Why Are Trucks So Expensive?

Let’s face it: Buying a new pickup truck isn’t exactly cheap. If you’re looking to buy new, you’ll likely have to spend upwards of $25,000 or $30,000, and that’s just for the basic package. Upgrading your truck with special packages and other accessories will only increase the price. When you’re done adding all those bells and whistles, a new pickup truck could easily cost $60,000 or more. One thing’s for sure–that’s a lot more than your grandparents paid for their first pickup truck. 

Companies like Ford represent an important part of American history. Early off-road models helped us win WWII and, for a time, owning a pickup truck was just about as American as enlisting in the local draft. The latest models are invariably better than what your grandparents drove back in the 1960s. From the quality of materials to the safety features to the upgrades, there are many factors that go into the change in price. Find out why trucks are so expensive and what you can do to lower the price. 

The Price of a Pickup

Prices are always going up thanks to inflation, but auto manufacturers have been putting the pedal to the metal when it comes to raising the price of their inventory. From 2008 to 2018, the price for full-size, light-duty pickups increased by 48 percent, marking the highest price increase for that time period out of all vehicle categories.

The price to own a new pickup truck continues to go up year after year. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price for a full-size pickup was $48,369 in September 2018. That’s over $7,000 more than what it was in 2013. According to data from Cox Automotive, most buyers expect to pay $26,699 for a new midsize pickup, but the average transaction price through August 2018 is actually more like $33,275.

So, where are these price hikes coming from? Sure, some consumers can’t help but add on all the extra packages and accessories that increase the overall price of the truck, but auto manufacturers are the ones controlling the price. Some worry that the low price of gas is driving up the cost of pickup trucks. Gas prices were much higher just five or six years ago than they are today. For many consumers, this means fuel efficiency often takes a back seat to four-wheel drive and other in-demand features. 

If gas prices start inching up in the next few years, truck manufacturers may feel some pressure to lower the price, and Moore’s Law tells us that the technology will get better and cheaper, too.

Shopping for a New Truck

If you’re thinking of buying a new pickup truck, you’ll likely need to spend a good deal of money, but you also have to think about what you’re looking to get out of your new vehicle. If you’re just looking to get to and from work each day and maybe the occasional trip to the grocery or hardware store, buying a new pickup truck with all the fixings may not be the best use of your money.

On the other hand, if you’re serious about owning a pickup truck and you know you’ll put it to good use, you have to decide what you’re looking to get out of it. Every auto manufacturer, including Ford, Chevy and Dodge, makes a basic work truck which usually sells for a base price of around $25,000. But that doesn’t get you four-wheel drive, extended cab, leather trimmed seats, the full technology package or the many other packages you have to choose from.

The question then becomes whether you really need all these extra upgrades and accessories. Sure, satellite radio is nice, but it may not be worth it. Besides, you aren’t buying a truck to listen to music.

The biggest upgrade we hear about is getting four-wheel drive. You want to feel confident behind the wheel and having four-wheel drive will help you stay in control of your vehicle when the going gets tough. But, is four-wheel drive absolutely essential? If you live in a moderate climate, you don’t have to worry about snow, and you spend most of your time indoors, so you’ll probably be fine with two-wheel drive. But, if you love exploring the outdoors and driving through harsh winter weather, four-wheel drive may be exactly what you need. However, upgrading to four-wheel drive will easily add another $2,000 to your bill.

The truth is that four-wheel drive will help you accelerate under slippery conditions, but it won’t help you brake any faster or avoid sliding in the snow. Four-wheel drive may also improve the overall handling of your truck. It’s a nice feature to have, but it isn’t exactly essential for daily driving.

When shopping for a new pickup, research these upgrades and features before you buy to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Consider your driving habits so you don’t end up paying for something you don’t need.

Buying New

They say new cars lose half their value as soon as they leave the lot. So, why buy new? Well, there are several advantages to buying a new pickup truck instead of a used one. For starters, buying new gives you access to the latest technology, including brake assistant, lane departure warnings and the backup camera, which will certainly help you stay safe on the road. You will also get a full warranty package from the dealership, which should give you more peace of mind behind the wheel.

New pickup trucks also tend to be more fuel-efficient than earlier models, helping you save money over time. It’s also easier to finance new cars than used ones. Banks and credit unions will be more likely to issue you a car loan for a new vehicle. Lenders tend to take their time when issuing used car loans, considering they need to approximate the value of the used vehicle. Drivers also tend to pay back new car loans more so than used car loans, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting a loan.

You also don’t have to worry about hidden costs when buying a new truck. The vehicle has never been driven before, so you don’t have to worry about it having issues, especially if there is a warranty. 

Buying Used

Used cars tend to cost just over half of what it costs to buy a new car. If you’re looking to save as much money as possible, it’s probably best to buy used. Accessing the latest features and technology may be a challenge when buying a used truck, but you should be able to find what you need if you have access to a wide variety of sellers.

One of the best things about buying a used truck is the customization process. You can use all that money you saved buying a used truck to start building the pickup of your dreams. You can still deck out your pickup with all kinds of fun accessories, such as thicker tires, new shocks, LED lights, grip bars and better brakes. Companies like Ford and Chevy will charge you an arm and a leg for some of these features, but you can pick and choose which features you need without spending a fortune on fancy packages and factory builds. 

Adding a Lift Kit or Leveling Kit

Four-wheel drive is great for going off-road, but you still may get stuck in the mud without a set of mud terrain or all-terrain tires. If you really want to get some use out of your pickup truck and explore the great outdoors like nobody’s business, you’ll need what’s known as a lift kit or leveling kit. Lift kits raise the suspension of your vehicle, giving you room to add larger, more aggressive tires. They come with everything you need to raise the suspension of your truck, including steering components, new shocks, brake lines and other must-have accessories to keep you comfortable behind the wheel. 

Leveling kits raise either the front or back of your vehicle to give it a more level stance. Some factory models settle in the front, leaving you with an uneven stance. Winches, trailer hook-ups and other accessories can also weigh down either side of your truck. Leveling kits give you a little extra room for larger tires, usually by a few inches.

Mud terrain and all-terrain tires come with reinforced sidewalls, greater puncture resistance and unique tread patterns that will help you stay in control of your vehicle, even under the most challenging circumstances. If you want to add truly monster tires to your truck so you can dominate the outdoors, it’s best to go with a lift kit instead of a leveling kit. You’ll have more space for larger tires and more ground clearance–the space between the undercarriage and the ground–so you can run over all kinds of obstacles and debris with ease. 

When calculating the cost to lift a truck, prices tend to vary by size. It usually costs anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars to lift a truck, ranging from around $400 for smaller truck lift kits to $14,000 for larger truck lift kits. Leveling kits tend to cost much less, ranging from about $200 to $1,000. If you have some experience under the hood, you should be able to install these kits yourself in just a few hours or a single day. You don’t need to be a professional mechanic to get the job done. If you don’t feel like messing with it or you don’t have the time, you can always have your local mechanic install the kit for you for a small fee. 

The Bottom Line

You have a lot of different options to consider when shopping for a pickup truck. Buying new will be more expensive than buying used, but it may be worth it if you need access to certain features and the latest technology. If you really want to explore the outdoors and drive a pickup with superior handling on and off the road, you can always buy a used truck and then customize it as you see fit. You can still add certain features and a lift kit to make room for larger tires. You’ll save money and still have one of the toughest, most reliable pickup trucks on the road.

If you’re adamant about buying a new pickup truck and you want to make room for larger tires, you can still add a lift kit. Superlift offers a Lift Force warranty with the purchase of any lift kit or leveling kit, which covers any warranty issues with the OEM, so you can still lift your truck. Some auto manufacturers are unfamiliar with aftermarket suspension modifications, so they may take issue with your lift kit. However, if the OEM denies your drivetrain warranty due to the installation of your lift kit, Superlift will handle the expenses. Superlift’s lift kit warranty does not replace the OEM warranty. It just supplements it in case any issues arise.

At the end of the day, lifting a used truck may be better than buying new. If you have the money to buy new and lift your truck, more power to you. Do your research and find the best pickup truck based on your preferences and budget.