There is no perfect engine—something mechanical or electrical will inevitably go wrong. I’m just trying to avoid purchasing a complete lemon.
This is also true for the truck the engine powers. I know from past experience that a drivetrain may work very well with few issues, while the truck itself falls apart around it. This can be an even bigger headache than having engine, transmission, or rear-end problems. Repairing and maintaining the interior and exterior can run up a significant bill.
Well, I guess I’ll keep looking. There is bound to be the right deal out there waiting for me to jump on. You never know when or where something might pop up.


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