Since the F-150 was introduced in 1975, it has gained a reputation among truck drivers for being durable, reliable, and versatile. This full-size pickup is a workhorse at heart but can get pretty luxurious on some of the higher trim levels. And since it’s been around for so long, it’s not hard to find one at a used car lot. If you’re looking for a Ford F-150 at a local Ford dealer, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, but not all models are created equal.
When you’re buying used, one of the most significant things you should be aware of is the model year. Each year, Ford changes up the F-150, sometimes with minor additions like new paint colors and sometimes with more significant redesigns. This long history can be a lot to take in, so we’re going to make it easy to understand by focusing on three great model years for the F-150.
Factors to Consider
Putting this list together, there were a few major factors that we kept in mind. Since safety is the number one priority for many drivers, we made sure that every model year we chose received a 5-star rating from NHTSA and was named a Top Safety Pick by IIHS. We also stuck to models from the past 20 years. Unless you’re a dedicated enthusiast looking to revitalize a classic model, it’s generally best to stick to relatively recent vehicles. These trucks are built to last and can withstand a lot of use, but everything has its limits, and if you go too far back, you’ll miss out on important innovations for safety features.
The F-150 saw a complete redesign for the 2021 model year, so everything from the body shape to the interior is different from the models that came before. The cabin has more storage compartments throughout and has available features that make it easier to use as a mobile workspace, like a shift lever that folds flat to turn the center console into a usable surface. The infotainment system saw an upgrade this year as well, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation, and more all included as standard features.
A hybrid powertrain was introduced for the 2021 Ford F-150. This option improves the vehicle’s fuel economy and is designed to offer the power and capability that long-time enthusiasts have come to expect from this truck. The hybrid powertrain offers 400 horsepower and can tow up to 12,700 pounds. It also gives you 700 miles of range on a full tank and can be used to power an available onboard generator to keep worksites or tailgate parties going strong.
The off-road-capable F-150 Raptor was also refreshed for 2021. The rear suspension was redesigned, and a set of 37-inch tires were introduced, providing more ground clearance and making the truck even more comfortable to drive on rough terrain. Inside, the Raptor has many of the same upgrades as the standard F-150, so you can expect a great infotainment system and a convenient center console workstation.
The year it was released, the 2015 F-150 not only made Kelley Blue Book’s top 10 list of Best Resale Value Award winners, it was also the overall winner of KBB’s Best Buy Awards. The review went so far as to call the model “revolutionary” thanks to a number of major changes that Ford made to the truck’s design. Its structure uses more high-strength steel than in previous years, it’s offered with several powertrain options, and its technology is not only cutting-edge (for the time) but useful and highly user-friendly.
One of the big changes for the 2015 model year was that Ford switched to a body made of aluminum. This reduced the truck’s weight, improving its fuel economy and making it capable of hauling more payload. When properly equipped, this truck can carry up to 1,900 pounds and tow up to 12,000 pounds, so it should be plenty powerful for most drivers. As for how much volume the bed can carry, there are a few different choices, ranging from a 5 ½ ft box all the way up to an 8 ft box.
Technology has come a long way since this model was first released, but the 2015 still has a few key features that hold up. All trims except for the XL have USB ports for connecting phones and other devices and a voice recognition system that lets you use them hands-free. While safety features like backup cameras and forward collision warnings weren’t standard in 2015, they were available, so you might be able to find them if you keep an eye out.
For the 2018 model year, Ford renovated several of the engines available for the F-150, so no matter what’s under the hood, you can expect power, efficiency, and auto stop/start technology. The base engine was upgraded to a 3.3-liter V6, which weighs less than the 3.5-liter it replaced but offers more horsepower and torque. Ford also introduced a diesel option in the form of a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V6, so if you prefer diesel over gasoline, you can narrow your search down to 2018 models and newer. The 10-speed automatic transmission, introduced for the 2017 model year, was expanded to pair with all powertrains except for the base engine.
Very few infotainment features are standard, so if tech is a priority for you, the XL and XLT trims probably won’t cut it. But starting at the Lariat level, you’ll get a touchscreen that has swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability, making it easy and intuitive to use. The Lariat also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, and two smart-charging USB ports. Additionally, this trim has a hitch assist backup camera, but for an aerial view camera system and 360-degree cameras, you’ll have to find a Limited.
Since so many useful automotive features have been introduced in the past few decades, all of the model years we suggest here are relatively recent, considering how long the F-150 has been around. But if you know your way around a truck and don’t mind giving up some onboard entertainment options, you can certainly find an older model that still has plenty of life in it. Unless you’re a bona fide truck enthusiast, though, we wouldn’t recommend going back any further than the 2011 model year.
Find the Best F-150 for You
This guide is intended to be helpful for truck drivers of all stripes, but at the end of the day, every person is different. Your priorities are unique to your budget and lifestyle, so the best way to find the right truck for you is to have a one-on-one discussion with an expert who can keep your needs in mind and recommend a model that’s perfect for you.
Find someone that knows Ford vehicles inside and out that can offer you a range of F-150s, both new and used. Some are basic and affordable, some are full of luxurious features, others are tough enough for serious off-roading. Find a Ford dealer that can answer your questions about all of them, get you set up with a test drive, and even help you out with all your service needs after you’ve made your purchase. So get out there and get behind the wheel of an F-150 today.