Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

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Looking at Used Trucks

Americans love pickup trucks. It’s understandable considering these vehicles can go just about anywhere and do just about anything required in typical day-to-day activities. Whether you need a truck for work, off-roading, or hauling the family around, a truck is able to accomplish all these tasks and more. But which to choose? There are so many brands, and models within brands that the choice can be overwhelming. New pickup-truck models tend to eschew their affordable and practical roots in favor of big, bold, blingy, and laden with tech; not that these are bad things, but base prices and additional options can pump prices to staggering amounts. It is not unheard of for new trucks to top $70,000 – $80,000 and beyond. Why spend that much when you find used trucks for sale at a fraction of the price? You won’t get the latest tech, and you will have a few thousand miles on the odometer, but saving tens of thousands of dollars is, overall, a really good trade-off and a pragmatic decision considering everything else that money can go towards. The following is a list of what can be argued as the most reliable, and best overall, pickup-trucks available on the used pickup-truck market.

Toyota Tacoma

Known as the Hilux throughout most of the world, the Toyota Tacoma (in the U.S.) is quite possibly the most reliable pickup-truck in automotive history. From the glaciers and volcanoes of Iceland to deserts and war-zones of the Middle-East, this pickup has seen action just about everywhere on Earth and is the go-to vehicle for the U.N. to carry out humanitarian aid missions. Tacomas are paired with an inline-4 or V6 engines for all generations, with various displacements, tweaks, and improvements over the years. You can find Tacomas in 2 or 4-door configurations, with rear or all-wheel drive paired to manual or automatic transmissions. The inline-4 would be best paired with rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive would be better paired with the stronger V6; both can easily clear 300,000+ miles on the first/factory installed engine and transmission often with nothing more than basic maintenance.

A red 2016 Toyota Tacoma is parked in front of a lake with city lights in the distance.

Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup offering more interior space and greater towing capacity over the Tacoma. There is a V8 optional upgrade over the standard V6; both are paired to either a manual or an automatic transmission and can be equipped with rear or all-wheel drive. 2 and 4-door options are available, both being more accommodating to its counterpart in the Tacoma. Though the Tundra is very reliable, it does have that extra weight that makes the engine work harder than a lighter Tacoma. Another reason why the Tundra falls just short of the Tacoma is because the V8 has the distributor placed in such a way that you have to remove the top half of the engine in order to gain access to it, making this element of basic maintenance unnecessarily complicated. This, however, is relatively minor and should not dissuade someone from purchasing an otherwise excellent full-sized pickup truck.

Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is the successor of the phenomenal C/K lineup, which lasted more than four decades. This modern pickup carries on this hard-working and reliable legacy but incorporates newer technology to improve everything from fuel economy, performance, towing capacity, safety, and more. While Chevy’s 4 and 6-cylinder engines might not perfectly measure up to Toyota’s unbeatable reputation, the V8s absolutely do. Arguably, Chevy makes the best V8 engines in the world, surpassing the V8 engines made by Toyota or any other auto manufacturer. Chevy also has amongst the best fuel-economy figures in the V8 segment by utilizing proprietary cylinder deactivation technology known as Active Fuel Management (AFM) and a newer even-more efficient version known as Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM). Rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, 2-door and 4-door configurations, and multiple transmissions are available to be mixed and matched to get the exact Chevy Silverado you want.

A red 2017 Chevy Silverado 1500, which is a popular option among used trucks sale, is parked on a road in the desert.

Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline is a reliable and good-looking pickup truck, winning a bunch of awards throughout its relatively young production lifetime. The Ridgeline is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, powered by 3.5-liter V6 for the entire decade and a half of its production. A 4-door cabin is the only choice available, which makes it look like a full-size pickup; this can be a good thing if you want the look of a big truck, but with the maneuverability of something a bit smaller. A couple of unique features can be found at the back-end of the pickup with a side-hinged tailgate and a trunk, with a spare tire, discreetly tucked beneath the bed. Honda reliability lives up to its reputation, with good looks to match, the Ridgeline is sure to be a solid choice.

Nissan Frontier

Nissan entered the pickup-truck market back in 1959 with the 1000 under the Datsun badge. Fast forward more than half a century, and Nissan has greatly expanded it’s truck and SUV lineup to become a worthy competitor in the tough U.S. auto market. Nissan makes reliable vehicles, but they are best at compact to mid-size vehicles. The Nissan Frontier stays true to this legacy with its body and fuel-efficient 4 and 6-cylinder engines. The options are plenty: 2 or 4 door configurations, multiple transmissions, rear or all-wheel drive, with various trims and features that are on par with any other brand manufacturer of pickup trucks.

A black 2016 Nissan Frontier is parked in an empty parking lot in front of a building.

Things to Consider

Check out if the vehicle you are interested in has any recalls for that year. When purchasing a used vehicle, you could be inheriting the previous owner’s problems if it was abused or maintenance was neglected; be sure to get a Carfax report and have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle before you commit to buying. Even the most reliable vehicle could become a lemon if it was poorly treated, though some brands and models are more resilient than others.

The Verdict

There are a lot of good choices when looking at used trucks for sale. Even so-called less-reliable pickups can be very reliable if properly maintained; these vehicles are meant to work hard and be reliable, and most auto manufacturers, generally, strive for the best quality without cutting corners (some achieve better results than others). Consider your needs and where, and how you will be using your truck: will you be mostly alone? Get a 2-door. Do you live somewhere it snows? Get an all-wheel drive model. Will you be mostly on the highway? Get rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive with a small fuel-efficient engine. Will you be towing things regularly? Get a diesel for greater low-end torque. Most vehicles specialize in one or two priorities, such as fuel-efficiency, passenger transport, performance, etc. Whereas pickup-trucks are versatile vehicles that can cover a broader range of tasks that most vehicles cannot compete with.