Buying Guides

5 Best Used Pickup Trucks

These are the used towing and hauling workhorses you need

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Pickup trucks have always been an important part of the automotive industry, but lately, they've become even more integral. Trucks sell well and because of that automakers are producing a lot of them. You don't have to go with a brand spanking new truck to get something nice and fully capable, though. There are plenty of used models out there. While many pickup owners rack up a bunch of miles on their vehicles if you stick with trucks that are only a few years old, you should be able to find something you truly enjoy that's not too worn out or pricey.

2013 Ford F-150

 
  • PROS: Lots of different powerful engine options, tons of variations, comfy and tech-laden in most trims.
  • CONS: Frustrating infotainment system, large size means maneuvering in tight space is tough.

Ford likes to shout out how their pickups are the most widely sold in America. While the company’s boasting can get annoying, the bottom line is that they make a great product in the F-150. The truck comes with a wide variety of engine options, meaning if you don’t have to tow a huge trailer around, you can find a reasonably efficient option. Aside from what’s under the hood, most models out there on the used market have plenty of options. Even back in 2013, Ford was packing a lot of technology into its trucks. You can routinely find models with features like automatic headlights, cruise control, parking sensors, a backup camera, USB connection, Sirius XM Radio and more depending on the trim level and options packages included. The only downside is that in Ford’s older pickups the infotainment system can be a little tough to use.

2012 GMC Sierra 1500

 
  • PROS: Smooth and quiet ride for a full-size pickup, powerful V8 engine options and really comfy seats.
  • CONS: Large turning radius means tight city environments can be tough, cabin storage isn’t great, weak base V6 engine.

If you’re looking for something that’s a little more upscale and don’t want to get into the F-150’s higher trim levels, consider going with a GMC Sierra. The Sierra is generally better appointed on the inside, but still features a high towing and payload rating as well as tough construction and a high level of reliability. This truck is essentially a rebadged Chevrolet Silverado 1500. The two trucks feature virtually identical mechanical components and interior layouts. Choose the V8 for the best performance. You won’t regret it. The Sierra 1500 comes in a number of trim levels ranging from your basic work truck to a completely decked out luxurious pickup, so you can have it equipped with basically whatever you want from automatic headlights and cruise control to Sirius XM Radio and adjustable speed sensitive volume control.

2012 Toyota Tundra

 
  • PROS: Spacious cabins, very capable towing and hauling machine in any configuration, tough looking.
  • CONS: Bumpy ride, poor interior design layout and material quality, big and feels it.

Toyota’s Tundra is the big boy brother to the venerable Tacoma and it earns a lot of respect as a tough, tow and haul-happy competitor. This truck was designed to do work. It may not feel as refined as an F-150 or a Sierra 1500, but you’ll have no doubts about its capabilities. It may feel a little cumbersome on the road, but beyond that, there isn’t much to complain about. Its cabin is wildly spacious, giving you and your work team or family plenty of room to stretch out. The Tundra comes in a variety of configurations and trim levels. Equipment varies, but you should have no problem finding a model with the following features: cruise control, dual zone air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius XM Radio.

2012 Toyota Tacoma

Best

for off roading

  • PROS: Powerful and reasonably efficient V6, lots of trims and configurations, good build quality and known for its reliability.
  • CONS: Low seating position isn’t very truck-like, a fair amount of engine and road noise make it a little harsh at times.

If you don’t need a full-sized truck, the Toyota Tacoma is a midsizer with a full-size attitude. This smaller pickup is the real deal and can tow, haul and go off-road no problem. It’s not as tough and capable as the two trucks listed above, but it does offer more than enough for most people. It comes in a wide variety of configurations and offers potent engine options (get the V6). The Taco isn’t the truck for someone looking for a posh trailer puller. It’s more of a tough, go-get-em truck. If that appeals to you, you’re in for a treat. As with the GMC, the equipment found on these trucks varies significantly. Still, you can find models with cruise control, a backup camera, Sirius XM Radio, auxiliary audio inputs for MP3 devices and smartphones as well as USB connections.

2014 Honda Ridgeline

Best

for the family

  • PROS: Smoother ride than any other truck, roomy cabin with a smart layout, hidden trunk underneath the bed.
  • CONS: Below average towing and hauling capabilities, only one engine option (3.5-liter V6), polarizing design and styling.

Need something that fits into the midsize truck class but is a little softer than that Tacoma? The Honda Ridgeline should do the trick. Yes, the Ridgeline is a unibody truck meaning it can’t tow or haul as much as other pickups out there, but Honda told us that the vast majority of truck owners never actually use the full potential of their pickups, meaning the Ridgeline will get the job done for most folks. Also, the thing drives like a soft CUV and if you couldn’t see the truck bed out the rear window, you’d swear you’re in a Honda Pilot. This is the truck for people who need a truck but aren’t typical truck people. It’s excellent if it fits your lifestyle. Equipment varies depending on trim level, but you can expect cruise control, a backup camera, Honda’s unique beneath bed trunk storage, an auxiliary audio input, and a seven-speaker sound system.

What makes a good used pickup?

  • A proven reliability record
  • High towing and payload capacity
  • Reasonably efficient
  • Comfortable and spacious interior

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