skip to content
Driving Line Mark Logo

The Best Used Diesel Trucks…Can Still Be Found At Fair Prices

Has the used truck market gone mad? Sort of. Coinciding with the supply chain issues limiting the availability of virtually all new vehicles, collectors, enthusiasts and especially car buyers on tighter budgets turned to alternative means of transportation when the shortage hit. Of course, we all know what happened to the used car market after that. Prices exploded and in fact continue to hold steady at their “potentially new” going rates. The story is no different for diesel trucks, which often command a premium not only for their engines but because they’re capable of so much hard work.

Second-Gen Cummins Dodge Diesel

But while the used diesel pickup market has changed, prices haven’t skyrocketed as much as you think—so long as you’re willing to put some effort into your search. Yes, price-gouging is occurring, but so are reasonable sales, both privately and at dealerships. And yes, you’re likely going to have to hunt in order to find the right truck for the right price, but it’s 100-percent doable—even in today’s wild market. Below, we’re highlighting the used diesels that can not only be had for a reasonable dollar amount but that have proven track records of being rock-solid reliable.

For the record, we’re talking about clean, rust-free trucks here—not the local township’s 300,000-mile plow truck with a body and frame on the verge of rusting in half. Happy hunting!

OBS Fords (’94.5-‘97)

1997 Ford F350 Power Stroke Nitto Ridge Grappler

Let’s start with the survivors, the old body style (OBS) Fords. The trucks that would’ve rusted out more than a decade ago if they lived up north, but that can still be found—albeit with some faded paint to contend with—down in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and select other southern states. They were equipped with the first 7.3L Power Stroke V-8, the non-intercooled version that is known to be ultra-reliable. The trucks themselves are simple in nature and were at the tail end of a long production run (1980-1997), so parts are readily available in junkyards or through the aftermarket.

The Current Going Rate For A Clean OBS

OBS Ford Diesel Truck

It’s fairly safe to say you’re not going to find a clean OBS Ford for less than $10,000 anymore, but you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to spend $25,000. Luckily, with a 7.3L under the hood higher miles isn’t a concern. For a well-preserved ’94.5-’97 with 160,000 to 300,000 miles on the clock (4x4 or two-wheel drive, crew cab or super cab and single rear wheel or dually), anywhere from $11,500 to $18,000 is a typical current asking price. However, for low, low miles (you know, unicorns), you’ll be opening your wallet to the tune of $30,000, if not more. To help take some of the needle-in-a-haystack out of finding a clean OBS Ford, take a look at Handpicked Trucks, a company dedicated to finding and selling affordable versions of ’92-’97 Fords.

P-Pumped Second-Gen’s (’96-‘98)

1996 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo Diesel

We clarify “P-pumped” here because some second-gens (’98.5-‘02) were equipped with the VP44-fueled 24-valve 5.9L Cummins rather than the P-pumped 12-valve 5.9L version we’re talking about. And why do we zero in on the ’96-’98 model years when they were available in ’94 and ‘95? Because the ’96-’98 model years are slightly more desirable versions of Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 series trucks thanks to the updated transmissions (namely the 47RE) they came with. On to the selling points. 1. The 12-valve 5.9L Cummins is stupid simple, requiring very few electronics to start and function. 2. The Bosch P7100 holds near-endless performance potential in addition to lasting as long as the engine. 3. As for both the Cummins and the P-pump, they’re known to last 500,000 miles without any major overhaul of either component taking place.

The Current Going Rate For A Clean P-pumped Second-Gen

Second-Gen Cummins Dodge Diesel

Like OBS Fords, it’s best to look west and south for a clean second-gen. Corrosion is a huge problem for these trucks in the rust belt and you’d be hard-pressed to even find a rust-free version in a northern state. Once you’ve pinpointed your search area, expect to pay a premium over what the OBS Fords are bringing. However, there is no reason to pay $30,000 or more unless you really want to. From reasonably low miles (160,000) to more than 230,000, asking prices tend to begin at $14,000 for a 4x4 quad cab 2500 and peak around $27,000 to $28,000. For a low-mile unicorn, i.e. a ’98 Ram quad cab with rear opening doors and the 12-valve Cummins, expect to pay more than that though. At this point, sellers definitely know what they have with one of the latter trucks in their possession.

O.G. Super Duty’s ('99-'03)

Ford Super Duty Power Stroke Diesel Towing

Ford developed the Super Duty right when the towing, torque and payload wars between the Big Three really started burning hot back around the turn of the century—and Ford put everything on the line to ensure its product was of high quality. For that reason, many of these trucks are still on the road today. Granted, those roads are primarily in the southern and southwestern portions of the U.S., but the fact remains that they’re still out there. These trucks boast the second-generation 7.3L Power Stroke, the one that came with an intercooler and a wastegated turbocharger—and that packed more horsepower (up to 275 hp) and torque (up to 525 lb-ft) right out of the box.

The Current Going Rate For A Clean ’99-’03 Super Duty

1999 Super Duty Power Stroke

A well-kept, 7.3L Power Stroke-equipped ’99-’03 Super Duty is going to command a few more dollars than an OBS Ford. However, as a much more capable truck (towing and payload) as well as being a few years newer, they should. Just don’t fall for the 20,000-mile version selling for $50,000 (again, unless you want to). Rust-free, quarter-million-mile Super Duty’s sell for anywhere from $17,000 to $25,000 at the present time, you just have to find yours. Once again, look south and west for a cancer-free candidate. And don’t lose sleep over a 250,000-mile engine, it’s just getting started.

LB7 Chevrolet HD’s ('01-'04)

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LB7 Duramax

GM’s answer to the Super Duty, Ford’s Navistar-built 7.3L Power Stroke and Dodge’s legendary Cummins was the GMT800 platform, the 6.6L Duramax V-8 and the Allison 1000. How did that work out? The Duramax and Allison proved so rock-solid that they both live on today more than 20 years later, in GM’s latest and greatest HDs. The original Duramax, the LB7, produced 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque and the ’01-’04 Chevrolet (and GMC) HD’s still continue to hold their own when it comes to towing. Add to that the fact that these trucks were fairly light, made use of an independent front suspension and could knock down 20-22 mpg or more on the highway thanks to the five-speed Allison and you have one of the best used diesel truck options on the market.

The Current Going Rate For A Clean ’01-’04 Silverado/Sierra HD

Duramax LB7 Nitto Mud Grappler Diesel Truck Pull

While the LB7 Duramax did have injector issues, by now most of these trucks have been treated to a fresh set, with the Bosch replacements being updated to solve the internal ball seat issue (it’s complicated, but there is more reading on that here). To sum things up, don’t fear this engine, it is one of the most reliable Duramax V-8’s ever produced—and given the Duramax’s reputation for durability that is saying something. Once again, your best bet is to pluck an ’01-’04 GM HD from a milder climate. And as for price point, $11,000 (high miles) to $19,000 (moderate miles) is the rough going rate right now, with 100,000-mile trucks commanding $24,000 or more on dealer lots (and a couple thousand less privately). At the same time, we’ve seen 180,000 to 250,000-mile models sell for much less (think $13,000), so keep your eyes peeled when you’re on the hunt for one of these gems.

  • Didn’t know the 5.9L Cummins could be hurt? Check out the 10-cent “KDP” that can cost you an engine right here.
Return to beginning of article

Recommended For You

Loading ...