Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Best used pickup truck

I am 60 and would like to buy a good used AMERICAN pickup to use as an RV part of the year. It needs to be reliable so it doesn’t break down far from home. My first preference is a Toyota but I have limited funds and wonder if there is a cheaper American truck as good as a Toyota. Also what size truck would I need to put a RV camper on it?


You almost eliminate Toyotas when you talk about limited funds and campers. A used heavy duty 3/4 ton, buy a gas station too Chevy/Ford/Dodge are your best options.

My 2002 Dodge truck has some 130,000 miles and it has had nothing but normal periodic maintenance like brakes, oil, transmission fluid, etc. I even still have the factory battery in it. The first tune-up was at 106,000 miles. It has never given me a single problem. (And yes, I am hard on it, lots of 4WD, hauling loads, pulling trailers, etc.)

The body has some dents, and the paint isn’t as shiny as it once was, but I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it anywhere.

How big of an RV and what configuration are you thinking (i.e. travel trailer, 5th wheel, slide-in, etc)? And how limited of funds?

This is almost certainly going to call for a full size truck and fortunately Detroit still makes some very good full-size trucks. If you’re towing something that isn’t going to call for a diesel and especially if it’s something light enough that you can get away with a 1/2 ton truck, you should be able to get some pretty stellar deals on a gently used gas V8 truck. IMHO, if you’re talking about a gasoline-powered full-size domestic truck, there is really no meaningful difference in reliability/capability between the big three so finding a good used example is more important than make.

Any Detroit 3 truck will be about as reliable as the Tundra. Intelefix estimates that Detroit 3 trucks (Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, F-150) are about 28% more to repair on average. But maintenance on the Tundra is quite a bit more.

It depends on the weight of the camper…But a 10 or 12 footer with a shower and you definitely want a 3/4 ton. Dodge will provide you with the most truck for the money. Be warned, unloaded, they all ride (3/4 tons) like hay wagons…Avoid automatics and 4wd if you can. With the Dodge, you get shabby paint and coachwork, but a robust, reliable power-train. Ford gives you the best package, but you will pay for it…Chevy’s have even worse paint-work but anybody can fix them…

All 3 domestic trucks are as good as a Toyota. Like many, you’re working on perception based on news blurbs and whatnot.

I’m in the middle of pickup country and almost everyone around me is happy with their Ford, Dodge, or Chevy; many of which are flogged in farming and oil field use.
If they were unreliable then the owners would not be repeat buyers.

My now deceased father in law owned several businesses; a masonry company and a small trucking company. All of his trucking company rigs were GMCs and he always used Chevy pickups. On the masonry side, all 4 of his sons used Chevy or GMC trucks in their line of work and these pickups not only saw a lot of miles but also hard miles due to roads, loads of material/tools, and whatnot.
The only trouble my father in law had with those vehicles were transmission problems on the GMC rigs and that was attributable to gear slamming, half clutching drivers.

There is a reason the Ford F150 has been the best selling truck in the US for years and years. Seriously, the Ford or Chevy or Dodge trucks would all be fine. I’d probably look for a Ford, but I’d take a good clean Chevy or Dodge, though there are some years of Dodge to watch out for some oil sludging issues in the V8 engines. Learned that the hard way on a Dodge van I bought.

Best American Made Pickup Truck
(August 28, 2009)
By James Hamel

The notion of an ?American? car or truck is one of the least understood and most overused terms in the entire auto industry. While Honda Accords, Toyota Camry?s and Hyundai Sonatas are all built at plants in the United States, the very American Dodge Caravan is actually built in Windsor, Ontario. As in Ontario, Canada?

Besides just the jobs these ?imported? car plants have created in the United States there is also the little fact that many parts used in the manufacture of a car like the Camry come from American suppliers. That is why the heads of Toyota and Honda said that if GM or Chrysler went under it would be disastrous for their companies as they share many of the same parts suppliers. The world economy is an inbred affair nowadays but it seems that of any sales group it is truck buyers that are having an especially hard time believing it.

Just to be a wise guy…Why does Ford “outsell” either Chevy or GMC which are the same truck and added together, often outsells Ford ? Is it just hocus pocus brand advertisement ?

Yep, and when we bought my wife’s Canada-built 2005 Caravan, Chrysler was German-owned.

Let me put it this way, Tundra’s are a light duty pick-up. Their brakes are marginal but, have good power for it’s size, quality control and handling. I have a 00 Tundra, had to replace the pads with Carbon Metallic because factory pad didn’t cut it and add air bags for carrying a camper. After that, great truck. I think if I had to do it over, I’d go with a 3/4 ton vehicle what has bigger brakes and stronger suspension for better control. A vehicle is only as good as is comes from the factory and how someone maintains it. Take your choice.

The newer models which are officially half ton but are tow rated to 10,000 lbs are much stronger with as much torque as any standard gas engine by any other manufacturer’s 3/4 ton. Having said that, we tried out the newer Tundra but we still use GMC/Chevys, not because they are better or stronger, but we get the options we want and the parts/ssrvice flexibility from anywhere including our own mechanics. With Toyota, you get what’s on the lot and good luck plowing/sanding with it…you’re on your own with equipment fitment. You’d better have a good welder.

I’ve had a couple people at work tell me to buy American when I told them my car I’m getting is being built in Japan and shipped over here. I asked one of them to define an American vehicle, as some Fords are built in Mexico, GM/Chrysler are built in Canada, etc. They don’t really have much to say after that.

“…the very American Dodge Caravan is actually built in Windsor, Ontario. As in Ontario, Canada?”

That’s American - North American.

BTW, the link is stale. There is no article dated 8/28/09, nor is there a one with that title. Was the winner Detroit 3 or something else?