Buying Guides

The Best Light Duty Trucks for Everyday Use

You don't have to be a country bumpkin to own one

Sure, you can get a Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, or any other full-size, light-duty pickup but in most cases, a midsize truck will satisfy your needs. Unless you need to tow more than 8,000 lbs, you simply don't need a full-size pickup. Instead, your money would be better spent on a midsize truck with a crew cab. That way you still get seating for five and a usable bed. However, you'll get it in a smaller and easier to manage size. Want to park your truck in your garage? Midsize is the way to go. You'll not only find that parking these trucks is easier, but you'll learn that maneuvering them on the road is easy, too. These are the best light duty pickups for the everyday guy or girl.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado

 
  • PROS: Fantastic engine lineup, outstanding towing capacity for a midsize truck, ZR2 model makes off-road mayhem possible, max towing of 7,700 lbs.
  • CONS: Poor approach angle when not a ZR2, almost as big and as expensive as a full-size truck.

The Chevrolet Colorado ($20,000 base MSRP) is one of the best midsize pickup trucks out there. Chevy’s big news this year was the new 3.6-liter 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque V6 engine and its ZR2 off-road version of the truck, but the model has made headlines before with its 2.8-liter 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque turbodiesel four cylinder engine. The truck can be had in basic form, too, with a 2.5-liter 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque four-cylinder. You can get the Colorado with a manual or automatic transmission and either two or four-wheel drive.

Aside from the engines, the truck comes in a variety of configurations and with plenty of features. You can get it in extended cab or crew cab form and with a short or long bed. Inside, the cabin is well-adorned, especially in higher trim levels, and offers plenty of features, including an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, automatic climate control with heated seats, OnStar services, satellite radio, and a multi-information display in the instrument cluster.

2017 GMC Canyon

 
  • PROS: Excellent engine lineup, high towing capacity for a midsizer, a more upscale interior and exterior than the Chevrolet, max towing of 7,700 lbs.
  • CONS: Price rivals or is higher than full-size trucks, approach angle reduces off-road capability.

The GMC Canyon ($20,885 base MSRP) offers essentially the same package as the Colorado just with some styling upgrades and some slightly better interior materials. The available configurations are essentially the same except the GMC doesn’t offer a wicked off-road version like the ZR2. The Canyon can be had in extended or crew cab, with either a long or short bed, and with two wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Engines for the Canyon are the same as the Colorado, too.

On the inside, things get slightly better than in the Colorado, though much of the cabin is the same. If you really want top notch materials in your Canyon, you’d better upgrade all the way to the Denali which adds higher-class interior and exterior accents and plenty of technology and features, including an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Sirius XM Satellite radio, cruise control, automatic climate control with heated and ventilated seats, and a Bose 7-speaker audio system.

2017 Toyota Tacoma

 
  • PROS: Rugged exterior, spacious and comfortable cabin, long lasting and tough engines, TRD Pro trim makes off-roading easy, can tow up to 6,800 lbs.
  • CONS: Cab is tighter than some of the competition, somewhat sluggish transmission, not as nice of an interior as Chevy or GMC, feels pricey for what you actually get.

Looking to get away from General Motors’ brands? Toyota’s venerable Tacoma ($24,575 base MSRP) is an excellent choice. The model features more of a rugged, masculine exterior and a decently equipped interior. The Tacoma is powered by either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque or a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. Both engines mate to either a manual or automatic transmission and connect to two or four-wheel drive. If you’re looking for a true off-road machine, the TRD Pro version of the truck will be your best friend.

The Tacoma comes in either an Access (extended) cab or a Double (crew) cab and with either a short or long bed. Inside, you’ll find a well-laid-out interior. It’s not as nicely styled as some competitors, but it’s still better than the Nissan Frontier's cabin. The Tacoma comes with a long list of available features and amenities, including Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with apps and a 7-inch touchscreen, push button start, Qi-compatible wireless charging, a multi-information display, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a moonroof.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

 
  • PROS: Smooth and car-like ride, best safety ratings of all midsize pickups, spacious and comfortable cabin, sleek exterior styling, towing capacity of 5,000 lbs.
  • CONS: Can’t tow as much as competition, infotainment system could be better, all-wheel drive instead of traditional 4x4.

Honda has an unconventional approach to the pickup truck market. Its Ridgeline ($29,475 base MSRP) is unibody and focuses more on being good to drive rather than how much it can tow and haul. Still, you can get a lot done in this pickup truck. The Ridgeline is also unique due to the fact that it offers front or all-wheel drive, one engine, and only a crew cab configuration. The truck is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to an automatic transmission only.

Inside the Ridgeline, you’ll find a spacious and comfortable cabin that will remind you more of a crossover utility vehicle than a pickup truck. Honda went for ease of use with the Ridgeline, and despite its somewhat finicky infotainment system, it offers quite a lot. Features are wrapped up into trim levels and include a dual action tailgate, an in-bed trunk, push-button start, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2017 Nissan Frontier

Best

for penny pinchers

  • PROS: Lowest starting price of any pickup, two engine options, still attractive despite age, towing capacity of 6,710 lbs.
  • CONS: Old design, poorly aged interior, lacking features the competition has, thirstier engine lineup than competitors.

The Nissan Frontier ($18,390 base MSRP) has been around in its current design for well over a decade at this point. The truck still sells. That’s because it’s a good design, and while the other models can show it up when it comes to technology and features, the pickup’s capabilities are more than enough for most people. Pair that with a low starting price and you have a winner. The Frontier is powered by either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque or a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. Manual and automatic transmissions are available for either engine, the truck can be had with two or four-wheel drive.

The Nissan offers the Frontier in either King (extended) cab or crew cab. Inside, the cabin isn’t as up to date as the model’s competitors. However, it still comes with a fair amount of available equipment, including air conditioning, NissanConnect infotainment system with mobile apps, Bluetooth connectivity, auto-dimming mirrors, and a power moonroof. In its base trim, the Frontier is a very basic truck lacking even power door locks and windows. If you need a truck that can tow and haul but don't want many extra features, this is it.

Why Get a Midsize Pickup?

  • It'll actually fit in your garage.
  • It can still tow and haul heavy loads.
  • A family of five can fit.
  • They're truly comfy and drive better than ever.

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