Buyers on the hunt for a new pickup truck might be drawn to this body type for its rugged durability and towing capacity. Pickup trucks are offered in ½ ton, ¾ ton and full-ton models. Some are diesel, but electric trucks are an option, too.
Pickup trucks are a workhorse vehicle and many are capable of towing and hauling massive loads. Trucks also can hit the off-beaten paths, conquering sand, mud and rocks, too. When shopping for a new pickup truck, though, what models are the best and most reliable. Here are the most reliable pickup trucks.
Sizing Up the Pickup
Buyers who are unfamiliar with the pickup truck market might be a bit overwhelmed by their options when they start browsing online. Buyers will typically see a range of numbers for pickup truck models; these numbers include 1500 or 150, 2500 or 250, 3500 or 350 or even 4500. What do these numbers mean?
Pickup truck numbers denote their size. It’s easier if buyers associate the numbers with tonnage; the numbers 1500 or 150 denote ½ ton models, 2500 or 250 refer to ¾ ton models and the largest vehicles are full-tons and are denoted by 3500 or 350. However, buyers may see a 450, and this is the largest model. Other manufacturers may represent their largest models differently.
Weight for models isn’t necessarily ½ ton or even full ton; the terms ½ ton or ¾ ton are now just industry references. Models may weigh significantly more than the ½ ton reference suggests. Buyers need to look at these classes as measurements of strength instead of weight or exact tonnage.
A half-ton pickup is the lightest weight option, and it is capable of towing and hauling a significant amount of weight. However, towing and hauling capacity increases with the model size. Buyers who need brute force for work needs would need to choose a full-ton model.
The Weight of Towing
The larger and heavier the pickup, the more weight it is capable of towing. Vehicle buyers may have different towing needs related to their job or just their lifestyle or interest. Avid water sport enthusiasts may need to tow a small trailer carrying a jet ski or a boat. Those who love the outdoors may need to tow a small camper.
Farmers or ranchers may need a heavier pickup truck for towing large machinery or equipment, though. They may opt for a ¾ ton or one-ton model.
How much weight can each model tow? What model is best for a buyer’s towing needs? Here’s how the most popular models of ½ ton pickup trucks stack up in towing capacity:
- 2021 Ford F-150 (Five engine options)
- 2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (Five engine options)
- GMC Sierra 1500
- 2022 Ram 1500
- 2021 Nissan TITAN
- 2021 Toyota Tundra
- 2022 GMC Canyon
- 2021 Ford Ranger
- 2021 Jeep Gladiator
- 2022 Chevrolet Colorado
- 2022 Toyota Tacoma
3,500 to 6,800 pounds
- 2022 Nissan Frontier
- 2022 Honda Ridgeline
Towing Differences between the ¾ Ton and Full Ton Pickups
For car buyers who need towing capacity beyond the abilities of the typical ½ ton pickup, a ¾ ton or full-ton might be the better option.
For the one-ton models, Ford ranks as the top choice for towing. The Ford F-350 is capable of towing up to 21,000 pounds, but with a fifth-wheel this extends its towing power to 32,000 pounds. Ford also offers the Super Duty F-450 XL, which can tow up to 36,400 pounds. This is by far the beast of all the pickup truck options.
The ¾ ton models can’t tow nearly as much as a full-ton pickup, but they can tow more than the ½ ton. In this class, Ford’s F-250 model can tow up to 21,800 pounds (for the fifth wheel depending on the engine). The Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD can tow up to 18,510 pounds.
What is the Safest Pickup Truck?
Buyers may want the safest pickup truck. When researching the safety ratings of a vehicle, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is the best resource. Buyers can search by make/model to find the safety rating and read the full safety report.
The top rating is denoted as the Top Safety Pick+. For small pickup trucks, there were no models that received this rating. However, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Crew cab pickup received a Top Safety Pick rating (which is the next best rating from the Institute).
For 2021 large pickup trucks, there also were no models that received a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Multiple models received the Top Safety Pick rating, however. These models included:
- 2021 Ford F-150 Crew Cab pickup
- 2021 Ford F-150 Extended cab pickup
- 2021 Ram 1500 Crew cab pickup
Buyers considering other models can check out their safety ratings by visiting the IIHS website. Safety reports are provided for every make/model. However, not all 2022 models have been released so data could be unavailable.
Most Reliable Pickup Trucks
Reliability encompasses many factors for a vehicle. Every year, J.D. Power ranks one vehicle in each class as the most dependable; this vehicle is given the J.D. Power Award for Highest Dependability. Here’s how pickup truck models fared for the 2021 awards (based on 2018 model years):
Large Heavy Duty Pickup (#1)
The Silverado scored an 80 from J.D. Power. For Quality and Reliability, it received an 81 (which is denoted as Great). The Silverado received a 78 related to Driving Experience; this is considered Average. For Resale, it received another average score of 79. However, it received an 83 for Dealership Experience, which also is Great.
Large Light Duty Pickup Models
The Tundra scored an 84 in Quality and Reliability, which was the highest in its class. However, for Driving Experience, it only scored an 81.
The Budgetary Matters
Car buyers might review the safety and reliability ratings as well as the towing capacity for their pickup choices, but price often affects the choice of many buyers. Pickup trucks can range in price, depending on their size, their engine and additional features as well.
The full-ton models will be the most expensive choices, but the engine also adds to the cost. With pickup trucks, buyers can typically choose from different engines. The power of the engine can increase the towing capacity. More powerful engines—including diesel—will often be more expensive.
Buyers also could choose to add more features to their truck, and this also adds to the price of the automobile. Before shopping for a pickup truck, buyers should figure out how much they can spend. However, the price of a vehicle doesn’t just include the monthly payment, it also includes the price of insurance and fuel needs.
In general, experts recommend allocating no more than 15 to 20 percent of take-home pay (this is the amount after taxes are deducted) to transportation costs. Nerdwallet advises that the car payment should only be less than 10 percent of take-home earnings.
Use RelayCars to Explore the Options
Once buyers have figured out how much they can spend on a new pickup truck and have researched the trucks that fit their towing needs, they can explore their options on RelayCars. Using the site, buyers can preview cars in 3D or in augmented reality.
RelayCars includes a virtual tour of the exterior and interior of each different model. Each vehicle can be explored in 360 degrees to see the interior and exterior of the vehicle. The interior panorama tour allows buyers to see the features in the front and back seats.
Using these virtual tours, buyers can better understand the vehicle’s space constraints to determine if the model is a fit for their needs. RelayCars also lets buyers view the vehicles in different paint hues.
RelayCars provides an immersive augmented reality experience for buyers, too. Each model in RelayCars’ virtual showroom can be explored in augmented reality in the user’s environment. Drop a Dodge Ram into the garage and walk around the vehicle, or preview different trucks in the driveway.
With augmented reality, car buyers can get up close with a virtual model of any truck. They will see a graphic depiction of the vehicle appear before them, and they can view that car as if it’s actually in their space. Augmented reality gives users a personalized showroom experience, except the user’s own environment transforms into the showroom.
There is no limit on the number of pickup trucks that car shoppers can preview via RelayCars. Check out different makes and models to find the most appealing option. Explore the exterior and interior of each model, and then decide what pickup truck would work best for the needs and budget of the buyer.
RelayCars is open day or night. When buyers are shopping for the most reliable pickup truck, they can view their options from home at any time of day. Use RelayCars as a personal vehicle showroom and immerse in the virtual and augmented reality experiences.