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Cars Get Cold Too

How To Check Your Antifreeze

It may not cross most people's minds, but checking your car's antifreeze protection level is an important part of regular maintenance. Anti-freeze helps protect your car from damage caused by cold weather, and keeping it at the proper level could save you from costly repairs down the road. In this article, we will show you how to check your car's antifreeze protection level and what to do if it needs to be adjusted.

What You Need

Before you begin, there are a few items you need for the job:

  • An anti-freeze tester: These are usually sold for just a few dollars at any auto parts store.

  • Paper towel or rag: This will help keep the anti-freeze off of surfaces like paint that could get damaged.

  • Ziplock bag: This will help keep dirt out of your anti-freeze tester while you’re not using it.

Step 1: Locate The Reservoir

The first step is to locate the reservoir where your car’s anti-freeze is stored. This is usually in the engine compartment, and it looks like a plastic container with a lid on top (as seen in Figure 1). There should also be a warning label telling you not to open the lid while the fluid is hot – so always make sure that your car has been sitting idle for at least two hours before proceeding! 

Step 2: Testing The Anti-Freeze

Now that you have located the reservoir, insert the end of your tester into the fluid (you may have to use a straw attached to the bottom of the tester). Then pump up and down until about half of the fluid has been drawn up into the glass chamber on top (Figure 2). Now look at how many “balls” are floating on top of the fluid; this number tells you how well protected your car is against extreme cold temperatures (see Table 1 below). Once done testing, pour any remaining liquid into its original container, then wipe off any residue with paper towel or rag. 

Step 3: Storing The Tester

After testing, take a ziplock bag and store your anti-freeze tester in it until its next use. This will help keep dust and dirt off of it when it’s not in use! And don't forget - always remember that antifreeze is poisonous so make sure none gets on any surfaces outside of its original container!   

Checking your car's antifreeze protection level doesn't have to be difficult or complicated; with these simple steps anyone can do it themselves! With regular testing every few months, you'll know exactly how well protected against extreme cold temperatures your vehicle really is - potentially saving yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs down the line!

Stuck On The Side Of The Road - You're Not Alone

Emergency Roadside Kits - A Friend When You Need One

We've all been there before. You're driving along, minding your own business, when suddenly you get a flat tire. Or your engine starts making strange noises. Whatever the problem is, it's a pain - and it always seems to happen at the most inconvenient time.

That's where emergency roadside kits come in. A good roadside kit can help you get out of a bind, no matter what kind of trouble you find yourself in. Whether you're on a road trip or just driving to work, it's important to have all of the supplies you need in case of an emergency.

It's not just you who will benefit from an emergency roadside kit. if you ever have to help another driver who is stranded, you'll be glad you have a kit to lend them. They will appreciate the fact that you were prepared and able to help them in their time of need.

What should you include in your emergency roadside kit?

  • Flashlight, flares, and reflective triangles will help other motorists see your car

  • A first aid kit is an essential part of any emergency roadside kit. Be sure to include items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. Check for expiration dates on your supplies periodically.

  • Jumper cables. One of the best options is a self contained jump box that doesn't require another car. They typically contain charging cables for phones and other small electronics, too.

  • A tire inflator can help if you have a flat tire. You may also want to include a small can of fix-a-flat.

  • A quart of oil and a gallon of coolant will help if your car starts to overheat

  • Tools like a screwdriver, pliers, and a wrench will come in handy if you need to make minor repairs

  • A blanket. Although you would think this would only be necessary in the winter, a blanket can actually be helpful all year round. If you have a breakdown at night, the blanket will keep you warm until help arrives. Also hypothermia can set in quickly, even on a warm day.

  • Small umbrella. In case you get stranded in the rain, an umbrella will help keep you dry

Emergency roadside kits can be a lifesaver when you find yourself in an emergency on the road. They are perfect for any vehicle, whether it's your own car or someone else who needs help and is stranded by the side of the highway.

Every situation is different, so you'll need to use your best judgment when deciding what to include in your roadside kit. But these items are a good place to start. With a little bit of preparation, you'll be ready for whatever the road throws your way.

Got stuck on the side of the road one too many times? Well, you're certainly not alone. In fact, research shows that 1 in every 4 drivers will experience a car breakdown at some point this year.

Thinking About Trading Your Car?

We have a wide selection of cars, trucks and SUVs to choose from. If you're not sure what you're looking for, our team of experts can help. We'll work with you to find the perfect car for your needs and budget.

Old Car Technology That's Now Considered Standard

Car Technology Advancements That Make Life Easier For Drivers

Are you old enough to remember when air conditioning and powered windows were optional car features? How about when you had to manually unlock your doors? If you are, then you've seen firsthand how far car technology has come in just a few decades.

Nowadays, we can't imagine owning a vehicle without them. In fact, new cars are loaded with all sorts of tech gadgets and creature comforts that make the driving experience more enjoyable. Here are just a few of the car tech advancements that have made life easier for drivers.

Automatic Climate Control

Curbside Classic

"Cadillac released Comfort Control, the world’s first fully automatic climate control system in 1964. This system is an amazing accomplishment and a reminder of how GM and Cadillac really once were the standard of the world"

If you wanted that type of luxury you had to pay a pretty penny for it. Nowadays, you can find automatic climate control in even the most basic of cars. This feature keeps the temperature at a preset level, so you don't have to adjust it every time the weather changes.

Cruise Control

Another oldie but goodie is Cruise Control. Great for long road trips when you don't want to wear your foot out by constantly pressing the gas pedal. It also helps you save on gas. Just set your desired speed and the car will maintain a consistent speed, as long as you keep your foot off the brake.


"Modern cruise control (also known as a speedostat or tempomat) was invented in 1948 by the blind inventor and mechanical engineer Ralph Teetor.[4][5] He came up with the idea due to being frustrated by his driver's habit of speeding up and slowing down as he talked."

Heated and Cooled Seats

Another comfort feature that has become standard in many new cars are heated and cooled seats. This is a welcome addition for those who live in climates with extreme temperatures. Heated seats warm you up on cold days, while cooled seats keep you cool on hot days.

Backup Cameras

Did you know that backup cameras originated in 1956? Although backup cameras have been around for years they started to become more popular in the early 2000s.

Backup cameras are a lifesaver, literally. They help you avoid accidents by giving you a clear view of what's behind you when you're in reverse.


"1956 Buick Centurion concept car, presented in January 1956 at the General Motors Motorama. The vehicle had a rear-mounted television camera that sent images to a TV screen in the dashboard in place of the rear-view mirror."

If you've ever tried to parallel park in a tight spot without one then you know what a pain it can be. a backup camera can be a lifesaver.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 - The Day Backup Cameras Became Standard

Car And Driver

"If you’re shopping for a new vehicle and it doesn’t have a backup camera or the feature costs extra, then it was built before Tuesday, May 1st, 2018. That’s when the safety device became standard on all vehicles made for the American market."

Although backup cameras have been around for years they started to become more popular in the early 2000s.

Keyless Entry and Start

Just like other car technology , keyless entry and start has been around for a while but it's only recently that it has become standard in new cars. This feature allows you to unlock and start your car without ever having to take your keys out of your pocket.

What Car Technology Is Next To Become A Standard Option?

Here are some other options that are starting to move their way from the luxury category into the mainstream. The average car buyer may not be able to afford all of these features right now, but eventually, they may become standard.

1. Automatic braking

2. Lane departure warning

3. Blind spot monitoring

4. Park assist systems

5. Adaptive cruise control

6. Heads-up displays

One of the most popular car technology trends is the inclusion of hands-free capabilities, such as Bluetooth and voice-activated controls. This allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while still being able to control.

Do you have a car with outdated technology?

It might be time to trade it in. You deserve the latest technology in your car – and we can help make that happen. We have a huge selection of cars to choose from, and we’ll make sure the process is easy for you.

Car Maintenance Tips

Properly maintaining your car is key to keeping it in top condition. It can also help ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers and your fellow drivers. Here are some ways to help keep your car running smoothly.

The Car Maintenance Checklist

Consider adding these items to your vehicle maintenance "to do" list:

Inspect and Maintain Tires

Knowing how to maintain your car's tire pressure can help reduce wear on the tires and helps ensure you're getting good gas mileage. Checking your tire pressure includes finding the recommended pressure, checking the PSI and inflating or deflating your tires accordingly.

A flat tire is a hazard that can be dangerous to you and your car. There are several preventative steps you can take to help avoid a blowout, including rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles and watching for tire recalls.

Change the Oil

Routinely checking and changing your car's oil is essential to keeping its engine in running condition. Check your oil each month and change it as directed in the car's owner's manual.

You can change your oil yourself or take it to a service center. If you choose to do it yourself, learn the necessary steps to drain the fluid, set the correct oil level and dispose of old oil.

You should also know which type of motor oil is best for your car, regardless of whether you change the oil yourself or take it to a service center. This generally means considering three things — the oil viscosity, whether to use synthetic versus non-synthetic oil and your car's mileage.

Check the Fluids

There are several fluids that should be kept at the appropriate levels to help keep your car running properly. According to Popular Mechanics, you or your mechanic should check:

  • Engine oil
  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid
A leak with any of these fluids can affect the way your car drives. If you spot a leak, you may be able to identify the fluid by its color. This can help you and your mechanic determine where the leak is coming from. It can also help speed up the repair process.

Test the Lights

A broken or burnt-out bulb is a safety hazard and might get you a ticket. Learn how to thoroughly inspect each bulb on your car. If a bulb is out, take your car to an expert to determine whether it's the bulb or the fuse that needs replacing.

Headlights are key safety lights on your car. Consider taking a few extra steps to help keep them shining bright, such as cleaning the lenses and replacing bulbs as they start to dim.

Replace Windshield Wipers

If your wipers aren't working like they used to, don't let the problem linger. Damaged or worn out blades can reduce visibility during a heavy rain or a snowstorm. Knowing how to inspect your wiper blades regularly and replace them when necessary is one way to help keep your car safe.

Change Your Engine Air Filter

A dirty engine air filter can allow dirt and other particulates into your car's engine and reduce its efficiency. Inspect your car's air filter once a year and replace it as needed.

Regular Checkups

Some routine car care tasks can be done at home, but others require trained technicians. Take your car to a technician if the check engine light comes on. Trained technicians can diagnose the problem through the car's on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port.

A qualified repair shop will also be able to inspect and replace other core components like the alternator and the wheel bearings. Scheduling regular tune-ups will help ensure that your car gets other maintenance items repaired as well.

Have Your Brakes Checked

Your car's brake pads also require regular inspection. While driving, listen for any brake noise and pay attention to shuddering or vibrating from the brake pedal. If any concerns arise, consult a service center as soon as possible

Wash Your Car

Your car is subjected to all sorts of elements, from road salt and ice melt in the winter to tree sap and bird droppings in the summer. Some of these hazards are not only unsightly but can cause damage to paint and the undercarriage, according to AccuWeather.

Keeping your car clean may help prevent long-term damage. Find the car washing method that works for you and regularly wash your car.

Check Belts and Hoses

Keeping your car's belts and hoses in good shape can help keep your car running and may help you avoid a breakdown on the road. For example, if your serpentine belt breaks while you're driving, it may cause many of your car's systems to fail.

Having your belts and hoses checked at every oil change will help ensure that they're in good condition and don't need replacing.

Review Your Car Insurance

Just like regular car checkups, it's a good idea to review your car insurance policy from time to time. This can help ensure your policy's coverages, limits and deductibles are up-to-date and suitable for your current situation.

Keeping your car in good shape can help keep you and your passengers safe. And remember, if you're ever unsure about how to inspect or replace a car part, be sure to contact a local mechanic for help.

Article Originally published

How to Protect Your Car From Rust

Rust never sleeps: Here's how you can protect your car

No matter what type of automotive rustproofing protection you favour (electronic, one-time spray, factory coating or annual treatments) there are large gaps in warranty coverage from even the best companies out there. First things first; if you operate a vehicle on public roads 12 months of the year, there really is no such thing as rustproofing. About the best we can hope for is to slow down Mother Nature’s ravage of our daily drivers so that the loan payments end before the sheet metal. We really can’t stop rust altogether.

All rustproofing suppliers offer pretty much the same warranty; they will repair or replace outer sheet metal panels if rusted through from inside/out and if all other guarantee conditions have been met (annual inspections, reapplications, etc.). But what about all the other steel and iron on the vehicle? Cast iron and steel suspension and steering components, fuel and brake fluid lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and straps can all be affected by rust and can bring major repair bills. Is there anything we can do to extend the life of these components?

1. Park carefully. Parking your vehicle on grass, dirt, snow or poorly drained surfaces is just asking for rust to come and take up permanent residence in your vehicle. As our vehicles spend most of their idle time at our place of residence, tackling the home-parking front can go a long way to keeping rust at bay. If you think investing in a driveway improvement is too expensive, ask your regular repair garage for some cost estimates on replacing brake rotors, exhaust systems, suspension control arms, fuel tank and the like and you’ll quickly find the financial justification. Don’t rest easy if your parking lane is paved. Old cracked asphalt surfaces can provide just as much moisture to the undercarriage of your chariot as a dirt field in spring. Even applying a layer of asphalt sealer can help out.

2. Keep it clean. Most of us like to keep the paint work and interior of our vehicles clean, but what about the underbelly? If you drive on gravel or dirt roads or take an off-road adventure from time to time, the mud and gunk that can collect underneath your vehicle will act as a moisture trap increasing the speed with which your wheels will head to the scrap yard. Check horizontal surfaces under the car/truck such as control arms, skid-plates, axles, etc. from time to time and do a little down-and-dirty cleaning when needed. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a garden hose and stiff brush will do. You may have to jack the vehicle to improve clearance, so make sure you take the necessary precautions with proper jack supports and wheel chocks and have a spotter standing by.

3. Keep it full. One of the most expensive repairs a driver can face because of rust is the replacement of a fuel pump module (the electric fuel pump and level sender unit located in the tank). While the interior parts of this piece (which can range in price from $300-$1500 plus labour) are well protected, its metal top plate and output lines are very exposed and prone to rusting. Fuel tanks and their parts can be attacked from two sources of moisture leading to rust. The first is external and the second is internal condensation caused by the difference between liquid fuel and outside air temperatures in a humid environment. Keeping the fuel tank topped off during the wet seasons can help to reduce the condensation effect. It also provides better traction in snow and on icy surfaces.

4. Blow it clean. On trucks and SUVs with large fuel tanks, the dirt, dust, and road grime that can collect on the top of the tank can lead to premature rusting of the fuel pump module. The labour involved in periodically lowering the tank to inspect and clean off its top can be pricey and can make it hard to justify as a means of extending the life of the pump module. A safe DIY method involves spraying compressed air on top of the tank while it’s mounted in its location to dislodge any debris or gunk. Use safety goggles and go easy on the air nozzle trigger as small stones can hurt when propelled by compressed air.

5. Spray it on. While no rustproofing company will guarantee undercarriage components against rust, that’s not a reason to not have the more vulnerable iron and steel parts treated. You can purchase aerosol cans of rust inhibitors at most auto parts stores, or you can have the pros take care of it for you. If doing it yourself, avoid getting any spray on brake rotors, drums, linings, or calipers. Keep it off hot surfaces such as catalytic converters and exhaust components as well as away from electrical wiring and connectors. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to perform annual touch-ups rather than try to lather on enough protection for the next decade.

Article Originally published

Pickup Truck Buying Guide

Please read Ultimate Autos "Pickup Truck Buying Guide"
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Once used primarily as beasts of burden, pickup trucks now routinely play an additional role as day-to-day family haulers and tow vehicles for weekend playthings. Ongoing advancements have helped them become aspirational vehicles for buyers who crave an exclusive luxury vehicle.
Modern rigs are still big, bold, and highly capable. They’re also being equipped with more safety, convenience, and comfort features than ever before.

There are seemingly endless combinations of trim choices, bed sizes, engine options, and exterior and interior color palettes. Keep in mind that when you start configuring a new truck it’s easy to wind up buying more way machine than you’ll use. Planning a truck purchase can be tricky, so it’s best to be honest about how you’re going to use it. For example, if you have no plans to carry large loads or pull a very heavy trailer, there probably is no need for a heavy-duty pickup truck; a lighter-duty full-sized truck, or even a compact or midsized pickup, could fit the bill.

Pickups differ greatly not only in size but also in price, fuel economy, comfort, performance, safety, and reliability. Some of these factors are connected: The trucks with the best fuel economy typically weigh less, are smaller, and have less powerful engines. Likewise, we find that the more heavy-duty a truck is, the worse the ride gets.

But there has never been a better time to be in the truck market, because there’s something for everyone. While choices have never been more prolific, prices have steadily crept up. Here’s a guide to help you get the most for your truck dollar.

Pickup Truck Types
Compact trucks are usually the least expensive way to join the club, and they are offered by many manufacturers. Full-sized pickups, sometimes called half-ton trucks, are by far the biggest-selling type. These carry the designation 1500 in the case of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram, and Ford refers to its popular offering as the F-150. Heavy-duty trucks are designated 2500 and 3500 (or F-250 and F-350, respectively), with the larger numbers conveying greater capabilities. And the larger the number, the more commercial-focused the truck becomes. That being said, these brands do offer luxury oriented trims of their heavy-duty models.

As with all types, buyers can choose extended-cab and crew-cab body styles (regular cabs are pretty hard to come by these days); two-, four-, or all-wheel drive; and tons of engine and transmission combinations.

Compact Pickup Trucks
This pickup truck category consists of the Chevrolet Colorado (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon), Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma. Chrysler also jumped back in with its Jeep Gladiator—a spinoff of the popular Wrangler SUV. Most are built using body-on-frame construction like their full-sized brethren, and they usually offer a range of four-cylinder and V6 engines. The Honda Ridgeline uses unit-body construction and an independent rear suspension—borrowing underpinnings from the mild-mannered Honda Pilot SUV. This helps the Ridgeline deliver among the most refined rides of any truck.

What you’ll spend: Prices for the most compact trucks start around $25,000 for a basic 2WD Ford Ranger. To the other extreme, a top-trim Gladiator can run more than $55,000. Most middle-ground, 4WD crew-cab versions that CR has tested came in around $36,000 to $40,000.

Full-Sized Pickup Trucks
These are the brawny workhorses of the pickup world. They’re larger and more rugged, and they ride higher off the ground than compacts. Current models in this class include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500, and Toyota Tundra. These form the backbone of the pickup truck market. They serve well as work trucks and, for many, as a substitute for the family car. Powertrain choices vary widely from turbocharged four-cylinders to old-school V8s and even a hybrid option in the F-150.

What you’ll spend: Most decently equipped crew-cab models with 4WD cost between $45,000 and $55,000. Adding any of the available turbodiesel engines raises the price considerably. Of course, there are multiple ways to break the bank with these trucks. How about a high-performance, V8-powered, off-road-ready Ram 1500 TRX for about $81,000? Or a top-of-the-line Ford F-150 Limited SuperCrew, dripping with leather upholstery, wood trim, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, for $78,000? These kinds of prices used to be the domain of high-end European cars. Now, for some drivers, the most prestigious car to own is a top-shelf truck.

Heavy-Duty Trucks
These supersized trucks carry numerical designations such as 2500 or 3500. They are configured for muscling serious loads and for hauling fifth-wheel trailers, those with a hitch point in the center of the cargo bed. These are bulky trucks for the most demanding chores, making them overkill for most noncommercial purposes shy of hauling a huge trailer. Only Detroit competes in this heavyweight division.

What you’ll spend: A no frills, 2WD, regular cab, 2500-series work truck will set you back around $35,000. And a fully loaded, top-end 4WD crew-cab model with a diesel engine can easily reach $80,000-plus. Add even more for the 3500s.

What Pickup Truck Buyers Should Consider

Cab Size and Seating
Regular cabs are the least expensive to buy, but they tend to be available in only basic, work-oriented configurations. Extended cabs are far more useful, and crew cabs provide roomy accommodations, especially in full-sized trucks.

Pickup trucks are among the only vehicles left that can be configured to seat three across in the front seat. Rear seats in extended-cab trucks can be cramped for adults, with limited legroom, though they’re often acceptable for kids. The real advantage of an extended cab is additional interior storage. Crew-cab trucks have four full-sized doors and a rear seating (or cargo) area on a par with mid- and full-sized SUVs, but these large cabs usually come with a smaller cargo bed.

As you move up the trim lines, cloth seats turn into leather, and heated and cooled seats with increasing levels of adjustability become a given for the top trims. Other optional creature comforts include heated steering wheels, enormous touch-screen infotainment systems, and massive sunroofs that make high-roller truck buyers feel like they’re driving in the lap of luxury. However, getting into many of these cabs can be a hike; even with available running boards, it’s a steep climb up into most trucks.

The Bed
This is, of course, what sets trucks apart from all other vehicles. The open cargo bed lends itself to accomplishing serious chores, such as moving large appliances, bulky furniture, tools or equipment, motorcycles, snow blowers, and outdoors-only cargo like wood chips, manure, and trash. These are tasks most people wouldn’t want to (or couldn’t) do with a minivan or an SUV. Among other considerations, the open bed leaves cargo vulnerable to the weather or theft.

With a full-sized pickup, the standard bed length is 8 feet, but it’s only about 6 feet with an extended cab. Four-door crew cabs can generally be had with a 5- or 6-foot bed. Compact pickup beds usually run 5 to 6 feet, depending on cab configuration.

There are many bed accessories available, including LED lights, a tailgate step, stowable load ramps, tie-down loops, stake pockets, and remote tailgate releases. Some even come with power-operated tailgates. Spray-in and drop-in liners are popular for added protection when hauling items in the bed.

The tailgate has become a differentiating factor among trucks. The Honda Ridgeline comes with a dual-action tailgate, which allows it to flip down like a conventional tailgate or swing sideways like a door. The GMC Sierra’s tailgate can act as a step, a work surface, or even an extension to the bed itself, and Ford has added locations for clamping building materials to the tailgate of the F-150.

Engines and Fuel Economy
Engines range from small four-cylinders and V6s to V8s and big diesels. The smaller Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon even offer a four-cylinder diesel, which returned an impressive 24 mpg overall in our tests.

Ford offers a hybrid powertrain that includes a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, good for 430 hp and 570 lb.-ft. of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this powertrain will deliver 24 mpg combined—4 mpg more than the standard 3.5-liter V6’s 20 mpg combined. The 1500-series diesel engines from GM and Ram also rank high, with 23 mpg overall.

Heavy-duty trucks are built for working hard. They create a lot of power and torque, with fuel economy around 14 to 16 mpg overall for the big rigs.

Pickup trucks are well-suited to hauling boats, cars, utility trailers, and campers behind them. The owner’s manual will note the maximum weight that can be carried (payload) or towed. Buyers can have the manufacturer or dealer install towing equipment, or they can add it themselves, using aftermarket parts. Purchasing from the factory is the best choice because installation could involve complex wiring for the trailer brakes and lights, special attachment points for the tow hitch, and accessories such as a heavy-duty alternator and a transmission oil cooler. In addition, the manufacturer-engineered packages come backed by the factory warranty. Most pickups can be ordered with a trailer-brake controller.

Other available towing features include a hill hold assist, trailer sway control, a transparent trailer-view camera that allows the driver to seemingly see through the trailer, and steering assist that compensates for a trailer.

There are several factors that dictate a truck’s towing capacity, in addition to engine power. They include cab and bed size, wheelbase length, rear axle ratio, and the presence (or absence) of a factory towing package. The differences can be significant: A properly equipped truck can safely tow more than 12,000 pounds, but some configurations are limited to as little as 5,500 pounds. It’s important to understand what you intend to tow and to research the specific truck you are considering to determine its safe towing capacity.

A typical compact pickup truck can tow between 5,000 and 7,500 pounds, and most full-sized 1500-class trucks can handle 9,000 to 12,000 pounds. Heavy-duty pickups can be configured to tow over 35,000 pounds.

For ambitious hauling or towing, consider getting a diesel engine; many are available in both regular and heavy-duty models. The higher torque output associated with diesel engines makes heavy towing easier.

Ride and Handling
Trucks are designed to carry weight in the bed, so most deliver a stiff ride when the bed is empty. The heavy-duty models are borderline punishing. Some models, such as the Honda Ridgeline and Ram 1500, have made the greatest strides in delivering a reasonably comfortable and quiet ride. With just about any truck, placing even a modest load in the bed helps calm the ride somewhat.

But when it comes to handling, the sheer bulk of many of these gargantuan machines means that buyers should abandon all hope of nimble moves. Again, compared with full-sized trucks, the compact models have an edge when it comes to responsive handling—relatively speaking. However, buyers should expect trucks to have clumsy and somewhat ponderous handling.

Safety and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Technologies
Consumer Reports’ safety ratings include assessments of crash-avoidance capabilities and crash-test results, based on tests performed by the federal government and insurance industry. Further, our road tests detail issues regarding child seat installation and headlight performance.

Forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning (BSW) are crash-avoidance technologies that CR believes should be standard on all vehicles. These should be on the next new or used model you buy.

FCW technology provides a visual, audible, and/or tactile alert to warn the driver of an impending collision with a car or an object directly in its path. AEB responds to an imminent collision, braking if the driver does not react in time. BSW monitors a vehicle’s flanks, warning the driver that another vehicle is alongside, where it may be difficult to see.

Other modern safety advances include telematics systems that can alert emergency personnel if an airbag deploys, such as GM’s OnStar service; lane departure warning systems that sound an alert if the driver changes lanes without signaling; lane keeping assist to maintain the vehicle’s position in the lane if the driver starts to drift; and rear cross traffic alert, which monitors the sides of the vehicle when the driver is backing out of a parking spot, and can even apply the brakes if needed. 

New vs. Used

There are certainly benefits to buying a brand-new pickup truck. Most notably, new trucks have the latest safety gear and engineering improvements. Buyers know exactly what they’re getting, with fewer worries about potential maintenance problems. Further, there are tons of choices for color, trim line, and option levels. And financing rates are typically lower than those for a used truck.

The key drawback of buying a new truck is how quickly it will depreciate. New trucks have been known to shed half their value in the first two to three years. But the depreciation picture can change a lot from year to year, depending on competitive forces, fuel prices, new model introductions, and other factors. Financing a new vehicle with a small down payment can easily make buyers “upside down” on the loan, where they owe more than their truck is worth.

Buyers who take the used routes don’t have limited options, though. The used-truck market is about three times the size of the new-truck market, so there’s plenty of choice. One of the best strategies is to find a pickup truck that’s only a few years old. It has already taken a big depreciation hit but should still have most of its useful life ahead of it. Modern pickup trucks, if soundly maintained, can stay on the road for 200,000 miles or longer.

The key to selecting a good used pickup truck is to focus on reliability, even if the truck is still covered by its original factory warranty. Check with Consumer Reports to find models that have top-notch reliability scores.

At the same time, every used truck is unique. Have a mechanic inspect any truck you’re seriously considering. Because trucks can often lead hard lives, make sure the mechanic looks for signs of extreme duty, such as off-roading or large-trailer towing. When buying from a private seller, ask how the truck was used and maintained.

Whether buying new or used, it is important to do research so that you can choose a good model and to follow that up with effective negotiation. 

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