Best Pickup Trucks: The Reviews You've Been Searching For

Best Pickup Trucks: The Reviews You've Been Searching For

The roar of the engine as you press down on the acceleration. The faint smell of diesel fumes as you trundle down a country highway. The feeling of riding high above other drivers. The ability to effortly carve a path through rugged off-road fields. The space. There’s nothing like driving a pickup truck, is there? 

But some trucks are better than others. That’s a given. With dozens of models on the market, would-be buyers are faced with a dizzying level of choice. This is especially true for those looking at the used market, where models differ wildly based on the year of manufacture. 

And so, we are forced to look towards the experts for guidance: the automotive press.

Decisions, decisions

Pickup trucks come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: a long flat-bed cargo area. These provide way more space than what you’d get from an ordinary passenger car (or even an SUV), and are ideal for those in hands-on professions where you need plenty of room to carry tools. Think roofers, carpenters, electricians, and so on. 

But within the wider pickup truck space, there’s an incredible amount of differentiation, with trucks falling into a particular category based on their abilities and equipment. Here are the main ones: 

  • Heavy duty pickup trucks. You want the biggest, baddest, meanest vehicle on the road, and you’re not afraid to pay for it. If you’re unwilling to compromise on space, hauling ability, or towing weight limits, you should look here. Examples include the RAM 2500, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, and the Ford Super Duty F-350. 
  • One step down are full-sized pickups. These don’t skimp on space or hauling ability, but they’re not exactly what you’d call utilitarian, touting features akin to what you’d find in a conventional luxury vehicle. Examples include the Ford F-150, the RAM 1500, and the Toyota Trundra. 
  • For those seeking the best of both worlds, mid-sized pickups are the ticket. Yes, you get the cargo and towing abilities of a pickup, as well as the top-notch off-road performance, but for a fraction of the price. Other advantages include better fuel efficiency, with mid-sizers handily surpassing their larger cousins in highway and city performance. Examples include the venerable Ford Ranger and the Toyota Tacoma. 
  • Although popular in the 1980s and 1990s, compact trucks are a dying breed. As the name implies, these are the smallest of the lot. Older models, like the Chevy S-10, cut length by removing the rear row of seats, giving it the same footprint as a modern SUV, but with the cargo capacity you’d expect from a pick-up. Contemporary examples, like the Jeep Gladiator and Ford F-150 XLT, are virtually indistinguishable from their mid-sized equivalents.

The Best of the Best

Pick-up trucks look cool, drive well, and they’re undeniably practical. But what one is right for you, especially if you’re looking to buy used? To answer that question, we turn to the experts.

2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5 (from $32,900)

2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5 (from $32,900)

The Tacoma line has proven to be an incredible success for Toyota, with sales rising month-by-month in the years leading up to the pandemic. And it’s not hard to see why. Writing for Torque News, Jeff Teague praised the 2019 Tacoma SR5’s smooth-as-butter driving experience, saying: “I was surprised how quiet it rides, both in the city and along the highway at top cruising speeds”

Teague also paid tribute to the Tacoma SR5’s endless customization options, its comfortable interior, and its intuitive dashboard. “One of the most underrated features is the multi-information display located conveniently behind the steering wheel. I appreciate the digital speedometer and cruising range displays, and I wondered to myself why more vehicles do not offer this yet,” he said.

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2019 Toyota Tacoma SR5 (from $32,900)

The Tacoma line has proven to be an incredible success for Toyota, with sales rising month-by-month in the years leading up to the pandemic. And it’s not hard to see why. Writing for Torque News, Jeff Teague praised the 2019 Tacoma SR5’s smooth-as-butter driving experience, saying: “I was surprised how quiet it rides, both in the city and along the highway at top cruising speeds”

Teague also paid tribute to the Tacoma SR5’s endless customization options, its comfortable interior, and its intuitive dashboard. “One of the most underrated features is the multi-information display located conveniently behind the steering wheel. I appreciate the digital speedometer and cruising range displays, and I wondered to myself why more vehicles do not offer this yet,” he said.

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2018 Ford F-150 XL (from $24,450)

2018 Ford F-150 XL (from $24,450)

The Ford F-150 XL walks a delicate tightrope. It’s a truck, sure, but that’s not all. Thanks to its smaller frame, accomplished by removing the rear three seats, drivers can expect roughly the same fuel efficiency they’d get with a full-sized SUV. And yet, Ford didn’t compromise on performance or features, as Stefan Ogbac in MotorTrend explained

Ogbac described the 3.3L V6 engine as “smooth and responsive,” and noted it “rides and handles well for a truck.

When discussing the standard interior features, he said: “[The Ford F-150 XL] delivers on its utilitarian promise with useful features that should come in handy in a work site from folding center front seats, an array of small cubbies, vinyl floor and seat upholstery that won't get destroyed easily, and a SuperCab variant with rear doors that open wide. Add to that a slick and user-friendly multimedia system, and the F-150 becomes an even stronger proposition, even as a back-to-basics work truck.

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2018 Ford F-150 XL (from $24,450)

The Ford F-150 XL walks a delicate tightrope. It’s a truck, sure, but that’s not all. Thanks to its smaller frame, accomplished by removing the rear three seats, drivers can expect roughly the same fuel efficiency they’d get with a full-sized SUV. And yet, Ford didn’t compromise on performance or features, as Stefan Ogbac in MotorTrend explained

Ogbac described the 3.3L V6 engine as “smooth and responsive,” and noted it “rides and handles well for a truck.

When discussing the standard interior features, he said: “[The Ford F-150 XL] delivers on its utilitarian promise with useful features that should come in handy in a work site from folding center front seats, an array of small cubbies, vinyl floor and seat upholstery that won't get destroyed easily, and a SuperCab variant with rear doors that open wide. Add to that a slick and user-friendly multimedia system, and the F-150 becomes an even stronger proposition, even as a back-to-basics work truck.

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2018 Ram 1500 Laramie (from $40,650)

 2018 Ram 1500 Laramie (from $40,650)

The RAM 1500 Laramie was the last of its generation. A generation, we should add, that ended with a bang. 

In a glowing review, Autotrader said the RAM 1500 “delivers the best ride we’ve experienced in a full-size pickup, capably absorbing most road imperfections without the sort of jiggling motions typical of a pickup.” This feat came from the RAM 1500’s coil-spring rear suspension, helped somewhat by steering that “delivers good feedback and an on-center feel.” 

This didn’t come at the expense of a top-notch interior, which the motoring publication described as “handsome, functional, and well-made.” The Laramie comes with leather seats, a 10-point Bang and Olufsen speaker system, and a 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for CarPlay and Android Auto.

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 2018 Ram 1500 Laramie (from $40,650)

The RAM 1500 Laramie was the last of its generation. A generation, we should add, that ended with a bang. 

In a glowing review, Autotrader said the RAM 1500 “delivers the best ride we’ve experienced in a full-size pickup, capably absorbing most road imperfections without the sort of jiggling motions typical of a pickup.” This feat came from the RAM 1500’s coil-spring rear suspension, helped somewhat by steering that “delivers good feedback and an on-center feel.” 

This didn’t come at the expense of a top-notch interior, which the motoring publication described as “handsome, functional, and well-made.” The Laramie comes with leather seats, a 10-point Bang and Olufsen speaker system, and a 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for CarPlay and Android Auto.

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2019 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition (from $37,100)

2019 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition (from $37,100)

The Honda Ridgeline is favored for its reliability, aerodynamic design, and sophisticated interior. But when The Car Connection’s Martin Padgett got behind the wheel, he couldn’t help but note its crossover appeal. 

“Since the Ridgeline shares its underpinnings with the Honda Pilot, the ride and character are unsurprisingly more like a crossover than a standard pickup truck,” he said, adding that it delivered a “more controlled ride than its competitors.” Although this comes at the expense of towing capabilities and off-road driving, it’s ideal for those looking to use the Ridgeline for family duties as well as work. 

This becomes even more apparent when looking at the interior. “Rear seat accommodations are easily better than others like the Colorado or Tacoma, mostly due to the spaciousness of the interior,” Padgett wrote, noting the generous levels of leg and head room.

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2019 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition (from $37,100)

The Honda Ridgeline is favored for its reliability, aerodynamic design, and sophisticated interior. But when The Car Connection’s Martin Padgett got behind the wheel, he couldn’t help but note its crossover appeal. 

“Since the Ridgeline shares its underpinnings with the Honda Pilot, the ride and character are unsurprisingly more like a crossover than a standard pickup truck,” he said, adding that it delivered a “more controlled ride than its competitors.” Although this comes at the expense of towing capabilities and off-road driving, it’s ideal for those looking to use the Ridgeline for family duties as well as work. 

This becomes even more apparent when looking at the interior. “Rear seat accommodations are easily better than others like the Colorado or Tacoma, mostly due to the spaciousness of the interior,” Padgett wrote, noting the generous levels of leg and head room.

30-Day warranty
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Shop Used Honda Ridgeline

Conclusion

So, you’ve found the right truck for you. But have you found the right dealership? Next time you upgrade, skip the car lot and head to Shift. With straightforward pricing, there’s no need to haggle. 

All cars are backed by a 7-day money back guarantee and a 150-point inspection from one of our trained mechanics, and you’ll also get a free 30-day warranty when choosing from our certified vehicles. Put simply: You'll get the new-car peace of mind for the used car price.

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Author
Shift Editorial Team