The process of becoming full-time RVers kind of went like this:
- Decide to full-time RV
- Decide where we were going to full-time RV
- Sell all of our stuff
- Buy our RV
- Buy our truck
You’ll notice on the list that buying our truck came last. We’re kind of glad that was the case, as buying a used truck for full-time RVing was at times stressful and seemingly hopeless. During the process of buying a pickup truck, I started to wonder if buying 12 actual horses would be easier than purchasing a used pickup truck. Just like when we purchased our RV, Adam and I needed to do a lot of research to learn about pickup trucks. We knew we wanted something strong, dependable and big enough for Bella and Paris to ride comfortably across Canada. Other than that, neither of us knew barely anything about trucks.
We really knew nothing about 150/250/350 or 1500/2500/3500, 5.3/6.0/7.0, bullet proofing Fords, 7 Way Connectors, Trailer Brakes, Diesel vs Gas or in some cases even how to open the tailgate. Buying a pickup truck to pull an RV is not cheap whether you decide to buy used or new. At first, our budget was $10,000-12,000. At the time we were living in New Brunswick and we were constantly looking at Kijiji and Auto Trader in hopes of finding the right truck for us.
The Search Begins
We ended up looking at a couple of trucks while in New Brunswick. Some of them appeared good enough, but really, we weren’t 100% sure. Some of the trucks were much cheaper than others which seemed positive until we discovered underlying issues which would likely cause a major headache down the line for us. We became very hesitant during the process of purchasing our truck simply because we knew nothing about trucks and what we could actually believe when we would go to view the trucks.
Getting Worried We’d Never Find A Truck
Once we moved to PEI, we started to get a little more stressed about the process. We were already living in our RV, but didn’t have a truck to pull it once the fall hit. Only adding to our stress was the fact that there didn’t seem to be many quality trucks for sale on PEI. There were a lot of what locals call “Alberta Trucks” (trucks that locals bought and customized while working out West) for sale but most of them were just pretty looking and couldn’t properly pull a large fifth wheel, even if the owners said they could.
Our Luck Turns
After awhile, it seemed like we would never get our truck but then our luck turned. I was searching through Kijiji and found a 2004 Ford F250 for sale only 20 minutes from Summerside. I called the number and immediately was impressed with everything I heard. Adam and I went for the drive to look at the truck. As soon as we got there, we noticed that the truck looked like it was brand new and in many ways – because of the way it was cared for – it was. The exterior was spotless, the maintenance history was great, it only had 135,000 km on it, it was Diesel, it had fifth wheel rails and the price was right. An added bonus was that the truck had previously pulled a fifth wheel that was similar in size to ours across Canada. This made us comfortable knowing that it would be strong enough for our journey.
Wes, the gentleman who was selling the truck was unbelievably honest about the truck as well which again, made us really comfortable. He had kept precision records of every little bit of maintenance done on the truck and even had a gas mileage chart that he would fill out when he would drive the truck.
A Trip To The Mechanics
We were certain that this was going to be the truck for us. After all of the stress and waiting, this was going to be the truck to pull our fifth wheel. There was only one more thing we had to do – take it to the Diesel mechanic. We took the truck to MacKay’s in Summerside for a quick check over. Gordy, the owner, is a brutally honest guy and will tell you how it is. He’s also quite funny. If you’re in PEI, Gordy should be your mechanic. After looking over the truck, Gordy confirmed that the truck was in tip top shape and would easily pull our fifth wheel without issue. He did say there was a little oil leaking but said that pretty much every Diesel leaks oil and not to worry about that. He did mention that the front brakes could be swapped out before we start pulling as well. Overall though, it was an encouraging visit to the mechanics and one step closer to getting our truck.
Negotiating can be an unnerving experience for some and a thrilling experience for others. Because Wes was really honest with us about the truck and it was in great shape, we didn’t want to insult him at all with a low ball offer. We also knew that we had to negotiate a bit because we’d be silly not to. The answer is always no unless you ask, right? After a small conversation with Wes, we were able to get the price down a little bit which is always helpful and that was that. We now had our truck – finally!
It was quite a process but we now own a 2004 Ford F250 and couldn’t be happier with it. After going through everything that we went through in the process of buying our truck, we knew that we had to share with you some helpful tips should you find yourself in a similar situation. Most of these tips really only apply to buying a used pickup truck. If you are fortunate enough to buy new a lot of the worry is covered by warranty.
9 Tips For Buying A Used Truck
1. Buy your RV first. Doing so will allow you to determine what size of engine and truck bed you need. A basic rule of thumb – the bigger the RV the bigger your truck will need to be. I will 100% say that the entire weight situation confuses the heck out of me. I felt like I was in high school math class again and I had flashbacks of big hair and blue eye shadow. What I do know is, if you are going to be travelling through mountains it isn’t enough to have a truck that is “big” enough to tow your RV. You need a vehicle that is strong enough and equipped to pull your RV but most importantly your pickup truck must be able to STOP your RV.
We knew that fully loaded, our RV would be between 9000-12000 pounds. Because of that weight, we immediately knew that a 150/1500 would be out of the question unless it was a newer truck which wasn’t happening. When it comes to older trucks, they all varied in how much they could tow. Thankfully, there are helpful guides that you can search for to help assist you. Trailer Life has a lot of the towing guides from past years along with a lot of helpful towing details. Definitely, consult these guides before going to see a truck in person. If it can’t tow your RV you don’t want to waste the time to go look at it in person.
2. Hitch/Rails When buying your used truck look for one with fifth wheel rails and the hitch. We were super lucky to have both the rails and hitch included with our truck. This saved us not only money but the hassle of having to purchase and get a hitch and rails installed. Some rough estimates had the cost of the hitch and installation at as much as $2000. At the very least, a used pickup that you buy should have a tow package. Other features that will save you money include a 7 Way Trailer Connector (to help with wiring your RV) and a trailer brake. There are two types of trailer brakes, both are better than none.
3. Get a Diesel. We recommend Diesel for full-time use. If you are going to be travelling with your RV in a very flat area or just from your house on a non-hilly road to the RV park you will be fine with a gas truck. Everyone we talked to including our good friend and boss Jason from Jellystone told Adam and I that we needed to buy a Diesel. Diesel trucks have more torque which allows for better towing. Even more important than the power of a Diesel is that it won’t fry your engine. If you get a gas engine, make sure the truck has a large transmission cooler or add a supplemental cooler. Otherwise, when going through the mountains with a gas engine your transmission could overheat – which is never good. Diesel trucks simply tend to be tougher, stronger and you can put more kilometres on them. Most people say that a Diesel engine is solid for at least 500,000km. We bought our truck with 135,000km so we still have a lot of life in our truck simply because it’s a Diesel.
4. Investigate the brand and year. When asking for opinions from pickup truck owners that we know, we learned that people (98% men) are very passionate about their truck brand. The big 3 – Ford, Chev and Dodge all make pick up trucks that are strong and dependable. There are issues with certain years for certain brands. I could write pages on the issues with certain brands/year/models. Our advice is to investigate and research this. It is very important and it could save you thousands of dollars. We were very hesitant at buying a Ford because over and over again, we heard about issues with engines in certain years. We also noticed that the majority of used trucks for sale were Ford’s. Apparently, people who buy Dodge and Chev’s hang on to them forever because they’re pretty much tanks. Again, do your research as each year and model are different. Some have a lot of issues while some have none at all.
5. Take It To A Mechanic. Go and look at the truck yourself and if it meets all of your needs take it to a proper mechanic for a once over. Generally, this shouldn’t cost more than $30-50. It also can help you determine a price if you still want to buy it. If you are looking at a Diesel truck, make sure that you take the truck to a certified Diesel mechanic as they can properly identify any issues that may be specific to a Diesel engine. Finding an honest mechanic can be difficult so ask around for recommendations. We were glad that we did that as we ended up with a very good one.
6. Go to New Car Dealerships. At one point, we had a truck that we really liked so we took it to the mechanic. He raised a lot of issues in regards to the truck and pretty much recommended that we didn’t buy it. He could tell that we were discouraged because he knew how much we needed a truck for our journey. We didn’t leave the mechanics with that truck but we did leave with a really helpful suggestion. He told us to go to the car dealerships in Summerside and Charlottetown. When there he recommended that we talk to the sales manager. Then he told us to tell the sales manager that if they have someone who comes in who wants to buy a new truck, but the dealership doesn’t want the older truck in trade to send the customer our way. Doing this would make everyone happy – we’d get a truck, the other person would get their new truck and the sales manager would get a sale. We almost ended up getting our truck this way before we found the truck that we eventually bought.
7. Stay away from lifted trucks. We looked at a very pretty 2004 Ford F350 King Ranch. It was a really nice looking truck but turned out not to be practical at all for our trip. It was an “Alberta Truck” where the owner had completely customized the truck including having the truck lifted. We didn’t know this beforehand but lifted trucks and towing are pretty much a no-no. Towing with a lifted truck often causes a huge amount of sway which you never want, especially when towing long distances. You can have the truck lowered but that is likely going to be a nuisance.
8. Get the maintenance records. Not everyone keeps detailed maintenance records, ourselves included. We recently started though once we realized how important it can be when it comes to reselling your vehicle. Wes, who sold us our truck, had a ridiculously detailed account of everything that was ever done to our truck. Not only did it make us comfortable in our purchase of the truck, it also allows us to continue with the records should we ever decided to sell the truck.
9. Negotiate. Yes, negotiating can be dreadful, but you MUST do it! Why wouldn’t you want to save yourself some money? A couple hundred bucks can go a long way in the end. Plus, a lower price also means you’ll have to pay less taxes on the sale of your truck when you go to register it. When negotiating, don’t be rude or aggressive, be honest and forthcoming. Simply ask them what the best price is that they can do. They’ll probably give you something a little lower than the list price. That’s when you come back with something that’s a little bit lower than that. After that, you’ll both likely shake hands on a price that’s right in the middle, leaving everyone happy.
Have you purchased a used truck before? What buying tips do you have?