Should I Buy a Used Ram? Yes, but buy these model years


Year after year, pickup trucks remain one of the best-selling vehicle segments. While carrying a desirable rugged aesthetic, the utility they can provide is unmatched. One of the most prominent pickup trucks is the Ram series. While many would love to get their hands on one at a good price, should you buy a used Ram?

A used Ram truck may be a good purchase but it’s recommended that you only get a used Ram in relatively new condition. Unfortunately, Ram trucks older than five years suffer significant reliability issues. However, in recent years, the quality of the Ram truck series has improved. If you can find a two or three-year-old model at a desirable price, it may be seen as a good purchase.

In this post, we’ll look at the problems with Ram trucks, the best years to buy, and some top tips for selecting a used Ram truck.

Ram Truck History

Ram trucks are one of the most popular vehicles in the country, but they have only recently become their own brand. If you look for used Ram trucks over a decade old, you will note that they still carry the Dodge branding.

While Dodge has produced trucks since the 1920s, the company would not adorn the Ram name until 1981. Replacing the old D-series of trucks, Chrysler resurrected their old Ram head logo, last seen in the 50s. The ram, being a tough beast, was the perfect embodiment of a rugged and capable truck.

The Dodge Ram pickup would find great success in the coming decades and provide an attractive alternative to the ever-popular Ford F-150. The trucks would be sold under the Dodge brand name until 2010. In the middle of its fourth generation, Chrysler decided to spin off the Dodge Ram trucks and vans into their own brand, simply known as RAM.

This spin-off would allow for a more catered experience for those looking for the perfect utility vehicle.

Ram Truck Models

As is the case with many pickup truck lineups, while there is only one Ram Truck, there are different sub-models that change the overall size and power available to you.

The most common is the Ram 1500, with enough power for most use cases. In terms of capability, this truck sits alongside its competitors, the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado 1500. For those looking for something more serious, there are also used Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks available, bumping up the power and size for larger workloads.

Lastly, Ram also offers the truck in a chassis cab version. The chassis cab offers a barebones vehicle with no truck bed, allowing you to customize it to your needs.

Ram Truck Towing

While there are many reasons to be looking for a used Ram, many will focus on the towing and hauling capabilities. Towing and payload capacities are specs that are constantly improving with each passing generation. As such, it would be hard to catalog the capacities of every used Ram truck.

While capacities have been increasing, a Ram truck made within the past decade should still have 85-90% of the capacity of a similar spec new RAM. For example, the max towing capacity of a 2010 RAM 1500 was about 10,450 pounds. Today, the 2021 RAM 1500 can go up to 12,750 pounds. It’s an improvement, but older models should still provide respectable performance. As a starting point, here are the maximum towing capacities of current Ram trucks:

  • RAM 1500: 12,750 pounds
  • RAM 1500 Classic: 10,610 pounds
  • RAM 2500: 20,000 pounds
  • RAM 3500: 37,100 pounds

Do keep in mind that these are the maximum towing capacities, not their base. Due to there being different engine options, body sizes, and towing packages, the towing capacity of your used Ram could be significantly lower.

Tips For Buying a Used Ram

Regardless of which truck you are looking for, there are some general tips that everyone should follow before going through with a purchase.

The first of which is research, which you are already doing. No vehicle is perfect and this becomes even more evident with the age of the vehicle. Trying to find reviews for your particular model year is a great place to start. Additionally, if you can find a forum with owners sharing their experiences online, you can sort through unfiltered opinions of long-time owners with key insight.

Secondly, looking at a Carfax report is tantamount. You may have picked the best performing model year with all the options you could want, but if it has been in a serious accident there could be trouble for you in the future.

Lastly, make sure to actually test drive the vehicle in question. Trying to purchase a used car without putting it through its paces is a dangerous affair. Any potential issues with the engine or suspension could remain hidden.

Best Ram Years

Adding to its accolades, the Ram truck has won Motortrend’s Truck of the Year Award seven times since the year 2000. The years it won were: 2003, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2021. These would perhaps be the best years to start your search.

When it comes to purchasing a used vehicle, reliability tends to be more important than features. Fortunately, there has been an improvement in Ram quality over the past five years. Even still, according to the recent JD Power Dependability rankings, RAM sits just below the industry average.

It is suggested that you look for a used Ram truck less than four years old. We are clearly seeing an improvement in the model recently and a good deal can still be found in a relatively newer used truck.

For those that aren’t afraid to go older, the 2010 and 2009 model years have been reported to have a below-average amount of concerns.

Worst Ram Years

While there have been plenty of award-winning RAM trucks made through the years, long-term reliability has been a pain point for the truck. Almost every model year has had a recall or two placed on them at one point.

Reviewing CarComplaints, we can see that issues with Ram trucks go decades long. However, recent years have displayed an improvement in quality. According to CarComplaints data, the early 2000s models are ones to stay away from. The 2012 through 2014 models also have had their fair share of issues.

One of the largest issues for early fourth-generation used ram trucks stems from the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). Basically, all of the car’s electrical systems ran through this box and if something went wrong, other unrelated issues would quickly arise. These issues can include:

  • Fuel pump not turning off
  • Engine stalling
  • Starter cranking but not starting
  • Horn going off randomly
  • Power windows not working
  • Door locks randomly operating
  • Wipers not working
  • No A/C
  • ABS not functioning correctly
  • And more

Unfortunately, due to the complicated nature of electronics, this is a hard issue to diagnose, let alone fix on your own.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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