Modern-day trucks are becoming more advanced with each year’s new models. In turn, they’re also becoming more expensive, leaving prospective buyers with limited options. Many drivers who are looking for a pickup but working on a budget, turn to the used vehicle market to get the best deal.
Shopping for a used truck, however, has some drawbacks, and there are some used pickup trucks to avoid. Obviously, the condition of a used truck should be your first consideration; and keep in mind that there are various hidden issues that only the trained eye of a professional mechanic can detect. So how do you make sure you don’t end up with a lemon?
15 Used Pickup Trucks To Avoid
Though we can’t help you with a used truck pre-buy inspection, we can give you a list of pickup trucks that have been known to have issues. These pickup trucks have been plagued by various reliability issues. With these known problems in mind, you might want to steer clear of these 15 makes and year models when shopping for your next used pickup truck.
Chevrolet Colorado (2004-2005, 2008, 2015)
Because it is smaller than a conventional half-ton truck, the Chevy Colorado might seem like the good choice for anyone who doesn’t plan on towing with their pickup. It’s more fuel-efficient, less expensive, and easier to handle than other trucks on the market. However, not everything is hunky-dory with the Colorado.
First, two model years (2004 and 2005) were plagued by numerous problems including an AC/heater system that only works on high or not at all. Additionally, these models are known to have an engine start failure and be plagued by a check engine light that’s constantly on. Some consumers have reported water leaking into the cab, a warning sign that some of these used trucks might now have a rusted frame or other issues from water damage.
Similarly, the 2008 year model has had its share of similar issues with the troublesome addition of an easily fried electrical system and a faulty radiator which resulted in temperature fluctuations in the engine. As if that wasn’t enough, all of the 2004-2011 Colorados were subject to a recall for a faulty child seat and faulty brake light.
Finally, the 2015 Chevy Colorado has been reported to be experiencing numerous transmission problems, including sluggish shifting or even a complete failure to downshift. This model also has the random engine stall issue too. All things considered, you might want to avoid the 2015 Colorado altogether.
Chevrolet Silverado (2000-2008, 2014-2015)
There have been many ups and downs for Chevy Silverado over the years. And a long span of nine problematic model years doesn’t mean that all Silverados are bad. We’ve outlined the biggest knowns issues for these year models, but be extra careful with second-hand Silverados, just in case.
Older Silverados are pretty well-known for rusted-out brake lines, so much so that most pickup truck enthusiasts already know about this issue. Additionally, millennium models have had their share of engine faults as well. Most of 2004 and 2005 Silverado problems are related to steering, with drivers reporting a popping or clunking noise, which in some cases turned out to be a transmission problem.
The 2007 Chevy Silverado is probably the one you’d want to avoid, especially if it has the 5.3L V8. Apart from guzzling fuel, that particular engine also guzzles oil. Owners have reported having to pour up to a quart or two of oil in every 1,000 miles or so. And Chevy didn’t fix the issue for the 2008 release either.
2014 and 2015 Silverados have all kinds of issues of their own. Drivers have noted poor paint quality with paint that’s peeling off and AC that doesn’t work to name a few annoyances. More serious issues include a shaky and noisy suspension and a faulty automatic transmission. Depending on the severity of these issues, they could require costly repairs, making even these newer Silverados candidates for used pickup trucks to avoid.
Chevrolet Avalanche (2002-2005, 2007-2008)
Production of the Chevy Avalanche ended in 2013, but used specimens are still at large and preying upon unwary potential buyers. Early models of the Avalanche came with plastic body cladding that discolored over time due to heat and UV exposure resulting in a streaked or chalky look. GM has later addressed the issue, but you may still find some early Avalanches with this aesthetic damage.
Early Avalanche models also had a speedometer malfunction. Drivers would often be surprised after being pulled over for unintentional speeding. You can bet the speeding tickets were more than a little inconvenient. Then came the costly transmission failures in the 2004 and 2005 models.
Finally, when it came to excessive engine oil consumption, the 2007 and 2008 Avalanche was the winner, resulting in it being irreversibly branded a troublesome truck. And to add to the performance issues, it also had a dashboard that was prone to cracking, leaving you with a used truck that was a bother both inside and out.
GMC Canyon and Sierra (2000-2008, 2014-2015)
Seeing as the GMC Canyon and Sierra were the Chevy Colorado and Silverado’s mechanical twins, it doesn’t come as a surprise these models, more or less, suffer from the same problems. That’s why we’ll only list the most prominent issues here with a note that you should also pay attention to what issues plague the aforementioned Chevy duo.
Older Canyons have electrical and brake issues, while the 2015 GMC Canyon, for instance, suffers from a dodgy automatic transmission with rough downshifts. Older Sierras also had their share of issues including both electric and mechanical failures. Owners of the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 reported headlight issues which led to extremely poor night visibility. It should be noted that GM didn’t address the issue for the 2015 model year either.
Dodge RAM 1500 (2001-2003, 2011, 2013-2014)
The RAM 1500 and its spiritual predecessor from the Dodge era have had their share of problems (and they still do). If you’re in the market for an older Dodge, you’d be advised to stay away from the 2001, 2002, and 2003 models. In fact, you should avoid them like the plague.
So what type of issues might you run into? Transmission failures, severe oil sludge build-up, engine failures, and even cracked dashboards … take your pick. The 4.7L Magnum V8 seems to be the culprit in most cases. Furthermore, the 2002-2003 Dodge RAM 1500 has been subject to a dozen various recalls. The 2001 model has been recalled on no less than 16 different occasions. The 2011 Dodge RAM features below-par safety ratings and the infamous Chrysler TIPM which wreaks havoc under the hood.
On the other hand, the newer RAM 1500 suffers mostly from electronic issues. Troubles with the infotainment system, cruise control failures, and radios that simply stop working aren’t uncommon. The diagnostic will set you back in the range of $150. If you need a new system, that will be another $2,300 dent in your wallet. And the RAM 1500 also has various transmission twitches, electrical issues, and engine problems that you might just want to avoid altogether.
Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 (2006-2007, 2012-2015)
The main issue for both of Dodge’s heavy-duty RAMs in 2006 was the AC/heater. The system simply didn’t work properly in many cases. As far as more substantial problems go, it was the suspension, steering, and transmission. In other words death wobble, more death wobble, and shifting troubles. While the heater and cooler issues were taken care of for 2007, the more serious steering and suspension issues remained.
The 2012-2015 RAM 2500 models might have been better built, but they still had some issues. Some owners have reported occasional problems with vibrations and uncontrollable steering, especially on 2012 and 2013 models. The RAM 3500 also suffers from a shaky suspension for 2012 and 2013, while the 2014 and 2015 one-ton RAM 3500 seem to be better built than its three-quarter-ton counterpart.
Dodge Dakota (2000, 2002, 2004-2006)
The discontinued Dodge Dakota is another truck that you won’t be able to get new. When looking at used Dakotas, be aware that the 2000 year models experienced a loss of oil pressure due to oil sludge buildup, along with brake problems.
Brake troubles continued in 2002. The Dakota’s brakes would simply lock up at random, requiring caliper, pads, and rotor replacement. Fast forward to 2004. This year’s model of Dakota added in the fun of irregular shifting. Add that to the engine’s already rough idling and more brake troubles, and you’ve got yourself a clunker.
Ford F-150 (2004-2005, 2010)
The Ford F-150 might be one of the best-selling U.S. vehicles, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of issues. The 2004 and 2005 model years, the first two years of the eleventh generation, were an absolute nightmare for Ford F-150 owners.
Engine problems don’t necessarily account for all of the complaints, but they’re by far the most serious issues. Owners reported spark plugs that broke off inside the head or popped out completely, loud noises from the motor, and all kinds of other engine failures. Then, there’s the power window failure which also occurs in both the 2004 and 2005 models. Finally, these F-150s also had transmission failure. All-in-all, Ford issued more than a dozen recalls.
Though Ford addressed most of these issues in subsequent years, 2010 was also a bust. Believe it or not, the most common issue was the self-shattering rear window. Apparently, the 2010 F-150’s rear window would simply shatter at random without any kind of impact. Problems with transmission, however, weren’t gone yet, and transmission complaints ranged from hard shifting from second to first to vibrations and inconsistent shifting.
Ford F-250 and F-350 (2006, 2008, 2011)
Both the three-quarter-ton F-250 and one-ton F-350 have had most of their problems during the same years. In addition to F-250’s extremely shaky suspension, both pickup trucks suffered from engine failures in the 2006 model, an issue that continued in both trucks for 2008 as well.
Furthermore, the F-250 from these production years also experienced premature braking and unintended acceleration. Finally, the 2011 year models returned with death wobble suspension issues that consumers reported to be downright scary at times. Though otherwise reliable, these serious issues with crucial systems should be enough to deter you from buying one of these used pickup trucks.
Any Ford With The 5.4L 3V V8 Engine (2004-2010)
This particular engine was found in the Ford F-150 series which we’ve already covered. But due to this engine’s unreliability, we wanted to put an extra emphasis on avoiding any Ford trucks equipped with this 5.4L V8. Ford also had a 5.4L V8 engine from 1997 to 2004 that performed fine — the 2-valve Condor V8 was practically indestructible, so if you can find a pre-2004 F-150 with it, go for it. Otherwise, be wary of the 5.4L V8 from 2004 to 2010.
This 3-valve V8 replacement was a complete bust. The Triton, as Ford called it, was intended to be an improvement but ended up being a giant leap backward. Spark plugs would randomly break off, and repair costs could end up in the region of $1,000 to $3,000. And you’d actually be better off doubling that money and doing a complete engine swap.
With the Triton, fixing the issue once didn’t resolve it as the spark plugs would just break off again, putting the 5.4L 3-valve V8 in the running for the engine with the worst spark plug design in automotive history. Kudos to Ford for that. As for you — if you see a truck with a 5.4L 3-valve Ford Triton, run away from that abomination, and don’t look back!
Toyota Tacoma (2005-2013, 2016)
Due to low interest for the mid-size pickup segment on Big Trio’s part, the Toyota Tacoma surfaced early on as the leader in the segment. Although it’s generally a reliable truck, the 2005-2011 Tacomas were subject to a massive 700,000 vehicle recall for corrosion-prone leaf springs. Once corroded these leaf springs could have fractured and damaged other parts of the truck, like the fuel tank.
Older models were generally prone to rust and came with awful quality paint that used to peel like an apple. Then, there were engine problems like sudden acceleration or failure. And numerous Tacoma owners complained about the 2009 year models’ radio turning off at random.
While 2016 Toyota Tacoma was redesigned, that didn’t stop new problems from emerging. People report a loud noise coming from the driver’s side door while cruising at highway speeds. Moreover, engine vibrations and slow automatic transmission engagement while the vehicle is cold make the 2016 Tacoma less than a joy to drive.
Toyota Tundra (2005-2008)
The 2000-2003 Toyota Tundra has been subjected to a massive 110,000 unit recall for a rust-prone rear crossmember. But that wasn’t the only issue with the Tundra. The fact that 2005 through 2008 Toyota Tundra has been subjected to a dozen recalls speaks for itself.
The last model years of the first generation and first model years of the second generation were among the worst with reports of secondary air pump failure, check engine lights, and cold piston slap. Dull, fading paint (especially on the roof) and radio malfunctions are other known issues.
Nissan Frontier (2005-2008)
Buying a second-gen Nissan Frontier would be a mistake and not just due to its outdated styling. The 2005 through 2008 Frontiers have consistent transmission issues. And it’s not the tranny itself that’s dodgy. It’s a flaw with the radiator design that causes the problem.
To be more precise, the Frontier’s radiator is prone to cracking. After the radiator fails, the coolant leaks into the transmission. Needless to say, mixing antifreeze and transmission fluid causes irreversible damage. So, unless replacing a transmission is your favorite activity, do yourself a favor and steer clear of the Frontier.
Nissan Titan (2004-2006)
Until recent years, the Nissan Titan has been one of the most outdated full-size pickup trucks on the market. But even when it was new to the market, between 2004 and 2006, the Titan exhibited various reliability issues.
The most common of them was leaking rear axle seals. And of course, one thing leads to the other. If the Titan loses enough differential oil, the entire rear end will fail. Nissan never recalled their faulty pickup trucks, but you can save yourself a serious headache by not buying one used.
Honda Ridgeline (2006-2008)
The jury may still be out for the latest reincarnation of the Ridgeline, but we already know a lot about the older trucks. The 2006 through 2008 models were the worst years for this Honda pickup, with 2006 being particularly bad. While the 2007 and 2008 models experienced numerous annoyances like peeling paint, premature rust, and an AC system that didn’t work, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline experienced much more serious issues.
The infamous #4 cylinder on the Ridgeline’s engine would often turn up rotten, as indicated by puffs of blue smoke coming out of the exhaust. Replacing the spark plug could only get you so far. Eventually, you’d be looking at an inevitable engine swap. And a 3.5L V6 doesn’t come cheap.