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Chevy Trucks to Buy and Not Buy Explained by a Chevrolet Mechanic

Thinking about buying a used Chevy truck, but not sure which model in what eras are the keepers worth investing in? Here’s the latest from an experienced Chevrolet truck owner and mechanic who offers this guide about Chevy truck specifics and which you should and should not buy…and why.

Used Trucks and the End of an Era

The days of finding an old used truck in decent shape for a few hundred dollars are gone. I discovered this just a few years ago upon returning to the U.S. and was in the market for a used truck to restore as a new project that would become my primary ride. Yes, those trucks were still out there; however, we are talking $10 K and above for makes and models that appealed to me possessing a carburetor to fuel the engine, points to control the timing, and a body that looked like what a truck should still look like---don’t get me started on those SUV-looking newer models of trucks.

Related article: Why You Should Look at a Used Silverado Before Considering Buying a New Model

You would think that it was not really that bad a few years ago. But I had another two requirements---no abandoned truck projects someone had already tore into and gave up on, or trucks with a rusted-out bodies. There’s nothing like finding a first-glance truck that looks promising on the outside only to discover hidden rust damage so bad that the cab is resting on the steering column. And nothing screams “RED FLAG” like a used vehicle with its engine in pieces in the truck or back of a truck.

Thumb through a Hemmings Motor News classic car guide and you will find no end of unfinished older model cars and trucks for sale in all sorts of states of disrepair that a knowing wrench recognizes will likely lead to despair and bankruptcy.

Inside I feel the fault of all of this is due to popular automotive shows that made restoration and repair look easy, fast, and cool. My impression is that these shows attracted a lot of misguided enthusiasts that resulted in driving used truck prices up and creating the piles of parts tossed in the back of so many trucks for sale. But---like I said---it’s my guess and I will leave it to a sociologist to eventually write about what happened the past decade to old used trucks.

Used Truck Pitfalls and Pluses

There are a large number of pitfalls when it comes to rebuilding an older model truck. Chief among them is finding original parts. Not impossible, but it can be very challenging. Fortunately, there are some businesses selling restoration parts and you will learn how to change your original plan and find a compromise. You might discover there is some wisdom in buying two of the same model and using the poorer condition one as a parts source.

The pluses after all of the aggravation and dollars spent is when you discover that it was not the end product of the completed project, but the journey that made it all worthwhile.

That said, rather than belabor what restoring an older model truck---or just finding a used one that would make a good “beater” truck with a few repairs---is like, here is an interesting YouTube channel video from the Car Wizard who discusses what he knows about Chevy trucks from the 1970’s to 2008 as he guides viewers on what models to buy and which ones to avoid that includes tips to help you find the era of truck that appeals to you and your wallet.

In the Video You Will Learn

• The different eras of Chevy trucks from the 1970’s to 2008
• Differences between eras and what they mean when it comes to repairs
• Models that had features that you may want to avoid in a truck
• Common problems and pitfalls you can expect in several models
• Whether parts are still easily available…or not
• How they compared performance-wise and if they were reliable
• What you can expect to pay for a used truck

What's The Beef with Chevy Trucks? Car Wizard Shares Their Differences and Which to Buy & Not to Buy!

And finally…

What are your thoughts on old trucks? Let us know in the comments section below about your experiences and a favorite one you have owned.

PS: If you have an older Chevy you love and want to say something about it, feel free to send a photo and caption. I would like to post one article of the Chevy's owners love someday if I can get enough responses. Thanks for sharing!

For additional articles about used vehicles, here are two for your consideration: “Consumer Reports Lists What's New in Small Pickup Trucks” and “Everything You Need to Know About Buying Car and Truck Tires.”

COMING UP NEXT: Consumer Reports New Listing of This Year’s Trucks Buyers Liked and Disliked After Buying

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

Image Source: Pexels


Randy (not verified)    February 4, 2022 - 8:49AM

I love the older Chevy trucks. I have a 1976 Silverado 1/2 ton short bed 2wd with a factory 454. Of the 46 years of it's life I have had it for 30+. It was a driver until about 4 years ago when I decided to disassemble it and restore it with the help of a friend. My friend being a great auto body guy and me the mechanical guy I could see my 76 going back together in record time. My friend quit body work and left me high and dry. But I'm am determined to get my ol 76 together and have lots of fun letting that 454 tear the road up.

Timothy Boyer    February 5, 2022 - 11:28AM

In reply to by Phil (not verified)

Excellent choice---should be a lot of fun. My recommendation is to find an original service manual and back that up with old Haynes and Chilton manuals that include your vehicle. I have found that having multiple manual resources to be very beneficial since all differ some and offer a range of photos and illustrations. Should be able to pick and choose what you can do and what is best left to an experienced mechanic. For example, I learned the hard way that most transmissions are best left to someone with a lot of transmission experience. Good luck with it!

Bill (not verified)    February 4, 2022 - 12:48PM

I own a 1990 Chevy silver auto with 753000 miles on it . The engine has never been touched except for oil changes and spark plugs. I have replaced two transactions three alternator’s and three starters obviously brake shoes and a few universal joints. Truly an amazing truck until I hit an elk at 70 miles per hour.

Colby Sheperd (not verified)    February 6, 2022 - 12:12PM

I’ve always had a love for Chevys and have always owned one. My first vehicle was a white 92 single cab SWB with the TBI 5.7L and maroon interior with some aftermarket bucket seats, man would that baby run. Sold it when I graduated high school in 2006 with 135k miles on it. Next year the guy I sold it too wrapped it around a telephone pole. I sold my Black 2003 Chevy Z71 Tahoe this past September with 254k. Never had any issues with it. Figured I ran its course and sold it before problems occurred but I’m still regretting that sale to This day. Most reliable vehicle I had ever owned. But my favorite Chevy of all I still own and have had it since 2006, I’m the second owner of a Blue 1999 2 door Tahoe Sport Z71 with the 5.7 L V8 and every option they came with. It got me through college and everything and has been the best vehicle. I still get excited when I see it in the parking lot next to all these new vehicles. Wouldn’t trade it for anything and plan on keeping it and giving it to my kids or nephews some day if I don’t end up having kids. I have recently started converting it to an off-road Overlanding rig. It’s the perfect size for it. Has plenty of power and a 30 gallon gas tank which compared to my 01 jeep Tj with just a 19 gallon. I can go way further on one tank and get deeper in the woods than anyone else without having to worry about fuel. The 2 doors Tahoe/k5 blazers have always been and will be a vehicle that I think are one the coolest vehicles made to this day.

Howard Flett (not verified)    February 6, 2022 - 12:28PM

Having a 1962 C-10 back to original has been a great time in finding parts. Even found a good original grill. Only new non stock part is the alternator, but have the original generator that still is in good working order.
My daily driver for several years.

Derk Glimmer (not verified)    March 18, 2022 - 7:58AM

I’ve got a 1994 Silverado K2500 that I factory ordered as my dream truck 28 years ago. It’s an extended cab, short bed with the 5.7L TBI motor and five speed manual tranny. It’s only got 188,000 miles on it and has always been used as a truck, not a highway queen. In all those years and miles it has only stranded me one time when a $7 fusible link burned out about a mile from home. It’s never been wrecked and everything on the truck is still original; I’ve only had to replace wear items and consumables over its entire lifetime. That truck has been ridiculously reliable forever, runs like a top, rides like a Cadillac and still is in excellent condition inside and out EXCEPT for rust… The cab corners have rusted completely through and there is significant rust all around the rear end which has necessitated replacing shackle bolts and most of the brake lines. We have ordered a 2022 Silverado 2500 HD and if that truck is half the vehicle that this 1994 has been I will be thrilled. Hopefully Chevy has gotten the rust issues figured out; from what I see it has been a very common problem with trucks of this vintage. I haven’t decided yet what to do with the old truck when the new one gets here; I really don’t need two trucks but it would be like selling a family member to get rid of the 1994!

Hamilton (not verified)    March 18, 2022 - 10:39AM

I bought a 69 C10 Shortbed Stepside, January of 21. Covid was still a very big thing where materials, and the vendor's employees were concerned. It was really hard to get parts, the correct parts, and get them in, in a timely manner. I tried to do one purchase through one company for all parts all at one time, and got told no by the vendor. So I had to split it up between 5 vendors. That made it super hard to keep track of. Honorable mentions, and are the only two that kept it together throughout last year. Everyone else ate stupid cookies by the box. We started restoring that March once the parts finally started showing up. However, due to manufacturers being shorthanded and a material shortage, they did not start showing up in the right order. Ridiculous lead times made it impossible to go in the correct order. But it was covid, we had nothing to do except work on the truck on the weekends. So we trudged on. We're both very experienced when it comes to turning tools, so my wife and I got greasy with each other. I estimate it has been 2 to 3 times more difficult than it should have been because of having to go back into an area or system multiple times because parts didnt exist. We travel for work so all we have is a very tiny 2 car garage and all my cool tools are in storage. It was a decent truck to start with that we bought out of Texas, we bought it off of Marketplace and had it shipped to us sight unseen except for a lot of facetime videos with the owner. He over sold it, we found more things wrong with it, more rust, and other issues here and there. We are now close to 50k invested into it. It is a restomod, it will be a very clean example when we are complete, which will be in the next month. Over a year of toil, troubles, disappointments, and small victories where we can get them. She is almost complete. If you want more details we have been pretty thorough with documentation of the process for scrapbook purposes. Literally probably onen of the worst times in history to restore a truck, but we've just about done it.

Mike Farmer (not verified)    March 22, 2022 - 12:46AM

I have a 95 Chevy Silverado K1500 four wheel drive short bed v8 5 speed with 373 gears with 78k original miles bought it new and love it..

Dennis (not verified)    March 22, 2022 - 8:11PM

In reply to by Mike Farmer (not verified)

Working on my 72 Chevy c10 August she be in the family for 40yrs putting her back together has been a challenge I decide to keep my straight 6 in it work out with gas on the rise.

michael sexton (not verified)    June 14, 2022 - 3:17PM

89 GMC full size jimmy. 350 with TBI. 4x4,700r.
Bought from original owner. Top had never been off. Bought in 2017 with 140,000 mi. Has 161,000 in 2022. Replaced water pump, brakes, tires and rims and exhaust. It's my daily driver. Love it!!!

Don Cotter (not verified)    June 15, 2022 - 10:02AM

I have a 1997 Silverado Z71 with 383, 000 miles almost everything’s original to the truck including the exhaust system! Transmission was rebuilt two years ago. 4 batteries, 2 alternators, 1 water pump, 1 intake gasket & 3 fuel pumps. It’s starting to show it’s age, I’ve had it since 1999, bought used. Has never let me down! That truck does owe me a dime. It will use a quart in 4000 miles between leaking normal oil consumption!!

Richard MCNABB (not verified)    December 20, 2022 - 1:12PM

In reply to by Timothy Boyer

I inherited from my dad his 1980 gmc highsierra 2wdrive long bed reg cab it need paint because it has been setting covered for 28yrs besides tires and batteries she started right body excellent condition only 1 probelm it is 5.7 diesel it o ly has 68000 miles on it but e everything work great

Curtis Medlen (not verified)    December 24, 2022 - 9:46AM

I've got an original survivor for sale in WA…1977 C30 Scottsdale Camper Special with 454 and only 69k original miles. No cancer. PS, PB, TILT. Currently daily driver but needs TLC and new home. $7k obo. 509-two70-2407

Larry (not verified)    March 12, 2023 - 12:09PM

We bought a 1977 C10 350 with TH350 2WD.
We used and abused the truck in ways it was not made for. A hoist on the back used to lift and haul stationary engines used for pumping irrigation water. We have carried 3,500 pounds numerous times and 3 large block engines in frames (454, 460, 534, 443) more times than we can count. Traveling down hot dusty hiways, dirt roads, and across plowed fields. Over the years we overhauled the engine 1 time and replaced the transmission with a TH400. Numerous other predictable repairs and maintenance items excluded, the service was very negligible.
When the engine needed rebuilding a 2nd time, we decided to replace the truck. Oh, it did need a speedometer as the odometer had stopped sometime after it rolled over 600,000. This was at least 2 years previously.
Not sure any other brand would have stood up to the work this truck did for us. Wish I had 2 more just like it. Long live the Bowtie.