The top-selling car in the U.S. isn’t a car at all — it’s a pickup truck, and specifically the Ford F-Series. Trucks account for 20% of vehicles in operation. If you’re thinking about getting one, be prepared to make some decisions about how much truck you need and whether it’s for hauling people, gear, an RV or boat — or all of the above.
The best pickup trucks are known for their multifunctional abilities: hauling, towing and going off road. They can be economical work horses, but, increasingly, trucks are becoming more luxurious (and expensive). To help you cut through the noise and find the best fit for you, we organized the best pickup trucks by category.
We looked at all the top full-size, midsize and compact pickup trucks on the market today and scored them based on expert and consumer reviews from Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. To make our list, a 2021 or 2020 truck model had to score a 4.1 or higher.
Image Credit: Kevauto / Wikimedia Commons.
2021 Ford F-150
- 4.38 out of 5
- $28,940 starting MSRP
The Ford F-Series has been a best-selling truck for the last 44 years. At the front of the lineup is the F-150, which has been redesigned for 2021 with a variety of bed lengths, cab sizes, engines and customization options. This allows consumers to get what they want and not pay for more than they need. The base engine is a 3.3-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. A properly-equipped F-150 can tow up to 14,000 pounds, but it’ll cost you significantly more than the starting MSRP you see here. Besides pricey top trims and packages, the other possible con is that full-size trucks can be difficult to maneuver in tight places like parking garages, so they may not be suitable for city living.
Image Credit: Ford Motor Company.
2021 Toyota Tacoma
- 4.11 out of 5
- $26,250 starting MSRP
The best-selling truck in the midsize class for more than 15 years, the Tacoma is highly reliable with a resale value to match. Plus, like the F-150, it’s also highly customizable. The 2021 model is available in 33 different configurations based on a combination of cab type, powertrain, trim and bed size. The Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite is standard on all Tacomas, offering a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. For cons, the Tacoma is a little light on power compared to its brethren, thanks to the standard 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine with 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. With the optional 3.5-liter V6, its towing ability is respectable, up to 6,800 pounds. Its off-road ability is more impressive — in trail testing, Edmunds favored the TRD Off-Road trim of the Tacoma (starting MSRP $34,415) compared to competitors.
Image Credit: Toyota.
2020 Honda Ridgeline
- 4.4 out of 5
- $33,900 starting MSRP
The Honda Ridgeline is a midsize truck that offers all the comforts of an SUV. It’s one of the rare pickups that has a unibody construction, which allows for great ride quality and high safety scores (notably, Honda’s active safety features are standard). However, it also decreases its towing ability: The base 3.5-liter V6 produces 280 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque, but can only handle 5,000 pounds of towing. This truck might be right for buyers looking for a for daily drives and who prize conveniences like built-in holders for French fries and the lockable storage compartment under the truck bed. Among its competitors, though, the Ridgeline has one of the highest base prices — and that figure went up to $36,490 for the redesigned 2021 model. The new version adds all-wheel drive to its list of standard features. However, with a lack of full consumer reviews, we stuck with the previous year’s model.
Image Credit: Honda.
2020 Nissan Titan
- 4.14 out of 5
- $36,190 starting MSRP
The 2020 Nissan Titan has the highest starting price on this list, but you do get a lot for your money: It has a standard 5.6-liter V8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, as well as advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking that works in both forward and reverse modes. Unlike many of its competitors, the Titan’s top trim starting price stays well under $70,000. The Titan also has one of the best truck warranties available: five years, 100,000 miles. Plus, the full-size truck keeps cool under pressure — at 80 MPH, the engine only goes up to 1,900 RPM. Its top tow rating is 9,370 pounds.
A 2021 Titan is out, but lacking full expert reviews, we opted for the previous year’s model.
Image Credit: Nissan.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
- 4.13 out of 5
- $29,300 starting MSRP
Like its competitors, the full-size Silverado offers a smorgasbord of customization options. It comes standard with a 4.3-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission pairing that gives up to 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque. With the proper configuration, the Silverado is capable of a 13,000-pound towing capacity. The coolest things about this truck are its new optional Multi-Flex tailgate and truck bed cameras:
- A Multi-Flex tailgate changes into a step ladder, standing workstation and more.
- Multiple cameras (up to 15) help drivers back up and angle to hook a trailer, size payloads and monitor the cargo or trailer.
The biggest con voiced by critics is that the Silverado offers too few luxury features. But if you’re after a great all-round, full-size truck, or if you frequently transport cargo that you want to load quickly and monitor as you drive, the Silverado could fit the bill.
Image Credit: Chevrolet.
2021 Chevrolet Colorado
- 4.1 out of 5
- $25,200 starting MSRP
The Colorado’s strength lies in its practicality rather than its off-road abilities or luxury perks. Its standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. Upgrades are possible, including a 3.6-liter V6 that has 308 horsepower or a 2.8-liter turbo diesel that has 369 pound-feet of torque — the latter of which gives the Colorado maximum towing capacity of 7,700 pounds. For cons, the base Colorado is short on safety features, as you’ll need to upgrade to a higher trim to be able to add features like forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
Image Credit: Chevrolet.
2020 Jeep Gladiator
- 4.23 out of 5
- $33,545 starting MSRP
If truck-meets-Jeep Wrangler is your idea of the perfect vehicle, the Gladiator boasts some impressive specs: standard four-wheel drive, as well as a 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Plus, it can tow up to 7,650 pounds and handle a payload of 1,600 pounds. However, the Gladiator hasn’t exactly been selling like hotcakes since its revival. Critics say the removable roof is big and heavy, the vehicle’s body is too long for more serious off-roading trails and it works noticeably hard to pull a trailer. A new-for-2021 diesel engine might help — it has lower horsepower (260 horsepower), but more torque (442 pound-feet). Truck buyers looking for greater hauling capability might be disappointed with the Gladiator, but if you ever wanted the freedom of a Jeep with the capability of a small- to midsize truck, the Gladiator should be on your list to consider.
Image Credit: Kevauto / Wikimedia Commons.
2021 Toyota Tundra
- 4.12 out of 5
- $33,825 starting MSRP
A full-sized truck from one of the best names in vehicle reliability, the Toyota Tundra has the largest standard engine on this list — a 5.6L V8 with 381 horsepower — and 401 pound-feet of torque, which can handle 10,200 pounds of towing. It comes with standard active safety features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. If you’re willing to upgrade, its 4×4 TRD Pro trim gives the truck some off-roading capability. However, drawbacks include the fact that the Tundra hasn’t had a major update since 2007, while competitors have engineered more comfortable rides. The engine is powerful, but it also makes the vehicle a gas guzzler while not increasing its horsepower, torque or towing capacity above that of rivals.
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