The pickup truck is this country's quintessential vehicle and has been a popular choice with motorists since the very first pickup was built by—who else?—Henry Ford in 1925. The first truck was called the Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body, not exactly a name that trips off the tongue, but the success of this vehicle saw other car manufacturers soon following where Ford led.
Most people may think that the pickup was strictly a US creation, but Toyota actually built their first truck, the G1, back in 1935, and now some of the best, most successful, and best-selling pickups on the market come from Japan.
Pickups are also becoming increasingly popular in countries outside the US, in Europe, Africa, and South America. They have always been a motoring staple in Australia, where the rough and rugged countryside requires tough vehicles like pickup trucks, only in Australia, they are called utes, short for utility vehicle.
Buying a brand new pickup isn’t always an option, however, particularly for motorists who are truck shopping on a tight budget. But luckily, there are always plenty of used vehicles up for sale. But how do you know whether you are getting a quality second-hand truck, or if you have saddled yourself with a vehicle that is going to spend more time in the shop than on the road?
If you want a bit of luxury with your pickup, then the Cadillac Escalade EXT is the truck for you. Basically a pickup version of the Cadillac Escalade SUV, the EXT model isn’t for drivers who are planning on doing a lot of towing or carrying a serious amount of kit, as the pickup bed is pretty small compared to a lot of other models. As a high-end pickup truck made by one of the best-known car manufacturers in the States, though, the one thing that drivers can be sure of is that even used Cadillac Escalade EXT models will be pretty reliable.
Carmakers from all over the world have been quick to cash in on the pickup truck craze with their own models, including many from Japan. Mazda, a company which is known for its sporty roadsters, made the B-Series pickup between 1961 and 2009, selling it both in the States and on the domestic Japanese market as the Mazda Proceed. Older models are going to take a fair bit of attention to keep running smoothly, but used Mazda B-Series trucks from the Noughties are still pretty reliable and could be a great option for motorists on a tight budget.
The 1990s were all about big vehicles, and they didn’t come much bigger than the Hummer, a giant SUV which was based on the military vehicle known as the Humvee. P
opular with celebrities, the Hummer was in production between 1992 and 2006, when sales of gas-guzzling vehicles began to fall amid concerns about climate change.
Hummer also made a pickup version of its vehicle, called the H2 SUT, which is something of a rarity on the used car market, but still a reliable option nevertheless. The only issue with second-hand Hummers is that it can be difficult for repair shops to get their hands on spare parts when things do go wrong.
Chevrolet is one of the biggest names in American motoring, so it hardly surprising that the company has also made one of the biggest and best pickup trucks, the Chevy Silverado. There are two models of this full-size pickup, the 1500 and the 2500 heavy-duty truck, and both are great choices for motorists looking for a used truck. The Chevy Silverado 2500 was first launched in 1999 and has been a big seller ever since, ideal for drivers who are looking for Chevy reliability with more power than you might get from the smaller, and usually cheaper, Silverado 1500 model.
Back to Japan for the next reliable second-hand pickup truck, the Suzuki Equator. This mid-size pickup may not be as well-known as other models from Japan, probably because it was only on sale in the US for three years from 2009 to 2012, but it may seem familiar to motorists who have ever driven a Nissan Frontier, as the Equator is based on the same chassis design as the Nissan model. While used models of the Suzuki Equator are pretty reliable, finding one may not be such as easy task: only 5,800 trucks were sold in the US before the vehicle was withdrawn from the domestic market.
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is another pickup with an unnecessarily long name, which probably explains why most owners shortened the name to just Sport Trac. It was the first mid-size pickup made by Ford and was in production between 2000 and 2010.
It was aimed at those who found the Ford Ranger too small and drivers who didn’t want to be saddled with one of the full-size F-Series pickups.
Ford used bodywork pieces from other pickups to put the Sport Trac together, including the tailgate from the F-150 and the front fascia and fender from the Ford Explorer Sport, which makes the vehicle unmistakably a Ford creation even now.
The Dodge Dakota was around for many years before production on this mid-size pickup ended in 2011. Known as the Ram Dakota for the last two years of its run, the very first Dodge Dakota rolled off the production line in 1986, and while motorists looking for a used vehicle might want to steer clear of the 1980s models, more recent trucks make for a very reliable second-hand investment. Available with either a V6 or a more powerful V8 engine, this is a very capable pickup, which also ended up being the inspiration for the Dodge Durango SUV launched in 1997.
There are actually three different vehicles which have worn the Ford Ranger nameplate throughout the company’s long and illustrious history. The first was the Edsel Ranger, a sedan built and sold by Ford from 1958 to 1960, while the name was also then applied to several of the trim options in the F-Series range of full-size pickups which were first sold in 1965. Finally, the company created a compact pickup truck in 1972 which it first called the Ford Courier, changing the name to Ranger in 1998. These are solid and dependable vehicles, and those made more recently and bearing the Ranger name have a good record on reliability.
Many motorists make the assumption that Detroit car manufacturers make the best, and therefore the most reliable, pickup trucks, but in recent years, Nissan has been giving US auto firms a run for their money. The Nissan Frontier, a compact pickup truck which first went on sale in 1997, is one of the most successful trucks in the world, sold not just in the US but also in Europe, Asia, and Australia, where it is known as the Nissan Navarra. Sales of the Nissan Frontier have been on the increase which is also great news for drivers looking for a used model.
The Silverado is not the only pickup truck made by US auto giant Chevrolet; the company also makes a mid-size truck called the Colorado that has been in almost constant production since 2003.
The Colorado was created as a replacement for the previous Chevy S-10 model, which had been one of the company’s most successful pickups between 1981 and 2004.
But it had started to become a little outdated compared to the more luxurious models which modern motorists preferred. Chevy regularly sells more than 100,000 Colorado models every year, proof if it were needed that this is a reliable and dependable pickup for second-hand buyers.
If the GMC Canyon looks a little familiar, that’s because it is pretty much exactly the same as the Chevy Colorado above. Both vehicles are made by General Motors, who apparently got a little lazy when it came to building mid-size pickup trucks for their Chevrolet and GMC brands, and simply decided to use the same vehicle. That is good news for consumers, however, who can be sure that they can rely on the Chevy Colorado or the GMC Canyon to be equally reliable when they are shopping around for a used truck that is going to last a long time.
Like the GMC Canyon and the Chevy Colorado, the Mitsubishi Raider may also seem familiar, as it was based on the Dodge Dakota, and was even built by Dodge at their Michigan auto plant before being fitted with Mitsubishi badges and detailing at the company’s own Illinois factory. Why did a company from Japan pay a US company to make a pickup for them? Because a Japan-made mid-size pickup would have been subject to the chicken tax, a tax imposed on imports from Europe and Japan by President Lyndon B Johnson in response to taxes Europe and Japan placed on American exports of chicken.
Nissan isn’t the only company in Japan that has manufactured a reliable pickup that sells well in the US. Toyota, who made their very first pickup truck all the way back in 1935, has also had some truck success in the States. The Toyota Tacoma was first made as a compact pickup in 1995, expanding to a mid-size truck for the second- and third-generation models. Designed with the US market in mind and hoping to provide pickup capabilities combined with comfort and luxury in the cab, the Tacoma was a replacement for the Toyota Hilux on the market, which was a much more agricultural and basic vehicle.
So far, all the used pickups on this list have been made within the last ten or twenty years, so motorists could feel confident that even second-hand vehicles are going to last. However, if you have always dreamed of owning a vintage pickup truck, then the 1947 Chevy 100 could be a good option. Not only does this classic truck look stylish, but it was one of the most reliable vehicles of its era, and while any truck that old is going to take time and money to keep it in good shape, at least motorists will be starting from a solid base with a Chevy 3100.
Back to the modern era now and the Ram 1500 truck, which used to be called the Dodge Ram before Dodge’s pickup range was spun-off from its parent company in 2010. Although Dodge had been making its Ram pickup since 1981, it was only when the second-generation models were launched in 1993 that the company first created a 1500 half-ton truck, alongside the larger 2500 and 3500 versions. Ram pickups have a good reputation for durability, which makes them ideal second-hand purchases. Spare parts are often cheap and easy to source, too, if anything ends up going wrong with a used model.
Just as the GMC Canyon is really just a Chevy Colorado in disguise, the GMC Sierra is also just a slightly adapted copy of the Chevy Silverado. Both the Sierra and the Silverado are full-size pickups which are available in different models, depending on whether you want a light, medium, or heavy-duty truck.
The GMC Sierra 1500 is the light-duty model, but this is still pretty powerful compared to other compact or medium-sized pickups on the market.
Although GMC has been making pickups of this size since the 1960s, the current Sierra 1500 model only appeared on the scene in 1999, alongside its sister vehicle, the Chevy Silverado.
As the name suggests, the Titan is Japanese company Nissan’s own take on the full-size pickup, a beast of a machine which is more than a match for its Detroit rivals. In fact, the 2017 model saw a significant increase in sales, as Nissan offered better for value for money compared to similar-sized vehicles from Ford and Chevy. Trucks from Japan are just as reliable as those built by US competitors, too, so buying secondhand can be an excellent option for motorists who want to size up their current pickup, and with parts easily sourced across the US, these are also easy vehicles to maintain.
The granddaddy of pickups, however, is the Ford F-Series, one of the most reliable and durable trucks ever sold in the US, and a model which has been around in some shape or form for decades.
Production on the first ever Ford F-Series truck began in 1947, and though the current vehicle would be almost unrecognizable to post-war motorists, these pickups remain hugely popular with drivers, whether new or second-hand.
The F-350 model is one of the Ford Super Duty vehicles, a step up on regular pickups, and is considered more powerful than the lighter models made by the company, the F-150 and F-250.
The Chevy Avalanche was a full-size pickup which was based on the popular Chevy Suburban SUV. Like the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which was an SUV first and a pickup second, the Avalanche isn’t a great option if you’re planning on doing a lot of towing or need a lot of room in the bed for carrying equipment. If you want to drive a pickup without sacrificing the comfort of traveling in an SUV, however, then this is the vehicle for you. The Avalanche was only in production from 2001 to 2013, so even the most recent used vehicles are a few years old by now; a great opportunity for a pickup bargain.
The Tundra is a piece of automotive history, at least as far as the pickup market is concerned. It was the first full-size truck to be made by a manufacturer based in Japan and was developed pretty much exclusively for the domestic market.
Launched in 1999, the Toyota Tundra continues to be a steady seller and has proven to be a reliable model over the years.
It even won the prestigious Motor Trend Truck of the Year award in 2000 and 2008. Amazingly, a Toyota Tundra was even used to tow one of the Space Shuttles, as it was making its way to a new home at the California Science Center.
Another of the Ford Super Duty trucks and part of the enormously successful Ford F-Series, the F-250 is a full-size pickup with a little less power than the F-350, but one which has proven to be a little more practical for urban drivers, as well as motorists who want to take their pickup off-roading. The F-Series is one of the most successful models of all time, selling more than 40 million vehicles worldwide between its launch in 1947 and 2018. It was also the best-selling car in the US in 2017, selling almost 900,000 models, and the success of the F-250 and the rest of the F-Series shows no sign of abating.
The GMC Sierra 2500 is a larger version of the 1500 model and bears a striking resemblance to the Chevy Silverado 2500, both full-size pickup models made by General Motors since 1998. When it comes to buying a used version of either of these vehicles, there really are very few differences between them for motorists to look out for. Their engineering is identical, and it is only in elements like the exterior appearance and the quality of the interior trim that you might spot some changes between the two, with the GMC Sierra 1500 and 2500 generally being considered more luxurious than the Chevy version.
Most manufacturers of pickups seem to offer an array of sizes, allowing consumers to pick and choose what they want and need in terms of towing and storage capacity, as well as how big (or small) they want the vehicle to be.
Ram, formerly the Dodge Ram range of trucks, is no exception, and their Ram 2500 is a larger pickup for drivers who want a little more bang for their buck.
As with most pickups, the fuel economy of the Ram 2500 isn’t great—these are not vehicles for environmentalists—but the truck is reliable and durable in the long term.
We have already heard about the popularity of the Ford F-Series pickups, which are big sellers in the United States and even manage to shift a few models in Europe, Asia, and Australia. However, the most popular truck in the F-Series range is the F-150, the smallest pickup, but certainly not one that is lacking in power or performance. In fact, the 2018 model broke a 14-year Ford record, surpassing sales during the first six months of 2004, previously the model’s best year on record. The popularity of this pickup shows no sign of waning, and used models are equally in demand.
Finally, we come to the Chevy Silverado 1500, another great option if you’re in the market for a used pickup that is not going to pack up on you the first time you turn on the engine, and will not end up spending more time in the shop than on the road.
Like the Silverado 2500, the 1500 model is a full-size pickup, with the option of a V6 or a V8 engine.
Prices for new models in 2018 started at $28,000 so motorists should be able to pick up second-hand models for well under $20,000, safe in the knowledge that Chevy vehicles have a decent record for durability.