Buying a new truck should be a fun process. With many so many used trucks on the market, and seemingly-similar options to choose from, that process can also feel overwhelming. Here, we try to break down some of the major selling points on a number of popular pre-owned trucks for a budget of around $20,000.
2012-2015 Toyota Tacoma
On sale since 1995 and currently in its third generation, the midsize Toyota Tacoma has proven to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. Later examples of the second-generation Tacoma, sold from 2012-2015, are easily obtainable for under $20,000, with around 1,000 currently listed on Autotrader. If you’re in need of 4-wheel drive, though, this number shrinks to around 300. Still quite a few to choose from, but an indication of higher demand for off-road worthiness. The Tacoma was offered with either a small 2.7-liter 4-cylinder and a more powerful 4.0-liter V6, capable of towing up to 6,500 pounds. We recommend a V6 4×4 model for its overall capability. If you’re able to stretch that $20,000 budget to $22,000 or so, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is a great option for anyone looking to get off the pavement, with great off-road features like a locking rear differential and a large catalog of aftermarket parts available for anyone looking to personalize their Tacoma further. Given the options at the $20,000 price point, the Tacoma may seem expensive, but its reliability and utility mean it should stay in service for years to come, which will no doubt contribute sustained resale value when it comes time to sell down the road.
2009-2014; 2015-Present Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in America. Needless to say, it’s a great option for anyone looking for a used truck. For a budget of $20,000, buyers could go one of two ways. Anyone interested in a newer, high-mileage truck could find a current generation, 2015-present F-150 for around $20,000, but should be willing to accept a lower trim level. Buyers of a current-gen used F-150 will be looking at the base engine, Ford’s 3.5-liter V6, which puts out 282 horsepower. If you aren’t insistent on 4-wheel drive, a 2015 and newer F-150 might be the way to go, and there are currently almost 500 listed on Autotrader. Filter on only 4×4 models, though, and this number drops to fewer than 100. Buyers looking for a higher trim level F-150 with a larger engine should look for a 2009-2014 model. There are currently over 8,000 listed on Autotrader, many of which offer the bigger V8 and fuel-efficient EcoBoost V6 engines along with a number of upscale trim levels.
2015-Present Chevrolet Colorado
Currently the only midsize pickup offered by an American automaker, the Colorado made its return to the US market for the 2015 model year, and there are currently over 700 2015-and-newer examples listed on Autotrader for around $20,000. Colorado buyers have their choice of three engines: A 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder making 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, a 3.6-liter V6 making 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque and a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Duramax diesel, introduced for the 2016 model year, and making 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Either the V6 or the diesel is great for anyone planning to tow with their Colorado, offering towing capacities of 7,000 lbs and 7,700 lbs, respectively. While the diesel still hasn’t quite depreciated into the $20,000 range, there are currently over 100 gas-powered V6 Colorados listed on Autotrader at this price point.
2006-2014 Honda Ridgeline
The Ridgeline is a great option for someone who finds themselves wishing they owned a truck sometimes. Based on the same platform as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX, the Ridgeline offers a truck bed in a package that behaves much like a car or crossover SUV when it comes to driving dynamics and fuel economy. With one engine offered — Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 that makes 250 hp — and one bodystyle, which is four doors with a 5-foot bed, the Ridgeline doesn’t offer the configuration of other, truckier trucks. It does offer much of the same capability as its midsize body-on-frame brethren, namely, a 5,000 pound towing capacity and a 1,500 pound payload capacity. The Ridgeline also offers unique features like a lockable trunk located in the bed, a mostly flat bed-floor unobstructed by wheel arches and a trick tailgate that can be opened like a normal tailgate or via hinges located on the side, allowing you to get closer to the contents of the bed. Sold in its second generation since the 2015 model year, first-generation 2006-2014 Ridgelines are a great option for anyone with a budget of $20,000, with close to 600 currently listed on Autotrader for around this price.
2007-Present Toyota Tundra
Another resale king, the Tundra holds its value quite well, meaning that there are fewer on the used market than there are F-150s and Silverados. Still, buyers have over 1,600 to choose from on Autotrader for around $20,000 or less. We recommend looking for an updated 2014 model, which brought about updated styling, re-tuned suspension and steering and other improvements. The Tundra has been offered in much the same form since the 2007 model year, though, and thus newer models are getting a little long in the tooth, lacking many of the modern features and amenities of the full size trucks offered by the Tundra’s American competitors. On that same token, as the Tundra hasn’t changed much since 2007, you can rest assured that a used model won’t be dramatically different from a brand new one, which will ensure a high resale value going forward. Either way, if you want that Toyota pedigree and reliability, a used Tundra is a solid purchase.
2009-Present Nissan Frontier
A used Nissan Frontier is probably the newest pickup attainable for a budget of $20,000. Having last received a major update for the 2009 model year, a brand new 2018 Frontier can be had for under $20,000; thousands less than the competing midsize pickups from Toyota and Chevrolet. For your money, though, you’ll get a vehicle that is sorely behind the times with regard to features and technology, meaning that a used option is probably a better value. Currently, there are around 3,000 2009-and-newer Frontiers listed on Autotrader for around $20,000 or less. Filter out all of the 2-wheel-drive models and you’re left with around 1,000 used Frontiers to choose from, with around 100 being the Frontier’s top-of-the-line PRO-4x 4×4 trim. If you’re looking for modern amenities, you might want to look elsewhere, as the Frontier’s design is now approaching 15 years old, but if you want a rough and tumble truck for a great deal, then a Frontier might not be a bad option.
2011-2016 Ford Super Duty
Ford Super Duty trucks are built to be depended on, and used third-generation examples of the F-250 and F-350, built from 2011-2016, can be purchased in the sub-$20,000 range, with over 1,000 listed for sale on Autotrader. Buyers have their choice of two gas engines; a V8 making 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, a unique V10, known as the Triton and making 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque or a diesel V8, good for between 390 and 440 hp and between 735 and 860 lb-ft of torque — or, in other words, enough to pull down a house.
At this price point, also consider a 2006-2014 Chevrolet Silverado HD or GMC Sierra HD, or an early fourth-generation RAM Heavy Duty built from 2009 to 2018. Between solid offerings from Ford, Ram, Chevrolet and GMC, it’s hard to recommend one full-size truck over another — each manufacturer tends to have its respective loyalists, so in the end, it really comes down to personal preference, as each of these used trucks is a viable option.
2013-2018 Ram 1500
Like its competitors from GM, Ford and Toyota, the Ram offers ample towing and payload capacity along with other truck-like qualities. In addition to that, the fourth generation Ram, sold from 2009-2018, came in a number of unique trim levels, offering buyers a way to further express themselves via their new truck, with options that include the Night, Harvest, Outdoorsman and Hydro Blue Sport editions. We recommend an updated 2013-or-newer model, as these come with updated styling, keyless ignition, available air suspension and updated versions of Chrysler’s UConnect system. There are currently close to 3,000 used 2013-and-newer Ram 1500 pickups listed on Autotrader. As usual, opting for a more potent V8 4×4 model thins the herd a bit, but with over 800 options still listed after these boxes are checked, finding a Ram that suits your needs shouldn’t be too difficult. One thing to remember when searching for a Ram truck: The Ram brand has only existed since 2010, so remember to search for a ‘Dodge Ram’ if you’re looking for options from earlier than the 2010 model year.
2004-2015 Nissan Titan
Never quite gaining the popularity of the other full-size trucks on the market, the Nissan Titan can offer great value as an under-the-radar used truck purchase. An Autotrader search for Titans priced around $20,000 even yields a few second-generation 2017 and later models — an indication of the great deals on these trucks. Granted, most of these are base-level, single-cab Titan S models, but if you’re in the market for a work truck, a basically brand new full-size Titan is a great value. The vast majority of Titans listed are first-generation models, with close to 1,000 available for under $20,000. The first-generation Titan was available with a 5.6-liter 317-hp V8 — great for towing, with a towing capacity of up to 9,300 lbs, but also thirsty, earning between 13 and 18 miles per gallon. If you’re looking to get dirty with your new-to-you Titan, opt for the off-road PRO-4X model, 75 of which are listed for $20,000 or less.
2007-2013 Sierra Denali
While the Sierra is, for the most part, identical to the Silverado, one area in which it differentiates itself is through the availability of the upscale, Denali trim level. While the Sierra has consistently offered the same engines and configurations of the Silverado, the Denali sits at the top of the podium with regard to either truck, offering more polished styling and nicer interior materials, along with a high performance 6.2-liter V8, making 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque; an engine otherwise only available on the Silverado LTZ of the era. GMC Denali models tend to hold their value well, and there are fewer than 100 Sierra Denalis currently listed on Autotrader for around $20,000, the bulk of which are 2007-2013 models. Still, the nice thing about shopping for a Denali trim level is that you can be pretty confident that the engines, packages and options will be pretty similar across each used example, enabling easy apples-to-apples comparisons.