Reliability is one of the most important factors on shoppers’ minds when they head out looking for a new vehicle. How long a vehicle will last is a valid concern, as for many people a car or truck purchase is one of the largest financial decisions they will make. Projected reliability takes into account how often vehicles need repairs, what might break, and how much it all costs to fix. Another major consideration with reliability is how often or severely a vehicle inconveniences its owner by breaking down.
Dependability is an especially important factor when shopping for trucks, as they are typically used in more demanding situations where damage and wear can occur. They are also relied upon to perform tasks in which a breakdown would not only create an inconvenience, but could also create a safety issue or cost a business money in lost productivity.
Read below to find our recommendations for the most reliable used trucks you can buy.
1. Toyota Tundra
The Toyota Tundra is not only a capable truck with a powerful standard V8. It is one of the most reliable trucks you can buy. The full-size truck has been on sale in more or less the same format for over a decade, which means that Toyota has had plenty of time to iron out any wrinkles in the Tundra’s powertrain and electrical system. Toyota is expected to announce an all-new Tundra for the 2022 model year, but in the meantime, there is plenty to like about the current truck.
The base SR model gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alerts, automatic high-beam headlights, and radar cruise control. All Tundra models are powered by a 5.7-liter V8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Power reaches the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The base SR 2WD model carries the highest tow rating, at up to 10,200 pounds. The Toyota Tacoma is also a great choice in the midsize pickup segment.
2. Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 is one of the most comfortable, capable, and luxurious pickup trucks on sale today. On their own, those are enough to make the Ram a compelling choice for truck buyers, but there is another great reason to love the truck: It’s rated as one of the most reliable trucks on sale today. The Ram 1500 comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 horsepower. It is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive by default, but 4WD can be optioned in.
Though the most basic Ram 1500 is absolutely a stripped-down work truck, higher trims can be downright plush. The range-topping Limited trim can be equipped with high-end features such as a 12.0-inch touchscreen, a panoramic moonroof, and an active air suspension system. The Ram can also be configured as a true muscle truck with a supercharged V8 in the Ram TRX, the most powerful production truck on the market.
3. Honda Ridgeline
Honda makes some of the most dependable and long-lasting cars on the road, so it is no surprise that the brand’s pickup truck is rated among the most reliable in its segment. The Ridgeline features a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a slick nine-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. The Ridgeline’s party trick is its ride quality and handling, which is thanks, in large part, to its unibody construction, which is different from the body-on-frame configuration that most pickups ride on.
The platform gives the Ridgeline a car-like ride and allows for a comfortable interior. Honda did not leave the Ridgeline out when it comes to actual truck capability, however. The truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and can be equipped with a clever cargo management system to keep things tidy in the bed.
4. GMC Sierra
The GMC Sierra 1500 is a comfortable and capable half-ton truck that also happens to be quite reliable. GMC offers a variety of cab, bed, and powertrain choices for the truck, as well as a truly impressive tailgate that opens and folds in a variety of ways to become a step or workbench, among other things. The Sierra also offers impressive trailering tech that allows the driver to see a virtual camera view of the road behind a large trailer, greatly improving rear visibility when towing. The Sierra can be equipped with one of nine different powertrain combinations that include a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a turbodiesel, a gas V6, and several V8 options that include various fuel management systems.
Even the four-cylinder engine brings impressive capability to the table, with up to 9,200 pounds of towing capacity. The gas V8 engines are the most capable, with tow ratings of up to 11,000 pounds in certain configurations. GMC equips every truck with a standard seven-inch infotainment system touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and GM’s teen driver system. The safety tech allows parents to set limits on vehicle speed and audio volume for their new drivers. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can be a great choice for folks wanting to save money. Its reliability scores are similar to the Sierra, but the Chevy Silverado is typically less expensive overall.
5. GMC Canyon
The midsize GMC Canyon features a smooth ride, attractive styling, decent standard equipment, and a quality interior that brings some of the best features from the Sierra full-size pickup to a smaller, more maneuverable package. Like the full-size Sierra, the Canyon is rated as one of the most reliable pickup trucks on the market. It is also available with a handful of refined powertrain options that include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6, and a 2.8-liter turbodiesel.
The four-cylinder and diesel come paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, while the V6 gets an eight-speed. Inside, the Canyon comes standard with either a seven- or eight-inch touchscreen that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. GMC also offers the Canyon in an off-road capable format with a mild lift, large tires, and factory-installed body panels to protect the truck in rough terrain.
6. Nissan Frontier
The Nissan Frontier is one of the older models on the market today, having been on sale without a major overhaul for well over a decade. We expect a new Frontier for the 2022 model year, but the existing truck is quite a good value and pulls in great scores for predicted reliability. Nissan gave the Frontier a powertrain boost with a new V6 engine, but the rest of the truck is tried-and-true, and is surprisingly capable. The 3.8-liter V6 produces 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
That adds up to a max towing capacity of 6,720 pounds and a payload rating of 1,460 pounds. The Frontier comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen, remote keyless entry and push-button start, Bluetooth, and more. The truck is available in an off-road ready Pro4X trim that adds larger tires, skid plates, and more. Sweetening the pot for Frontier buyers, most new models are available with large discounts that make the already reasonable price even more compelling.
7. Ford F-150
There are benefits that come along with being one of the biggest selling and most common vehicles on the road. For the F-150, a major benefit is reliability, where the truck is rated among the most dependable in its class. Ford offers the F-150 with a variety of powertrains that include different V6 options, a diesel, and a V8. The truck is even available with a frugal hybrid powertrain that not only offers great fuel economy, but also offers surprising capabilities. The onboard battery and hybrid system can function like a generator and power outside electrical items, such as home appliances. When properly equipped the F--150 is capable of towing up to 11,300 pounds, and higher trim levels can be outfitted as rolling luxury lounges with plush leathers, real wood trims, and upscale comfort features.
The trucks are available with Ford’s multicontour seats, which are heated and cooled, and offer a massaging feature. The latest tech is also available in the F-150, as some models can be equipped with large displays and touchscreens, advanced driver aids, and upgraded audio systems. Heavy-duty trucks, such as the Ford F-250, can also be great options for people wanting more capability. Their Diesel engines, large extended cab designs, and off-roading capabilities make them an excellent new truck purchase.
8. Ford Ranger
Though the Ford Ranger is considered a recent re-addition to the automaker’s lineup, it has been on sale in its current form globally for quite some time. That means there has been plenty of time for Ford to work out all of the kinks with the Ranger and turn it into a reliable workhorse of a pickup. The Ranger is offered with a single powertrain option for 2021. It has a turbocharged EcoBoost 2.3-liter four-cylinder that lays down 270 horsepower.
When properly equipped the truck can tow up to 7,500 pounds, and can be equipped with off-road equipment for rough terrain. Ford equips the Ranger with a decent list of standard features, but the real goodies do not show up until the mid-range XLT trim is selected. It comes with an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and more. These features and reliability make the Ranger an excellent daily driver and a capable compact truck.
9. Chevrolet Colorado
Like its GMC counterpart, the Canyon, Chevy’s Colorado is a reliable midsize pickup truck with plenty to like. It comes standard with a four-cylinder engine, but can be upgraded with either a V6 or turbodiesel engine for a max towing rating of up to 7,000 pounds. The Colorado can also be outfitted with a Bison package for the ZR2 trim, which adds off-road skid plates, 17-inch wheels with off-road tires, towing recovery points, and more.
While the Canyon gets a relatively upscale interior, the Colorado is utilitarian and stark, by comparison. This is typical for trucks from General Motors, but it is more noticeable in the Colorado because of its lower price point.
10. Nissan Titan
Though it is not as popular or well-known as trucks from the American Big Three, the Nissan Titan is a dependable vehicle with plenty to like. The truck gets a 5.6-liter V8 as standard equipment, which is rated at 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or four-wheel drive. Top trims of the Titan are plush and luxurious, but all models get a decent selection of standard driver aids and comfort features.
The Titan got a full redesign for the 2020 model year, so the changes we see in 2021 are milder by comparison. Nissan equips every Titan with a lane departure warning system, haptic steering feedback, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, forward collision warnings, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts. The cabin is equipped with Nissan’s excellent Zero Gravity seats, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB inputs, and more.
Though it is considered a separate model with its own ratings, the Titan XD can be a good option for Titan buyers seeking more capability. Its heavier-duty construction allows it to tow and haul more, and its mid-duty setup means that its price is more reasonable than other heavy-duty full-size pickup trucks.
When shopping for a truck, it is important to remember that reliability is only part of the picture. Beyond maintenance, overall operating costs include fuel and tires, so the amount you drive and how you drive matter.
It is also important to take note of the fact that overall reliability depends heavily on how well a vehicle was maintained, which can cause issues for even the most dependable model. Keeping up with routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations will not only prolong the life of a vehicle, but will also reduce overall maintenance costs as a preventative measure. Finally, note that the reliability ratings used to rank these pickups can change, so the vehicles you see here today may place differently in the future.
Consumer Reports Ratings:
Publications such as Consumer Reports (CR) rate vehicles on reliability using data obtained from actual owners. CR says that it received around 329,000 responses for vehicles in its 2020 survey, which detailed the reliability of vehicles dating back to the year 2000. The publication’s analysts receive data on problems that have occurred with a vehicle over the previous 12-month period.
Respondents are given the opportunity to report issues with the drivetrain, climate systems, electrical components, and more. In the survey, CR ends up with 200 to 300 samples of each model for a given year, which allows it to make informed decisions. If it has a particularly small sample size for a model, CR says it can used brand history or similar models with shared components to make a judgment on dependability.