Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A red 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 Z71 is shown from the front at an angle while driving off-road after leaving a used truck dealership.

What’s the Best Light-Duty Pickup Truck to Buy Used?

If you’re in the market for a truck and looking to get the best bang for your buck, a used light-duty pickup is hard to beat. These models are already pretty affordable when they’re new, and since they’re built to withstand regular wear and tear for years, they still have plenty of life in them by the time they’ve made it to a used truck dealership. While they may not have all the bells and whistles you’ll find on the latest releases, a lot of the most useful technology has been around for a while now, so you don’t have to settle for a vehicle that doesn’t have a good infotainment setup and important safety features.

But, of course, not all trucks are created equal. A pickup that was subpar to begin with won’t be any better after it has some miles on it. When buying used, the best thing to do is stick with reliable models from automakers you can trust. So let’s take a look at some of the best light-duty pickup trucks you can buy used.

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Chevy’s Silverado is available in a wide range of trims, so no matter how you use your truck, there’s sure to be something that works for you. The WT is built for hard work and offers a good value and a basic range of features. The Trail Boss is perfect for outdoor adventures like camping or exploring a national park, while the High Country offers exclusive styling and top-notch luxury features. And there are plenty of other levels in-between, making it easy to strike just the right balance between sticking to your budget and getting all the features you want.

Even five years ago, the Silverado offered infotainment features that are still highly in-demand today, like wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, and forward automatic braking, so you don’t need to limit yourself to the most recent model years even if a low-tech interior is a dealbreaker. Parents looking for something their teenager can borrow on the weekends will want to look into Chevrolet’s Teen Driver Technology, which has been available on the Silverado since the 2017 model year. It lets you customize the vehicle’s settings while your teen is driving; for example, it can mute the audio until seatbelts are buckled, prevent driver assistance features from being turned off, and give extra warnings. It also generates a report card, letting you check in on how your young driver did while they were out on their own.

A silver 2015 Ford F-150 is shown from the front at an angle while parked off-road.

The Ford F-150

The F-150 has had a sterling reputation among truck fans for years, thanks to its power, style, and versatility. Whether you’re looking for a workhorse, a truck for vacations and weekend getaways, or a vehicle for commuting and running errands around town, this full-size pickup should fit the bill. It’s been named a Top Safety Pick by IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) six times in the past eight years, so you can feel confident behind the wheel.

While power and durability are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when buying a truck, drivers will spend plenty of time in the cab, so it’s nice to have a comfortable interior. Even at the lower trim levels, the F-150 has a cabin that looks spacious and offers plenty of storage, from larger cubbies to smaller pockets. Its dashboard controls are fairly intuitive and are all within easy reach of the driver. On the high-end trim levels, depending on the model year, you can find features ranging from a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof to front seats that can be heated or cooled and even have a massage function.

The Ram 1500

Five years ago, Ram was delivering a truck that was capable but falling behind others in its class when it came to interior design and offering a steady ride. But after undergoing an extensive redesign for the 2019 model year, it did a lot of catching up, with a sleeker design, lighter weight, and larger cargo space inside and out. Be sure to keep this in mind when browsing used trucks at your local dealership. While the drawbacks of models from 2018 and earlier might not be a dealbreaker for everyone, most people will probably be happier with the redesigned Ram.

If you’re looking for a smooth ride, the Ram 1500 is definitely worth considering. For years now, it has offered coil spring suspension as standard, which should absorb most of the bumps in the road. But if that’s not enough, 2019 models and above are equipped with air suspension. Not only does this mean an even more comfortable drive, but it also allows for adjustable height, which can help fuel efficiency and come in handy for off-roading.

Why Buy a Light-Duty Pickup?

Unless you have a particularly heavy trailer or a job requiring a heavy-duty truck, a high-quality light-duty truck’s towing, and payload capacities should be more than enough to get the job done. If you don’t really need the higher performance of an HD truck, then it just doesn’t make sense to spend extra money on something you’ll never use. And it’s not just the sticker price that makes heavy-duty trucks more expensive; because of their higher weights and more powerful engines, they tend to be less fuel efficient as well.

A white 2020 Ram 1500 is shown from the front at an angle while parked in front of a barn.

What to Look for When Buying Used

While used trucks can offer drivers great value and a reliable ride, shopping for a used vehicle can be tricky if you don’t know what to look for. Since automakers want to push people to buy their newer models, it can be harder to research the specs of older versions. So the first thing you should do is find a reliable dealership.

While strangers selling cars online can be hard to get a hold of and difficult to trust, dealerships have customer service staff who can answer any of your questions about the specific trucks on their lot, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they might be able to put you on a waiting list or put in an order for the brand you’re after. Remember that when it comes to used inventory, dealerships tend to carry all kinds. Just because a dealership has “Chevrolet” in their name doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find used Fords and Rams on the lot.

Before you call or head over to a dealership, figure out what your priorities are and which ones you’re flexible on. You may have a hard minimum for towing or payload capacity but be able to live with a less sophisticated infotainment system. If you have an idea of what you want and what you need going in, it will be easier to figure out which questions will be most helpful to ask.

Picking the Right Truck for You

Between brands, model years, and trim levels, looking at the wide variety of choices can be overwhelming. But once you start looking at trucks in person and test driving them to get a feel for how they handle, you’ll find that your gut instincts will kick in and help you figure out which one is right for you. As long as you stick to reliable models with good stats, you should be able to drive home in a truck that’s comfortable, reliable, and ready to get the job done.