We live in an age of overlanding for Instagram, upcycling furniture for some extra cash, and getting out of the city to start a sustainable little farm. If that’s what you’re about, then you’re probably going to want a truck to haul things around with.
The problem is that Trucks are pretty popular, and we know that when demand is high, prices get high too. It’s why old, rusty Tacomas are still over $10,000 and the average cost of a new truck is nearing $40,000. That’s a lot of dough for something that’s meant to be abused. But you still can get a great value on a cab and box if you know where to look.
If you’re looking for a truck on a budget, our friend depreciation has your back. And, for better or worse, here are 6 trucks and an honorable mention that have gotten hella cheap.
Ford F-150 – Best Seller
Let’s start off with the easy one. If I were to ask you what the best-selling vehicle in America was, what would you say? A Camry maybe? Nope. RAV4? Only in California. Across the whole USA, though? It’s the Ford F-150. And, since it’s so common, they get cheap fast. F-150s have been around for a long time and they’re absolutely everywhere, which has a few serious advantages.
First, the Ford F-150 has hundreds of variations, so you’re bound to find the right truck for whatever you need. Ready to hit the muddy trails? The FX4 trim is for you. Carrying around a family? Get the six-passenger SuperCrew. Want to save on gas? The V6 Single Cab will still haul around that free couch you found outside and you won’t cry at the pump.
Second, since they’re everywhere, parts are ridiculously cheap and almost always in stock. There’s also a ton of aftermarket support. If you can imagine it, someone makes the pieces to do it right. As for vintages, the best value is probably going to be the mid-late 2000s trucks. Those are new enough that they have modern creature comforts, but they’ve gotten very cheap. We found a SuperCab Lariat on Cars.com with under 80,000 miles for less than $8,000.
Lariat is Ford’s fanciest trim, so you know you’ll be driving around in comfort. Just be aware that the 5.4-liter V8 has some issues. It makes plenty of power, which is good. But it likes to shoot the spark plugs out, which can lead to costly repairs. If reliability is your main concern, stick to the 4.6-liter modular motor instead. It’s a little on the underpowered side, but they’ll last forever.
What if you want to stand out on the next camping trip, though? Everyone has an F-150, so that’s kind of boring. Well, Nissan has a great truck that’s about the same size, named after Greek mythical beings, and can be found regularly for less than a third of their original price.
Nissan Titan – Smooth
Nissan’s flagship pickup is actually the Frontier, a Tacoma competitor well known for being not quite as good as a Tacoma, which means that most people sleep on their full-size pickup as well. But that’s not warranted because the Nissan Titan is a very competent truck in its own right. It was designed by Diane Allen (the same woman who designed the 350Z) and her influence shows up all over the place on the truck.
From the best-in-class interior to the subtle “Nissan” styling cues that let the truck stand out in a crowd, if nothing else, the Titan is just a great truck to live with. It has more features and comforts than its competition and it comes with a potent 5.6-liter overhead cam motor that can easily keep up with highway traffic. In fact, it’s one of the nicest riding pickups you can buy for the money. It just feels like a big car going down the road.
Despite all that, people didn’t really latch onto the Titan. The good news for you is that the Titan’s lack of notoriety is the reason it’s so cheap. We found a 2010 model for $11,000. Nice. Just be aware that there are some reasons that people never went crazy for the Titan. They have a reputation of just being “just good enough” and they get terrible gas mileage. They are, however, probably going to go up in value as all the Tundras get bought up, so they are a pretty ideal ride to buy right now. Learn about that by watching the Ideal Car Strategies.
Now, we included the next truck on our list for those of you that need those glorious miles per gallon, a truck that now defines the mid-sized truck segment, and can be found in manual, which is rare. I don’t know if you know, but we actually support saving the manuals.
GMC Canyon/Chevy Colorado – Mileage Master
Anyway, the Chevy Colorado, or its sibling the GMC Canyon, is a truck that is perfect for people who don’t live on a big farm or tow an entire house. See, most people won’t even use half the capabilities of a full-size truck, but having a bed to throw gear into is incredibly useful, so a smaller truck like the Canyon is absolutely perfect.
The best part is that these trucks with the 4-cylinder or the phenomenal inline-5 get great gas mileage. Most of the trucks on our list are lucky to get 16 miles per gallon on the highway, but people regularly report 22 or more from these mid-sized Chevys. Not bad if you ask me.
Plus, they were never very expensive to begin with and they’ve only gotten cheaper. In fact, this is the cheapest entry on our list at less than $7,000. And it’s for a 4×4 manual. That’s a lot of fun for not a lot of money. Just avoid the V6 if you can. It’s not a bad motor, it’s just not very efficient. And you don’t get much of a benefit from the extra cylinders.
If what you really want is power, then our friends at Dodge always seem to have you covered, which means were talking about the Hemi-powered RAM series.
Dodge RAM – Is That a Hemi?
The Dodge RAM 1500 is, in my opinion, one of the best-looking full-sized trucks out there. However, what I really love is the power. You can find V6 models, but that’s not what you want. You want the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi. Then you can reenact those commercials. You might be too young to remember those, but it was a big deal.
Nowadays, Dodge fetches a premium, and the RAM line outsells their Ford competitors in some areas. But, in the mid-2000s, Dodge was barely a contender, which has kept the prices of the older RAMs way down. We found a 1500 SLT, which might be my favorite entry because of the “Rumble Bee” theme. For $9,000, you get a truck with 345 horsepower! That’s a lot of ponies for not a lot of cash.
Okay, sure, Dodge had some chassis and electrical issues during that time, and you’ll be servicing that transmission soon. But nearly 350 horsepower on a short-bed truck is a huge amount of fun. Can you say “drift truck”?
Alright, we have Ford and Dodge represented with their full-sized trucks, but what about the bow tie’s Silverado? Don’t worry, that’s next on the list, so you have your choice of the big three.
GMC/Chevrolet 1500 – Indestructible
The Chevy Silverado is known for two things: being cheap and lasting forever, which is why if you head to any construction site or farm, you’ll see at least a dozen of them. You’ll also see them everywhere on the trail. See, Chevys are sort of like Legos. You can swap parts with basically every truck they ever built, no matter what year you get, so the customization options are endless, especially in the offroad world. Chevy, Toyota, and Jeep rule the mountains.
The best thing about the Lego-ability of the Silverados, though, is that they’re incredibly cheap to maintain. Seriously, you can walk into any parts store or junkyard and walk out with an armful of Silverado parts for a few dollars, especially if you opt for the legendary LS series motor. There are millions of LS motors and parts are cheap. For the price, though, the 4.3-liter V6 is fine. We found one for just under $9,000, and you can thrash it all day and never have to worry.
The Silverado does have a reputation of being a bit utilitarian. So, if you want to cruise in comfort, maybe look to GM’s premier brand Cadillac for a nicer truck. Yes, Seriously.
Cadillac Escalade EXT – Honorable Mention
We relegated this truck to the “honorable mention” section, but not because it’s a bad deal. Honestly, it’s an amazing deal and an amazing vehicle. We just know that people are waiting to argue that “it’s not a real truck.” It’s called the Escalade EXT and it’s a really fancy Chevrolet Avalanche, that weird SUV-truck hybrid that had a habit of fading in the sun.
Fortunately, the Cadillac version has all the trimmings and none of the gray plastic. I’m talking about leather seats, an LS motor, chrome rims, and premium sound. It’s the full Caddy experience, only with a bed to put your hay in when you have to feed your prized racehorses or whatever it is that made Caddiliac think: “You know what people with tons of money want? Manual labor!”
The good news for people like us is that luxury vehicles always depreciate hard. There are no exceptions, not even for truck-like things. When the EXT was launched, it sold for nearly $70,000. Now you can grab one for under $20,000 every day of the week. We found one in stunning white pearl that I’m sure I saw in a rap video.
You will feel important rolling up in an EXT, but what if you have actual work to do and need something more hardcore than a half-ton pickup? Well, once again, we’ll look to General Motors, who just can’t seem to build a truck that holds its value.
Chevrolet 2500 – The Towmaster
Sometimes you need to get some real work done, and some little F-150 just isn’t going to cut it. Enter the 2500 and 3500 Silverados, which are trucks designed to do some serious lifting. The 6-liter motor does make a lot of power, but it needs that power to move this massive truck around, so performance isn’t all that great.
That’s not what these trucks are for, though. What really matters is the 10,000-pound towing capacity and the overbuild frame that can handle anything as long as you don’t need to make tight turns in a parking lot.
Now, you’re not going to get a diesel if you’re on a budget. Diesels just hold their value really, really well. But you can buy a 2007 Silverado 2500 for $11,000, which is really cheap for a heavy-duty pickup, especially one that will last forever. You just have to budget for fuel. I had a 2003 Silverado 2500 with a 6.0-liter engine and I was excited to get like 9 miles per gallon. That’s terrible. But it did last more than 300,000 miles,nd you can buy a lot of gas for the money you would have had to spend replacing any other truck.
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