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Buying a Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re looking to buy a full-size light-duty pickup, your choices are limited to about five brands. At the top of that mix is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, a dynamo of a truck with a long history and an even longer list of loyal customers. While the Silverado can’t match the towing and payload numbers of its archrival, the Ford F-150, its pluses make it a highly desirable pickup. Available across numerous generations, the Silverado offers buyers a dizzying number of cab sizes, bed lengths, engine options and add-ons. And because there are so many dealer and aftermarket add-ons, used Silverado buyers can still customize their rigs as though they were buying new.

Which Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Should I Buy?

Though Chevrolet has been building pickups for more than 100 years, the Silverado is a relatively new name for Chevy’s half-ton pickup. Once the high-end trim of the C/K pickup, the Silverado became a standalone model in 1999. For the most part, the Silverado 1500 has a good reputation for durability, longevity and capability. It can’t match the Toyota Tundra‘s reliability and resale value, but it’s not far off.

In the pickup world, the Silverado delivers an uncommonly comfortable ride. It handles well, accelerates well and is reasonably good on gas, and the repair costs seem right in line with other trucks. If you can do your own repairs, the cost for most parts is pretty inexpensive.

Early 1999 Chevy Silverados

The first-generation Chevrolet Silverado spans nearly seven years. It arrived in 1999 and ended its run in 2007 with a Classic trim that ran alongside an all-new Silverado. Despite their age, first-generation Silverados hold up well stylistically, with clean lines, handsome wheels and a very carlike interior. These trucks are known for their powerful engine lineup, which started with a standard 200-hp 4.3-liter Vortec V6. Two V8s, also part of the then-new Vortec engine lineup, were optional. The 4.8-liter V8 was good for 255 hp, while the 5.3-liter unit pumped out 270 hp. Over the years, the V8s saw their horsepower increase to 285 and 310, respectively, while the V6 dropped 5 horsepower. Chevy also made a heavy-duty Silverado 1500 that offered a 300-hp 6.0-liter V8. Manual and automatic transmissions were available in these years. Of the batch, the best engine — and the most common — is the 5.3-liter V8. Find one of these on the used lot, and you’ll get good power for passing and pulling, decent highway fuel economy and a pretty solid reliability record. You’ll have the option of three cab styles: a regular cab, an extended cab with rear-hinged rear half doors or a full crew cab. Bed lengths vary depending on cab size, but they range from 5.5 feet to 8 feet.

Within this generation are several firsts, including the first selective dampening shock system, a 4-wheel steering option called Quadrasteer, a hybrid pickup and a high-performance SS model that featured a 345-hp high-output 6.0-liter V8 engine. One downgrade occurred in 2005, when the Silverado went from 4-wheel disc brakes to a front disc and rear drum setup. Features such as a navigation radio and side airbags were late to the game — they appeared on competitors such as the Nissan Titan and the Ford F-150 long before they did on the light-duty Silverado. The Silverado’s max tow rating is around 10,300 pounds, but that’s only with the 6.0-liter engine. Most crew cab models with the 5.3-liter can tow between 7,500 and 8,500 pounds.

A look at the Autotrader classifieds shows a wide range of pricing for this generation of Silverado. A good example of a dirt-cheap first-gen Silverado is a base 2WD Regular Cab with the 6-cylinder engine and more than 100,000 miles for around $5,000 or less. A 2006 LT Crew Cab 4×4 with the 5.3-liter V8 falls into a wide range, from as low as $8,000 up to around $13,000 for a well-equipped model with less than 100,000 miles.

Reworked Chevy Silverado in 2007

In 2007, Chevrolet remade the Silverado to be more competitive with the F-150, the Toyota Tundra and the Ram 1500. This model ran through 2014 and featured a more aerodynamic, but still conservatively styled, exterior. The body panels fit better, and the chassis was stiffened to reduce flex and improve towing. In a nod to the growing use of the pickup as a daily driver, Chevrolet offered two interiors. The standard Work Truck, LS and LT trims got an upright dash with big knobs and switches plus a bench or bucket seat setup.

The top-line LTZ trim got a more luxurious dash, seat and door panel design, pulled from the Tahoe and the Suburban, as well as more upscale features such as a Bose audio system, heated leather seats, a power sliding rear window, rear parking aids and rain-sensing wipers. Extended cab models gained rear-hinged rear doors that opened 170 degrees, making the rear seat much easier to access. On the safety front, the Silverado offered head-curtain airbags as an option — but again remained behind competitors such as the Toyota Tundra, which came with head-curtain and side-impact airbags as standard equipment.

V6 Vortec Engine

The V6 Vortec engine carried over largely unchanged, as did the 4.3-liter V8, but the 5.3- and 6.0-liter V8s were revised with new features, including Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation. The manual transmission disappeared from this generation. The outdated 4-speed automatic carried on until 2009, when extended cab and crew cab models with the 5.3-liter V8 got a 6-speed unit. Chevrolet also made several improvements to the suspension and steering gear, making this one of the more pleasurable full-size pickups to drive. Max trailering jumped up slightly to 10,500 pounds with the 6.0-liter and remained between 7,700 pounds and 8,500 pounds with the 5.3-liter, depending on cab and packages. That’s considerably less than the Ford F-150, but on par with the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.

Were we looking for a used pickup, we’d pick this generation for its combination of features, power choices, interior comfort and fuel economy. Pricing will still be far less than buying new, and you should be able to find a truck that’s been well cared for and that has less than 150,000 miles on it. A look at the used car market shows a wide range of pricing, trims and features. Someone looking for a basic 2WD Extended Cab with the 5.3-liter engine and less than 150,000 miles should expect to pay anywhere between $7,500 and $9,000 for a Silverado LS, and a bit more for an LT. Push to the end of the second generation and you can get a nicely equipped 2014 LTZ 4×4 Crew Cab with less than 100,000 miles for around $23,000.

2015 Chevy Silverado: Huge Improvements

The third-generation Silverado launched in 2015 and continued through 2019. Improvements to ride quality and interior fit and finish and the introduction of more upscale features marked the big changes here. This Silverado’s styling was blockier, but it was still clearly a Chevrolet, with the old extended cab replaced by a longer double cab with standard-opening rear doors to match the front doors. A new High Country trim was introduced, a clear nod to the success of the F-150’s King Ranch and Platinum trims. The High Country featured ventilated front seats, a Bose surround-sound system, 20-in wheels and a telescoping steering wheel.

At the other end of the Silverado spectrum, the base Work Truck retained its 40/20/40 vinyl bench seat and gained a few more standard features, such as Bluetooth connectivity and the MyLink infotainment system. The LT and LTZ trims remained the most popular, while the off-road Z71 trim brought an off-road suspension and a beefed-up wheel and tire setup. Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system was added in 2015, and 2016 brought Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. On the safety front, the Silverado offered such high-tech driver assists as lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, low-speed automatic braking and front and rear parking assist. Later models would bring adaptive cruise control, 4G LTE Wi-Fi and an enhanced OnStar system.

The third-gen Silverado’s engine lineup might look the same as the previous generation’s, but it was all-new for 2014. The lineup consisted of three new EcoTech engines: a 285-hp 4.3-liter V6, a 355-hp 5.3-liter V8 and a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8. Max towing increased to 12,000 pounds. In 2015, the 6.2-liter was mated to a new 8-speed automatic that improved towing and fuel economy. In 2016, Chevy offered its eAssist mild-hybrid option on LT and LTZ trims with the 5.3-liter engine in a handful of states, and it was available nationwide by 2018. The eAssist system added an additional 13 hp and 44 lb-ft of torque and about a 2 mpg improvement over the nonhybrid engine.

A used model in this range will have many of the same safety and tech features found in a new truck, but with only a bit of mileage and some mild wear and tear. You might even be able to find one with its warranty intact or a certified pre-owned model with an extended warranty. Depending on the vehicle’s model and mileage, expect to shave anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 off a similarly equipped new Silverado.

2019 Chevy Silverado: Latest and Greatest

The Silverado 1500 was fully redesigned for the 2019 model year. The update brought with it a new look, a newly available turbocharged inline-four engine, and more back seat space in the crew cab models. If you’re looking for a truck you can use as a comfortable family vehicle, then you’ll be interested in the crew cab models of the newest generation.

Since the current-generation Silverado is still pretty new, they’re still a little pricey on the used market. The cheapest, most bare-bones base models are around the $25,000 mark and you should expect to pay over $30,000 if you want a nicely appointed model with a roomy cab. Still, a used, current-gen Silverado presents a nice discount compared to a new one.

What’s the best year for a used Chevrolet Silverado?

While all Silverados hold pretty good reputations for durability and longevity, we think a late-model second-generation Silverado from 2011 to 2014 strikes a good balance between an affordable low-cost truck and a truck with modern features and equipment. If your budget is more generous, a 20162018 Silverado will give you almost all the features of a new model at a lower price point.

How reliable is the Chevrolet Silverado?

With the exception of a few problem years, the Silverado has a good reputation for longevity and reliability. The 5.3-liter engine is the best choice, with the 6.0-liter and 6.2-liter V8s right behind it. The Silverado’s reliability ratings aren’t as high as the Toyota Tundra’s, but they’re surprisingly good for a pickup truck — on par with the F-150’s ratings and slightly better than the Ram 1500’s in J.D. Power’s consumer verified surveys.

Which can tow more, the Chevrolet Silverado or the Ford F-150?

Across almost all the generations of these two rivals, the Ford F-150 wins the max trailering and payload competition. That’s not to say that the Silverado can’t meet the needs of most light-duty truck buyers. Chevy die-hards looking to pull more than 8,000 pounds can simply move to a heavy-duty Silverado 2500 or a Silverado 3500.

Is the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid truck worth the money?

Because the hybrid system only adds a few extra horsepower and miles per gallon compared to a standard truck, we wouldn’t seek one out. The system just adds more complexity to repairs down the road, and it reduces max trailering. On the 2009 version, even with the big 6.0-liter engine, the hybrid could only be had with a short bed, and it could only tow 5,900 pounds.

What Are Some Known Issues With the Chevrolet Silverado 1500?

Early versions of the Chevy Silverado 1500 have relatively few major issues. Some more common complaints as the vehicle ages have to do with the ABS pump going bad, U-joints on either end of the aluminum driveshaft failing, and rust issues in the brake lines, rocker panels and bed. That all changes once you get to the 5.3-liter V8 with the Active Fuel Management system on the second-generation Silverado.

Early versions of the AFM system had a tendency to cause issues with the valves, leading to oil consumption, lifter failures and even complete engine breakdowns. Many owners have deactivated the system, and its issues seem to have been resolved in trucks from 2011 and beyond. Other issues with the second-generation Silverado include problems with the 4WD position sensor switch failing, the HVAC mode doors failing and the instrument clusters partially or completely going out.

How Does the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Stack Up to the Competition?

Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 vs. Ford F-150

The Silverado has a slightly better mechanical track record than the F-150, but it can’t tow as much, it doesn’t offer the same range of trims, and, on newer models, it can’t match the power and fuel economy of the F-150’s turbocharged EcoBoost engines.

Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 vs. Used Ram 1500

The Ram‘s styling is more dramatic than the Silverado’s, and newer versions offer better ride and handling characteristics, a more sophisticated interior and more infotainment options. Older Rams don’t hold up as well, and their resale and reliability lag behind. However, the Ram 1500 briefly offered a diesel engine, something neither the Silverado nor F-150 could match.

Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 vs. Used Toyota Tundra

The used Tundra bests the Silverado in resale and reliability as well as in owner satisfaction and cost of ownership over time. The trucks are pretty evenly matched in power and towing in the later model years, but earlier Tundras — between 2000 and 2006 — can’t match the Silverado’s power, towing, configurations or options.

Is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 a Good Vehicle?

For most of the truck’s life, Silverados have served their owners well. The Silverado has a strong customer loyalty base, and its engines, transmissions and 4×4 systems seem to hold up well over time. There are issues to watch for — such as electrical gremlins and rust, if you live in a state that uses heavy amounts of salt — but in the world of used light-duty pickups, we would put the Silverado just behind the Tundra, on par with the F-150 and above an older high-mileage Ram. As with any used vehicle, be sure to have a qualified mechanic check over your potential new used truck before you buy it. Find a used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 for sale here on Autotrader.

Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo is a longtime contributor who started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2002 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He’s well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to translate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations. Joe has worked for a number of outlets as... Read More about Joe Tralongo

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