Pickup trucks have always been strong sellers for Detroit's automotive manufacturers. Traditionally, pickup trucks have been thought of as vehicles that rural consumers buy to help them with ranch work, towing farm implements, and stacking bales of hay in the bed. But in the modern era, after SUVs and crossovers started infiltrating the market, city dwellers started buying pickup trucks in growing numbers because there was less of a difference between a given SUV and a given truck than between a sedan and a truck.
Meanwhile, a number of international manufacturers, mostly from Japan, have spent the last two decades transforming what had been their smaller pickups into larger, more capable offerings that can take on the trucks built in the United States. Today, both rural and urban consumers are spoiled for choice and pickups have become just as much about luxury and amenities as they are about getting "truck stuff" done.
But another segment of the truck market revolves around off-roading fun. What had once been the purview of lowered, street-sport models has now become a plethora of high-powered trail-runners capable of serious dirt track feats. Not every truck is built the same, though, so anyone hoping to get into the market should take into consideration not only name or brand recognition but also the history of each specific model and what it was built for.
Keep scrolling for 10 pickups with notorious reliability issues that will always leave their owners stranded and 10 that were built tough enough to go anywhere, anytime.
20 Leaves Us Stranded: Chevy Avalanche
The Chevrolet Avalanche was a combination between a pickup truck and an SUV that couldn't perform well as either effectively. Want to haul lumber? Be prepared to hang it way off the back of the short bed or lose your second row of seating and expose the passenger cabin to the elements. Want a third row of seats for the kids? Sorry, tough luck. What was worse, though, is that the Avalanche and its Cadillac EXT sibling were both notorious parts-bin specials, sharing mechanical and electrical components with a range of other GM models—a recipe that led to disappointing reliability. The only thing great about the Avalanche was its insulated bed walls, making tailgating the only truck activity it succeeded at.
19 Leaves Us Stranded: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Ford decided to jump on the truck-SUV bandwagon with their Explorer Sport Trac, another disappointing entrant into the world of mismatched body parts and unreliable mechanicals. Despite having a truck bed, the Sport Trac was much more similar to the Explorer though it lacked the capability of the F-150 pickup truck that plenty of buyers must have been choosing it over. But instead of using the beefier F-150 chassis, Ford simply lengthened the Explorer's platform by just over a foot. Meanwhile, it shared the same engine, making it underpowered for a pickup. When it first debuted—in the 21st century, mind—it even had drum brakes at the rear (before the 2002 model year).
18 Leaves Us Stranded: Nissan Titan
The Nissan Titan has gone down as one of the more disappointing pickup trucks to leave Japan and head for the United States. Companies from foreign manufacturers have to know that convincing domestic buyers to forego products from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge means combining outstanding build quality with rugged engine options and a lower price point. Unfortunately, the Titan checked none of those boxes. Models sold between 2004 and 2006 were the worst of the lot, according to Car Complaints, with frequent failures of the rear axle, rear differential, and the rear axle seals. After the more basic Nissan truck models of the 1990s, the brand clearly did a bad job adjusting to the higher-end market.
17 Leaves Us Stranded: Chevrolet Colorado
The Chevrolet Colorado can almost claim to compete with the Ford F-150, though in reality it is pegged slightly below the larger, tougher truck from its competitor. With the return of the Ford Ranger, the Colorado has a true counterpoint—unfortunately, up til now it's even been competing against the F-150 Raptor (if anyone thinks that's any kind of competition at all, that is). GM Authority lists a number of reasons to avoid the Colorado, citing underpowered engines, high prices for upgrades that seem pretty necessary, and—hilariously enough—the forthcoming Ranger with its EcoBoost inline-four, which can still out-tow the Colorado's V6.
16 Leaves Us Stranded: Hummer H2 SUT
When GM tried to bring a Hummer lineup to the masses, everyone on both sides of the aisle scoffed at the ridiculousness of the notion. Truck guys figured the new Hummer H2 would be little more than a Chevy Tahoe, while environmentally conscious consumers scorned its absurd fuel economy stats. Meanwhile, the military-derived original Hummer could still crush the H2 in any comparison other than finding a parking spot in the mall lot. Why the concept of an H2 SUT could have possibly gotten past the drawing board is beyond just about all speculation; just look at that truck bed and imagine trying to put a sheet of plywood in it—what a way to get stuck at Home Depot.
15 Leaves Us Stranded: 2007-08 Chevrolet Silverado
Most buyers in the market for a used truck would probably assume the Chevrolet Silverado would be a good bet. After all, this truck and the Ford F-150 have been sold in unimaginable quantities, so they must have been pretty sorted-out by their manufacturers in the process, right? Guess again, as each model has a few years when growing pains set in. In terms of getting stuck, the Silverado 1500 is notorious for having its transfer case sensor fail, leaving the truck and its driver unsure of whether all four wheels are actually receiving power. On top of that more pressing off-road concern, a bevy of other issues cover fueling, HVAC, and the intermediate steering shaft have popped up, as well.
14 Leaves Us Stranded: Honda Ridgeline
City drivers who buy their trucks to schlep the family to and from school, the grocery store, and afterschool sports may be perfectly happy with their Ridgelines. But anyone who actually wants to tow anything, go off-roading, or load up the truck bed with bags of cement had better think long and hard about whether an SUV-based mishmash of a vehicle is right for them. Sure, reviewers have praised the Ridgeline's driving comfort, design aesthetic, and interior quality. A quick glance at the unibody construction, however, reveals that the bed is connected to the cabin precisely because the Ridgeline is little more than a Passport, all the way down to all-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive.
13 Leaves Us Stranded: Early Dodge Dakotas
The Dodge Dakota may seem like it comes from a brand that has consistently deliver tough pickup trucks for decades but buyers would be well-served to do their research before leaping headfirst into a Dakota purchase. Especially early examples, the model is prone to not starting when drivers get in and crank the ignition. According to Repair Pal, the main reasons for getting stuck in a Dakota typically stem from cam position sensors failing and fuel pump problems, among others. It's a shame because Dodge's Ram pickup trucks from the late-1990s and 2000s have become known for their outright utility and rugged dependability.
12 Leaves Us Stranded: Nissan Frontier
Nissan's pickup trucks in the 21st century moved a step up from their 1990s counterparts in terms of size, features, and complexity. Unfortunately, it appears the brand wasn't quite ready for the complexity that more size and features brought along, as the Frontier joined the Titan in having all kinds of issues. The most common failure for the Frontier, according to Car Complaints, involves the water-cooling system, which when it goes, can even lead to overall transmission failure. The radiator would, apparently, crack quite frequently and being located above the transmission, the leaking fluid would then soak through the tranny's gaskets and lead to contamination of the gear oil within.
11 Leaves Us Stranded: Chevy SSR
When it comes to notorious pickup truck failures, it's hard to overlook the Chevy SSR. Created when retro-styled vehicles like the PT Cruiser, HHR, Thunderbird, and Prowler were being released, the SSR was a hardtop convertible pickup with a factory lid on its truck bed, a V8 driving only the rear wheels, and (although this is probably the only saving grace) a stick-shift transmission. But take a second peruse of the other retro-styled cars it shared bulbous fender details with—all of those were sales flops to the utmost degree. The SSR should have been marketed to young, broke surfers but instead, it hit the market with a price tag that could quickly approach $50,000 (in the mid-2000s).
10 Can Go Anywhere: Toyota 4x4
Before the Toyota Tacoma and Tundra became much larger pickups intent on taking on Detroit's finest, the little truck known as the Hilux in the rest of the world was an excellent vehicle with legendary reliability. The 22R engine (and later, the fuel-injected 22-RE) powered the truck and today, owners have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles on their Toyotas with little more than regular maintenance—plenty even go tens of thousands of miles without even taking a peek under the hood. And in terms of off-roading, their simple layout makes mods extremely easy, so a Craigslist purchase can quickly receive a three-inch lift and knobby tires for some perfect trail-running fun.
9 Can Go Anywhere: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
The pickup truck world is in a tizzy over the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. And yet, somehow, the Raptor managed to go around a half of a decade before other manufacturers caught on to its single-handed domination of its market segment. A far cry from SVT's previous street-sport F-150 Lightnings, the Raptor is instead inspired by Baja 1000 racers and features long-travel suspension and, in the current generation, an impressive EcoBoost engine putting out 450 horsepower. Most test-drives of the model include pics of the truck with all four wheels in the air as a testament to how much fun the test-drivers are having putting the truck through its paces.
8 Can Go Anywhere: Land Rover Defender Pickup
The Land Rover Defender is legendary for its rugged, if not Spartan, utilitarianism. Early models lacked just about every creature comfort that modern truck buyers expect—no panoramic sunroofs here without just chopping the top off. Early Defenders weren't even called Defenders, actually, the name only came about after Land Rover had already been selling the model with numerical designations based on its wheelbase: the 90 and 110. Some Defenders are making their way to the United States these days but they're so valuable that only high-income-bracket buyers can afford to shell out—and those buyers want SUVS. But the Defender also came with a truck bed, although it's rare to see one on the streets.
7 Can Go Anywhere: Jeep Scrambler
The Jeep Scrambler was the pickup version of Jeep's famous Wrangler of the time. It was a truck that essentially stuck a bed on top of a long-wheelbase Wrangler instead of having four doors. It still came with everything that made Jeeps great at the time—as long as buyers didn't opt for the three-speed automatic transmission. The CJ-7 Wrangler, built from model years 1976 to 1986 served as the basis for the Scrambler, which is known as the CJ-8 generation. There was even a steel hardtop variation built specially for the Alaskan Postal Service, which should say enough about the Scrambler's ability to handle harsh terrain.
6 Can Go Anywhere: Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
These days, the G-Wagen has become the SUV of choice among celebrities and it seems like every single member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan has their own version of the iconic SUV that's been massively lifted and features an extremely luxurious interior paired with AMG badging on every available surface. But the rest of the world knows the G-Wagen as a rugged work truck that can take on any terrain with ease. Most of them still get purchased as SUVs but the rarer pickup truck layout is still an option for ROW (rest of world) models, and it's a perfect setup for an overlanding rig given the G-Wagen's stellar off-road performance.
5 Can Go Anywhere: Original Dodge Power Wagon
The original Dodge Power Wagon was the first 4x4 pickup truck available on the domestic market. The model came out in the post-WWII era, when Dodge was returning to the automotive landscape having learned how to produce rugged, dependable pickup trucks during the war effort. And the Power Wagon looks legit, there's no doubt, with huge fenders, a narrow engine bay, and massive wheels—style that has helped inspire many modern off-roaders to restore classic examples and get them ready for future service. Whether as a ranch truck or on some challenging terrain, few trucks inspire as much instant admiration as the Dodge Power Wagon.
4 Can Go Anywhere: Current Ram Power Wagon
Even average automotive consumers should know by now that Jeep and Dodge (and Dodge's recent off-spring, Ram) are owned by Fiat-Chrysler. So while most serious off-roaders and wannabe mall-crawlers are shopping for their new, JL-generation Jeep Wrangler Rubicons (at prices that can quickly bump up above $50,000), there's another FCA product that's starting to gain a bit of traction: the current Ram Power Wagon. Based on the 2500 pickup, the Power Wagon receives many of the same off-roading goodies that the Rubicon features, including coil springs at each corner, locking differentials, and electronically disconnecting sway bars. Plus, it comes with a V8, which the Rubicon does not.
3 Can Go Anywhere: Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup
For the rest of the world, the Toyota Land Cruiser is equally as well-known as the Tacoma, Tundra, and the 4Runner. For foreign markets, the Land Cruiser comes in many more configurations than just an SUV. Old Land Cruisers were much closer to Jeeps than the modern luxury vehicles buyers in the US are used to—the truck above is an F70 Land Cruiser, which has been in production since 1984 and is still being built to this very day. The point is simplicity, reliability, and ruggedness—this overlanding rig is perfectly set up for off-roading, especially if its equipped with the optional diesel V8 engine.
2 Can Go Anywhere: Jeep Gladiator
The 2019 Jeep Gladiator is starting to hit dealers—that is, for just a second until buyers scoop them up immediately. And truly, it is a surprise just how long Jeep waited to reintroduce a pickup truck version of the Wrangler. But the Gladiator name isn't new to the company; it was used before. The only confusing part for Jeep aficionados is that the original Wrangler pickup was the CJ-8 Scrambler, while the Gladiator was actually a Wagoneer with a truck bed. Why exactly Jeep decided to switch things up for the new iteration is a mystery, but there's no questioning the awesome looks and equally as awesome performance of the original Gladiator.
1 Can Go Anywhere: Dodge D Series
Dodge's new pickup trucks are muscular, with subtle curves that enhance their rugged good looks. But their older models were much simpler, with square edges that were more in tune with their simple mechanicals. A D Series pickup truck is always a good bet for a ranch truck that can do a respectable amount of off-roading. With an aggressive limited-slip rear differential and a manually-locking front diff—and maybe a few inches of lift and some knobby tires—the pickup trucks can be counted on to haul, tow, and off-road with the best of them, especially when equipped with the beefier four-speed manual transmission.
Sources: Wikipedia, Hemmings Motor News, and 4 Wheeling In Western Australia.