F-150: To buy or not to buy

What’s up guys, I’m new to this community. I am looking to upgrade vehicles, as I currently drive a 2003 Suburban (243k mi) and my parent’s 2006 Express 3500 (150k mi). I’m 17, and I own and operate a small lawn care business and used my suburban to haul my trailer and equipment. It died last week, and we can’t diagnose the problem. Been having to borrow the van, causing wear and tear that my parents understandably do not appreciate. I’ve been wanting to upgrade for a while anyway, and have been looking around at used trucks. I found a 2003 F-150 XLT 4x4 w/149,xxx miles on it. For $2600. It sounds like the seller is lowballing. Nonetheless, I think it’s a really good deal and want to pursue it. I’m seeking as many opinions as possible before I make a decision. Should I buy?

It’s on Bobs-lot.com, which seems kinda scammy to me.

My first response is you need to have a mechanic check over any truck you decide to buy, BEFORE you buy it. Even if you have to pay the mechanic, it will be money well spent.

You always take a chance on a used truck, as you never know how it was used prior to you. So that’s a risk.

Using some generic assumptions… in my part of the world, that truck would sell for about $5200, so the price of $2600 would make me suspicious. Like there’s something wrong with it that the seller hasn’t shared with you. I know this vintage of F-150 was known for transmission problems.


Even if I gave an opinion how would you know I was trust worthy ? You wouldn’t. The standard reply here is the best . You find a good shop and pay them about 100.00 to inspect the vehicle . It will not guarantee it to be trouble free but does improve your chances.


I looked it up on KBB and in its condition, it said between 2800-3700, edmunds said 10000. I am definitely planning to have it thoroughly inspected by our trusted family mechanic and will bring my grandfather, a mechanic of 40+ years along to give it a look.

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Good point. I’m kinda out on a limb here. Just trying to get as many opinions as possible.

Just because I loved my 03 Trailblazer so much until it got rear ended, if you are looking for something with 5500 lb towing capacity possibly another option.

ball joints are a common problem.
4x4 vacuum problems too
exhaust manifolds gaskets tend to leak and manifolds can crack. the real problem is when you try to change them. the bolts snap in the aluminum head.

Seems like a pretty good choice to me. The 4x4 confguration would be my main concern. Unless you can make use of it, an F150 w/ 2WD will be more trouble-free and repairs will be less expensive. As mentioned above whenever considering the purchase of a used vehicle make sure to have your own mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection. That will set you back $125 or so, but usually it is money well spent. Often your mechanic will spot something that will cause the seller to reduce the price. If the price is reduced $125 you got the inspection for free.

Make sure you understand what the insurance and registeration costs will be and that you are able to afford them.


My personal opinion would be to forget it and look for a F150 or something similar with a manual transmission [If you know how to drive a manual transmission ] my reason for that opinion is when not if something goes wrong a clutch repair is a few hundred$ compared to an automatic transmission at a few thousand$.

Like others have said, I would have a good mechanic check it over thoroughly. I tend to stay away for 4x4’s as nearly all work done on them costs more, and they are more complex that a 2x4 truck. That is unless you have a real need for 4WD which to be honest, most of us don’t. While I like the idea of a manual transmission, they are harder and harder to find in later model full sized trucks as I believe they’ve quit making them.


Sounds like a really good deal to me, with the low miles for the year. If you have a mechanic check it out, it drives and shifts well on a long test drive, and it doesn’t have a salvage title or something goofy like that, I’d say go for it. All vehicles and brands have their own little issues. As far as the trans, I’d say Ford’s is at least as good their competitors (GM and Chrysler). I believe 2003 was before the issue Ford had with spark plugs breaking off in the heads and the 3 valve motor’s cam phaser issues, so I’d think 2003 would be one of the more reliable years. I think it’ll have either the triton 2 valve 4.6 or 5.4 if it’s a v8. Those are solid motors if maintained. If it’s a v6, I don’t have any info on that engine. Do you know which engine it has?


It’s the V8 5.4L. The listing says it has a clean title.

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You have not even seen this or driven it ? Is this a Craigslist vehicle ? That may explain why it is below most area market prices . If an individual they may not let you take it to a shop and you need your parents to sign for this possibly because of your age.

Also you might want to see if you have enough insurance as you use your vehicle for a business . at 17 can you even have the insurance yourself or do your parents have to have you on theirs . If they do then by all means carry plenty of insurance so if something goes wrong you don’t bankrupt them.

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Do you know what is wrong with your Suburban? Maybe repairing the Suburban might be the better way to go.


The suburban is a pretty beat up car, the instrument panel doesn’t work, and it has at least 4 dents. 2 weeks ago the gas pedal went out, and we replaced a o-ring in the fuel line, and that worked for about 4 days then it disappeared. My grandfather, a mechanical engineer of 40+ years, who is our family vehicle consultant, can’t figure it out.

Part 1 -How to Test the GM Accelerator Pedal Position (APP) Sensor 1 (easyautodiagnostics.com)

Just curious, but you might provide some info about the Suburban on the off chance that some of us might be able to sort it out.

Dents are irrelevant and “died” leaves a lot of questions.
Engine full of oil?
Key in the RUN position do the dash warning lights come on?
Engine crank over with the starter motor or what?

There’s a lot of other questions to go along with the above. At least with the Suburban you know what you have. With that used Ford it may, or may not, be worse than the Chevy.

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So, what happened with the suburban, I was driving, had just gotten on the highway, accelerating from 55mph, and suddenly the gas pedal did nothing. The engine was still on, the brakes were normal (a little squishy), the stereo and AC worked just fine, but the gas pedal refused to do anything. Pulled over, turned the car off, sat on the shoulder for 15ish minutes, started up the engine twice more to try to get it to work. Third try it worked. Drove another 8ish miles, same problem, pulled over, entire routine repeats itself. Third try works, engine sounds normal. Drove another mile, happens again. At this point I’m pretty pissed, and so are my brothers in the car with me. As we were only a mile from home, and the engine still worked, I put it in neutral, and while the lightest of us steered, the other two of us pushed fueled by our anger. Took turns steering and pushing for a good 1/2 mile, then tried the gas and it worked. Drove home just fine. My grandpa, an experienced mechanical engineer with plenty of vehicle-repair experience, came by two days later, don’t know exactly what he did but he said that the fuel line was missing an o-ring seal, and had been leaking, and that had tripped some sensor, which refused to let the gas pedal give more fuel to the engine. He thinks the ethanol ate away the ring. He said he put a new o-ring on it and was gonna get one of higher quality in a week or so, but the current one should hold. Over the next few days we had no problems. Then, family outing with the kayak, so we took the suburban, about 45 minutes into our hr long drive, same deal, no gas pedal response, only this time the power steering went out too. Had a local friend tow it to his house, picked it up on a trailer a week later, still sitting in the driveway. Pretty stumped. Debating whether or not to take it into the shop and run a full diagnostic. The car is only worth maybe $800. :thinking:

The manual transmission models of F-150 have a very limited towing capacity, For the 1997-2003 models it’s no more than 3500 pounds and could be as low as 2000 pounds, when new. The clutch they used with the M5OD was quite flimsy.

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The V6 option was the 4.2L Essex, basically a stroked 3.8L/3.9L. By 2003 the head gasket issues had been worked out. The V8’s were the 2 valve 4.6L and 5.4L, by 2003 both had gotten the P.I. heads, which mostly mitigated the spark plug ejection problem, and the trucks always got an aluminum intake manifold with longer runners to encourage low end torque, and didn’t have the composite (plastic) intake manifolds that tended to split and leak antifreeze everywhere. So he’s got that going for him.

I had a 1997 F-150 with the 4.6L for quite a while, engine was fine, it wasn’t a rocket, but it did okay. The 5.4L has noticeably more low end grunt, and if I were towing regularly, it’s what I would look for. With that said, the price is suspiciously low, and I would wonder if it’s been to body shop a half dozen times or has a salvage title. The website of the dealership is umm, suspect IMHO.

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