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Buying a Used Ford F-150: Everything You Need to Know

The best-selling vehicle in America for more than 40 years isn’t a car — it’s the Ford F-150 pickup. With numbers like these, it only makes sense for anyone shopping for a pickup truck to consider one of the many used Ford F-150s still on the road.

Long regarded for its tough design, strong engines and top-line trims, which border on near-Lincoln levels of luxury, the F-150 checks a lot of boxes for pickup buyers. It consistently holds best-in-class towing and payload numbers and boasts a nearly infinite combination of bed lengths, cabin sizes, axle ratios and options. Because the first F-Series pickup dates back to 1948, we’re going begin in the 1992 model year and focus on ninth-generation and newer trucks.

A word to first-time pickup buyers: While the V6 base models are good for light-duty hauling, anyone with trailering or heavy payload requirements should be shopping for the more powerful V8 trims or the turbocharged EcoBoost models.

Which Ford F-150 Should I Buy?

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the F-150 was known for its durable design, its Twin I-Beam front suspension and its heavy hauling abilities. Many of these trucks are becoming collectibles, so prices are jumping up on older models. For someone shopping the used F-150 market, a 1992-1997 model might be the oldest we’d recommend. These trucks retain the traditional boxy shape that came to define the F-150 in previous decades, but they also mark the beginning of a more carlike interior. Features such as driver’s-side airbags, upgraded audio systems and colorful interiors helped the F-150 stand out. Inline 6-cylinder and V8 engines were offered, as was 4-wheel drive. Buyers could opt for the sculpted FlairSide bed or the high-performance, 240-hp SVT Lightning. Cab configurations for this generation of the F-150 included Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew, and bed lengths ranged from 6.75 feet to 8 feet.

A look at Autotrader classifieds shows that F-150s from these years are difficult to find in good condition. A good example would be a 1995 F-150 XLT Eddie Bauer with 66,000 miles on a dealer lot for around $11,000. Higher-mileage trucks in good condition generally sell in the $3,000 to $5,000 range in private sales.

The Redesigned 1997 F-150

In 1997, Ford redesigned the F-150 from the ground up, and it would become one of the most controversial F-150s to date. Taking a page from the Ford Taurus playbook, Ford engineers rounded every corner of the previous generation, making an F-150 that bears almost no familial resemblance to its numerous predecessors. The traditional Twin I-Beam front suspension was jettisoned for a fully independent setup, and just about every part — save for the transmission — was completely redesigned. A rear-hinged curbside door was introduced on the SuperCab trim, followed a few years later by a matching door on the driver’s side. This generation of the F-150 featured a number of firsts, including the first half-ton pickup CrewCab with full-size rear doors and the first Triton V8 engine featuring an overhead cam. The SVT trim returned in 1999 with a supercharged 5.4-liter engine making an impressive 360 hp. All these upgrades and changes made the F-150 a much better truck, with better handling, a more comfortable cabin and better fuel economy. Regrettably, this generation is also plagued by a number of issues, including one of the most unsettling offset crash test performances ever recorded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (You can view the crash test video at iihs.org.)

A 2000 Ford F-150 in good condition with around 125,000 miles goes for about $5,000, but higher trims in better condition can pull up to $12,000.

The Best Budget Ford F-150

The 2004 redesign brought a vastly better F-150, and this is the one we’d recommend to buyers on a budget. This generation ran through the 2008 model year and featured a return to traditional F-150 styling. It was also better constructed, which resulted in much better crash test ratings. A fully boxed frame improved the truck’s rigidity and structural integrity, and a revised rear suspension helped eliminate wheel hop and improve the overall ride. The F-150’s bed was made deeper and wider than the previous generation’s. Other improvements included disconnecting front wheel hubs on 4×4 models and a 3-valve-per-cylinder head on the 5.4-liter V8. Regular Cab models got a set of small rear-hinged doors like the SuperCabs, allowing easy access to items stored behind the front seat. The model range continued to offer bread-and-butter trims as well as specialty trims, such as the Harley-Davidson, the off-road FX4, the luxury King Ranch and the high-end Lariat. A navigation radio was offered for the first time, but safety essentials such as side-impact airbags and stability control wouldn’t show up for another generation.

These models hold their value a bit better than previous-generation models do, so they generally cost a few thousand dollars more. We found a 2006 F-150 4×4 SuperCrew in nice condition with just over 100,000 miles for $12,000, which is right in the good deal range, according to the Kelley Blue Book. A base SXT V6 rear-drive with about 135,000 miles sells for around $5,800 from a dealer, or closer to $4,000 from a private party.

F-150 Improvements for 2009

The 2009 F-150 set the bar high for the competition. This version, which ran through the 2014 model year, included a beefed-up frame, greater towing ability and a standard V8 engine. The F-150’s cab grew, accommodating passengers and stuff with more storage compartments and more places to put Big Gulps. Regular Cab models lost their rear doors, but SuperCab models gained rear windows that could be raised and lowered. Ford’s SYNC infotainment system arrived, as did necessary features such as Bluetooth and USB auxiliary inputs. The F-150 offered a number of unique firsts, including an integrated stepladder built into the tailgate, trailer sway control and an available computerized system for keeping track of work tools and equipment. Safety improvements included electronic stability control and front side-impact and side-curtain airbags. A new, top-of-the-line luxury Platinum trim was added in 2009, and, in 2010, the high-performance off-road SVT Raptor trim debuted, featuring an available 411-hp 6.2-liter engine. In 2011, the F-150’s 4.8-liter and 5.4-liter V8 engines were replaced by a 3.7-liter V6 and a 5.0-liter V8, but the real meat and potatoes came from an available 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost gas engine making 365 hp. The cabin gained more high tech, too. After 2012, the lineup grew to include 10 different trims, and new features arrived, such as SYNC with MyFord Touch, HID headlights, power folding and telescoping trailering mirrors and a greater variety of wheels, paint colors and interior materials.

An F-150 of this vintage is probably going to be your best bet when searching for a low-mileage truck in good condition with the options and features you want. We spotted a few 2011 SuperCrew 4x4s with the 5.0-liter V8 and less than 150,000 miles selling in the $12,000 to $14,000 range. Trucks with less than 100,000 miles are a few thousand dollars more expensive. Raptor and Lariat models pull a bigger premium. The base Regular Cab V6 is the most affordable.

Newer Used Ford F-150s

The 2015 F-150 marked another major milestone in the F-150 story. A used version of this truck will give you most of the features available on a new F-150, as the 2020 model still uses this platform. The most noticeable improvement is the use of aluminum across the F-150’s body panels, although the frame and firewall remain high-strength steel. A loss of nearly 700 pounds allowed the F-150 to dominate its Chevrolet and Ram rivals in fuel economy, towing and payload. However, some owners and competitors pointed out how easy it was to damage the F-150’s aluminum bed panels. Ford countered that most trucks use bedliners that would eliminate this worry.

This 13th-generation F-150 is the safest and most technologically advanced F-150, with features such as blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control available on some trims. The infotainment system got upgraded to the SYNC3 system, which addressed the many bugs and issues with the old MyTouch system. Power for this generation continued to come from a series of 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder gasoline engines, including a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost option. In 2018, the F-150 offered a diesel engine, another first for Ford’s half-ton pickup. The 3.0-liter Power Stroke engine produces 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, making it a good option for anyone who regularly tows heavy loads. A highway fuel economy rating of 30 miles per gallon is also a game changer.

A buyer looking at a used F-150 from this generation is going to pay a lot more than they would for a comparably equipped older version. But for someone looking for the technology, pulling power and design of the newest F-150, this is a good way to get it without the immediate depreciation that happens when you drive a new truck off the lot. A 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 SuperCrew with 77,000 miles sells for around $23,000, whereas a high-end Platinum SuperCrew with only 31,000 miles can go for as much as $38,000. We found a base XL trim with rear-wheel drive and the 2.7-liter turbo with 30,000 miles on the clock for under $23,000.

What’s the most weight an F-150 can tow and haul?

The 2015 and newer F-150s have a max trailer rating of up to 13,200 pounds and a maximum payload rating of 3,300 pounds. The 2014 F-150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is tow rated at 11,300 pounds. Models from the 2008 model year and before max out around 9,500 pounds.

What’s the difference between an F-150 and an F-250?

The F-150 is a regular half-ton pickup, whereas the F-250 is a heavy-duty three-quarter-ton truck. The F-250 offers more powerful engines, including Ford’s largest Power Stroke diesel engine, and it can tow more weight (17,500 pounds versus the F-150’s 13,200 pounds). The F-250 has a more rugged suspension that yields a rougher ride, but the two trucks share a common cab.

What’s the longest bed I can get on an F-150 SuperCrew?

That depends on the trim and model year. High-end models like the Raptor and the Limited limit bed length to 5.5 feet, whereas the King Ranch and the Platinum stretch out as far as 6.5 feet. Only Regular and SuperCab F-150s offer the 8-foot bed.

Are the F-150s with aluminum body panels expensive to repair?

This has been a nagging question ever since the 2015 F-150 debuted. From our research, shops that know how to work on the aluminum panels spend no more time repairing them than they do repairing steel. Though aluminum panels might be new to the F-150, cars have been using them for years, so most body shops have the tools and skills needed to repair aluminum.

What are the issues to watch out for with a Ford F-150?

The 1997-2003 F-150s are the most trouble-prone, starting with a massive recall related to engine fires caused by a defective cruise control unit. There were an unusual number of complaints about the spark plugs on the 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter V8 engines literally blowing out from their seats. It was never determined whether this was caused by a defective head or just bad threads on the plugs, and no recall was ever issued. In fairness, most owners say that these F-150s have a reputation for longevity and relatively low maintenance costs — both important attributes to used car buyers.

Later-model F-150s hold up much better, but there are still some issues in 2004-2008 F-150s with spark plugs breaking off and corrosion issues on the hood and under the truck. This generation also had a lot of engine issues and recalls. Among the 2009-2014 trucks, the trouble-prone MyFord Touch system is a constant source of owner complaints and some rear defrosters on the sliding rear window went bad, and there were numerous complaints about leaking gaskets and transmission shifting issues. The 2015 and newer models have held up well, although they, too, have a few recalls on the books and some reports of problems involving the electronic throttle body.

How Does the Ford F-150 Stack Up to the Competition?

Used Ford F-150 vs. Used Chevrolet Silverado

These rivals run neck and neck in just about every category, although the F-150 usually bests the Silverado in towing and payload. Over the various model years, however, the Silverado holds its value a bit better and seems to have fewer mechanical and electrical issues.

Used Ford F-150 vs. Used Ram 1500

Depending on the year, the Ram’s resale and reliability ratings fall short of the F-150’s. Newer Ram 1500 models offer more upscale interiors and smoother rides. The Ram 1500 was also quicker to get a diesel engine to market, and Ford has nothing to compete with the massive Ram Mega Cab.

Used Ford F-150 vs. Used Toyota Tundra

Though the Tundra can’t match the F-150 in towing, payload, engine choices or trim levels, its reputation for being nearly bulletproof makes it a highly desirable full-size pickup. Resale and reliability ratings are consistently at the top of the charts, but the Tundra’s big V8 is notoriously fuel-thirsty, even on the newer models.

Is the Ford F-150 a Good Vehicle?

Yes, for the most part. The F-150 is a good truck with a long record of durability and repeat customers. We would avoid models made between 1997 and 2003, but even that can depend on the truck’s mileage and how it was cared for. Sure, there are issues in each generation, but when you sell 700,000 trucks a year, there will always be some that have problems. So while there might be a lot of complaints about various issues, the actual number of vehicles experiencing issues is quite small, percentage-wise. Ford has been pretty good about addressing the more glaring issues, either through recalls or technical service bulletins. And considering how many F-150 buyers keep coming back year after year, we think the Ford F-150 is an excellent used pickup. Find a Ford F-150 for sale

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