Not everyone can afford to buy a new truck. And not everyone needs (or wants) the latest, greatest technology. So, if you’re looking for a new-to-you truck that has a good ride and is reliable, one of the best places to begin your research is with Consumer Reports. They have gobs of data from owner feedback and their own testing, which can set you on the path to find the best used full-size trucks to buy right now.
Best 3-year-old trucks to buy
My husband and I always buy used because we live in Chicago, and we know any vehicle we buy is going to spend 90% of its live parallel parked on a dirty city street with inconsiderate drivers who “park by feel.” So, we tend to look at vehicles that are about 3 years old for a couple reasons. First, it’s new enough that it has a lot of the more recent tech upgrades (like Apple CarPlay and adaptive cruise control). Second, that’s typically when vehicles come off lease, so they’re usually low mileage and fairly well taken care of.
So, if you’re going to buy a 3-year-old truck in 2024, you’re looking at the 2021 model year. That’s the year Ford launched the next-gen F-150. It’s two years after Ram pushed out a new 1500 and the GM twins got their redesign. But it’s also a year before the GMC Sierra 1500 and Chevy Silverado 1500 got their big interior upgrade. It’s also the last model year of the previous-generation Tundra.
With all that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the best 3-year-old full-size truck Consumer Reports recommends to buy is the 2021 Toyota Tundra. Though the previous-gen Tundra lacks a lot of the refinement you’ll see in the Detroit 3 trucks, CR points out it has a great 5.7-liter V-8, superior reliability and a lot of bed/cab configurability.
Best used full-size trucks less than $20k
If you’re on a budget, a 3-year-old truck may not be in the cards because, let’s face it, trucks are expensive. And newer used trucks are still expensive. So, you might have to dig a little deeper to find something you can afford. If you’re looking for reliability (which you should in a used truck), well, Toyota Tundra wins again. Twice.
Looking at CR’s “best used” articles, full-size trucks are rarely mentioned. But when they are, it’s always some variation of the Toyota Tundra that makes the list. Specifically, the publication calls out the following:
- 2014 Toyota Tundra: Priced between $13,675 and $24,050. Why? For its simple-to-use controls, impressive off-road capability and undeniable reliability.
- 2002 – 2005 Toyota Tundra: Priced between $4,750 and $8,775. Why? For its strong V-8 and civilized ride. While it’s not a heavy hitter in the towing department, it can tow up to 6,700 pounds. Oh, and (you guessed it) strong reliability.
If you want a used truck, it appears you can’t go too far wrong with a Toyota Tundra. However, if you have a different used truck in mind, it would behoove you do some preliminary legwork – Yes, Consumer Reports is a great starting point for honest reviews, owner feedback and predictive reliability. But we also like looking at recalls and complaints on the NHTSA.gov website as well as CarComplaints.com to get a good gauge of what is going wrong with a specific model year and whether or not it has been acknowledged (and fixed!) by the manufacturer.