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June 28, 2021
Anthony Sophinos has been infatuated with cars for as long as he can remember, and that passion has fueled his journey from nerdy gearhead to professional writer and content creator who covers all things automotive. His byline has appeared at CarsDirect, New Car Test Drive, iSeeCars, and other online publications. To read more of his work, visit anthonysophinos.com. When he’s not penning articles, you can find Anthony outside biking, hiking, or exploring New England in his Miata (in the summer, of course).
Pickup trucks are among the hottest, most competitive segments in the business. The relentless one-upmanship among brands has set the bar higher than ever, and buyers now expect workhorses that are equal parts capable, comfortable, and versatile.
So which trucks are the cream of the crop? And which are best for specific types of owners, usage, and expectations?
We did the research, crunched the numbers, scrutinized the spec sheets - and found our winners. Take a look below at our definitive guide on the best trucks on the market across every size and niche.
Table of Contents
Reliability is perhaps one of the most important aspects of ownership. Who wants a truck that’s apt to break down on them at any given moment?
When we looked for reliable trucks, we leaned on the expertise of two long-standing, highly-respected rating bodies: Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.
We came up with three winners for the midsize, full-size, and heavy-duty segments: the Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra, and Chevrolet Silverado 2500.
These are the ultimate winners - the trucks that most impressed us within the midsize, full-size, and heavy-duty segments. They won us over thanks to their versatility, usability, and capability. There may be better options for certain specific scenarios, but holistically these trucks come out on top.
We found our favorite among midsize trucks was the Chevrolet Colorado, the Ford F-150 for the full-size segment, and the RAM 2500 for heavy-duty trucks.
See all our picks for the best trucks by size »
Something unique to pickup trucks is the variety of configurations they offer with regard to bed lengths and cab sizes. No other vehicle on the market lets you choose how many doors and seats you want.
The most vocal champion of the single cab design seems to be the Ford F-150. Chevrolet and GMC take the novel approach with a more comfortable and usable truck for hauling passengers, which earned it the top spot among double cabs. Crew cabs are everywhere these days, but nowhere is it better executed than the Honda Ridgeline.
See all our picks for the best trucks by cab size »
Trucks are noteworthy gas hogs, but even among this crowd of heavy-drinking vehicles, there are a few impressive standouts. Among the most fuel-efficient trucks, you’ll find the most forward-thinking in the full-size class.
Combining electric motors with a twin-turbo V-6, the Ford F-150 PowerBoost returns 25 mpg combined - the best fuel economy among gas-burning full-size pickup trucks.
For those leery of hybrid power in a pickup, diesel is the time-honored way of going more miles per tank. Chevy’s Duramax V-6 diesel in the Silverado proves that adage: it nets 27 mpg combined, making it the most efficient of any full-size pickup truck.
See all our picks for the most fuel-efficient trucks »
Want to sling some mud and scramble over boulders? No ordinary truck will do - you’ll need something that can handle that sort of abuse without breaking down. Luckily, there are a few great off-road trucks that come out of the factory ready to rock-hop even as the ink is still drying on the warranty.
Our favorite of these trucks is the Ram 1500 Rebel TRX. It combines everything people love about parent-company Stellantis: off-roading expertise, a Hellcat V-8, and Ram capability. It isn’t cheap at $70,000, but it is unquestionably the ultimate off-road truck.
See all our picks for the best trucks for off-roading »
The most important question of all: which truck tows the most weight? We’ve found the strongest towing trucks, and unsurprisingly the champions are in the heavy-duty category. The leader at present is the Ram 3500, which can tow 37,000 pounds of fifth-wheel trailer.
In the full-size category, the F-150 is the strongest truck - with the 3.5-liter V-6 it can pull 14,000 pounds.
And if big trucks aren’t your thing? The Chevrolet Colorado will tow 7,700 pounds, making it the best among midsize trucks.
See all our picks for the best trucks for towing »
Duallys - those hulking trucks with two rear wheels per side - are the most serious, focused pickup trucks on the market. They use their extra pair of wheels to carry and pull massive weight.
Our favorite dually is, in fact, the Ram. Credit its class-leading capability that pairs up with a comfortable interior more akin to a luxury SUV than any job site truck.
The only other duallies on the market are the Ford Super Duty, GMC Sierra HD, and Chevrolet Silverado HD.
See all our picks for the best dually trucks »
Diesel has long been synonymous with trucks, particularly heavy-duty trucks - with its additional efficiency and massive torque. Nowadays every size truck has at least one model offering diesel power.
Among heavy-duties, Ram took the win - unsurprisingly, perhaps, if you’ve read this far. Light-duty choices from the Detroit truckmakers saw the Chevrolet 1500 clinch the win thanks to its especially efficient and surprisingly affordable Duramax.
As for small trucks? The Chevy Colorado - which uses the same diesel found in the Silverado.
See all our picks for the best diesel trucks »
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, as all truck manufacturers now build excellent products for an impossibly wide spectrum of buyers and owners.
That said, we would nominate Ram as the number one brand. They have the best interior in the segment, can tow and haul with the best of them, and even know how to have fun with the TRX and Power Wagon models. Ram has raised the bar, and we look forward to seeing if the other brands can match it.
Ultimately, the Ford F-150. It can be everything to all people thanks to its generous options, luxurious trim levels, and class-leading towing and payload ratings. It’s also the first truck to go hybrid - challenging the status quo in a segment that is often last in powertrain innovation.
Everyday driving is the realm of the Honda Ridgeline; full-size supremacy comes from the F-150, though the Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado put up a good fight; off-road trucks like the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon and Chevy Colorado ZR2 offer endless entertainment.
The longest-lasting truck is the Toyota Tundra, which has a much higher statistical likelihood of surpassing 200,000 miles.
Currently, just the Ford F-150 PowerBoost, though Ram does offer its 1500 with a mild-hybrid setup known as eTorque. Look for more hybrid options to reach the market within the next few years.
The cheapest new truck you can buy is a Toyota Tacoma, which currently starts at about $25,500 for a 2021 model. However, the upcoming Ford Maverick is a compact pickup that will carry a starting price of just under $22,000.
Ask ten different people and, depending on what truck brand they pledge fealty to, you’ll get ten different answers. Our favorite engines include the 5.3-liter V-8 in the Silverado, the 5.7-liter V-8 in the Tundra, and the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 in the F-150.
Currently, the Ram 3500 with the high-output Cummins diesel. It generates 420 horsepower and 1,075 lb-ft of torque and will tow 37,000 pounds.
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