- My 1993 Ford F-150 next to my daily driver

Is this the best way to buy a pick up in 2021?

With the current truck market being insane, is an old "junker" the smart way to own a truck?

White fleet spec trucks for the price of a loaded mid sized sedan, loaded half tons the price of luxury cars, and 3/4 tons approaching discount supercar levels. There is no doubt that a new truck today is a costly endeavor - IF you can even get your hands on one.

Shortages have made finding a new truck difficult

2020 spawned new car shortages due to labor strikes, shutdowns, and lack of parts. No segment has been hit as hard as one of America's best selling segments, trucks. Dealers who have had hundreds of new trucks on the lot in the pre covid days might have only had a few on the lot as recently as a month ago. The infamous chip shortage left trucks sitting in lots near factories for months awaiting chips. Manufacturers were left cannibalizing some cars just to get others rolling to dealers, and hopefully customers.

No factory support has made new less appealing

We've seen it all before, 0% financing for 84 months on a new truck - Dealerships offering 10k or more off of sticker price to get you to drive it off the lot today. But now, the turns have tabled, dealerships don't need ANY help selling new trucks. Manufacturers have noticed. Just take a look at the current incentives on the F150. 1.9% for 60 months, or $1,000 cash incentive for my region of Texas. Hardly an "incentive" compared to previous offerings - especially since numerous credit unions are at that rate for new cars anyway.

The used truck market may be even more bonkers than new

So I'm sure many of you are screaming, "DON'T BUY NEW, BUY USED, DEPRECIATION!" Frothing at the mouth, breathing heavily at the prospect of even considering a new purchase. Normally I might agree - but these shortages of new vehicles have lead to the used market inflating. Wholesale numbers at auction are the retail numbers of two years ago. Owners of used cars and trucks are selling them to dealers, Carvana, Vroom, and Carmax often times for more than they bought them a few years ago. Used cars aren't typically supposed to appreciate.

My dilemma

Early 2021 I was in this exact position - I need a pick up. I have a project car to tow around, it makes home improvement runs a breeze, and quite frankly I just like trucks. The only new trucks I could reasonably find in stock were the Nissan Frontiers. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with the Frontier - buying a new truck that feels like its a decade and a half old isn't exactly my idea of a good purchase. 3-4 year old used trucks were going for more than the new one I had bought back in 2016.

I needed to tow my 1986 Toyota MR2 from New York where I used to live, to Houston, Texas where I moved to. Not only did I have a car to tow - but I had 3 engines, 4 transmissions, and numerous body panels and misc. parts to transport. Looking at U-Haul rentals, the obvious choice, they wanted 4,200 at the time for their smallest box truck and car trailer. Jeeze, an old truck could probably be had for less than that. It planted a seed, could I buy a used truck for less than the rental cost, and essentially have the truck for free?

Off to Facebook Marketplace

Well, Craigslist is dead. Was it the pay to list? Was it the smart integration of a marketplace to one of the largest social media platforms in the word? Not sure. I went on Craigslist as I enjoyed doing for years past and found nothing decent. Laying in bed I decided to give Facebook Marketplace a shot. Plenty of ads in Spanish, plenty of non-runners, plenty of "I don't want to realistically price this" posts. But I eventually found a 1993 Ford F150, extended cab, 8 foot bed, 5.0L V8 that didn't seem to be in too bad of shape. Sun faded paint, but no rust as it was a desert truck, and it had seen 191k miles. Asking was $3300 and I messaged the guy asking to go look at it the next day.

A deal was struck

It checked out, it had a decent interior, with the main flaw being a crack on the dash due to the sun. The exterior had some wear, small dings and dents that you would expect from a 28 year old vehicle. It had a bed topper, LED lighting throughout the bed which was cool, dual fuel tanks, and cold AC. I bought it for $2800 - 5 years ago it probably could have been had for half, but in 2021 previous prices aren't relative. Or at least that's what I told myself. The trip was done, a seized AC compressor was replaced in a friends driveway, and 7k miles later it is still a workhorse in my stable.

Is this the ideal option? Probably not - but it did what I needed it to do, it continues to do what I need it to do, there's no car payment that rivals a Mid-Western mortgage, and it has the old truck charm that new trucks lost somewhere in the early to mid 2000's.

Do you think an old "beater" truck is the way to go? Let me know in the comments

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Comments (7)

  • Old beaters could be a good investment especially an OBS Ford like in the thumbnail as they are rising in value.

      1 month ago
    • It's not just Fords, there are a couple 199X 12 valve Cummins in my area going for 17k-20k, you can get a slightly better price on a 98.5-02 VP44 truck but it ain't that much better. I wouldn't know anything about Ford or Chevy prices since I like...

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        1 month ago
    • Yes all very true, I was talking about the Ford as the OBS Chevy's and 2nd gen Rams have already risen in value and a no longer cheap. The Fords though are gaining popularity in the desert racing community thanks to the twin I-beam front...

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        1 month ago
  • 100% old beater all the way, unless you want AC or working windows while taking your summer tow trip 😂😂

      1 month ago
  • That point about the used market sucking is 100% accurate here, since you can't get race engine parts (seriously sleeves and rods for my race motor are back ordered since 2020) I have been in the market for a 2nd gen 12 valve cummins to build a dedicated diesel dragster, but for a truck that would've cost me $7000 last year it's now twice that. My second gen even though it has the dreaded VP44 pump is worth more than it ever has been (since I've owned her), which if I was trying to sell it would be great, but I'm not, I'm trying to get a 12 valve to race.

      1 month ago
  • My sister just bought my 'beater', Lumpy, my '91 F250. She knew how I am about maintaining my vehicles, and I had even had the A/C retrofitted for R134 so that she'd be comfortable (actually blows 44 degrees F). With the 7.5L (460 ci) V8 under the hood, it'll perform any task she needs (well, with the exception of passing a gas station). He's not the prettiest, but as long as she keeps up on tune ups, topping off fluids, and oil changes, he'll be around a lonnnnnng time. I had to let him go, as I replaced him with Hank.....my '20 F350. Yes, I bought new, but I did my research, and got a heck of a deal ($15k off sticker), as it was just before the market went bonkers. It's possibly more truck than I truly needed, but I'll never be wanting for capability. So, I'm torn as to whether new or used is best............if you know how to turn wrenches, used is safe......but if you don't, new may be safer. Tough call. Anyway, I grabbed one last shot of Lumpy with Hank before sis picked him up to drive home.

      1 month ago