Pickup trucks are more than just workhorse vehicles. They’re tough, true, but they’re also packed with  car-like features, the latest in safety technology, comfort and convenience. And, they’re expensive. But the good news is that you can find great deals in used pickup trucks – if you shop wisely.

To help you on your search for just the right used pickup truck to suit your needs, check out this Top 5 Best Used Pickup Trucks list. Consumer Reports is responsible for the list, garnered from their research and data on the “Best of the Best” in terms of their overall scores in reliability for the years 1999 through 2008. To be on the list, each model has to have 3 years of reliability. Note that if no specific year is listed, we’ve chosen representative years with significant styling and/or content changes and additions.

Are there other great used pickup trucks out there beside these top 5? Of course there are. Just use this guide as a starting point and then widen your search.

  • Honda Ridgeline (2006-2008) – Consumer Reports gives the Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup truck its number one spot in the best used pickup truck category. Why? The editors clearly found that it’s the most reliable over time. We found several reasons why Ridgeline, first introduced by Honda in 2006 as its initial pickup truck entry, should be at the top of your used pickup short list. In its first year, three trims were offered: RT, RTS and RTL. In 2008, RTX was added (but dropped in 2009). The four-door crew cab compact pickup with seating for five combines the utility of a truck with a sedan’s ride and handling. Powered by a smooth and responsive 247-hp (250 horsepower in the 2009 model) 3.5-liter all-aluminum V-6 engine, Ridgeline also has an easy access cabin with nice appointments and detail, and a weather-tight lockable trunk that’s in the 5-foot bed. Tow capacity is 5,000 pounds. Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), stability and traction control, front and curtain side airbags, all-wheel drive (AWD). Edmunds.com lists dealer retail used car price ranges from about $16,367 (2006 base model) to $30,108 (2008 top of the line RTL). Fuel economy ratings estimated by the EPA for the V-6 engine are 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway (2006-2009 models). Ridgeline also has a 5-star frontal and side impact rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Toyota Tacoma (2005-2008) – Toyota redesigned Tacoma for the second time in 2005 (it was introduced in 1995). Available in a variety of body styles and trims, the Tacoma midsize pickup was powered in 2005 by an all-new 164-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or 245-hp 4.0-liter V-6 engine. Both were available in 2WD or 4WD. Three cab styles were offered (regular, extended and crew) and either short or long pickup bed lengths. ABS was standard, while stability control was optional. Most options were available in packages, such as the Off-Road, Sport or SR-5 (in 2008). Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped in 2008 models was 6,500 pounds. The Tacoma earned a 5-star rating in NHTSA frontal and side impact tests in regular and extended cab in 2006-2008. The crew cab also earned 5 stars in these tests from 2006-2008. Edmunds lists dealer retail prices ranging from $9,445 (2005) to $22,199 (2008).
  • Toyota Tundra (2006-2008) – Available since its introduction in 2000, the Toyota Tundra is a rear-wheel drive (RWD) full-size pickup truck. In 2006, two engines were offered, a 236-hp 4.0-liter V-6 or a 271-hp 4.7-liter V-8. Both came in 2WD or 4WD. EPA fuel economy was 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway for the 2WD V-6 and 14/17 mpg for the 2WD V-8 and 13/16 for 4WD V-8. Maximum tow rating was 7,100 pounds. The base model included ABS standard, while in the Limited you got alloy wheels, CD in-dash changer, power windows/mirrors/locks and many features that were optional on the SR5 trim. In 2007, Tundra was completely redesigned and added a beefier 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8 engine as optional with EPA estimated fuel economy at 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway. Towing capacity maximum increased to 10,800 pounds. Edmunds lists used dealer retail prices ranging from $9,994 (2006) to $35,527 (2008).
  • Subaru Baja (2003-2006) – By anyone’s classification, this is a fish/fowl type of vehicle. You either love it or hate it. Subaru introduced the Baja crew cab pickup in 2003 and it was only available through 2006. Initially, the powerplant was a 165-hp 2.5 flat-4 cylinder engine mated to a standard 5-speed manual (EPA estimated 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway) or optional 4-speed automatic, but by 2004, that was increased with a 210-hp turbocharged version 2.5. In 2006, the 5-speed manual V-6 got 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway (regular fuel). The AWD vehicle featured a versatile cargo bed, a midgate that folded down to increase the bed size to 5 feet, and nice trim levels. Standard trim included ABS, AC, leather seating, full power accessories, and CD player and 16-inch wheels. The Sport was base but with manual transmission. Edmunds lists used vehicle dealer retail prices ranging from $10,662 (2003) to $20,498 (2006).
  • Nissan Frontier (2005-2008) – The second generation Nissan Frontier bowed in 2005 as a bigger, more powerful compact pickup truck entry that was redesigned inside and out. Extended and crew cab and three trims were available. Two engines were offered, a 154-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or a 265-hp 4.0-liter V-6. Either manual or automatic transmission and 2WD or 4WD were available. EPA fuel economy was 19/23 (manual) and 17/22 (automatic) for the 2WD 4-cylinder and 15/20 (manual) and 14/19 (automatic) for 2WD V-6. In 4WD, the numbers were 15/19 (manual) and 14/19 (automatic). The numbers varied only slightly through 2008. ABS was standard, while front-seat side-impact and curtain airbags were optional. A long bed version was added in 2007, and in 2008, a technology package with Bluetooth and auxiliary audio jack. Edmunds lists used vehicle dealer retail prices ranging from $10,100 (2005) to $23,304 (2008).

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