Need a reliable workhorse to help get you through the 9-5? Here are the best used pickup trucks that you can buy in 2024.
Ask anyone to define the quintessential American vehicle, and they’ll probably say something like the Corvette or Mustang. Those are great cars when they’re new, and arguably even more enticing on the used car market. But the real American passion is pickup trucks, and it always has been. Ford and Chevrolet started making the first pickups more than 100 years ago, in the form of flatbed “mules” that were used to move parts around the factories. Soon rural and urban customers alike wanted to buy something to take the place of the old buckboard wagon used to move goods to market, and consumer trucks were born. Now, the right truck can be one of the best used cars to buy.
For most of the past century, the pickup truck was still a pretty basic vehicle. They were sold cheap, and built for simplicity. If you had a heater, that was a luxury truck. But since the 1970s, trucks got steadily more comfortable, fancier, and tech-filled. Today’s trucks are far more than working vehicles, they’re mobile offices, living rooms, and statements of lifestyle. No one thinks twice about parking a GMC Sierra Denali at the country club, or using a Tacoma as a daily driver.
How we chose these trucks
After 21 years as a full-time automotive journalist, I’ve seen pickup trucks evolve into some of the most expensive vehicles on dealer lots. The crazy part is that the trucks that cost the most also sell the best. That ends up being good news if you shop for used trucks. A little careful looking can find you a lightly-used, low-miles truck at a substantial discount from new truck prices. I’ve driven all of these trucks over the last couple decades, and while they’re all much better than older models, there are still some standouts. What follows is the top used trucks you can buy.
Best Used Pickup Trucks To Buy In 2024
Toyota’s full-size second-generation Tundra makes the top of the list because it’s acknowledged as the most reliable truck on the market. The iForce 5.7-liter V8 engine makes 381 horsepower, and you can expect 250,000 miles of useful life out of these trucks, and that’s a minimum. Plus, Toyota gets extra props for variety of cab styles and bed lengths.
Over the 15-year production run of the second-generation Tundra (2007-2021), technology increased steadily. By the end of the line in 2021, standard equipment included adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, limited slip differential, and a trailer brake controller integrated into the dash. And Tundra life gets a lot more luxurious than that as you climb the trim ladder.
Depending on your taste, you can go luxury with the 1794 edition Tundra, or hardcore off-road with TRD Pro. One more thing – there are no more Toyota V8 engines. All the new 2022 and later Tundras use turbo or hybrid V6 engines. So if you want a V8, this is the generation to buy.
(Full disclosure: I bought a 2021 Tundra with my own money. I love it.)
There’s a reason the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for the last 40 years or more. Ford knows what kind of trucks people want, and they build them by the millions. The twelfth-generation F-150 (2009-2014) is a perfect example of the right truck, and by now it’s depreciated enough to be affordable, which is why it appears on this list of the best used pickup trucks to buy.
For the 2009 model year, Ford gave the F-150 a whole new chassis and body, and made big changes in the available engine packages. This generation of F-150 started with an all V8 lineup, but reintroduced the V6 by 2011 and also added back the 5.0-liter from the Mustang. Additionally, the big 6.2-liter V8 with 411 horsepower from the Super Duty line came back on the top Platinum, Lariat, Raptor, and Harley Davidson trim levels.
With 10 trim levels to choose from, Ford buyers can shop for exactly what they want. Of course the SVT Raptor is the king of this particular hill. As a performance model, the original Raptor got a wide-track long-travel suspension, the 6.2-liter V8, and your choice of SuperCab or SuperCrew bodies.
Dodge Ram 1500 Classic
The fourth-generation Ram 1500 Classic started a 14-year production rum as the Dodge Ram 1500 back in 2009, then became the Ram 1500, and in one of the most unusual moves on the market, Ram kept selling the fourth-generation truck as the Ram 1500 Classic even after introducing the fifth-generation Ram. So you can still buy the old truck new at a dealer, if you want to. One result is that the older fourth-gen trucks tend to be a bit more affordable, which is why we’ve
Ram is mainly known for two things: Hemi engines and the Cummins turbo-diesel. You won’t find the Cummins in the 1500, that’s a heavy-duty truck exclusive. But you will find the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 along with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and the 5.7-liter Hemi in most years of this generation. There were some oddball engines in the first few years, and the EcoDiesel was pulled from the market in some years to address emissions concerns.
If you want a special truck, consider the 2016-2019 Ram 1500 Rebel. This model included an off-road suspension with a one-inch lift, big tires, and some interior goodies. Outside you get a powder coated front bumper, lightweight aluminum hood, skid plates, and tow hooks. You could get the Rebel with the Pentastar, but you really want the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The Rebel could be had with rear-drive, but honestly, the four-wheel drive is what you want. The Rebel came only with a crew cab and a short bed.
Chevrolet Silverado / GMC Sierra
Beginning in 2014, General Motors rolled out a whole new truck. The third-generation Chevy Silverado and fourth-generation GMC Sierra rode on a new frame, with a body and bed made from rolled steel, a new engine lineup, new provisions for cabin technology, and a new luxury “High Country” trim level for Chevy. The response was positive, and the new model received the North American Truck of the Year award for 2014.
This generation from GM could be purchased with the lackluster 4.3-liter V6, but what you wanted was either the 355 horsepower/383 tq 5.3-liter V8 (with or without the e-assist mild hybrid system) or the powerful but comparatively rare 6.2-liter V8 engine, good for 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The big engine was generally limited to the highest trim levels, so be prepared to get out your wallet for that one. However, all these engines were produced throughout this generation of truck.
Both Chevrolet and GMC gave the truck a mid-cycle refresh in 2016, so trucks produced in the last three years of the generation will be the most modern. However, any truck of this generation supports OnStar and carries a touch-screen multimedia interface with Bluetooth hands-free telephone support, USB hookups and Pandora Radio if you hook an Apple iPhone to the USB. Optionally, you could also get a Bose audio system. For the most luxurious trucks of this generation, look to the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali models.
Ford F-150 (13th generation)
So it’s not just the 2009-2014 F-150 you should be looking at. Ford’s truck only got more popular later in the decade, especially with no Ranger on sale to offer a smaller option. When the 13th generation of the F-150 came to market in 2015, it came with some controversy over its new aluminum bodywork. The only steel sheet metal left on the truck was the firewall; even the bed floor was aluminum. This allowed the new F-150 to shed 750 pounds of curb weight, but critics countered that the new bodywork was too easy to dent, and that the bed wouldn’t hold up.
Nevertheless, the new F-150 sold more trucks than ever before, with a new lineup of engines including a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, the EcoBoost 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engines, and the 5.0-liter V8. Later, a 3.3-liter V6 and the 3.0-liter PowerStroke turbo-diesel V6 were added. In normal tuning, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost was good for 375 horsepower, but it was also pumped up to 450 horsepower for the Raptor and for certain high trim levels.
Tech also took a leap forward. You could get the F-150 with features like a 360° camera system, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and even a lane-keeping system. Most of these were optional, so don’t expect to find them on every truck. As usual, the Raptor was the F-150 to lust after, with the 450 hp engine and off-road suspension.
Up to this point, we’ve talked about full-size trucks. Yet mid-size trucks are some of the best-selling models. That starts with the Toyota Tacoma, by far the best-selling midsize on the market. Toyota has just released the all-new Tacoma built on a scaled-down Tundra frame for the 2024 model year, making all the last-generation Tacomas yesterday’s news, and a better value on the pre-owned market.
The third-generation Tacoma (2016-2023) came with an extended “access” cab or a “double” crew cab. There is no single cab Tacoma in this generation. Bed lengths were 60.5 or 73.7 inches. The Tacoma came with two naturally aspirated engines: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6. As a smaller truck, a 6-speed manual transmission was standard, with a 6-speed automatic as a popular option.
Special trucks to look for in this generation include the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Off-Road, TRD Sport, and the top-of-the-line TRD Pro trims with the V6 engines. The entire Tundra line got a mid-cycle refresh for 2020, and starting in 2021, there was a 1.7-inch TRD lift kit available from dealers that also included Bilstein shocks. For the best off-road performance, look for the 2017 TRD Pro model.
Ford dropped its mid-size Ranger pickup after the 2011 model year, preferring to push buyers toward the larger F-150. But Ranger owners never gave up on their old smaller Ford trucks, and for the 2019 model year, Ford brought its world-market Ranger back to America. This truck was designed by Ford of Australia for rugged use, and it’s a winner.
Ford simplified everything by using a single 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. However, performance from the 270 horsepower turbo engine is peppy on the road and suitable for off-road use. You can get the Ranger with rear-wheel drive only, but most are sold with an advanced four-wheel drive system, especially if you get the FX4 or Tremor packages. The Ranger was made only with an extended SuperCab or full four-door SuperCrew, with a standard and short bed, depending on the cab style.
This article is about used trucks, and the Ranger has been updated for the 2024 model year. Among other changes, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 will be available, and there will be a Ranger Raptor optimized for desert off-road use. Those could be worth waiting for on the used market.
If you really wanted a Jeep but you really needed a pickup truck, the Gladiator (2020-2023) is made for you. The Gladiator is the only mid-size pickup with a convertible top, and its off-road chops are among the best out there. You can even buy a factory Mopar lift kit for it. Plus, it looks great and the doors come off.
The Gladiator is built on a stretched Jeep Wrangler frame, and everything forward of the bed is almost the same as a Wrangler. There are a few things specific to the Gladiator, like wider grille slots and better cooling for towing purposes. You can get the Gladiator with the capable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel turbo-diesel. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but you can get an 8-speed automatic. Because the diesel is quite expensive, I recommend the Pentastar and the automatic for best performance. And of course, you get Jeep’s fantastic 4X4 system.
Special models include the Rubicon trim level – with electronic locking diffs, a whole bunch of cameras that make off-road crawling a snap, and a ruggedized suspension on big tires, the Rubicon is ready for anything you might want to do. Be prepared to pay for that, however, as Jeeps don’t lose value quickly on the pre-owned market.
Chevrolet Colorado / GMC Canyon
After shocking you with some high-priced used mid-size trucks, let’s bring things back to the budget with a couple of solid performers from GM. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon (2015-2022) are twin trucks that offer a great value. GM made these trucks with very few changes for the better part of a decade, so there are plenty out there to choose from. Very early, you could get a Colorado with a single cab, but very few were sold. Every truck you can actually find will have an extended cab or crew cab.
Engines included the venerable 2.5-liter GM four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6, and after 2016, a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel. A 6-speed manual transmission was offered on lower trims until partway through 2019, and all other Colorado/Canyon trucks got a 6-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is optional.
Two special models to look for include the ZR2 Colorado, with a very impressive off-road package that includes a 2-inch lift on entirely different suspension components, skid plates and special bumpers, and locking differentials. The other is the GMC Canyon Denali, with a luxury interior package including leather and a nicer audio system.
As our last used truck to consider on this best used pick up trucks guide, the still-new Ford Maverick (2022-2023) is an astonishingly good truck that breaks all the rules. Alone among our top 10, the Maverick is built on a stamped unibody platform shared with the Bronco Sport and Escape SUVs. It also has independent rear suspension, so it handles pretty much like a nimble crossover. Best of all, it’s smaller than the Ranger. It’s about the same size as the old first-generation Ranger through 2011, but it’s comfortable and spacious inside.
The Maverick comes only as a crew cab with a short bed, but the other rule that this mini-truck breaks is that its base trim is front-wheel drive. You can choose a 2.5-liter hybrid engine and get up to 40 MPG with front-drive, or choose a 2.0-liter turbo engine with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. There’s no low range gears like a traditional 4X4 system, but unless you’re going off-road, who cares? The Maverick will tow up to 4,000 pounds, so it’s great if you have a boat or a small camp trailer.
Mavericks are just now starting to turn up on used vehicle lots as the first leases run out, and they’re so popular you might actually pay more than the price of ordering a new one, but the new price is low enough that you might just be able to afford one on a used budget. But as the years go on and Mavericks get a little more common, with some time and mileage on them, they’ll get cheaper.
How to buy the best used pickup truck
Whatever you buy, a pickup truck is always a good investment. Most of them run for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles, and they’re useful as well as fun. Choose carefully and get the truck that’s just right for your needs. How do you intend to use the vehicle? Is it simply as a daily driver, or are you looking for an example to use as a workhorse? While the above recommendations will go about doing both businesses just fine, some are better than others.
Looking to buy one of these trucks? Check out Car Gurus.