The stark differences between a pickup truck you could buy 1974, and the ones that you see on the front line at dealerships today, are as contrasting as night and day. The pickup truck has always been a superstar, even in the early, unappreciated days. Maybe they weren’t built for a flashy entourage as you cruise down Las Vegas Blvd. with all of your friends; but the farmers, journeymen, contractors and anybody else that needed to “get-‘er-done” knew exactly where to turn – the faithful pickup truck.
Buying a pickup truck used to also be a simpler-affair, for options, you had stripes (if you were lucky), a $10,000, half-ton Dodge Ram would be equipped with about as many frills and thrills as an empty kiddie pool. But 40 years down the line – that same, boring pickup truck was just as tenacious, if not a little tired, as it was when it was new.
In today’s day, with so many changing technologies revolving in and out of our pickup chassis, it’s hard to tell the winners from DNFs until the race is over. So many gimmicky-ploys are used to sell pickup trucks now – the line between what you “need” and what you don’t becomes very hazy.
Although the future is impossible to read, we can get a good idea what a pickup truck’s resale value will look like in the next decade by analyzing them as they sit today. Don’t be duped into buying into someone else’s loss because you didn’t know any better!
20 Honda Ridgeline
For all the benefits owning a truck can offer, you have to be prepared to get really good at close-quarter maneuvering, and have a good situational awareness; especially when people are around – like in Walmart parking lots. For most people who only “casually” want the utility of a pickup truck sitting in their garage, all the hassle just isn’t worth it. Honda’s unibody Ridgeline was the answer that brought the pickup truck home in a package even your grandma could handle. There are a lot of Ridgelines out there, and the 2006-2008 year-models along with the 2017 were noted as some of the most problematic Ridgelines ever to be produced.
19 Second Generation Toyota Tundra
We all probably remember the day when the Toyota Tundra first hit the market. Up until that point, Toyota had sheepishly avoided full-size pickup truck market that was primarily spoken for by Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. Excitement was mixed with skepticism as everybody wondered if the legendary Toyota brand was as good at making trucks as they are at making cars. As it would turn out, Toyota made excellent trucks. We’ve seen the tundra in production for almost two decades now – which to me is long enough to dial it all in. Despite the 4.5 reliability rating, the tundra only scores an overall 7.3 out of 10; essentially a low-“C” if it was in grade school.
18 2018 Nissan Titan
The Titan may have a throaty growl, fresh from the assembly line – but it’s Nissan’s first foray into a full-size truck market and, despite a 15-year production run, they still seem to be missing a few marks. Quoting horsepower and torque ratings isn’t a fair measure by which you should calibrate your bias towards it – any automaker can slap a V-8 between two frame rails, bolt a bed on the end of it and call it a truck. But the Titan falls short where horsepower can’t save it – like the mountain of cheap, injection-molded, polypropylene trim panels that encapsulate the cab’s interior. If all of this isn’t enough for you, the Titan scores a U.S. News 2.5 out of 5 in their reliability category (i.e. you can’t do worse than this).
17 Nissan Titan Prerunner
A.K.A. someone else’s headache that they’re done dealing with and ready to dump off on somebody else. A prerunner is the worst type of pickup truck to buy used given its performance-driven visual appeal – and it encourages the driving habits to match that of which this truck was never designed to endure. But for some reason or another, the Titan seems to be a very popular truck to do prerunner conversions on. Not to say the truck is a complete jalopy; it’s a decent rig. But longevity and resale value may be a very different story when the time comes that you don’t want it anymore. If a Titan is a must, so should be a “stock” one.
16 Subaru Baja
The Baja (like many Subarus) sits on an elevated platform of pompous prestige among other cars, and usually half-blind to its own flaws. It’s an all-wheel-drive car with McPhearson-style, independent struts on all four corners. That’s great! It makes for a good, little climber. But it’s not Supercar! The 2.0L flat-fours are plagued with a design flaw allowing massive amounts of blowby past the rings and consumed up to 3 quarts of oil between oil changes. (That’s ¾ of the oil pan capacity, by the way.) If your motor wasn’t sucking oil down like Das Boot, it was grenading at the crank journals; Subarus, to this day, are still dropping like flies.
15 2018 GMC Sierra 1500
Despite the fact that the GMC Sierra is essentially a facsimile of the adjacent Chevrolet model, the two trucks have vastly-differing reliability ratings; at opposing ends of the scale, as a matter of fact. While the Silverado boasts a near-perfect rating, the 2018 GMC Sierra’s 1500 rating is equivalent to that of a Nissan Titan. If that’s not an embarrassing-enough reason to stay away from this truck, I don’t know what is. And I say this grudgingly, as a GM guy myself, but the truck just sucks – and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. If you’re going to take the dive anyway, at least you’ll be ridin’ smooth with the Sierra’s high-end interior furnishings.
14 2018 Nissan Frontier
Nissan Frontier, for the 2018 model-year, is – as you’d probably expect – a solid mid-pack runner, able to hold it’s own without any help. It’s not the most glamorous pickup truck (especially in the contemporary, mid-size category) but you’re getting what you pay for, and that’s a basic truck. Many of the Frontier’s faults root not within its design flaws, but for lack of them. The super-solid little truck ran so well, nobody’s really bothered to update it much since its 1997 inception. This can either be a pro or con for you. Pro: You don’t pay for frills and thrills of contemporary car design. Con: You don’t get the frills and thrills of contemporary car design.
13 2018 Chevy Colorado
Depending on where you look, the reviews for the 2018 Chevy Colorado are all over the board. Some consumers report having stellar experiences with the midsize pickup truck, while others were not as endearing with their praise. Phrases like, “Ditch it,” “Worst vehicle I’ve ever owned,” and “What a disappointment,” precede entire pages of low-to-now star feedback regarding new-owner “expectations” vs. new owner “experiences.” While some reviews position their argument on a subjective lack of comfort, others recount tales of new-owner nightmares – like averaging a warranty trip to the dealership once a month. A reliability rating of 3 out of 5 was issued to the 2018 model Colorado while the overall score remained at 8.6 out of 10. The four-cylinder engine package appears to be where many of the Colorado issues rest.
12 2018 GMC Canyon
“The seats are terrible; would rather be standing up.” So reads the introduction to a very colorful review on the first two days of one driver’s Canyon ownership. The Colorado and Canyon are two very similar trucks, to begin with. General Motors decided to esthetically differentiate the two by tweaking interior and exterior cues a bit more so than the 1500s however. The Canyon’s “luxurious” cockpit features a more-premium version of bells and whistles found on the Colorado. But despite all the efforts to appease a diverse range of consumers with one package, people are still citing their preference to the ride quality of a Mazda Miata. Objectively – the reliability score sits at 3.0 out of 5 with an overall 8.6 out of 10 for the 2018 model.
11 2018 Dodge Ram
The 2018 Dodge Ram is where reviews start to get serious. Dodge’s larger pickup trucks have been known to have front suspension deficiencies that were reportedly addressed and dealt with at the assembly line long ago. Still, however, it appears that we have not yet awoken from the suspension nightmare. Rollovers – in extreme cases – are being attributed to the separation of the steering wheel from the column. If the truck isn’t rolling over in an embankment, it’s getting 8 mpg due to an excessive blow by and exhaust smoke. One thing many Ram owners come to realize – only after owning a Ram for themselves – is that nobody else wants them when trade-in time rolls around.
10 2018 Ford F-150
Despite cultural significance and the sheer depth of the F-150’s market penetration, it’s highly surprising to learn that the Ford F-150 only ranks 3.0 out of a total of 5 reliability points. Whether the F-150 is really as bad as everybody thinks it is remains speculative so early on in the design life of the 2018 model (it’s only a year old, after all). But after years of serious problems relating to shifting, cracking heads and faulty throttle bodies, the F-150 has some faith to restore before we fully trust that it is, in fact, the pickup truck we all want sitting in our driveways.
9 2008 Isuzu I-Series
This midsize pickup truck is typically recognized as a collaborative effort between Isuzu and General Motors. Although you have probably rarely seen them in public, the Isuzu brand launched their I-Series at the 2005 New York international auto show. Easily mistaken for their domestic-counterparts, at a passing glance, the trucks are identical. Design and image are about the only two things the Isuzu versions share with their GM counterparts. Unlike the big-box version, the I-Series, for the 2008 model-year, has the second-lowest residual-value index – 34.7% (second only to the 2008 Mazda B-Series at 33.2%). Don’t be fooled by the store-brand truck; nobody wants these things when they’re tired and raggedy.
8 2008 Ford Ranger
Engine bucking and misfires at freeway speeds under cruise conditions, hesitation when accelerating, hard cold-starting, stalling, cam synchronizer self-destruction, harmonic dampening miscalibration, short timing chain service life – I could literally keep going with the long list of issues, problems, recalls and nightmares that plague the 2008 Ford Ranger. Most models have a few, inherent quirks here and there; but the litany of expensive service bills older Ranger owners are straddled with is almost incapacitating, if you happen to be “one of the lucky ones.” Although many Ranger owners report it to be one of the best trucks they’ve ever owned, many don’t. Do you think the guy you’re trying to buy it from is really going to tell you how much he hates it?
7 2008 Dodge Ram
The Dodge Ram is widely known “Ram Tough” axiom. Just like in the Super Bowl commercials, it’s no strange sight to see heavy-duty variants hauling around huge horse trailers, fifth wheels and goosenecks loaded down with equipment and materials. They are the go-getters and Dodge really wasn’t playing around when they chose that Cummins of theirs – it is the toughest, light-duty diesel you can buy, hands-down. But there’s more to a truck than what lives under the hood. Dodge Rams in the 2008 format are known water-leakers at the rear window seal, with hundreds of reports filtering in about the nuisance. Electrical system issues, engine overheating and transfer case self-shifting issues just add fuel to a fire that’s burning the Ram out quicker than Dodge can throw Viper motors at it.
6 Cadillac Escalade EXT
The Cadillac EXT is the truck variant of the ever-popular Escalade. It commands attention with its superior craftsmanship and iconic design. Little more than a Denali chassis with a Cadillac garnish, all three platforms – the EXT, ESV and standard Escalade – have performed extremely-well throughout their service lives; they command the highest respect for many, many satisfied owners. How can you argue with countless consumers? These trucks felt good to drive and they kept on going – for a long time. My 6.0L ’03 never had one problem up until 155,600 miles, when I sold her. The biggest blow to the resale value of your EXT is to “personalize” it...like this. When you see trucks like this, you run away!
5 2008 F-150
The F-150 for the 2008 model-year features a unique set of problems that feature an odd combination of cause-and-effects. Something so minuscule as an incorrect spark plug gap (technically, an adjustment rather than a defect) happens to be significant enough of an issue, when out of tolerance, that it’s been known to take out ignition coils. (It figures the coils would be sensitive – they’re millennials, after all.) If you think the fun stops there – think again; we’re just getting started with all that’s wrong with the ’08 F-150. From “norml-ish” head gasket leaks (which is forgivable) to the spark plugs physically being “ejected” from the heads, you’d better do your homework on this one.
4 2008 Ram 2500
Although many of these issues we’ve been reviewing so far scarcely amount some more than a few recalls, and a little bit of owner inconvenience. But as we start to move into examples like the 2008, 3/4-ton Dodge ram, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) involvement means things just got real. Anytime NHTSA starts to stick its nose in your business, you know you’ve got a serious problem. At an average of 43,134 miles, three incidents involving accidents due to a “death-wobble” have been reported, with many other cases of this “death wobble” being irreparable by many dealerships. One man claimed to have had his entire front end replaced three times over – to no avail. (Is something called a “death wobble” anything you really want to buy into in the first place?)
3 2004 Colorado
If there ever was a difference between the type of problem that you don’t mind having vs. one that could destroy you – cylinder head valve seat wear ranks up there among the problems that you don’t want. If you own (or are about to purchase) a 2004 Colorado – you either may have unintentionally inherited (or are about to inherit) massive engine problems that would leave you better off staying far away from this model-year. Engine internals aside, reduced power conditions and engine protection activations have been caused by faulty throttle bodies (a situation General Motors seems to intentionally design into their pickups).
2 2001 Explorer Sport Trac
Although noble in its intent, the Sport Trac falls far-short of being anything near a pickup truck (for those of you who know what a “real” pickup truck is), and Explorer variants don’t seem to be able to get away from wheel failures; the Sport Trac has wheel-bearing problems in a mildly-haunting echo of the Firestone-rollover epidemic. Couple that with timing chain issues, overheating problems (and the fact that this market segment doesn’t know what it wants in the first place) mean that, in five years, the guys who bought this thing then won’t be able to stand it as much as I can’t now.
1 Super-Lifted Anything – All Years
Actually pictured here is a great Silverado – it seems to hold up the rock-like legacy of the Silverado pedigree with dignity and grace. But it also sits on a resale-killer that you’re going to pay for when you go to pass it onto the next guy – the suspension. Everybody knows what guys with lifted trucks like to do – even its only rolling over the occasional curb every now and then. Those “occasional” bumps and dumps here and there are what the truck was designed to do – but when suspension geometry changes – so do stress and relief points as well as pressures. My general rule of thumb is to have no rule of thumb with previously-lifted trucks – I don’t even consider them.
Sources: cars.usnews.com, edmunds.com, carcomplaints.com, raybuck.com, cadillac.com.