Choosing between used half-ton pickup trucks can be overwhelming. You first have to choose between brands such as Ram, Chevrolet, Toyota, or Ford. But then you have to consider the different generations of longstanding nameplates like the Ford F-150, Silverado, or Tundra. Luckily, MotorTrend has crunched the numbers to recommend the absolute best model years of each used half-ton pickup truck you can invest in.
2017-2018 Ram 1500
Ram sold the fourth generation of its half-ton 1500 from 2009 through 2018. Every model year was available with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 churning out 390+ horsepower, four-wheel disc brakes, four-corner coil springs, and a reliable 9.25-inch rear differential. But over the years, the automaker incrementally improved other aspects of the truck. The 2009-2011 Ram 1500 only had a five-speed automatic, which gained a gear in 2012. For 2017, Ram introduced an eight-speed automatic which improved every aspect of the truck’s performance.
The 2017 and 2018 Ram 1500 featured a drivetrain so ahead of its time that when Ram rolled out its fifth-generation pickup for the 2019 model year, most upgrades were visual or to the interior. In fact, you can buy a brand new 2023 Ram truck with the exact same underpinnings as a used 2017 or 2018 half-ton pickup. This makes these two model years one of the best values on the used pickup truck market.
Read about the differences of the 2018 Ram 1500 vs the 2019 Ram 1500.
2014-2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500
General Motors badges its half-ton pickup truck as both a Chevrolet (the Silverado 1500) and a GMC (the Sierra 1500). Definitely look beyond the nameplate, because you can get the exact same drivetrain options and configurations in either truck. The Silverado/Sierras combined sales outpace the F-150 some years because they are incredibly popular with commercial fleets. This means you’ll find plenty of professionally maintained GM half-ton pickup trucks on the used market–according to MotorTrend.
The 2014-2018 model years are the current sweet spot for affordable, reliable Chevy Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks. This is the first generation available with modern tech, such as infotainment touchscreens, backup cameras, and Android Auto/Apple Carplay. If you want a more barebones truck, don’t be afraid of a well-cared-for pickup from an earlier generation. But if you are considering an older or higher mileage work truck, it’s often worth having a mechanic inspect it and go over its service records.
Find out just how reliable a 100,000 mile pickup truck is.
2007-2013 Toyota Tundra
The 2006 and earlier Toyota Tundra is a bit undersized and underpowered by modern, full-size truck standards. But the truck’s second generation is a full-size pickup by any measure. Mechanically, it went almost unchanged from 2007 through 2021, though later model years only came with the largest V8 engine option. Your dollars will go the furthest if you buy an early model year second-generation Tundra with low mileage, optioned with the 5.7-liter V8. Tundras built before Toyota’s 2014 facelift are some of the most affordable used half-ton pickup trucks around.
If you live in a rust-free climate, a 15-year-old Tundra is less of a gamble. But it’s still worth hiring a professional inspection. If you live in a snowy place, you may want to limit your search to Tundras which have already received a frame swap, thus extending their lifespan.
See the one year of used Tundra to avoid.
2009-2014 Ford F-150
Just like the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, the Ford F-series is so popular as a fleet truck that you can find nearly any configuration on the used market. You can also find upper trim F-150s, loaded with chrome and leather, that have never seen hard use. But with Ford introducing a new F-150 generation every few years, which of its used half-ton pickup trucks make the best investment?
In 2015, Ford swapped to an aluminum body for the F-150. While this change helped the truck lose hundreds of pounds, improving performance and efficiency, MotorTrend is skeptical about aluminum F-150s as an investment. This is because we have yet to see how badly these trucks will corrode over the years. If you want a sure bet, consider a low-mileage F-150 with a steel body from the 2014 model year–or earlier.