Americans love their trucks. It’s a fact backed up by the country’s three best-selling vehicles being pickups. And while new truck sales add to automakers’ fat profits, not everyone wants or needs to spend big bucks on something perfect and shiny with a cargo bed.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of used pickup trucks that can be purchased for $10,000 or less. Sure, these won’t be perfect, but does this matter if you’re lugging around dirt or lumber?
Focus on first-gen (1999-2006) models for a used Chevy Silverado under ten large. With some careful research and a bit of luck, you might come across early second-generation (2007-2013) offerings. Keep in mind that you want to balance what’s important to you. Is it four-wheel drive, a two-row cabin, lower mileage, or something else? In other words, you won’t be able to have it all. And of course, the older the vehicle (or, the higher the mileage) means the ability to get more features.
For fuel savings, look for a Silverado powered by the 4.3-liter V-6, but these can be hard to find. Most likely, you’ll come across models equipped with the small-block 4.8-liter V-8; depending on the year, engine output is as much as 302 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. And the Silverado 1500 comes in three cab styles: regular, extended (two rows with smaller rear doors), and crew (two rows with our standard doors).
If a Silverado is too big, but you still want a bow tie on the hood, consider the compact S-10 pickup. While this truck debuted back in 1982, stick with examples from this century (the S-10 was built until 2004). You can also find four-door crew cab S-10s manufactured from 2001-2004. The standard inline four-cylinder engine is anemic (up to 120 horsepower), especially when the truck is loaded up. Instead, search out S-10s with the 4.3-liter V-6 (the same engine found in the Silverado) with up to 180 horsepower.
Depending on how hard you look and what you’re willing to settle on, you can easily find an S-10 well below budget.
Dodge trucks now wear the RAM label. But you’ll want to go back in time a bit to when Mopar trucks still wore the Dodge label and check out the Dakota pickup. Sticking to the third (and last) version of the Dakota (2005-2011) will enable you to keep to the budget and find one in decent shape with six figures or less on the odometer.
The standard power plant is a 3.7-liter V-6 factory rated for 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. You won’t win any drag races, but this engine will get the job done. Two optional V-8s crank out 230 horsepower/290 lb-ft of torque or 260 horsepower/310 lb-ft. Other mechanical features include a standard rear-wheel drive or a choice of two four-wheel-drive systems (part-time or continuous 4WD). The drivetrain is controlled by either a six-speed manual or either a four-speed or five-speed automatic.
The third-gen Dakota comes in either the club cab (two standard front doors and two rear access doors) with a 78-inch bed or the quad cab (four full-sized doors) with a 64-inch bed.
Even with a modest budget, you can join the millions of other truck owners who’ve gotten behind the wheel of a Ford F-150. As this pickup is the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the U.S., there is an abundance of examples in the second-hand market. Center your attention on the tenth-generation F-150 (1997-2004) and then get to work on narrowing down your needs and preferences.
You’ll have your pick of cab options (regular, extended, or crew), drivetrains (rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive), and bed lengths. Power Plants begin with the venerable 4.2-liter V-6, but you may also come across two versions (4.6-liter and 5.4-liter) of Ford’s innovative “modular” V-8 overhead cam engine.
The $10,000 cap rules out the current version of the Ford Ranger, so focus on third-generation Rangers (models years 1998-2012). Concentrating on this more narrow parameter will reveal an abundance of options as the Ranger regularly outsold the Chevy S-10. For example, in 2001, Ford sold more than 272,000 Rangers (compared to Chevy and its 162,000 S-10s). If off-pavement use is a priority, look for the Ranger FX4 (2002-2009), which has more capable off-road equipment. Like with the S-10, try to avoid four-cylinder engines. If you go the four-pot route, look for examples (late 2001 and newer) with the Mazda-based 2.3-liter inline-four. While the Ranger came with different V-6s over the years, the high point is the 4.0-liter Cologne V-6 with a respectable 207 horsepower (models years 2001-2012).
Looking for a pickup with the comforts of an SUV? Then check out the unique Honda Ridgeline. To not top the $10,000 threshold, you’ll need to stick to the first-generation model (2006-2014) and it is very boxy styling. You will also be dealing with a vehicle with six figures of mileage. But, that’s OK as this is still a Honda.
The Ridgeline gets top marks for ride comfort as its DNA can be traced to the upscale Acura MDX. Plus, all first-gen Ridgelines come standard with V-6 power and all-wheel drive. However, because this Honda is more SUV than a truck, it doesn’t have the towing and hauling capabilities of a full-sized pickup.
Even though the Nissan Frontier has been around since 1997, this midsize pickup hasn’t garnered awareness like competing products from Toyota, Ford, and General Motors. But that’s OK because less attention can translate into a good value. If your truck taste leans towards four-wheel drive and four-doors, you’ll want to check out Frontiers built from 2000-2004. But, if you’re OK with higher mileage (up to 150,000 miles) and a simpler options list, then look for examples from 2005-2009.
It’s hard to argue with the logic of buying a used Toyota pickup truck. The brand’s reputation for ruggedness and reliability is well-earned. In fact, Tacomas rank among the best vehicles for resale value. Unfortunately, these qualities push up prices for a used Tacoma. As such, you’ll need to explore Tacomas from the late 1990s to stay within budget. Newer examples are available, but the odometer will read above 150,000 miles. The good news is that even the base four-cylinder engine has decent power (factory rated for 142 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque). So, this can open up some less expensive choices and help at the pump.
If you need more room than what’s offered by the Tacoma and want to stay in the Toyota family, then look at the Tundra. The first-generation model (2000-2006) didn’t compare well to more robust offerings from Detroit. But, the Toyota Tundra is still a capable truck. As a result, used Tundra pricing tends to be favorable. In fact, it’s not unusual to find a Tundra that costs about the same as Tacoma in similar conditions. This is especially the case with Tundras configured with the regular cab. If possible, skip the base 3.4-liter V-6 (190 horsepower) for the more powerful 4.0-liter V-6 (236 horsepower).
Have a question about previously-owner pickups? Reach out to Maryland’s used truck headquarters: Trust Auto in Sykesville. Our experts and our no-hassle approach to car buying are just a click or call away.