The number one best-selling vehicle in the U.S. is not a sedan, crossover, or even an SUV. It’s the Ford F-150, selling three times the volume of the Toyota Camry. It’s more than just advertising, as this truck can do work every day, take the family to appointments, go off-road on weekend adventures, and do all of it well. If it’s time for a truck, you owe it to yourself to read up on why so many people choose the F-150.
The F-150 is Ford’s best-selling vehicle because they try to make a truck for everyone, covering adventure rigs, heavy haulers, and showy luxury rides. From the work-ready XL to exclusive Limited, here is every trim level in detail. Before we get into the trims, know that 4×2 is standard but you can get 4×4 on any trim level. Also, Regular Cab (two doors, bench seat) starts out the affordable models, but you can get SuperCab (rear seats) and SuperCrew (rear doors) on even the base trim.
Starting out at the base model, you’ve got the “extra large” XL. This is your basic work truck with unpainted black grille and bumpers, painted 17-inch “steelie” wheels over the standard aluminum chassis and body panels. The base engine here is a 3.3-liter V6 making 295 horsepower attached to a six-speed automatic with an optional 10-speed. This is a regular-cab 4×2 configuration, driving the rear wheels, but 4×4 is available. You do get Ford Co-Pilot 360 Technology, which is a suite of tech stuff like automatic high beams, start/stop tech, stability control, backup camera, and hill descent control. It is a basic truck, with “features” like an AM/FM radio, and manual door locks and mirrors. You can find a loaded up XL with plenty of features, like a V8 engine and upgraded interior, but everything adds to the price for a basic rig. XL is the tradesman vehicle for the solitary worker using it to make a living.
Adding a two-bar chrome grille, and silver painted bumpers and wheels, the XLT looks like a truck people actually buy. It is, for more than just its looks, as buyers want the additional standard features here. The wheels are still 17s, but the painted aluminum looks better while weighing less than steel. Ford Co-Pilot 360 gets upgrades, now including blind-spot monitoring, and voice-activated nav. The mirrors switch to power movement, and the door locks go electric, also gaining keyless entry. Inside you’ve got SYNC 3 infotainment, a WiFi hotspot, and optional 10-way power seats with heating. XLT is more about making it your truck, offering far more than the available options XL offers, from a leather wrapped steering wheel and moon roof, to low-profile tires on 20-inch wheels. The XLT is the generalist truck, doing work and commute equally well, just look over a used model to make sure it has the features you want.
Way back in the Nintendo vs Sega era, Lariat was the top-of-the-line trim, and while it’s been bumped down the ladder quite a few rungs, you can still see why it’s a desirable trim level. Single cab is no longer available with this trim, Lariat giving you the extra space behind the seats with the standard SuperCab. The 3.3-liter is out in favor of the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 making 325 horsepower and backed by a standard 10-speed auto, a reviewer favorite combination. Wheels jump to 18-inch machined aluminum, while the safety suite adds adaptive cruise control, and the infotainment screen gains SiriusXM radio. The larger screen shows you a 360-degree overhead view when backing. There’s also dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals with memory function, an 8-inch “productivity screen” in with the gauges, and wood grain trim and accent lighting. This is the F-150 to get if you have multiple drivers shuttling a small family. Everyone will appreciate the additional amenities, without the inflated price.
King Ranch ups the work capability and luxury features simultaneously. KR makes the 5.0-liter V8 standard, where the Lariat had it as an option. With 395 horsepower, you can tow over 11,000 lbs. The exterior sees a chrome grille and two-tone paint, plus the Lariat’s 18-inch wheels. You get the cool remote tailgate release, LED mirror-mounted spotlights, and de-icer dedicated to just the wipers. Inside, there’s leather everywhere, heated and cooled seats up front, heated in back. King Ranch is luxury, aimed at the rancher (or other outdoor worker/adventurer). Sure it has a great interior, but the work-ready nature of the engine makes this one a great choice if you do outdoor work.
You’ll notice immediately the Raptor looks different from the other F-150s. With an exclusive grille, paint colors, and suspension lift, the Raptor looks like a Stadium Super Truck ready to go off some high speed dirt trails. Costing more than a King Ranch, the Raptor gets the 3.5-liter EcoBoost High Output V6 standard, as is 4×4. Why the V6? Because it has a massive class-leading 450 horsepower for a sports-car-like 0 to 60 of only 5.2 seconds. The 10-speed is also standard, driving power through a 2-speed 4×4 system. There’s two versions of 17-inch wheels available, and front tow hooks and heat extractors in the hood round out the exterior. Inside, you get the good seat options, plus an optional Kicker subwoofer and carbon fiber accents. The Raptor is for the off-road enthusiast, or the driver that wants a Mustang but has to own a truck.
Next up is Platinum, which returns the lineup to standard 4×2, matched to the torque-y V8. Unlike the King Ranch, the Platinum is aimed at urban buyers. There’s large 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, a satin-chrome grille, mirrors, bumpers, and running boards. Those last ones are power extended when stopped for easy entry, but tucked in sleek when on the road. The dual-pane moon roof offers a convertible-like experience for overhead viewing. It also has a flat load floor (no transmission hump on the rear floor), and full instrumentation including oil pressure and transmission temperature – good to know when towing. There’s the Bang & Olufsen sound system, offering musical clarity and power to 10 speakers, and optional Recaro sport seats. If you can swing it, Platinum is a great everyday people hauler good enough for date night.
The Limited looks like a low-production, specially numbered truck, but its exclusivity is mainly due to the original price. Check all the option boxes and it was possible to have an MSRP over $80,000. That’s a lot of coin, but it’s a lot of truck, and fortunately, depreciation is on your side. The Limited has exclusive bright paint colors, LIMITED chrome lettering across the hood, a complex satin/silver combo grille, body color bumpers and mirrors, and massive 22-inch aluminum wheels. Like the Raptor, the base engine is the powerful 3.5-liter, and you can pick 4×2 if you stay on the street, or go for 4×4. Everything above is standard, including genuine wood interior trim, the Kicker and B&O audio options, and dual exhaust with twin chrome pipes. The Limited is for buyers that want a full-size truck from Lincoln. That doesn’t exist anymore, so the Limited is your go-to for real luxury in a real truck.
Reading above, you’ll see a lot of F-150 features, so many that they crowd the descriptions. So what is EcoBoost anyway? Is SYNC 3 any good? How’s all that aluminum holding up? Here’s the big and important stuff explained.
EcoBoost is a marketing term for a group of engine technologies used across Ford’s lineup, from the tiny Fiesta to the mid-size Fusion, sporty Mustang, and full-size Lincoln Navigator. It primarily refers to the use of turbochargers and direct-injection, but Ford patented 128 technologies while developing the system. The goal is to reduce engine size and weight (and thus reduce fuel use), while retaining the same power, torque, and driving characteristics of larger engines. For the most part, EcoBoost works. The 3.5-liter V6 in the F-150 makes 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, more than the previous generation’s 5.0-liter V8.
SYNC 3 Explained
SYNC 3 is Ford’s third generation infotainment system, replacing the unfavorably reviewed MyFord Touch. Unlike MyFord Touch, SYNC 3 is highly reviewed. Based on BlackBerry’s QNX operating system, SYNC 3 earns praise for reliability, ease of use, speed, and intuitiveness. The original SYNC offered a way to integrate your smartphone into hands-free communication, nav, and entertainment, and SYNC 3 builds on that model with additional capabilities from Ford and third-party app builders. In addition to the usual music, directions, and weather, you have Crew Chief for maintenance tracking, LogMeIn to remote access a computer, and Tool Link for RFID tool inventory.
Totally redesigned for 2015, the current 13th generation F-150 went heavy on the use of lightweight aluminum, shedding nearly 700 lbs according to Ford. Previously heavy gauge steel, the aluminum chassis and body panels provide numerous benefits, from lack of rusting, to increased gas mileage, better acceleration, and increased towing capacity. Ford torture-tested the current model as disguised 12th gen trucks, and sent them out to work and take a beating in a real-world environment. Analysis showed the truck can handle the workload, and the aluminum body parts aren’t any more expensive to repair.
With a model range this large, we can easily see three values for the money.
XLT – below $30,000
If you want a work truck price, without the basic work truck interior, look to a barely used XLT model. It’s affordable, but has features you want and need. Below $30,000 sees almost-new XLTs in Carvana’s inventory, while below $25,000 finds several XLT trims around four or five years old with low miles. If you really need to stretch your dollar, there are even XLT models under $20,000 if you don’t mind older trucks with around 80,000 miles.
Raptor – $30,001 to $40,000
Raptors are great fun, and owners understandably want to hang onto them. Resale value for a Raptor is higher than most other trucks, with an older 2013/2014 model slotting in below $40,000. Generally speaking, Raptor drivers are enthusiast owners, performing meticulous maintenance on their enthusiast trucks. Mileage shouldn’t be a consideration here, but rather if you prefer the older truck’s V8 or the newer Raptor’s more powerful V6.
Platinum – $40,000 and up
Taking a peek through Carvana’s inventory, you’ll see Platinum trim for just a bit over $40k, and some with under 30,000 miles. That’s barely driven, making this a huge value buy on a top tier trim. Sure, you might not need Platinum, but if you keep your vehicles until they’re ready to be recycled, then odds are you’ll appreciate the extra features over the next 20 years.
Ford makes a less-than-subtle connection in their commercials between the F-150, American work, and freedom. It’s also present in the freedom F-150 owners have to choose options. Included in that is powertrain options, from gas V6 or V8 power, or class-leading diesel towing.
The 3.3-liter, 2.7-liter, and two 3.5-liter V6s and the 5.0-liter V8 all use regular unleaded, but their work capability is as varied as their size.
With the base 3.3-liter V6, you’re looking at a max tow rating of 7,700 pounds.
The 2.7-liter is smaller, but gains EcoBoost tech and torque, meaning a tow rating of 9,000 pounds.
The V8 is next on the list, with the 5.0-liter pulling a max of 11,600 pounds.
The more powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost pulls up to 13,200 pounds.
The diesel is torque-y, rated about the same as the V8, at 11,400 pounds max.
The Raptor sees increased horsepower in the 3.5-liter HO, but it’s meant for off-road speed, not towing, which is why it sees a max tow rating of 8,000 pounds. Still, that’s a tow rating up there with some of the heaviest SUVs, and enough to pull a good sized boat.
It’s not just the owners and fleet buyers that love the F-150. Everyone from JD Power to Motor Trend likes it, with multiple Truck of the Year wins.
Car & Driver loves the current F-150, giving a perfect 5/5 score. High points of their review noted the six available engines, excellent transmission, and big payload, while only listing the cons as not-great mileage and noting the truck can be pricey. That’s less of a factor when buying used. They summarized with, “A workhorse from tip to tail, the F-150 doesn’t disappoint whether you’re in it for $30K or $70K.”
Edmunds gave the F-150 an 8.1/10, noting the high towing and payload capacities are great for work or the hobbyist. They also said, “Comfort and safety tech runs the gamut from blue-collar basic to luxury living, and multiple engines deliver balance of power and fuel economy.”
JD Power tested a new Limited trim model and came away impressed. They noted the interior comfort and useful work capabilities, and ended with “It’s hard to argue with 40-plus years of success. The Ford F-150 covers the waterfront with a wide range of models and features and more powertrain choices than any competitor.” Interestingly, JD Power’s info shows F-150 buyers have higher income and tend to use the truck for practical (work) purposes over commuting, more than the average truck buyer.
US News & World Report shows a score of 8.7/10, and a critic’s rating of 9.7/10, “which is based on our evaluation of 46 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.” US News likes the class-leading towing/hauling ability, powerful engines, comfortable and spacious interior, and user-friendly infotainment system.
Over-building a truck seems to make it more reliable than other vehicles and the F-150 has an enviable reputation.
Repair aggregator Repair Pal reports the F-150’s reliability as 3.5 stars out of 5, with an above average rating compared to other trucks in its class and vehicles in general. If you do need a repair, Repair Pal said the likelihood of the F-150 repair being severe were lower than average for the class.
iSeeCars conducts an annual survey of traffic data showing which models are most likely to hit 200,000 miles. The F-150 is on the list of longest-lasting trucks, more likely to see 200k than Nissan Titan, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Colorado, or Nissan Frontier.
Consumer Reports shows a reliability rating of 3/5, which is mid-pack average, but high owner satisfaction and a good road test score bump the F-150 into recommended territory.
Owner review website Consumer Affairs show F-150 owners rank its reliability at 3.7 out of 5, with most buyers saying they’d buy it again.
Despite the high reliability scores, Ford’s warranty is average. Bumper-to-bumper covers three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain warranty is five years, 60,000 miles.
Trucks generally score well in crash tests due to their height and mass, but the F-150 does better. Ford engineered occupant protection into the aluminum chassis, and it’s getting more and more active safety features every year.
The F-150 earned the highest scores from the IIHS in every crashworthiness test. Those areas are: small overlap front: driver-side and passenger-side, moderate overlap front, side impact, roof strength, and head restraints & seats.
The Feds at the NHTSA do their own testing, not better or worse, just different. However, they also came to the same conclusion, awarding the F-150 their maximum of five stars. That’s in every crash test category, including front driver & passenger, side barrier and pole ratings. Rollover prevention scored four stars, even though theirs didn’t tip.
Active Safety Features
Loading up an F-150 with every single active safety feature would include: adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, curve control (automatically slows if you take a corner too fast), lane-keep assist, reverse sensing system, and an advanced stability control. Other cool safety tech includes blind-spot monitoring, inflatable second-row seatbelts, and a rear-view camera that projects an overhead 360-degree view onto the infotainment screen.
If you’re using this truck for work, odds are you’ll be logging a lot of those fuel receipts. It’d be nice if work trucks weren’t terrible on gas, right? Ford took a stab at that with this generation F-150 and its multiple gas saving features, letting you save the fuel for hauling when you need it.
The 3.0-liter diesel earns an impressive 22 MPG city, and 30 MPG highway. Yup, a full-size truck can do work and also get 30 MPG like a ’90s family car. Seriously, that’s the same gas mileage as the small Pontiac Grand Am from 20 years ago, and with a hundred more horsepower too. Amazing times.
Gas V6 MPG
The gas engines earn lower scores, but are still respectable. The base 3.3-liter scores 19 MPG city, and 25 highway. The 2.7-liter uses EcoBoost tech and gets 20/26. See, it’s more than just marketing. The powerful 3.5-liter hits at 18 city/25 highway. The Raptor’s various modifications make it an excellent off-roader, but reduce gas mileage to 15 city, 18 highway. You probably won’t care.
Gas V8 MPG
The workhorse 5.0-liter V8 makes all kinds of torque, making it an easy truck to drive around town. Keep your foot out of it, and you’ll reach 17 MPG city, and hit 23 highway.
The standard fuel tank is 26 gallons and an optional tank is 36 gallons. This means a range of 370 miles when driving a Raptor in the city, or a whopping 900 miles when driving the diesel on the highway. That’s a full day of driving. All the gas engines, including the Raptor, use cheapo 87 octane “regular” gas, but owners note higher gas mileage when using higher octane.