2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty ・ Photo by Bentley Media
To get to our list of 10 best used trucks under $15,000, we had to ask ourselves: Why do pickup trucks hold their value so well? Quite simply, a truck is more than just transportation. It’s an office, a workhorse, a treasured member of the family, and a source of pride...
Locating a clean pickup truck for under $15,000 can be a trick, but here’s a big hint: the United States Government Services Administration (GSA) is one of the best places to find well-maintained, low-mileage late model pickup trucks at competitive prices. The GSA auctions off thousands of Ford F-150s, Chevrolet Silverados, and Ram 1500s every year, at locations across the lower 48 states. Choices are limited to the domestic truck brands for the most part, at mid-range trim levels. You’re not likely to find any King Ranch F-150s or GMC Sierra Denalis at Uncle Sam’s auctions. There, you may find some of the following trucks at just the right price.
The Ford F-Series is the best-selling pickup truck of all time, with more than 35 million trucks sold since its introduction following World War II. With so many models to choose from, we opted for a top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive 2006 F150 SuperCrew Cab King Ranch with a 5-1/2 foot bed for our list of favorite pickup trucks under $15,000. While the King Ranch’s 5.4-liter V8 engine is rated at 300 horsepower and 365 lb.-ft of torque, the official EPA fuel economy rating is a rather paltry 12 miles per gallon city, and 16 mpg highway. (2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty King Ranch Platinum Lariat shown above.)
Photo by Bentley Media
Need to tow a serious trailer? A Dodge RAM 2500 with the Cummins turbodiesel engine is a great choice if you require a tough work truck with the power to haul. We chose a four-wheel drive (4WD) Cummins-equipped 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie with an eight-foot bed, to keep it under our $15,000 limit. The six-cylinder high-output turbodiesel cranks out a very respectable 305 horsepower and 555 lb.-ft of torque. Although the EPA does not provide fuel economy ratings for 3/4-ton pickups, Ram 2500 turbodiesel owners rave about the truck’s high level of fuel efficiency and legendary longevity.
The half-ton Chevrolet Silverado is always one of the top-selling vehicles in America. To keep within the $15,000 threshold, we’d choose a two-wheel drive (2WD) 2006 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab, with the 5.3-liter FlexFuel V8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission and the 5-3/4-foot bed. If the 5.3-liter V8’s 295 horsepower and 335 lb.-ft of torque isn’t enough to get the job done, opt for the larger high-output 6.0-liter. It’s rated at 345 hp and 280 lb.-ft. The EPA rates the 2008 2WD Crew Cab Silverado 5.3 V8 at 14 miles per gallon city and 19 highway.
Whether you need a smaller work truck or are looking for something to haul the surfboards, the compact Toyota Tacoma makes a great choice. Toyota’s legendary reliability ensures strong resale value. To keep it under $15,000 we’d pick a two-wheel drive 2007 Tacoma Access Cab with the 4.0-liter V6 engine and six-speed manual gearbox. (A low-mileage four-wheel drive would be likely to put us over the $15,000 limit.) The 4.0-liter V6 is rated at 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft of torque, with an EPA fuel economy rating of 15 miles per gallon city and 19 highway.
The Ford Ranger may be currently out of production, but it’s one of the most popular small pickups ever built and there are plenty of examples in nice condition for well under $15,000. We’d opt for a late model four-wheel drive (4WD) 2009 Ranger Super Cab FX4 Off-Road Pickup, equipped with the 4.0-liter V6 engine, five-speed manual transmission, and six-foot bed. The 2009 Ranger’s V6 is factory rated at 207 horsepower and 238 lb.-ft of torque. The EPA rates the 4WD 2009 Ford Ranger at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg highway. Ranger production ran from 1983 through the 2012 model years.
While the current midsize turbodiesel Chevrolet Colorado is quite the package, the previous generation compact four- and five-cylinder gas-powered Colorado was never the most compelling truck on the lot. Within this list of best pickup trucks for $15,000, however, it’s a solid choice. We’ll dump the little engines and outfit our 2009 4x4 Colorado Crew Cab with a 5.3-liter V8, four-speed automatic and a five-foot bed. The V8 is rated at a respectable 300 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft of torque, trumping the Ford Ranger by a huge margin. The EPA gives the V8-powered four-wheel drive Colorado an official rating of 14 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway.
The half-ton GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is easily one of the most luxurious entries in our list of best pickup trucks for $15,000. All that luxury comes at a price and we’ll need to dig deep to purchase, feed, and maintain a four-wheel drive (4WD) 2006 Sierra Denali Crew Cab with the 5-and-3/4-foot bed. While the 6.0-liter V8 pumps out 345 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft of torque, it slurps gas, the 4WD version carries an official EPA rating of just 12 miles per gallon city and 16 mpg highway. By comparison, the 2016 midsize Canyon Denali turbodiesel delivers nearly double the fuel economy. (2007 Sierra 1500 shown.)
The 2009 Dodge 1500:ram-1500|@@ Regular Cab is the obvious hot rod entry in our list of best pickup trucks for $15,000. We’ll fall for the 5.7-liter HEMI V8’s 390 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft of torque and roll happily with the truck’s official EPA fuel economy rating of 13 miles per gallon city and 18 mpg highway. Never mind that that transmission’s five speeds and overdrive can’t crack 20 mpg highway or that the 6-and-1/4-foot bed might not handle a stack of 4x8 plywood sheets with the tailgate up, because this thing’s got a HEMI. Bolt on a sweet aftermarket exhaust, turn down the radio, and listen to the symphony from the tailpipes.
The half-ton Toyota Tundra has a well-earned reputation for reliability. To stay under the $15,000 limit, we’ll go for a four-wheel drive (4WD) 2009 Tundra Regular Cab, with a 6-1/2 bed, 5.7-liter V8 engine, and six-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The 5.7-liter V8 delivers a robust 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft of torque. Consider it the thirsty sleeper of our list of best pickup trucks for $15,000, packing plenty of punch with an official EPA fuel economy rating (13 miles per gallon city and 17 mpg highway) to match.
Serious pickup trucks have engines built for the long haul. That’s why diesel power deserves at least two spots on our list of the best used trucks under $15,000. The Dodge Ram Cummins was a shoe-in for the top spot, with the second spot coming down to a shootout between the Ford PowerStroke and the Chevrolet Duramax. While both platforms have their proponents and detractors, we'll go with the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. It's possible to find a clean Duramax for under $15,000, but your choices will likely be limited to older trucks with well into six figures on the odometer. (2008 Silverado 2500 HD shown above.)