What Happened to Cheap Trucks?

In terms of the most popular vehicles, pickup trucks often lead the pack. Back in 2020, trucks accounted for five of the 10 best-selling vehicles. Despite their high price and low fuel efficiency, Americans love their trucks. And regarding price, things can get pretty nuts with new truck models. So, what happened to the cheap pickup truck?

Why are truck prices so high?

In the past, trucks were simple work vehicles, but now, they have become serious luxury vehicles. It’s not strange to see folks paying well over $50,000 to get behind the wheel of a full-size pickup. And clearly, manufacturers have no issue charging that much. 

a yellow 2023 Ram 1500 TRX Havoc Editon parked in the snow in Baja Yellow.
2023 Ram 1500 TRX Havoc Edition | Ram

Modern trucks are often flagship vehicles for some of these brands. Think of the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500; Ram and Ford have invested serious money to build a worthwhile product. But, that comes at a cost. A 2023 Ford F-150 will cost you $33,695, and that is just for the base XL model. 

When I drove the 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone, its sticker price was over $90k. Granted, most folks probably won’t buy the top-trim version of Toyota’s full-size truck. Still, the Japanese automaker felt there was enough of a market to justify such a luxurious pickup. 

The era of cheap pickup trucks is over, or is it?

With some trucks having an MSRP of over $100,000, it’s easy to think that it’s probably impossible to find a new truck for under $25k. But Ford shook things up when the Blue Oval released the 2022 Maverick. 

The Ford Maverick is a cheap pickup truck.
2022 Ford Maverick | Allison Barfield, MotorBiscuit

The Ford Maverick might be a small truck, but it does have legitimate utility. The best part? Its MSRP is $20,995. For the price of an economy car, you can get a legitimate pickup. And that is likely a significant part of why the Maverick is such a popular vehicle. In fact, Ford had to close orders for the 2023 Maverick almost as soon as they opened. 

Hyundai has also introduced a relatively affordable truck in form of the Santa Cruz. But it’s not as cheap as Ford’s small truck. Still, it is certainly more affordable than something like the Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma. 

Trucks aren’t as simple as they used to be 

If you compare a new truck to something from the 1980s or even the early 2000s, the difference is really night and day. While most truck manufacturers still make work-spec vehicles, even those have things like touchscreens and other modern comforts. 

The interior of the 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone.
2022 Toyota Tundra Interior | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit
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When you step into the higher trims, the differences become even more clear. From 360-degree cameras to heated seats, a truck can easily start to feel like a luxury vehicle. And some consumers take advantage of that by opting to make a pickup their mode of family transport. 

The age of the cheap pickup truck might be over, but that does not seem to make them any less popular. According to CNBC, trucks almost dominate the market. That’s with the average transaction price of a full-size truck being $60,289. That’s up significantly from where these vehicles used to be.