Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A red 2017 used Chevy Silverado 1500 Z71 is parked in the desert with hills in the background.

Strike Gold with a Used Chevy Silverado 1500

Spanish legends told of a lost city of gold called El Dorado. Spanish conquistadors spent blood and treasure in vain searching for this land that promised riches beyond the imagination. They never found El Dorado, but it is clear that Chevrolet struck gold when it introduced the Silverado 1500 pickup truck in time for the 1999 model year. A portmanteau of Spanish and English roughly meaning “city of silver,” the Silverado has offered truck drivers a great value that has evolved into one of the most versatile vehicles on the road with a whole host of options and features. Now, even a used Chevy Silverado 1500 is a veritable gold mine in the truck world.

Now in its fourth generation, the Silverado 1500 provides you with a truck that is ideal for towing, hauling cargo, going off-road with certain modifications, and even just cruising around town with your friends and family. A used Chevy Silverado 1500 gives you a truck that has a very roomy and comfortable interior with infotainment to match those on any contemporary SUV or sedan. Gone are the days of cramped pickup cabs with stiff institutional seats and lousy ventilation. Those first Chevy Silverado 1500 pickups signaled a revolution in trucking, affording you a fun and comfortable ride whether you were using your truck for business or pleasure.

The black interior is shown on a red 2014 used Chevy Silverado 1500.

The First Generation

Chevrolet introduced the Silverado 1500 in time for the 1999 model year. Just as the world was getting ready for a new Millennium, the trucking world was preparing for a new type of truck, as comfortable on and off the road, and one equally capable for work and play. The first two years of the Silverado 1500 offered a truck with either a two-door Regular Cab with one row of seats or an Extended Cab with two rows of seats, two full-size doors, and two half doors. The Regular Cab seats up to 3 passengers, while the Extended Cab allows you to seat up to 6 passengers. Drivers were also given the choice of rear-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive. The rear-wheel drive Silverado 1500 has a better towing capacity while the 4-wheel drive Silverado 1500 provides improved traction as well as off-road capability.

The first models of the Silverado 1500 also gave you a choice of three engines. The 4.3-liter Vortec V6 provides 200 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and is standard on lower trim levels. The 4.8-liter Vortec V8 is standard on middle trim levels and produces 255 horsepower and 285 lb-ft of torque. The largest engine is on some of the top trims of the first generation Chevy Silverado 1500 and provides 270 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque. Those early models also had a solid fuel economy of 13 MPG in the city and 16 MPG on the highway. They also gave drivers the capability of towing up to 8,200 pounds of trailer.

Chevy made some improvements on the engines in time for the 2000 model year, increasing the horsepower on the 4.8-liter V8 to 270 and the 5.3-liter V8 to 285 horsepower. This, in turn, increased the maximum towing capacity to 9,500 pounds on some models. These models also have an improved fuel economy of 14 MPG in the city and 19 MPG on the highway. Chevy took things a step further by introducing an HD Crew Cab in time for the 2001 model year. This offered a roomier back seat in the cab along with four full-size doors.

All of the first generation Chevy Silverado 1500 trucks come equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The payload capacity on these models varies from 1,717 pounds to a massive 3,084 pounds on some models. This capability depends on the engine, box size, trim, and cab design on the Silverado 1500.

Chevrolet continued to build the first generation of the Silverado 1500 up to 2007, even though it introduced a second generation Silverado 1500 for that model year. If you are confused, the first generation Silverado 1500 models built for the 2007 year are designated as Classic. They also come with six different engines: 4.3-liter V6 with 195 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, 4.8-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, 5.3-liter V8 with 295 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque, 5.3-liter V8 L33 engine with 315 horsepower and 338 lb-ft of torque, 6.0-liter V8 with 300 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque, and 6.0-liter V8 VortecMAX engine with 367 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque.

The Second Generation

The second generation Chevy Silverado 1500 took a bow in time for the 2007 model year. This truck featured a more aggressive profile, with improved fuel economy and better creature comforts than the prior model. Drivers got to choose between Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab configurations, as well as different sizes of trailer beds and either rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. The maximum towing capacity on the second generation Silverado 1500 is comparable to the prior model at 8,700 pounds.

Drivers also got to choose between five different engines with two different transmissions. Most engines are paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the larger engines may come with an optional 6-speed automatic transmission, providing greater overall control and improved engine efficiency. The 4.3-liter V6 provides 195 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It also has the best fuel economy with 17 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the highway for rear-wheel drive models and 16 MPG in the city and 19 MPG on the highway with 4-wheel drive models. This is surprisingly good numbers for a truck of this size.

The other four engines have eight cylinders. The 4.8-liter V8 produces 295 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, while the 5.3-liter V8 produces 315 horsepower and 338 lb-ft of torque. Chevy also offered this engine with a Flex Fuel option that produces the same numbers. The largest engine is the 6.0-liter V8 that provides 367 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. This is also the most powerful of the five engines and your best bet if you are looking for doing some serious trailering.

Chevrolet continued to produce this second generation Silverado 1500 up to the 2013 model year, making incremental changes along the way. That’s why you will find more features on the Chevrolet Infotainment system on a newer, used Chevy Silverado 1500 from this iteration of the truck. However, most of the numbers will be fairly standard.

A black 2014 used Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Texas Edition is parked with a football field in the background.

The Third Generation

Not willing to rest on its laurels, Chevy made some major overhauls in time for the 2014 model year of the Silverado 1500. This model saw a number of cosmetic improvements with a bolder grille and a corner step bumper to provide improved access to the payload bed. This model also saw the introduction of the super-premium High Country trim that took a decided Western theme to truck design and ran with it. Chevy offered the third generation Chevy Silverado 1500 in rear-wheel and 4-wheel drivetrains, as well as Crew Cab, Regular Cab, and the newly christened Double Cab configuration. The Double Cab is a slightly longer version of the Extended Cab design from the second generation Silverado 1500.

The third generation Chevy Silverado 1500 also saw an improved maximum towing capacity of 10,200 pounds depending on trim, cab style, engine, drivetrain, and payload box. Chevy also consolidated the engine choices down to three. The 4.3-liter gas engine was only offered on rear-wheel drive models and provides 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. It also gets a great fuel economy of 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway. The 5.3-liter V8 engine produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, while the 6.2-liter V8 provides 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.

Chevy also boosted the capabilities of the transmission system on the third-generation Silverado 1500. All drivers got a 6-speed automatic transmission, while some engines allowed for an optional 8-speed automatic transmission. With these changes, Chevy showed its continued evolution of the Silverado 1500 truck.

The Current Generation

The current generation of the Chevy Silverado 1500 was introduced in time for the 2019 model year. This truck offers you a choice of five different engines, including a diesel. The 2.7-liter Turbocharged I-4 is the smallest engine ever offered on a Silverado 1500, but it combines excellent fuel economy with surprising power. This comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission to produce 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque.

The 4.3-liter EcoTec3 V6 is equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission to produce 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. If you get a Silverado 1500 with the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine, you will get a choice of a 6-speed or 8-speed automatic transmission to produce 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. The 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 comes with a 10-speed automatic transmission that produces 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The most novel improvement with the fourth generation Silverado 1500 is the 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel V6. This has a 10-speed automatic and produces 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.

If you are into trailering, then the fourth generation might be your best bet as maximum towing capacity on this model ranges from 7,900 pounds on the models with the 4.3-liter V6 to 13,300 pounds on ones equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 engine. Chevy also improved the payload capacity on the Silverado 1500 to an astounding 2,280 pounds on certain models. In addition to 8 standard trim levels, Chevy also offers the fourth generation Silverado 1500 in four special editions. Just like the prior two generations, you have a choice of rear-wheel and 4-wheel drive as well as Crew Cab, Double Cab, and Regular Cab configurations.

It has only taken Chevrolet four generations to do what the Spanish conquistadors never achieved: to find the fabled city of silver, Silverado. Whichever generation you choose, no matter the cab configuration or engine type, you are going to feel like you hit the mother lode when you buy a used Chevy Silverado 1500. And unlike those conquistadors, you can ride off into the sunset knowing you have a truck that has it all and can handle whatever task you throw its way.