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Pickup trucks are the mainstays of the U.S. auto industry. New trucks are regularly among the biggest crowd pleasers and the best sellers. Ford's F-150 has been America's best-selling vehicle for 36 years. Those new trucks don't leave anything to worry over: they're right off the assembly line, without a single payload of mulch or drywall delivered out of one, not a single trailer of show horses pulled behind one.
Those millions of new trucks sold each year means there are millions of used trucks coming on the market each year, too--and that creates awesome opportunity for anyone that needs a more affordable alternative to truck prices that easily pass $30,000 new--and sometimes pass $50,000. And just as passenger cars have grown more reliable and durable over the past two decades, so have pickup trucks--while they've also become safer and more luxurious.
Shopping for a used truck can be far more puzzling, though, than the average minivan or compact car, because of the endless variations on the theme--which body style, which bed length, which drivetrain. It pays for used truck buyers to know exactly which use they have in mind--or at least, which one happens most often, whether it's towing, hauling, or carrying a work crew with tools. (Or, face it, profiling in front of the home-improvement palace.)
We've taken some of the mystery of shopping for a used truck by sifting through some of the data to come to a set of pickups with the best reputation for reliability, safety, and satisfaction. We've arrived at this Best Used Truck list by looking at three-year-old pickups that must score:
At least an 8.0 rating on The Car Connection's full reviews from three years ago--in this case, the 2011 model year at least four circles on J.D. Power's predicted-dependability rankings, or at least average reliability on Consumer Reportsno reported score lower than four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Since only some body styles of pickup trucks are tested by those agencies, we've included a truck nameplate if one of its styles made the cut.
After sorting the data, only two pickup trucks qualified for this list. We'd note that some contenders came close in numeric rankings--the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra among them--while others we like missed on both the reliability and crash-test counts, as in the case with the Ram 1500. In this field of contenders, we've come up with the following choices as the best used trucks on the road today, with the bottom line from our 2011 review:
All-new engines across the 2011 Ford F-150 model line finally give these full-size trucks strong (yet efficient) performance to match their macho looks.
The interior may be a letdown in quality, but the 2011 Toyota Tundra is every bit as big and tough as the other full-size trucks.