Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Kenn asks: I recently bought a house with some land on the edge of town. I am looking for an older used truck to be used for commuting and some hauling. I was thinking that an older diesel would be good because of their increased longevity and easier maintenance. I must admit though I am a city guy that has moved into the country so I know very little about automobiles in general and used trucks in particular. Do you have any recommendations on what I should look for in a truck? Any guidance would be much appreciated.
My reply: I’d avoid anything new or even recent (past eight or so years) for openers – unless you need to regularly pull a trailer weighing 10,000 lbs. or more. In that case, the diesel’s superior low-end torque still offsets the modern diesel negatives of complexity (diesels used to be simpler) and much higher costs (both to buy and to fuel; the mileage advantage is not big anymore and diesel fuel now costs 30-40 cents more per gallon than unleaded gas, which adds up fast).
If you want a diesel-powered vehicle with the virtues people still (mistakenly) associate with diesels, such as simplicity, lower maintenance and tremendous longevity – I’d recommend going with an older model made before the early 2000s. This will avoid among other things urea injection systems (and the need to buy DEF, or diesel exhaust fluid) and enable you to safely run “offroad” diesel (hint, hint) as well as homebrew (waste vegetable oil) and so on, which can dramatically reduce your fueling costs.
I’d personally get an even older model with mechanical injection and without all the modern cost-complexity adders and use it as my “farm truck” – with Farm Use tags, to avoid having to hand over money annually for registration renewal and be able to skip the government-mandated “safety” and “emissions” checks, if you have to deal with those.
And get a high-mileage/low-cost gas-powered car for the commute. The money you’ll save on fuel will add up quickly, if you have a long commute. A half-ton truck – even a diesel half-ton truck – will cost you at least $50 to fuel up vs. $25 or less for something like a Corolla – which will also go twice as far on that tank.
Save on fueling costs – and wear and tear on the truck.
As to which brand – this gets down to opinion and personal preferences. Some swear by PowerStroke, others prefer Cummins or Duramax. But they’re all good – provided you pick one that hasn’t been abused and isn’t too new!
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