For all the different styles of vehicles available, it’s hard to go past the utility of a pickup truck. The can be comfortable cruisers or rugged off-roaders, with enough body styles and engine configurations to suit any individual needs.
A great find for under $10,000 can be had, however, some caution is needed. Some popular models had disastrous years, meaning that certain generations should be avoided. We have taken this into consideration though, and we’ve noted exactly which models are the pick of the bunch.
To be included on our list, the pickups we chose are not only best sellers, but they are also most importantly, reliable. It’s still up to the buyer to choose carefully and always go for one that has been well maintained. Whether you’re a first-time pickup buyer or looking for something to take you off the beaten track, these are out 15 top choices (and 1 pickup to completely avoid).
When it comes to the best-selling pickups, the Ford F150 had stood uncontested as the king for over 30 years. It’s available in numerous body style, cab and engine configurations, as well as two or four-wheel-drive. The one thing to avoid when looking at F150’s is any that has high mileage as they can run into transmission and timing chain issues as they age.
With the second generation Frontier, you’re getting a lot of truck for your money, purely because it wasn’t as popular as the Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma when it launched. An off-road, supercharged V6 model was built by Nismo and is the pick of the bunch, but even in stock trim, the Nisan Frontier is phenomenally good value.
The 2008 Dodge Ram is a comfortable and powerful pickup that is easy to drive despite its size. It is known to be a bit of a torque monster due to its 4.7-liter V8 engine and will tow most loads with ease. As with most trucks this age, the weak point is its transmission so be sure to have it thoroughly inspected before you buy.
The Colorado that Chevrolet released in 2008 didn’t quite measure up to its rivals who were generally larger and more powerful but that doesn’t stop it being a great truck. It’s a compact pickup that outshines previous releases. Unfortunately, it can’t shake the stigma of being a cheap truck, but for budget-conscious buyers, it’s ideal.
If you’re not fussy about some quirky styling, the 2007 Honda Ridgeline may be an option. It doesn’t have the number of different engine and body configurations as other pickups on our list, but that is somewhat offset by its carlike driveability coupled with the utility of being a pickup.
The Raider wasn’t wildly popular, the best way to think about it is as a dressed-up Dodge Dakota. It is a well built and function pickup but doesn’t stand out, instead is it more of an all-rounder. The only issue with the Raider is its V6 powerplant but if you can live with that, it’s a great choice.
When the Silverado was released, it took a while for people to warm up to its looks. People gravitated towards the Ford F150, which also had more gadgets and a more stylish interior. Nonetheless, the Silverado is a solid performer, as long as the V8 engine option is selected, with a smooth and comfortable ride.
Consumers who care mostly about style will find it difficult to go past the GMC Canyon. The cabin is not as comfortable as others in its class but it makes up for it with its reliable V8 powerplant. If you can find one with the Z71 off-road suspension package, you’ll have an affordable off-roader that can go just about anywhere you point the steering wheel.
The 2010 model Ford Ranger does not stack up against other models, but as a small inexpensive pickup, it has a lot of appeal. It is a great choice for consumers wanting a smaller engine in their pickup, and greater fuel economy. Aftermarket parts are plentiful, making it an easy pickup to customize to suit your needs.
Along with the Ford F150, the Tundra is one of the best-selling and most sought after pickups of all time. It provides a sturdy platform that is sought after by pickup owners. Although powered by a V8 it is one of the most economical pickups in its class. Powerful and comfortable, the Tundra is hard to beat.
If you skip over the V6 option and get the V8, the GMC Sierra is a powerful, smooth pickup, with a truckload of torque. The interior is perhaps more basic than some people would like, but the ride is comfortable enough. The 6.2-liter option turns to Sierra into a muscle truck, and for under 10k, you won’t find a more powerful pickup.
The F350 is really the only option if you’re chasing a heavy-duty pickup on a budget. If you have a bit of cash left over, tuning really wakes these engines up and turns them into a monster. It also comes loaded with safety tech and driver-assist functions, unlike some of the more sparse offerings on our list.
Earlier model Dodge Dakota pickups weren’t known for their reliability, but after 2008 Dodge really transformed it into a solid, well handling vehicle. Although midsize it is a little smaller than other pickups so it may be ideal if you’re upgrading from a car. The engines tend to be a little lazy in stock trim but aftermarket accessories can wake them up without much effort.
If we have to give an award for the smoothest handling pickup under $10,000 the Chevrolet Avalanche would take the prize. It features an extendable bed to improve storage space and is spacious inside making it ideal for large families. The V8 option is smooth without being a handful, making the Avalanche a suburb choice.
If you’re more of a muscle-truck (or even a sports car) guy, the SRT-10 will scratch that itch as it’s powered by a Viper 8.3-liter V10 engine. Power output is around 500 horsepower and is backed up by a manual transmission. This truck is unmistakably Dodge with unique styling to backup all that muscle.
We know what you’re thinking – the Silverado is listed above so why are we telling you to avoid it? To be clear, the 1999 model should be avoided at all costs, mostly due to its sluggish, unresponsive engine. Chevrolet realized their mistake and worked to turn the Silverado into one of the greatest pickups of all time, but the latest models are worthy of Chevrolet's reputation for excellence.
Sources: Cars US, Hotcars, and Drivetribe.