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A silver 2019 Nissan Frontier is shown towing a car after leaving a used truck dealer.

Top Five Used Trucks to Buy in 2021

Let me ask you a question about buying a vehicle. When you visit a used truck dealer, do you already have a decent idea as to which model or even brand that you may want? Or, do you go into a dealership with no clue as to which kind of vehicle you’re going to get? As you can imagine, research is of high importance when shopping for a vehicle, and it’s better to have at least some idea of what you’ll be buying; and for those who are looking for a used pickup truck, there’s plenty of options to choose from. From brands such as Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and more, it’s understandably not an easy process to go through years-worth of automobiles to select the best one to purchase. To alleviate this, we’ve compiled a list of the top five pickup trucks that you can buy on the used market, and we’ll go into detail on each one to help you decide which truck will be your next purchase.

#1 Toyota Tacoma

There are popular trucks, and then there’s the Toyota Tacoma. The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most venerable pickup trucks that you can buy, and it’s a model that its fans swear by. Tacoma models may be found at a slightly higher price than that of their competition, but this is because these trucks are well known for retaining their value, even many years after being sold. Out of the models that have been released over the past five years, its models from 2018 and above that will come included with a host of advanced safety features. We also recommend buying a model that was released in 2016 or newer as models from that year are more different from years prior, thanks to a refresh.

A 2016 Toyota Tacoma can be customized greatly and can be equipped with a 3.5L V6 that produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, depending on what you prefer, and this V6 can tow a maximum of 6,800 lbs. Even the base engine, which is a 2.7L 4-cylinder with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, can tow an impressive 3,500 lbs even though it only produces 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque.

A red 2018 Ford F-150 is shown from the side parked on the dirt.

#2 Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 is undoubtedly one of Ford’s most popular models under its belt, and this truck is easily one of the more powerful options that you can buy too. Ford has invested plenty of research and development into the F-150, and it’s even been announced by Ford that the F-150 models in the future will be more slanted towards the EV market, which is something that will certainly be interesting to see. Today, on the used market, the F-150 is an incredible pickup truck that you can buy and achieve fantastic levels of performance.

Grabbing a 2018 F-150 as an example, there are a total of five powertrains to select from, which is a substantial amount. Those who are familiar with the F-150 have likely heard of the Raptor, one of the most popular and the most powerful trims. The 2018 F-150 Raptor includes the best of these powertrains with a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 that produces an astonishing 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque and comes paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. For those who don’t require a larger truck such as the F-250, F-350, and beyond, this is an exceptional amount of performance, especially with its maximum towing capacity of 8,000.

#3 GMC Sierra 1500

We here enjoy the GMC Sierra 1500 because of its capabilities that stretch further into the past than some other trucks. Purchasing an older Sierra 1500 such as the 2015 model will net you excellent performance, and it was around this time that GMC implemented a host of connectivity features through the integrated infotainment center. Starting with performance on the 2015 model, the base engine is a 4.3L V6 that produces 285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque, came with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and could tow upwards of 7,600 lbs.

At the top of the line, the 2015 GMC Sierra can be outfitted with a massive 6.2L V8 engine along with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This combination returns a powerful 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, and Sierra 1500 models equipped with this engine can tow 12,000 lbs. On the tech side of things, the 2015 Sierra 1500 was better off than some of its competitors of the time, with certain models being equipped with an 8-inch screen along with an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, which was a first for the lineup. It wasn’t until a year later with the 2016 model when GMC would implement Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so if you’re interested in those features, then this is important to take note of.

A black 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is shown driving down a wooded road.

#4 Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra is better known as Tacoma’s larger sibling, but it was first released several years after the first Tundra. While the Tacoma is better suited for those smaller towing tasks that don’t involve trailering over 10,000 lbs, the Tundra is the Toyota truck that takes care of the rest. The 2016 Tundra, for example, is available with two V8 engines, one of which coming standard.

This base engine is a 4.6L V8 that produces 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque, and the transmission it comes with is a 6-speed automatic transmission. To achieve the most towing capacity from this truck, you’ll want to find a model that includes the more powerful V8 engine. This engine is a 5.7L V8 that creates 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, also coming paired to that same 6-speed automatic transmission. The greatest advantage to opting for this engine other than the 22.9% and 22.6% increase in horsepower and torque output when compared to the base engine is the maximum towing capacity of 10,500 lbs.

#5 Nissan Frontier

Nissan fans will agree that the Frontier is a fantastic pickup truck for the price, and new models are priced significantly lower than Nissan’s two other trucks for sale, which are the Titan and Titan XD. For the best experience, we recommend opting for a Frontier model from 2019 as these models are beginning to appear on various used marketplaces and at various dealerships. The 2019 Frontier was the year that an infotainment center would come standard on every model, which greatly enhanced both entertainment and connectivity while on the road.

In regards to performance, the 2019 Frontier could be equipped with one of two engines, but we highly encourage you to buy a model with the greater of the two. The base engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder that produces 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, and even this can tow upwards of 3,500 lbs, which is nearly a perfect amount for general usage by a hobbyist. With the larger and more powerful 4.0L V6, the Frontier will then have 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, which is both a 71.7% and 64% increase over the base engine. Frontier models equipped with this engine, along with any other necessary packages, will also be able to tow 6,720 lbs, according to Nissan.

While the Frontier doesn’t outperform some of the other trucks on this list, the Frontier is a prime example of an entry-level pickup truck, much like the Toyota Tacoma that is capable of getting some work done. If you require one of the more powerful pickup trucks to tow above 10,000 lbs, then you’ll want to go for one of the other trucks we’ve mentioned, such as the Tundra or F-150.