Pickup Truck Buyer's Guide

By KBB.com Editors on September 22, 2015 1:34 PM

Another Big Year for Trucks

The past couple model years have been big ones for pickup trucks. Following full redesigns of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra for 2014, Ford seriously shook things up with an all-new, aluminum-intensive F-150 for 2015. Next up is the 2016 model year, bringing with it the first new Nissan Titan full-size and Toyota Tacoma midsize trucks in more than 10 years.

And we've driven them all, evaluating legroom, comparing payload capacities and obsessing over all the little details that often make the difference between a good truck and a great one.

So which ones do we recommend? That depends on your individual wants, needs and preferences, but everything you need to make the right decision is here at your fingertips.

Here are your six light-duty full-size truck options today -- listed in order of sales through the first half of 2015 -- followed by a helpful look at the segment overall.

Ford F-150

The best-selling vehicle in the country for more than 30 years running is also our Overall Best Buy for 2015. Starts at $26,615

Explore F-150

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

America's other main workhorse, the Silverado is also soothingly quiet inside. Starts at $27,300

Explore Silverado
  • Class of 2016: New Cars Ready to Roll
    Class of 2016: New Cars Ready to Roll
  • Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016
    Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Ram 1500

Nothing gets the job done in comfort like the smooth-riding Ram 1500. Starts at $26,605

Explore Ram

GMC Sierra 1500

Meet the Chevy Silverado's equally capable but slightly more upscale cousin. Starts at $27,800

Explore Sierra

Toyota Tundra

Year after year, the Tundra keeps earning more respect in full-size truck circles. Starts at $30,315

Explore Tundra

Nissan Titan

There's a new Titan on the way for 2016, and it couldn't come sooner. Starts at $30,735

Explore Titan

What's New

In addition to the radically rethought Ford F-150, the 2015 model year also brought the return of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks.

What's Next

Along with the all-new Nissan Titan and next-gen Toyota Tacoma, the 2016 model year brings with it mild updates for the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. The high-performance Ford F-150 Raptor is set to return for 2017 (pics below).

Engine Evolution

The V8 is still king when it comes to full-size pickups, but Ford has had tremendous success with its turbocharged V6 engines and now Ram offers a diesel in its light-duty truck.

Towing and Hauling

The Ford F-150 is the current towing and hauling champion both by the numbers and by our own experience. The 2015 Ford F-150 combines a maximum tow rating of 12,200 pounds with a top hauling figure of 3,300 pounds, and proved the most confidence-inspiring in our most recent in-depth truck testing.


The Champs

The all-new Ford F-150 was named our first-ever Pickup Truck Best Buy in 2015, also claiming the title of Overall Best Buy. The Toyota Tundra is our most recent Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Award winner in the full-size truck segment, followed by the GMC Sierra HD and Chevy Silverado HD trucks.

How Much?

Full-size truck sticker prices start in the neighborhood of $27,000, but the average price paid has risen to right around $40,000. Still, it's possible to get an attractively equipped full-size truck in the lower $30,000 range.

Midsize Trucks

If you don't need all the available power or all the room of a full-size truck, you have four midsize trucks to choose from. Pictured below is the totally redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma, the best-selling truck in the segment. The new Tacoma follows the 2015 return of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, all of which are joined by the Nissan Frontier in making up today's midsize truck segment.

2016 Toyota Tacoma hero.jpg

From Half-Ton to Heavy-Duty

The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Ram 1500 are often called half-ton or light-duty pickup trucks, and represent the bulk of pickup truck sales. Each of these truck makers also offers three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks, denoted by 2500 and 3500 (or 250 and 350) monikers. (The actual numbers and "ton" references have little connection to the trucks' specs or capabilities today.)

The 2500 and 3500 trucks are also referred to as heavy-duty or HD trucks, and offer greater towing and hauling limits. Historically only heavy-duty trucks have offered diesel engines, although that changed this year with the debut of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

If you need to tow more than 10,000 pounds, you might want or need to step up to a heavy-duty truck, offering maximum towing capacities beyond 20,000 pounds.  Be aware that the powertrain and suspension differences that increase the trucks' capabilities also force compromises in ride comfort and fuel economy. If that's what you need, here are some shortcuts:

Ford F-250/F-350
Chevy Silverado 2500/3500
GMC Sierra 2500/3500
Ram 2500/3500

Bonus Pics: Here's a First Look at the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor