Happy Friday, Autopians! On today’s episode of Shitbox Showdown, the price of the vehicles doesn’t matter at all, because, well, we don’t know what that price is. We’re hitting up the government surplus auctions hoping to score a deal on a cheap pickup truck. First, however, we need to find out which stickshift sedan won yesterday:
And it’s the Camry, by more than two to one. Honestly, this is the smart move: they’re boring as hell, but a tired old stickshift Toyota sedan makes a lot of sense as a beater. Like the old Packard ads said: “Ask the man who owns one.”
Which leads me to today’s challenge. As regulars on Opposite-Lock know, and some folks might remember from that old orange site, I have an ex-government-fleet pickup truck. It’s still earning its keep; currently it has half a load of weeds and blackberry brambles in the bed, waiting for me to finish clearing the brambles and make it a full load to take to the dump. I got it for a song, and from what the guy I bought it from told me, it was sold cheap at auction as well.
Government fleet auctions used to be a cheap source for all sorts of vehicles, but is that still the case? Well, the vehicles are still out there; GovDeals.com shows over 300 light-duty pickups currently for sale. Some are already pretty damned expensive, and others are only suitable as parts vehicles, but in the middle, I found a couple that might end up being decent bargains. Sadly, neither of them is a manual, nor Forest Service Green; those days are gone, I’m afraid. But a truck is still a truck. Let’s take a look at them.
2013 Ford F-150 XL
Engine/drivetrain: 3.7 liter V6, 6 speed automatic, RWD
Location: West Columbia, SC
Odometer reading: 34,698 miles
Runs/drives? “Starts and moves forward and reverse” is all they give us
This Ford F-150 is being sold by the State of South Carolina. It’s 2WD and has the base 3.7 liter V6 and an automatic. Somehow, it has practically no miles on it, but the bed looks like this:
And the interior looks like this:
So clearly they weren’t easy miles. Or the listing is wrong. I’m trying to think of a scenario in which a truck gets a lot of use but doesn’t go very far; all I can think of is groundskeeping. Those scratches and dents in the bed could be the result of shovels and rakes (and other implements of destruction) being tossed back there willy-nilly, and the steering wheel wear could be getting in, driving 100 yards, and hopping out again, over and over.
It has a few battle scars, but any good truck should. Future owners will add their own scuffs and dings, and that’s as it should be too.
It is a short bed, which limits its utility somewhat, but also makes it easier to maneuver. At least it’s a good old regular cab with vinyl seats and rubber floors. None of that fancy carpeting or upholstery for us, thank you.
This one won’t be cheap cheap; as of this writing it’s at $5,000 had hasn’t met its reserve. But it’s a nine-year-old truck with low miles. If you can score it for four figures, you’re probably doing pretty well.
2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Engine/drivetrain: 5.3 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, RWD
Location: Roswell, GA
Odometer reading: 75,855 miles
Runs/drives? “Starts and runs when jumped; drivable”
Same year, same configuration, but with more miles and a V8, this Chevy was owned by the city of Roswell, Georgia. It’s also a bare-bones work truck. It failed its last emissions test due to bad oxygen sensors; they’ve been replaced, but the truck hasn’t been re-tested. If you don’t live in a place that requires emissions tests, you might not care, I suppose.
This one looks a little less worn-out inside, but it’s still utilitarian gray vinyl and plastic with rubber floors. That’s a good thing: if you can’t get the interior muddy and wipe it out, it isn’t a truck, in my book.
This one has a bedliner, so it has been spared the scratches and dings in the bed, but someone has been using it as a catch-all for trash and empty bottles.
It looks OK outside, except for one big ol’ dent in a rear quarter panel. Fence post? Tree branch? Angry kick? No way of knowing.
This one is currently quite a bit cheaper: $1,500 as I write this, and it doesn’t say anything about a reserve. If it flies under the radar for another six days, someone is going to get a screaming deal on this truck. Sure, they’ll have to figure out the emissions issues, but for that cheap, there’s room in the budget for some repairs.
I’ll tell you one thing: after browsing these listings and seeing what’s available, I am never, ever selling my truck. Which means mine isn’t available, so if you want an old fleet truck to bomb around in, one of these will have to do. So which one will it be?
(All images: GovDeals.com)
Ford for sure. I have several friends/family members who were lifelong Chevrolet/GM folks until they bought a truck with that POS 5.3 V8 with the displacement on demand. All of them flew apart after warranty but before 100k miles, 2 to 4 grand to fix. 3 of them drive Toyota pickups, the other two have bought a couple fancy Dodge Rams that have served them well.
As someone who owned a 3.7/6R80 F150 for three years, and a short bed regular cab V8 Sierra before that; give me the Silverado. The 3.7/6R80 combination is simply miserable to live with daily, so much so that I traded in a truck I bought brand new on a beat-up nine-year-old 4Runner after just three years, and only waited that long to pay down the negative equity I’d stuck myself with.
That version of the 5.3 may eat it’s camshaft, but it’s otherwise pleasant to deal with.
I’m just here to send out props to Mr. Tucker for the Alice’s Restaurant reference…
But if pressed, I’d go with the Chevy, dent and all…
Having spent many days using and even some time managing a fleet of govt vehicles my first impulse is to run away from both of these as quickly as possible. My second impulse is to run away from both of these as quickly as possible. If some deranged auctioneer threatened me with choosing one or suffering some sort of bodily dismemberment I’d have to carefully consider running away, but I would probably go with the Chevy, better engine and not quite as wrecked overall condition.
I agree government auctions used to be a great source of poorly treated well maintained vehicles. But with the internet advertising vehicles across the country is a piece of cake. You used to go to a local monthly auction see vehicles in person and see what you are getting. Now everything is shoved on a private site usually no description no information no inspection so that only the people in the know can bid on them. Also auctions these prices are as reliable as Comcast Cable reception
As an F150 owner my first impulse was Blue Oval but between the 2V Triton and the 2nd gen Coyote was a time of troubles. Also in addition to the LS engine post bankruptcy GM interiors are much less dire. Thus Chevy is the smart choice this time.
As an aside my truck was owned by a glass shop who left a lot of dings in the bed and mastic on the seats but did less than 100,000 miles in around 15 years.
I manage a government fleet, and we have several trucks that are beaten completely into submission and only have 20 to 50,000 miles on them, so the Ford’s mileage may be correct. Most of them are either groundskeeper’s vehicles or plant operations trucks that stay on-site and only drive a couple miles a day.
That seems like a prime application for something electric, if you ask me. In the future anyway—I get that there aren’t a ton of suitable options in this capability class right now. An EV won’t give a shit if it’s only driven for 5 minutes and then turned off again over and over forever, and it won’t care if it’s idling (well, turned on but parked I guess, EVs don’t idle per se) for hours at a time. Doesn’t sound like range would be an issue either, as it’s always practically within pushing distance of home base.
Do either of these trucks actually work? The Ford didn’t mention needing a jump so I guess I’m picking that.
It’s refreshing to see plain old work trucks with steel wheels. 35,000 miles on the Ford? I don’t think so. There’s a mistake there. I vote Chevy here. The OCD in me wants to bang on the inside of the fender with a ball peen hammer. That would be enough cosmetic work. And I would name him, Mutley Battlescar.
Living in New England, These we the trucks I wanted to buy in March of 2021, before cars went nuts. I wanted 2 door, base truck, steel wheels, would accept carpet, or base motor. One would have thought I was looking for a Striped unicorn. Everything that was available was > 30K (prior to these stuip markups). I guess I should be looking at the >gov sites
Why decide on two trucks whose actual sale price is unknown. Instead I highlighted and copied the “GovDeals.com” address, went to the source and now can view literally hundreds of vehicles to choose from.