America’s favorite car is a truck. Truck sales have soared in recent years, rising 36 percent since 2011. In fact, 2019 is expected to be a record-breaking year for truck sales. Once reserved for farmers and tradesmen, trucks now appeal to a variety of drivers. Their towing capacity and bed space make it easy to travel with everything you could need, while upscale interiors make them comfortable for everyday driving. Here’s an in-depth look at the used truck category that will help you choose the used truck that is perfect for you.
Price and Value: Compared with sedans and SUVs, trucks are expensive. However, they also hold their value well compared with other types of vehicles. During the first five years, trucks lose an average 40.7 percent of their value, compared with 54.1 percent for cars and 51.9 percent for SUVs. That means that you’ll likely pay more for a used truck than you could for a used car, but the truck will maintain its value for longer.
- Most Valuable: The Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra – Toyota trucks have the lowest depreciation in the segment. That’s because of Toyota’s well-established reputation for reliability. Drivers who choose a Toyota can count on it being dependable over time, even as it ages. The compact Toyota Tacoma loses just 29.5 percent of its value over five years, while the full-sized Tundra depreciates 37.1 percent during that time, the second lowest amount in the category.
- Also A Good Deal: Nissan Frontier – After Toyotas, the Nissan Frontier offers good value and is also among the most affordable trucks to buy used because of its lower starting price. The Frontier is a compact pickup with seating for 2-5, depending on whether you choose the King Cab or Crew Cab (the larger option). The Frontier has a six-foot bed with a five-foot option available on crew cabs. The second generation of the Frontier has been running since 2004, meaning even older years look current. However, the third-generation Frontier will launch in 2020.
Top Brands: The truck sector is dominated by American and Japanese automakers. With fewer brands to choose from than in other sectors, drivers often return to the most popular brands. In 2018, truck drivers were most interested in large pickup trucks produced by Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram. The most popular picks were:
- Ford F-150: The Ford F-150 is not just the most popular pickup truck, but the most popular vehicle in America. Drivers love that it is ultra-customizable, making it fit with a variety of budgets and needs. The Ford F-150 comes with seating for three to six depending on the cabin, and with six different engine options. Most drivers will be fine with the V6 that comes standard, while those looking for more speed should choose one of the three turbocharged V6 engines available. Turbodiesel and V8 engines are great for durability and towing.
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500: The Silverado is Chevy’s answer to the F-150. The Silverado also comes with seating for 3-6 (although the 3-seat cab was discontinued in 2019). The Chevy has three engine options: a V6 and two V8s to choose from. Eight trim levels allow drivers to choose the Silverado that meets their needs, whether that is heavy-duty towing, off-road capabilities or luxury driving.
- Ram 1500: The Ram (previously manufactured under Dodge, but now its own brand) rounds out the three most popular trucks. Like the F-150 and Silverado, the Ram focuses on meeting a variety of driver needs, but the Ram kicks it up a notch, with 12 available trims. It offers V6, V8, or turbocharged V6 engine options. The more upscale trims come with a variety of luxury features including leather seats, sunroofs, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Size: Pickup trucks are not one size fits all. Trucks come in a spectrum of sizes, but broadly that can be broken down into three categories: compact pickups, full-sized pickups, and heavy duty pickups. Here’s how they compare:
- Compact pickups like the Honda Ridgeline: Compact pickups are the smallest offering in the class, but they are still large cars. Most compact pickups come with a full-sized six-foot bed, and seating for up to six people in the cab. Their engines are more than capable of towing small loads, which is all most drivers need. The Honda Ridgeline, for example, has seating for five and a 280-horsepower V6 engine that can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. Drivers love that compact trucks have more nimble handing and better fuel economy than full-sized trucks.
- Full-sized pickups like the GMC Sierra 1500: Full-sized pickups make up the bulk of truck sales. They come with plentiful bed, trim, and engine options that make them appealing to many drivers. They offer superior towing to compact pickups, and often more space in the bed and cab. The 2018 GMC Sierra 1500, for example, has up to 420-horsepower and can tow up to 12,500 pounds when properly equipped.
- Heavy duty trucks like the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty trucks are meant to work. Trucks like the Ram 2500 come with more powerful engines, in this case a Heavy-Duty 6.4-liter HEMI® V8 Engine that produces 410 horsepower on the 2018 model. The Ram 2500 can tow up to 16,320 pounds when properly equipped. At the same time, most heavy duty trucks today come with trim options that offer a luxurious interior.
Features: More-so than any other type of vehicle, pickup trucks come with a dizzying array of trims, configurations, and features. Buyers who are considering buying a pickup truck should think about how they will use the vehicle, and which features are most important. They should consider:
- Seating options: While some base-model pickups come with one bench seat in front, most offer rear seating as well. Buyers should consider whether they want rear seats, and how much room they want in the backseat. Drivers who will regularly have adults (or bulky car seats) in the back should consider a pickup like the 2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew, which offers 43.6 inches of rear legroom, more than many cars have in the front seats.
- Towing capability: Drivers who want to be able to tow boats, RVs or trailers need to know that their pickup is up to the task. In general, even compact pickups have enough towing capability to handle camping trailers or small boats. If you’re towing something larger, opt for a heavy duty pickup like the 2019 Ram HD 3500, which can tow 26,990 pounds when properly equipped.
- Bed length: If you’ll regularly be using the bed of your truck, you need to know that it’s long, wide, and deep enough to carry whatever you need to transport. Full-sized pickups usually come with a bed that is about 6.5 feet long, with options for eight-foot beds. Compact pickups have options for shorter beds.
- Interior features: Pickup interior range from the most basic to entirely upscale. Luxury models like the Ford F-150 Lariat comes with heated and ventilated leather seats and all the technology bells and whistles. The Ford F-150 Platinum and Limited trim levels even come with massaging seats.
- 2016 Toyota Tundra The 2016 Toyota Tundra gets a perfect reliability rating of 10/10. The 2016 Toyota Tundra comes with three body options (Regular Cab, Double Cab, and CrewMax) and six trim levels. It comes with a 310-horsepower V8 engine, with an optional 381-horsepower V8. Drivers who are overwhelmed by the options on other large pickups will appreciate the Tundra’s straightforward offerings.
- 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: The 2016 Chevy Silverado 1500 gets a reliability score of 9/10, outperforming much of the competition. Drivers can choose from three body styles, three bed lengths, three engine options, and six trim levels in the 2016 model. This year, features including lane keep assist, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto became available.
Gas Or Diesel: Today, most full-sized and heavy duty trucks are available with gas or diesel engine options. Drivers might be drawn to the roar of a diesel engine, but should consider these pros and cons before choosing a diesel engine:
- Pro: More fuel efficiency. Diesel engines are about 25 percent more efficient than gas engines, which means you’ll spend less at the pump.
- Con: More expensive. Trucks with diesel engines are more expensive to purchase and maintain than gas counterparts.
- Pro: Better torque. Diesel engines deliver more torque, which can increase their towing capacity.
- Con: Less power. In general, diesel engines deliver slightly less horsepower than comparable gas engines.
- Pro: Long life. Diesel engines usually last longer than gas engines, which means you’ll be able to hang on to your truck for a longer time.
Safety: Many people assume that pickup trucks are safe cars, purely based on their size. While that holds true, some pickups are more safe than others. Here are some of the safest pick-up trucks, according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- The Ford Ranger: The Ford Ranger, which was redesigned and reintroduced for 2019, is among the safest compact pickups on the market. The Ranger rates highly in all areas, and its front crash prevention system rates as superior. The Ranger, which seats four to five, has a 270-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-foot bed and 7,500 pounds of towing capacity when properly equipped.
- The Honda Ridgeline: The Honda Ridgeline earned the Top Safety Pick Designation for 2019. In addition to good crash-test ratings, the Ridgeline comes standard with safety and driver-assist features including a rear-view camera and parking sensors. Additional safety features including blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available on higher trim levels.
- The Nissan Titan: The full-sized Nissan Titan has high crash-test ratings and comes standard with a back-up camera. The Nissan has seating for three to six individuals and is available in two configurations and five trim levels. Drivers looking for performance will like that the Nissan Titan comes standard with a V8 engine, and can tow up to 9,740 pounds when properly equipped.
Ratings: Which pickup is the best for you will depend on what you want. Here are some of the top-rated pickup trucks (named by U.S. News and World Report)
- Best compact pickup, 2019: The Honda Ridgeline
- Best full-sized pickup, 2019: The Ram 1500
- Best used compact pickups over $20,000: The 2017 Honda Ridgeline, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma, and the 2016 Chevy Colorado
- Best used full-sized pickups over $25,000: The 2016 or 2017 Chevy Silverado, the 2016 Ram 1500, and the 2015 Ford F-150.
Trying to select a pickup can be overwhelming, with many makes and models available, and ample options within each. However, all that choice means it possible to find the pickup that is perfect for you.