While we appreciate the roar of a sports car and the stately elegance of a luxury vehicle, sometimes you just need to drive a big, rugged pickup truck. Whether you want to haul a bunch of equipment, go off-roading, or just feel like a cowboy, the right truck can make the difference between getting the job done and getting stuck in the mud.
Of course, that implies that there are some bad trucks out there—and since pickups aren’t exactly cheap, buying the wrong one can be a very expensive mistake. A poorly made truck can guzzle gas, break down often, and beat up your body every time you hit a pothole.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that. Below, we’ve assembled a list of some of the best pickups on the market, each of which offers excellent reliability, performance, and value.
Dodge Ram 1500 2020
While there really aren’t many pickups that can be considered “environmentally friendly,” the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel Ram comes close—and you don’t have to sacrifice any oomph to save the planet.
Dodge has long suffered a reputation for rough, uncomfortable rides, but this edition of the Ram proves that it’s taking those complaints seriously. The cabin is roomy and luxurious, the seats are ridiculously comfortable, and the ride quality is outstanding. This is one of the first Rams that doesn’t need to come with trips to the chiropractor.
It’s a high-tech truck, too. There’s a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen in the dash, and it controls everything from the navigation to the SiriusXM radio. The interior boasts frame-mounted active-tuned mass modules, which is a fancy way of saying that road noise is kept to a minimum, so you can hear yourself sing (which may or may not be a good thing).
There’s room for just about anything you could possibly need as well. The RamBox Cargo Management system gives you covered storage for tools, groceries, or anything else you need to haul around, and the fob-activated tailgate opens and closes smoothly and easily.
It’s just as impressive under the hood. The turbocharged V-6 is powerful enough to haul a trailer, and it can offer up to 26 combined MPG. As you reach higher speeds, the active air dam at the front of the vehicle extends downward to reduce drag and further improve efficiency.
The only areas in which it’s lacking are in its throttle response and steering. It won’t give you much get-up-and-go at lower RPMs, so don’t expect to blow anybody off the line at stoplights. It’s a little sluggish as well, but not so much as to be a deal-breaker.
All in all, the Ram 1500 is an exciting step forward for Dodge’s truck line, and it’s a vehicle capable of handling the rigors of both country use and city driving with ease.
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 2019
The Silverado 1500 is a working truck, through and through. It may not be ideal for those who want a truck for appearance’s sake, but if you actually expect your pickup to put in a full day’s work, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
There are multiple engine options to choose from, including an entry-level 4.3 liter V-6, a 3-0 liter turbo-diesel, and a turbocharged 2.7 liter inline-four. Each offers a nice balance of power and efficiency, allowing you to get the job done without going broke at the pumps.
Unlike previous editions, the 2019 model sports a frame made of a mix of multiple grades of steel and high-quality aluminum. This enables it to offer the same robust support you’d expect from a Silverado while shedding quite a bit of weight—up to 450 pounds, according to the manufacturer.
Despite losing a little weight, the payload and towing capacities actually increased for several models. Similarly, the new three-piece bed offers more room around the wheel wells, increasing the cargo volume. It’s a nifty feat of intelligent engineering, as it gives you more truck where you want it and less where you don’t.
It rides and handles satisfactorily—not well enough to wow you but well enough that you’re unlikely to notice the ride after a while. The acceleration is fine as well, as it can go from 0 to 60 in about six seconds.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Silverado is its value and reliability, which combine to make it more than the sum of its parts. It’s unlikely to leave you stranded, and its maintenance costs should be minimal compared to other trucks in its class. The end result is more money in your pocket.
If you’ve owned previous editions of the Silverado, however, you may be disappointed in the lack of visible changes in this model. It looks a lot like other Silverados have in the past, which may or may not be a selling point, depending on your point of view.
The interior is underwhelming as well. There’s nothing wrong with it per se; it looks and feels like the interior of a pickup truck. The problem is that other manufacturers have changed what we feel we can expect from a high-end truck, and Chevy has yet to catch up. It’s not something you’re likely to miss until you sit in a friend’s Dodge or Ford, that is.
But as we already mentioned, this is not a truck you buy for flash and dazzle. Contractors, farmers, ranchers, and the like will love this truck’s power and reliability, so much so that they’ll likely forgive the fact that it’s not the sexiest model on the block.
Ford F-150 2019
The F-150 has long been one of the most popular trucks in America and for good reason: it offers some of the best bang for the buck you’ll find anywhere.
A basic F-150 comes in at an extremely budget-friendly sticker price, and the overall ownership costs are low as well. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a budget pickup, though, as it provides some fantastic benefits that belie its reasonable price tag.
It’s maybe the safest truck on the market thanks to its forward collision warning system with standard emergency braking. It also detects unexpected pedestrians, automatically switches to and from high beams, and sports a fancy Pro Trailer Backup Assist package.
The F-150 comes in a wide range of engine and trim options, allowing you to choose between respectable, city-friendly models like the King Ranch or ornery off-road specialists like the Raptor. You’re almost guaranteed to find one that suits your needs perfectly.
While fuel economy isn’t the brand’s strong suit, most models sport a massive 36-gallon tank, so you’ll be able to go a few weeks between fill ups. (Just be prepared to potentially take out a second mortgage to pay the gas station.)
The interior is comfortable and well thought out with the instrument cluster placed in such a position that it’s easily accessible without being in the way. All the knobs and switches are large and clearly marked, making them easy to use even in heavy traffic.
There’s plenty of space in both the bed and the cabin, but it lacks much in the way of built-in organization. The one exception is the center console, which is deep and comes with a removable tray.
It’s a beast when it comes to towing and hauling, and there are multiple tie-down points that make it easy to secure your load. Everything is well lit as well, so you should be able to find your way around the bed easily even at night.
While most models have grab handles and running boards, this isn’t an easy vehicle to get in and out of. In fact, users with mobility issues may find it downright impossible. It doesn’t offer the smoothest ride either, so be aware of that before offering to drive your mother-in-law home from her back surgery (then again, that might be a selling point…).
All in all, the F-150 delivers some of the best value for the money of any truck in its class. That said, it’s not quite up to the level of some of its high-end competition, but it’s not that far behind either.
Nissan Titan 2019
You may wonder why the Titan doesn’t rank higher on this list as you tool around town or drive down a dirt road, but you’ll understand why we dropped it a few spots the first time you need to haul something.
It offers one of the smoothest, most user-friendly driving experiences on the market, and its 390-HP engine is extremely responsive. If you just want a truck to drive around, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than the Titan.
It’s designed to be integrated with your smartphone as well, boasting both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. The interface is a little clunky and takes getting used to, but once you’re familiar with it, it makes it easy to control your whole life from the driver’s seat.
There’s an available 360-degree camera system that gives you eyes on everything happening around your vehicle, and the responsive brakes and powerful throttle enable you to handle emergencies or unforeseen obstacles with ease.
It performs admirably in crash tests as well, so if the unthinkable does occur, you and your family should be safe.
While it’s comfortable and fun to drive, don’t expect it to keep up with its peers during a heavy workday. It has a rather limited towing capacity at just 9,240 pounds, and the maximum payload it can handle is just over 1,600 pounds. This is enough for average Joes, but contractors and serious pickup truck fans will likely find it lacking.
The fuel economy isn’t anything to write home about, clocking in at around 15/21. This doesn’t lag too terribly far behind similar trucks, but when you’re dealing with such paltry towing capacity, it feels a lot more disappointing.
Still, the Titan’s pros ultimately outweigh its cons by a wide margin, provided you don’t use it for heavy-duty applications. Professionals will likely want something more formidable, though.
Toyota Tundra 2019
No one will ever accuse the Tundra of being a wallflower. This is a truly massive truck, which can work both for and against it.
There’s room galore in the cabin, and it can seat up to six passengers comfortably. You can haul your family or co-workers around without forcing anyone to get inside anyone else’s personal bubble. Tall users will love all the head and leg room it offers as well.
While it’s undoubtedly spacious, that space isn’t necessarily laid out very well. Hauling cargo inside the cab can become a tedious game of Tetris, as the rear seat has a large hump that makes it difficult to fit large, bulky items cleanly. Most frustrating of all, the center console doesn’t open fully, so inserting and removing items can be frustrating.
It’s also not very high tech. Connecting to your smartphone is a pain, and you may have to fight your kids for the right to use the truck’s sole USB port. It comes with optional driver aids, but they add little in the way of value, especially when you can’t easily replace them with your preferred app.
The V8 engine is as powerful as you’d expect on a truck of this stature, and it can tow five tons with ease. The manufacturer did everything in its power to make the towing experience as painless as possible, including the addition of an integrated electronic trailer brake controller.
It has a decent payload rating, but there are only a few tiedown spots. The tailgate is very basic, which wouldn’t warrant mentioning except for the fact that the truck is so far off the ground, loading and unloading heavy items can be a pain.
The high-performance Fox shocks provide plenty of cushion against bumps and jostles, so you should enjoy a smooth ride even on poorly-maintained roads. However, the truck’s sheer size can make it intimidating to drive in tight spaces, and good luck finding a parking space you can fit in that’s within 500 feet of the store.
The Tundra is a good choice for families or business owners who often have a few employees tagging along. It’s plenty powerful for most jobs, and should provide years of faithful performance. That said, it struggles in certain areas where it should shine, and can potentially create as many frustrations as it solves.
The Best Truck for You
While we feel the 2020 Ram 1500 is the best overall pickup on the market today, it’s next to impossible to recommend a one-size-fits-all solution. We recommend investigating a few of the trucks listed here before making your selection, as you may find another truck better meets your particular needs.
However, we’re confident that most users will love the Ram’s powerful engine, excellent fuel economy, and comfortable ride. It’s our favorite truck on the market today, and one that hopefully portends future greatness from the Ram line.
You can’t go too far wrong with any of the fine trucks listed here, however. Regardless of which one you ultimately choose, you’ll likely enjoy years of faithful service.
The biggest downside, of course, is that you may find it impossible to ever go back to driving a regular car again.