Today’s trucks feature sleek cabins, comfortable seating, and the latest technology and safety equipment. But are they reliable?
Pickup trucks need to do it all: daily driving, off-roading, hauling, and towing (and they need to do it all with ease). Drivers tend to keep them for several years, and high-reliability ratings mean they won’t need to worry about their ride breaking down and racking up repair bills.
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Most Reliable Used Pickup Trucks
Truck makers have made great progress over the years. With few exceptions, today’s pickups perform better, are more capable, and are more dependable than models produced in the past.
Despite this progress, however, some trucks still turn out to be more reliable than others. And, reliability is important when it comes to trucks, especially used trucks, which have owners that plan to put them to work and may not have lots of cash left over at the end of the month for repairs.
Even a model noted for exceptional dependability can be troublesome if the previous owner was abusive and skipped important maintenance. It is also a good idea to check a vehicle’s recall history before buying it. You want to make sure that all safety defects have been addressed before venturing out with family members or cargo.
Though production ended in 2013, Avalanche’s final models were solid.
While Chevrolet Avalanche departed the scene in 2013, its final editions are worth a look on the used market. Avalanche rated above-average or at least average in three of its last four years where ratings are available.
That includes very strong marks in 2012, just before production ended. If that model (or a ’13) Avalanche is up for sale, truck buyers have a shot at getting a great return on the investment.
Chevrolet Blazer Chalet
The Chevy Blazer was an early predecessor to the modern 4X4 SUV, but this one looks even more like a modified pickup. There’s a reason for that: The Chalet was a pop-up camper body made by Chinook that slid into the cargo area of a Blazer. You could rumble into rugged terrain and have a place to sleep two of you for the night, all for less than $10,000. Despite the Chalet debuting at the height of a camping craze, fewer than 2,000 were made during its run in 1976 and 1977.
The first redesign years (‘ 15-’16) were bad, but otherwise, Colorado had a strong record for reliability.
Colorado wasn’t in production every year this decade, but when it was, it put together a decent reliability record. The previous generation’s final models (2010-12) were strong, and the new ’17 showed Chevy could correct its mistakes.
Still, there are two models to avoid at all cost: The first Colorados following the relaunch (2015-16) was bad.
Until its upset last year, the Chevrolet Silverado had been the No. 2-selling vehicle in the country for several years, at least in part because it’s a pickup truck that can carry more than 7,000 pounds of payload and tow more than 23,000 pounds. Also, they last forever, giving the Chevrolet Silverado one of the top resale values among full-sized trucks, noting those truck buyers hang onto them longer than the average car (incidentally, iSeeCars also gave high-reliability marks to the Silverado’s mechanically identical cousin, the GMC Sierra 2500HD). However, not all Chevy Silverados can be relied upon — last year, Consumer Reports ranked the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD among the year’s worst-scoring vehicles for reliability.
Dodge Power Wagon
The Jeep Wrangler gets all the World War II credibility, but the Ram family of trucks has some relatives who served as well. When predecessors to the Dodge Power Wagon came home in 1945, they were introduced as the first civilian vehicle with four-wheel drive. Its 8-foot cargo bed, 3,000-pounds of payload capacity and flathead inline six-cylinder engine made it a workhorse from the start, and it still had a place in the Armed Forces as a cargo vehicle and, at times, an ambulance. Though the last traces of the original faded with the final Power Ram model in 1993, the Ram Power Wagon carries the banner.
The former Dodge Ram was completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. However, buyers are still taken with the previous model — including its waterproof and drainable RamBoxes in the sidewalls of the bed. While the more recreational drivers like how they “fit up to 240 cans of your favourite beverage in a 5’7 bed or 280 cans in a 6’4 bed configuration,” contractors tend to like the 74.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity, around 3,000 pounds of payload capacity, and nearly 14,000 pounds of towing for different reasons. The Dodge Ram doesn’t show any signs of slowing down: Motor Trend magazine named the Ram 1500 “Truck of the Year” in 2019, marking the sixth time a Ram truck has taken the honour. And that wasn’t the only honour the Ram 1500 took in 2019 — it also was named the No. 1 full-size pickup truck by U.S. News & World Report (though it slipped one position this year). And don’t discount an older Ram if fuel economy is important to you — the 2013 Dodge RAM 1500 HFE also landed a spot on Instamotor’s list of used trucks with great gas mileage.
Ford SVT Lightning
In 1993, just as Chevy was burying the 454 SS, Ford’s Special Vehicles Team was modifying the F-series’ 5.8-litre small-block V8 with better parts to produce 240 horsepower. They dropped the suspension 2.5 inches and added new shocks, springs, anti-roll bars, and 17-inch tires. Through the end of its first run in 1995, little more than 11,000 were produced. But a second run from 1999 to 2004 only enhanced the Lightning’s reputation.
This has been the bestselling vehicle in the United States for nearly four decades. Since its launch in 1948, Ford has sold more than 40 million F-Series trucks to date — including the Ford F350, and, of course, the popular F150 among them — and shows no sign of letting up. Drivers like a pickup, but love the F-Series, and so do the critics. Auto blog iSeeCars puts the Ford F150 on its list of cars that owners keep forever (10 years or more, anyway). At the same time, Consumer Reports notes that it is an incredibly reliable used truck, and one of the only reliable used pickups to get to 200,000 miles and beyond consistently.
FORD F-250 SUPER DUTY
The F-250 comes with the Blue Oval badge, which is a testimony to its reliability. This full-sized pickup truck was offered with three engine options that included two V-8s – one gas and one diesel – along with a V-10 gas mill. The 6.4-litre, V-8 diesel makes 350 ponies and 650 pound-feet of torque. Power was sent to either the rear wheels or all the four wheels via a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox. The truck could also tow up to 12,500 pounds and haul up to 3,150 pounds.
While it was a solid truck generally, the F-250 Super Duty has been reported with fuel pump and fuel pump driver module errors once it passed 100,000 miles on the odometer. The truck has quite a demand, and finding any well-maintained model under less $12,000 would be difficult.
From 1983 to 2011, Ford made a tough little compact pickup truck that could take a beating. It eventually became the Bronco II SUV, which led to the iconic Ford Explorer. Still, the Ford Ranger was discontinued when the market for small pickups shrank and was dominated by Toyota trucks. It’s making a comeback soon, and Road & Track has updates on the latest expectations. But the just under 7 million sold during its original run indicate there will be a market for this historically reliable truck.
This off-road package debuted in 2010 but recently got a facelift. The F-150’s new aluminium body sits on the Raptor’s steel frame, but “torque-on-demand” locking differential, 3-inch Fox Racing Shox with variable dampening, a new 3.5-litre, 450-horsepower EcoBoost engine, a terrain selection system with rock, mud, and sand, and “Baja” modes are all new additions. Perhaps the best feature? An available Torsen front differential that increases climbing grip by transferring torque to stable front wheels while pulling up steep slopes or over obstacles.
GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado
In its original incarnation, the Colorado/Canyon was an Isuzu in General Motors clothing. Designed jointly by the two automakers, the Canyon/Colorado is still sold as the Isuzu D-Max abroad and once sold in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. Still, after Ford dropped its Ranger line of small pickups, General Motors began to rethink the little pickup truck. They gave it a more fuel-efficient engine with a combined 21 miles per gallon, and a look a bit more like the Silverado and Sierra for the sake of continuity. Assembled in Wentzville, Missouri, the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado are aimed at the U.S. truck buyer who long ago switched to smaller trucks from Japanese automakers, and comes second only to the Tacoma when it comes to retaining value.
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The Ridgeline disappeared between 2015 and 2016, only to return with its funky bed configuration sanded down to look like every other pickup on the market. The truck’s payload and towing capacity aren’t exactly heavy-duty, but its 3.5-litre V6 engine and 280 horsepower give it just enough power to feel like it. With a four-seat cab that’s like an SUV attached to a truck bed, the Honda Ridgeline is far more suited to recreational users — built for a day at the stadium, but able to make hardware store runs and vacation treks when needed. Kelley Blue Book considers it the second-best mid-size pickup in the country for resale values, and 22% of Ridgeline owners keep it for 10 years or more.
Jeep Gladiator and J-Series Trucks
From 1963 through 1987, these trucks replaced the Willys pickup and F.C. trucks and brought Jeep pickups from a World War II design into the modern age. While it never received a complete overhaul, its body evolved to include the disco-era “Honcho” package that included a version with a step-side bed. A new Gladiator has arrived for 2020, but it has a lot to live up to.
Along with the Chevy Suburban, this was the basis for the modern SUV. It makes this list by using the same chassis as the Jeep Gladiator pickup and seeing very few changes from 1974 through the early ’90s. Some people remember the Cherokee two-door, others remember the Super Wagoneer with the V8 engine, but everyone who loves this vehicle recalls the wood-grain panelling on the side. A new version will be reintroduced in 2022.
Nissan introduced the Frontier in 1997, adding a crew-cab in 2000. Nineteen years later, you can choose from five trim levels. Though it’s won plenty of awards, this popular mid-size pickup isn’t exactly known for being the brawniest of trucks, giving drivers a 2.5-litre, 152-horsepower, four-cylinder engine hitched to a five-speed manual transmission. What it gives up in brawn, the Nissan Frontier makes up in tech features that new car buyers look for, such as a 7-inch touchscreen, rearview monitor, Bluetooth, hands-free text, and Siri Eyes Free. Cruise control, four cup holders, and 9 inches of ground clearance aren’t such shabby throw-ins, either, especially with a payload capacity of all of 900 pounds. You may not haul gravel in it, but it’ll come in handy on moving day.
Nissan Hardbody 4X4
Known officially as the D21 pickup, it launched halfway through the 1986 model year and rolled right through to the late ’90s thanks to its double-wall bed and sporty styling. It was one of the earliest arguments that a truck could be sporty, and its sports-package 4X4s with their 31-inch tires, fender flares, and light bars pushed that narrative. Equipped with either a four-cylinder or V6 engine, the Hardbody lingered in other countries until the mid-2000s, but still has a spot in the hearts of truck owners here.
Nissan Titan XD Pro-4 Diesel
For years, this was just a terrible pickup: Outdated, poor gas mileage, dreadful comparisons to competitors. In recent years, however, Nissan stepped up its game by dropping a 5-litre, 310-horsepower Cummins diesel engine into its more high-end models and tricking them out with information and entertainment systems, mobile apps, and heated and lighted tow mirrors. The Pro-4X builds on all that by adding Bilstein off-road shocks, a locking rear differential, skid plates and Hill Descent Control. The used Nissan Titan is still a popular choice, but the company recently unveiled a new Nissan 2020 Titan at the State Fair of Texas, and Cars.com had some thoughts, mostly positive.
Ram has changed its fortunes in the last couple of years and has a loyal fan base. However, things were a little different in the early 2010s. T
The Ram 1500 was launched, and it looked like a bulldog upfront. There’s no doubt that eight years later, the truck looks dated.
However, it offers bang for the buck. Ram offered 1500 with three engines – a 3.6-litre, V-6, 4.7-liter, V-8, and 5.7-litre, V-8. 1500 with the biggest engine was targeted at people who wanted something more than a mere work truck. It churned out 390 horses and 407 pound-feet of torque.
Power was sent to either the rear wheels or all the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The truck can tow up to 12,750 pounds and haul up to 1,781 pounds, depending on the trim. You should be able to find good models for under $20,000
This Toyota pickup truck debuted in 1968 and, despite getting dumped for the Tacoma in North America, is still sold around the world. With sales estimated at 18 million worldwide, the HiLux has gained a reputation for durability and versatility that’s made it a favourite among rebel factions and other militant groups.
It looks like a four-wheel-drive SUV today, but in its earliest incarnations from the 1980s, it was basically a HiLux with a cap on the back. Considering the durability of those trucks and their solid axle and leaf spring suspensions, that’s a great thing. The four-cylinder engine in the originals flat-out can’t be killed, but even the newer versions live up to their lineage: It’s one of the longest-lasting vehicles on the road.
Don’t cry too many tears for the HiLux. The Tacoma has been doing a fine job in this market serving as a durable work truck with numerous configurations, or as an off-road beast that can carry dirt bikes in the bed. The folks at iSeeCars, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds all consider the Toyota Tacoma one of the most durable, value-retaining trucks on the road. And a bonus: Used versions also have decent fuel economy — Instamotor named the 2013 Tacoma as being the No. 1 used truck with the best gas mileage.
Toyota TRD Pro
All of those Super Bowl ads that featured the Tacoma TRD Pro flying over dunes emphasize the fact that, for a long time, Toyota’s made the only truck this size capable of doing such things. When Ford abandoned the Ranger and the Chevy Colorado briefly disappeared, the Tacoma got this segment all to itself. Newcomers are going to have to wrest the crown from the Tacoma if they want to unseat Toyota mid-size pickups as perhaps the best utility vehicles on earth.
Even with Toyota’s small percentage of the U.S. truck market compared with Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, the Tundra has its fans. Kelley Blue Book notes that it ranks only behind the Chevy and GMC pickups for best resale value, while more than 20% of Toyota Tundra owners keep their vehicle for 10 years or more.
By 1978, Volkswagen had started building this truck at its Westmoreland Assembly Plant in Pennsylvania. First known as the Rabbit pickup, it came with tiny 1.5- to 1.8-litre diesel or gas engines and managed scarcely 50 horsepower. But they were cool little grocery getters that still show up in the occasional parking lot or Craigslist ad.
Volkswagen Type 2 Pickup
Most folks know this vehicle, sold here from 1950 to 1979, as the Volkswagen Bus. It was the hippie wagon built for the Summer of Love, but it was also an ambulance, work van, and camper. Oh, and it could be either a flatbed or single-cab pickup as well. But a trade war between European countries and the U.S. brought about the 1963 “Chicken Tax” that put a 25% tariff on light trucks, killing the Type 2 here and, to this day, making it difficult to import one to this country.
The most reliable used trucks are tools in the best sense of the word: they are all stellar workhorses and able to answer the call of duty, whether that duty is to show up at the job site every morning in downtown or to tow ten-ton trailers across the country every week. All the trucks profiled here have earned legions of loyal fans due to their dependability even in extreme conditions.
Automakers have worked hard for those reputations, and they don’t plan on squandering that consumer goodwill anytime soon. These trucks profiled here prove their makers are serious about offering shoppers the best trucks they can.
An interesting point to mention is that compact trucks like the Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Ford Ranger all failed to make a list. These used trucks likely failed to rank not because they are inherently unreliable but because they don’t rack up big mileage the way a full-size truck does. Their tiny size makes them better suited to being around-town trucks for private owners, whereas the full-sizers see more frequent long-distance driving and are the preferred choice for commercial use.