Mini Truck Buying Guide: 16 Helpful Tips (Before You Buy!)

What’s the best mini truck to buy? Here’s a list of things to consider

  1. Fuel economy
  2. Capacity to haul anything
  3. Be within budget
  4. Perform like a beast

Since you already figured out that a mini truck is your best bet, here’s a guide on buying one.

How Much Should You Pay For A Mini Truck?

Mini trucks typically cost between $8,000 and $15,000.

Prices for mini-trucks are pretty much the same everywhere. However, depending on your budget and the purpose for which you’re buying, you might find lower prices for these trucks.

Check out the prices for new and used mini trucks.

How Much Can You Negotiate On The Price?

Obviously, the initial price tag on the mini-truck is not the actual price.

Since it’s an investment, it’s worth negotiating. The price that you can negotiate is not cast in stone so it largely depends on the prevailing circumstances.

However, I can provide you with some tips on negotiating the best price.

5 Tips for negotiating

  1. Have your budget or price range at hand but don’t spill it just yet
  2. Be clear and intentional
  3. Have a good understanding of the numbers before the negotiation
  4. Be bold and confident
  5. Dress appropriately

Typically, the dealer would have a $2,000 to $4,000 profit window from the asking price.

So how do you maximize this profit window and get the best price possible?

Negotiation strategies

Since salesmen already have their sales strategies, you need to develop yours. Chances are they you more than you think. They’re experts, highly trained natural persuaders with years of knowledge and sales tricks. They’ve worked with all manner of people from all walks of life.

Here’s how you can match up to that level of expertise;

1. Search the web beforehand

Get as much information as you can on the mini truck you want – asking price, negotiable price, etc. Speak with fellow enthusiasts on vehicle forums and get tips from real people. Research on the most reliable dealers.

2. Have a budget in mind

Make sure you have your mind made up about how much you intend to spend before heading over to the dealership. Otherwise, you’ve already lost.

3. Carry your money along

Never deal with your bank or credit union through the dealer. They offer loans as another bargaining trick and a way to earn more money off the interest payments.

Having your check with you from your bank gives you an upper hand.

4. Be clear and intentional

Salesmen always play psychological games. They’ll size you up and try to get you emotional about the purchase. Don’t be rude. Cooperate with them and be firm.

Express your intentions and be honest about every fact you’re asked. Answer all the questions they ask you.

5. Don’t show your excitement

So you’ve seen the vehicle of your dreams and you absolutely love it. Slow down! Show reluctance and highlight the faults you find no matter how little and insignificant. Appear logical, calculative, and intentional so that they respect you as the one in charge.

And when they do ask you what you’re willing to spend for it, have the answer ready because now you have an advantage.

However, don’t give up the full amount. Start as far away from it as possible.

6. Watch the numbers carefully at all times

Have a writing pad and pen to write down all the numbers they tell you. This way you can keep a track of any changes and prevent them from inflating any cost.

Here are some numbers you should track;

  • Asking price, including options, processing, and destination fees)
  • Purchase price
  • Discounts
  • Dealer fee
  • Trade allowance
  • Title and registration fees
  • Tax
  • Down payment

7. Be bold and confident

Like I always say, that dealership is hardly the only around. The country is literally swimming with dealers. So, if your hairs are up, be bold enough to say thank you and walk out.

Before you close any deal, what constitutes a ‘good buy’?

8 Things To Look For In A Mini Truck

In general;

  1. Versatility
  2. Durability
  3. Low operating costs
  4. Utility function
  5. Options and customizations
  6. Comparison to other ATVs and UTVs
  7. Makes & Models
  8. Licensing & Regulations

More specifically for used mini trucks;

  • Chassis, frame, and underbody

In most cases, Japanese and Chinese mini trucks are built with a white-painted frame and underbody. So any scratches will typically be easy to spot.

  • Repainting

Check out for cover-up signs. For instance; undercoated black or new white paint are the first signs of a possible cover-up. Welded patches and other signs of repair should be checked as well. If found, ask about what happened.

  • Rusting

The frame components joints and some other parts of the mini-truck will have some rusting which may have accumulated over time. This may not always indicate trouble, but sometimes, it can go a long way to show the vehicle’s usage, age, or mileage.

  • Underbody axles and steering

You should crawl under the truck to inspect the steering linkage and arms, as well as the CV boots for any sign of replacement or damage. Many times, what you’ll find is a torn CV boot.

  • Clutch and shifter cables

Especially for Suzuki brands, always check to ensure that the 4×4 shifter/cable is not stuck and is working optimally. If there’s no thread left at the end of the clutch cable, that means the clutch needs replacement.

  • Mileage

Beware of older models with less mileage.

One way to tell is to check the accelerator rubber pad to see their wear. If worn out, it means the odometer has rolled over and that 1992 mini truck has gone well over 100,000 miles.

  • Cab interior

A clean interior shows the neatness and careful character of the previous user. Meanwhile, a clean interior goes a long way to tell if the truck overall was well-cared for.

  • Mini truck exterior

Always see the mini truck first-hand to find all the imperfections and determine if you can accept them.

  • Engine, steering, and running

Start the truck and let it run for a bit.

This will help you discover any issues with the radiator or thermostat. Rev the engine a few times and you should discover if there’s anything wrong or loose in the engine.

A test drive is a must and it will also let you examine the condition, acceleration, steering, and brakes.

Which Mini Trucks Are Actually Street Legal?

Kei trucks, obviously, are street legal in Japan.

But, for US roads, certain standard equipment is required like;

  • seat belts,
  • horn,
  • approved lighting (tail lights, headlamps, turn signals, reverse and brake lights),
  • and AS1/AS2 safety glass.

All these must pass the safety inspections of the state where required.

Several states in the US approve mini trucks for local road use, while other states are silent on the matter.

Here’s a complete guide we’ve made with rules for driving mini trucks on public roads in every state.

Over the past decade, Kei trucks have been primarily used in the US for:

  • Campus maintenance,
  • delivery,
  • landscape and property maintenance,
  • agricultural uses,
  • construction sites,
  • golf courses,
  • small business transportation,
  • advertisement,
  • homeowner private recreation.

Much like golf carts!

Some police agencies, fire departments, and ambulance companies have also recently started including them in their fleet of official vehicles.

Should I Get A Japanese Or A Chinese Model?

This argument is tiresome so let’s put it to bed once and for all.

First, while Japanese models are the overall best, finding parts can be a pain so you’ll have to wait for one to come from Japan. Chinese models, on the other hand, have readily available parts – thanks to Tiger and Vintage and their fully-stocked inventories for the US market.

That’s not a total fail for Japanese Kei though.

Along with their durability and reliability, several importers/dealers of Japanese mini trucks also advertise a solid parts inventory in stock.

Second, Chinese mini trucks offer a left-hand steering wheel, while Japanese mini trucks offer right-hand steering wheel. US truck owners still drive them anyway. Takes a little getting used to, but other than that, you’re good to go.

Should I Buy It At An Auction?

Some mini-truck owners bought theirs on eBay or Craigslist so I guess so. However, make sure the particular auction is reliable.

Here’s a typical “Auction Grade” to guide your selection.

It reflects the overall condition of the mini-truck, as follows;

Grade Description
5 No replaced body parts. The vehicle is in the best condition and requires no repairs. 
4.5 The body has dents or scratches. It has been slightly repaired but still in great condition. It’s almost a grade 5.
4 The overall condition is good but there are a few dents or scratches.
3.5 The body has dents or scratches that are conspicuous. The vehicle has also been through slight repairs like bumper damage repair. 
3 The body has many damages that are conspicuous like; fading, paint damage, dents or scratches.
2 The vehicle is in very bad condition.
1 A non-accident vehicle that has been rebuilt or modified or rebuilt to include either (1) an automatic transmission converted to a manual transmission. (2) an aftermarket Turbocharger. (3) Roll cage. (4) Flood damage.
RA A vehicle that has been through repairs as a result of minor accident damage.
R A vehicle that has been through repairs as a result of accident damage.
*** A vehicle that has not yet been through repairs as a result of accident damage or a vehicle with major engine problems. 

With this, you can know what to expect when buying a mini truck from an auction.

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