Buyer’s Guide: The Best Used Trucks

August 13th, 2021 by

A blue 2020 Toyota Tundra is parked in the mountains.

Are you looking for a capable workhorse that can navigate all the demands of the road, mile after mile? Trucks are a staple in American culture and have long proven their capability to handle everything from cruising the highway and winding back roads to hauling heavy equipment and tools from one job site to another. This capability often comes at a premium when you shop for the newest model, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

If you’re looking to save money and get behind the wheel of a fully-loaded truck, then it’s time to start shopping off the used lot. You’ll find hundreds of options on the used lot, from off-road-ready rigs like the Toyota Tundra to discontinued models like the Chevy Avalanche that continue to earn high-reliability ratings from industry experts. Here’s a closer look at a few of the best used trucks you’ll want to look for as you start shopping.

#1 Toyota Tundra

Determined to give drivers even more value in a truck, Toyota made history in 1999 when it unveiled the Tundra as the first full-size truck built by a Japanese automaker on American soil. Today, the Tundra is built in Texas and continues to offer exceptional value to drivers looking for a powerful workhorse that can get any job done, whether that means towing a heavy load or venturing off the pavement and down the trail. You’ll find this capability especially when you shop for a 2018 or newer Tundra since these models feature the TRD Sport Package that readies the truck for off-road. Toyota also refreshed the Tundra’s exterior design in 2018 and, since then, continuously added new active safety features and connectivity tools.

#2 Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline’s history is marked by ups and downs since its debut in 2006. Honda’s entry into the North American truck segment earned high praise in the mid-2000s and prompted several redesigns over the next few years. However, fierce competition in the truck industry forced Honda to discontinue the truck in 2014, only to bring the model back to life in 2017. Since then, the Ridgeline has proven itself as one of the most capable trucks on the road, and that’s why we recommend shopping for models built since 2017. You’ll find plenty of safety features that earned the truck Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as well as a suite of intuitive technology that keeps you connected wherever the road takes you.

A silver 2020 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E is shown off-roading through a muddy field.

#3 Ford F-150

The best-selling truck in America for decades, the F-150 traces its roots to 1917 with the Model TT truck. The Model TT paved the way for updated versions like the Model 50 before Ford introduced the first-generation F-series in 1948. Since then, the F-series has been a staple in the lineup thanks to models like the F-150 that blend capability and performance with interior comfort and luxury. This is exactly what you’ll find in used F-150s whether you shop for an older 2010 model or a 2018 F-150 that offers every feature imaginable, from Ford’s exclusive SYNC infotainment system to multiple powertrains. If you’re looking to get a little mud on the tires, be sure to look for the adventurous Raptor that’s designed for all your adventures off the beaten path.

#4 Nissan Frontier

While Chevy, Ford, and Toyota are the most popular truck manufacturers in America, there’s a lot to be said for the Nissan Frontier and the loyal following it’s built since its debut in 1997. The first-generation Frontier was designed as a small but capable workhorse meant to tackle any job with ease. This capability continued throughout several updates, but the Frontier also evolved into a premium truck loaded with features designed to keep the driver and passengers comfortable, safe, and connected. This blend of capability and comfort is what you’ll find on used Frontiers whether you’re shopping for an older 2015 model or a newer model from 2018 that boasts intuitive technology like Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, and so much more.

#5 Chevy Avalanche

The new millennium marked a surge in SUV sales, which forced automakers like Chevy to do everything imaginable to get an edge over the competition. Chevy did exactly that with the debut of the Avalanche, a truck that combined the capability of the Chevy Silverado with the sophistication and comfort of the Chevy Tahoe. The combination was unbeatable, especially with the Convert-a-Cab concept that allowed drivers to use the midgate to extend the cabin or the truck bed based on their needs. This and the Avalanche’s impressive capability made it a top-seller throughout its 12-year production run, which means you’ll want to keep an eye out for models made in 2013 if you’re looking for the latest iteration of Chevy’s unique truck.

#6 Toyota Tacoma

Versatile, rugged, and capable, it’s easy to see why the Toyota Tacoma has been the best-selling mid-size truck in America since 2008. The truck got its start in the late 1960s as the Toyota Hilux, which was followed by the Toyota Truck. Toyota finally named its small truck the Tacoma in 1995 and saw the truck’s popularity flourish as drivers discovered its capability both on and off-road. Now affectionately known as a “Taco,” the Tacoma is a popular rig among off-road enthusiasts thanks to off-road packages and trims like the TRD Pro that ready it for the trail. If this is what you’re looking for in a truck, be sure to shop for a Tacoma built since 2018.

A blue 2020 Chevy Colorado Z71 is shown driving down a dirt road past a forest.

#7 Chevy Colorado

Replacing the Chevy S-10 in 2003, the Colorado might be the smallest truck in the Chevy lineup but don’t mistake its small size for any lack in capability. The first-generation Colorado (2004-2012) is one of the most versatile trucks on the road and offers a variety of features, which means you can easily find a Colorado tailored to your needs. Available with a standard, extended, or four-door cab, you’ll find the Colorado offers several different engine options as well as an off-road edition known as the ZQ8 that’s designed with adventure in mind. If you’re looking for a newer model that you can take off-road, look for a Colorado built after 2017 since Chevy added the ZR2 to the lineup in addition to expanding its engine options and its suite of technology and safety features.

Finding the Right Workhorse

Now that we’ve covered the best-selling used trucks in America, what model catches your eye? Do you love the off-road capability that the Toyota Tacoma offers, or are you drawn to a classic pickup like the Ford F-150? Does a smaller and more maneuverable truck like the Colorado better suit your needs?

As you start your search for a used truck, look closely at your budget to determine what you can afford. You’ll find that your money goes a lot further on the used lot than it will on the new lot, which means you can get behind the wheel of a fully-loaded truck for thousands of dollars less. This not only gives you a great value truck, but it puts more money in your wallet, which you can spend on your next project or adventure. Add in the money you’ll save on insurance, and it makes perfect sense to shop for a used truck to maximize your savings.

Whatever model you choose, be sure to shop smart and always take a test drive before you finalize the deal. A test drive is a great way to gauge how the truck performs and if it truly meets your needs. To have even more confidence in your purchase, be sure to ask for the truck’s vehicle history report to learn more about its owner history, maintenance and repairs, title issues, or accident involvement. Once you have all the information you need, it’s full speed ahead to getting behind the wheel of the truck of your dreams.

Posted in Used Trucks