A white 2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown off-roading after visiting a used truck dealer.

How to Make the Most Out of an Old Truck

Making the most out of what you have is a sentiment instilled in us in kindergarten. We’re not all millionaires, and we don’t have the latest and mightiest trucks like the Silverado 3500 HD or the Ford F-450 Super Duty—but what we do have is creativity. Visiting a used truck dealer may inspire you to spend the big bucks on some of the more recent models, or even on trucks from the past few years, but I’m here to tell you that making the most out of an older pre-owned truck—one from ten to fifteen years ago—isn’t as encumbering as it seems.

Just as film and music producers do all time, you can “remaster” your trucking experience. I recommend this for first-time truck buyers, especially those looking for performance on a budget—but even those still driving a truck from a decade or so ago can use this advice to gain some insight on how they can better enhance the vehicle they’re already accustomed to.

A red 2020 Ram 1500 is shown driving on a road.

The Term “Modification”

When I mention “enhancing your trucking experience” or “modifications,” I’m not talking about bodywork, but rather both how it feels to use your vehicle and ways in which using your vehicle is made more versatile, thanks to new additions or simply by thinking of new and exciting ways to use your pickup truck. This topic is open-ended enough that there aren’t any wrong answers—and I am not able to cover every possible way that you can enhance a truck from ten, fifteen, or perhaps even twenty years ago—but my goal is to give you a handful of ideas that you can take with you once you begin searching for a truck. Even if you’re not looking for an older truck, the advice I want to present can apply to future vehicles, as some of these methods are timeless. But enough chit-chat; let’s start with the first way to make the most of an older used truck…

A Simple Solution

You might find this trivial, but it very well could have flown over some people’s heads: buying a phone mount to stick on your windshield can go a long way into enhancing a cheaper old truck. When you think of modern-day trucks, you may think of a few things, but one of the most glaring is the infotainment center. What is an infotainment center but a media hub that doesn’t have much in the way of connectivity unless connected via a smartphone?

With a pre-owned truck, you won’t have to feel bad about cutting out the middle man, and by having your phone facing you at all times, you can do much of the same functions as an infotainment center. Nowadays, phones let you speak to a virtual assistant without ever touching the phone, so you can ask for directions, ask for a specific song to play, or ask to make a phone call through the vehicle’s speakers. How will you get your phone’s audio to transmit to your speakers without an infotainment center? Adapters. Even in older media centers, there’s a way to plug in a Bluetooth adapter of sorts; when iPods began taking over the world, my father used a cassette to an auxiliary adapter in his 1998 Dodge Durango, so these such methods have existed for quite some time.

A white 2021 GMC Canyon is shown driving off-road.

Surround the Old With the New

Just because you purchase a pre-owned truck doesn’t mean everything is pre-owned. There are several ways you can make your truck feel newer, even if the truck is old enough not to get carded at a bar. Best of all, the ways you can make your truck feel fresher won’t cost you much money.

One of the products you can invest in is weather-proof floor mats. Whether the carpeted floor of your truck is in pristine condition or not, weather-proof floor mats give you peace of mind in knowing you can dribble mud, snow, dirt, or whatever other elements and still keep the floor of your car clean—all you need to do is hose down the all-weather mats every once in a while.

Another way that you can make your vehicle feel or look newer is by replacing the tires with a fresh set. If you plan on doing this, you should consider a set of all-season tires so you can easily traverse through harsher road conditions—and you also won’t have to worry about switching to your winter tires every nine or so months. Depending on your skill level, or if you know someone who can do it for you, you can also replace your speakers with a fresh set; you can also replace your old radio system with a more modernized infotainment center, complete with built-in Bluetooth and more. If you purchase a decade-old truck that still performs like its newer peers, and you invest in replacing all the things I’ve mentioned, you’ll be amazed at how fresh the experience can feel while saving you thousands of dollars.

Turn Your Truck Into a Money-Making Machine

When you were a kid, did you ever go around the neighborhood asking to mow your neighbor’s lawns or shovel their driveways for some extra cash? Some of you certainly have, while the rest of you at least know someone who has. Now that you’re an adult, you have a job—or at least you probably have a job—but wouldn’t it be nice to have some extra spending money? Pickup trucks lend themselves better to this than most other vehicles.

While more people have begun making their income thanks to their vehicles—through services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, etcetera—trucks are more versatile by design, so one example of what you can do for extra cash is to invest in a snow plow. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone; the weather in your region may not call for much snow. Side work comes in all forms, even if helping a friend or family member haul some belongings to a new house for a few extra bucks, for example. Or, see again, TaskRabbit.

A black 2017 Ford Raptor is shown parked off-road.

Make the Most of It and Have Some Fun!

Knowing how to stretch a dollar can mean a few things, but something you can never put a price on is memories. No matter how much you spend on your pickup truck, you can always make the best of what you have. In my opinion, the easiest way to make the best of what you have is by having some fun—and one of my favorite ways to have fun on a budget is tailgating with friends and family, whether that be at sporting events, concerts, or cooking up some hamburgers on the beach on a beautiful summer day.

All you need for tailgating is some good tunes, food, drinks, company, and—most importantly—you need a truck at the heart of the party. First-time truck drivers should try tailgating with their vehicles at least once—especially sports fans, because there’s nothing better than relaxing outside near your truck and conversing with like-minded individuals who brought their trucks down for the same thing. Tailgating goes as far as the mid-1800s, and it has been an American tradition ever since Average Joe began driving around in automobiles.

So, to those considering a used truck, hopefully you now understand that your purchase—even if from twenty years ago—doesn’t mean you’re getting a bad deal. Trucks from 2003 have aged better in 2023 than the vehicles from 1983 did in 2003; this is nearly indisputable given the advancements in engine tech, the size of trucks, the adaptability of technology, etcetera—and, given the sheer volume of pickup trucks on the market and in the hands of American drivers, this cycle will continue, with today’s best pickup trucks someday, too, to be offered at reasonable prices while newer, stronger, and more efficient trucks enter the picture.