Find The Right Truck For You: A Quick Guide

A simple primer on how to find the truck you want--and can afford.

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Tally up truckdom’s wish list for the truck that does it all, and it’d look like this in real life. [image: Pixabay]

Buying a truck right now is insane. Scarce inventory and obscene dealer markups have combined to make 2021 the most buyer-unfriendly market in decades, maybe even ever. So how can you find the right truck that fits your needs and stay within your budget? It can seem like an impossible task. But familiarize yourself with the following basic tips and tricks and you should prevent yourself from being steered into a truck that’s simply available on the lot versus the one you truly want. 

Needs vs. Wants

The first thing that you need to decide is your precise needs for the vehicle. A good place to start: The number of people in your household. If you need to seat five adults, opt for a truck that seats them all comfortably. Just you and a dog? Save some dough and with a two-door. Are you loading sheets of plywood and sheetrock in the bed or motorcycles and ATVs. Your answer will help decide which bed length you need.

You also need to consider how much power you need for your life. Are you going to be pulling a 6,000-pound trailer or RV with the truck, or just using it to haul whatever fits in the bed? The more you need to tow, the bigger horsepower and tow ratings you’ll want. If not, a smaller, more efficient engine coupled with a more fuel-efficient axle ratio might be a better choice as it’ll save you money at the pump. You need to make sure that you find a truck that will be able to deliver the performance that you need from it, whether that’s towing and payload power or fuel economy. There is no point in investing in a truck if it is not going to be able to handle the jobs you need it to, or conversely, over-spending on power and features you’ll hardly ever use.


Trucks are not cheap. However, the cost of the actual vehicle is not the only cost that you have to contend with when you purchase a truck. It is incredibly important, as explained here, that you find the right insurance policy. This could help you save more than you might imagine, and as a result free up more cash to put toward your purchase. It’s also, not someplace you want to skimp. With the average purchase price of trucks pushing north of $45,000, an accident could wipe out that investment unless you have insurance.

It can be tempting to go with the first insurance company that provides you with a quote but by shopping around for insurance, you could end up halving your annual premiums, freeing up money that can go toward a new truck payment.

The Test Drive

OK, so you’ve narrowed down your selection to a specific truck. Now you’re ready for the test drive. What? You don’t think you need a test drive? Yes, yes you do. You always need to test-drive a truck before you buy it. If you don’t like how it drives within the first minutes of being behind the wheel, you never will. It doesn’t matter how much you love its look, its power, its practicality–if you’re not immediately comfortable behind the wheel, walk away. You need to make sure that you are happy behind the wheel of your truck whether you are in it for five minutes or on a road trip that is going to last several days.

Beyond the subjective feeling, pay close attention to things like mirror positions and the location of vital instruments like your trailer brake controller (if you have one), aux switches, even your climate controls. If they are not easy to find in the blink of an eye, you might end up feeling very distracted while you drive when you go to find them.

Pay attention to other features of the truck too, especially if you’re towing. Check the rear camera function good or bad it’ll help with visibility when towing a trailer. Does it have the wiring for a trailer brake or not? Is the suspension rated for heavier towing payloads? Is the truck outfitted with a heavy duty radiator and aux cooler for the transmission? Best move: Hook up a trailer of at least 50-80 percent of the truck’s max tow capacity to see how it drives.

Find the Right Truck and You’ll Find the One You Want

OK, let’s be honest. Buying a truck, despite its heritage as a tool for work and all the rationality behind its purpose (hauling stuff, towing stuff) still tap an emotional vein in buyers’ souls. The throaty roar of a 400hp V8 and its head-snapping acceleration may trump the reality that a 280hp V6 is all that’s necessary. And that’s fine. But it’s still worth going through the exercise of listing out all your needs, current and future, for this truck first, then compiling a list of choices that meet those needs. This way, you weed out the emotional picks that won’t meet your needs and end up with a list of trucks you want. And at the end of the day, when you find the right truck you want. You’ll love driving it for every mile you own it.