Pickup Truck Buyer's Guide
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.
Yet Another Big Year for Trucks
The past couple model years have been big ones for pickup trucks. Ford shook things up for 2015 with an all-new, aluminum-intensive F-150, and GM jumped back into the midsize truck segment with the return of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Now, the 2016 model year brings 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 full-year sales -- followed by a comprehensive guide to the segment overall.
In addition to the new Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Titan, the 2016 model year sees upgrades to the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Looking ahead, the high-performance Ford F-150 Raptor is set to return for 2017 (pics below), and the 2017 F-150 receives significant upgrades, including a more powerful EcoBoost engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The V8 is still king when it comes to full-size pickups, but Ford has had tremendous success with its turbocharged V6 engines and Ram now 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 2016 Ford F-150 combines a maximum tow rating of 12,200 pounds with a top hauling figure of 3,270 pounds, and proved the most confidence-inspiring in our most recent in-depth truck testing.
The Ford F-150 was named our Pickup Truck Best Buy for 2016, and it also claimed this year's 5-Year Cost to Own Award in the full-size truck category. The Toyota Tundra is our most recent Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Award winner in the full-size truck segment.
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.
If you don't need all the available power or all the room of a full-size truck, you have five midsize trucks to choose from. There's the Toyota Tacoma, totally redesigned for 2016, which is the best-selling truck in the segment. The Tacoma followed the 2015 return of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, all of which are joined by the tried-and-true Nissan Frontier. Rounding out the midsize truck segment is the new-for-2017 Honda Ridgeline (pictured below), which returns after a three-year hiatus.
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 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.
Bonus Pics: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor