The Most Reliable Trucks From the Past Five Years

Get your truck on.

byJun 24, 2021 12:00 PM
The Most Reliable Trucks From the Past Five Years
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The pickup truck is the most popular vehicle in the good ol’ United States of America. Everyone and their mothers love pickups, whether it's from the Blue Oval, the Bowtie, or even Toyota and Honda. Trucks are the lifeblood of the American car industry. 

As such, the question of reliability is frequently asked about the current and past crop of this nation’s best-selling vehicles. Is a Ford F-150 reliable? Is a Ram 1500 going to leave me stranded by the side of the road? Can Honda and Toyota’s legendary small-car reliability transfer to its full-size pickups? What affects a truck’s reliability and what should I look out for?  

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more., Rob Stumpf

These are just a few of the questions and concerns facing folks looking for a new or used pickup. And in a sea of online forums, witty Instagram and Twitter posts, launching pickups off-ramps for TikTok, and hard-data government organizations all weighing in, it’s hard to filter out what’s noise and what’s good intel. That’s why you come to The Drive, where we can dive deep into the world of truck reliability and deliver you to the promised land of satisfying purchases. 

With all those questions now swirling around your noggin, let’s get into truck reliability, what affects it, how it works, and which trucks from the past five years are the most reliable. Time for school!

What Makes a Reliable Brand?

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda’s and Toyota’s culture of reliability overall embody that ethic and have thus kept each automaker’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint, for goodness’ sake. Add longer than normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

What Impacts a Car’s Reliability?

Short answer, you. The longer answer is a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance like regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel-system cleaners, along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean, will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun and away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter will also extend its life.

And lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis happier and less stressed for far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

Reliable Trucks From the Past Five Years

Here’s The Drive’s list of the most reliable trucks from the past five years. 

The Toyota Tundra, a truck from Japan by way of San Antonio, Texas. , Toyota

Toyota Tundra

As you’d expect from the Japanese brand that prides itself on reliability, Toyota’s workhorse is one of the most reliable trucks you can purchase. Here’s what The Drive found in the course of our research. 

NHTSA History

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Toyota Tundra’s issues throughout the years.

2021 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2020 

Complaints: 17

2019 

Complaints: 28

2018

Complaints: 48

2017

Complaints: 46

Now that's a truck in the wilderness. , Toyota

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Tundra, we also tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the truck’s reliability.

2021: 85/100

2020: 85/100

2019: 83/100

2018: 83/100

2017: 84/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

As with any car, not all Tundra models are built to the same exacting standards as the reliable vehicles mentioned above. Here’s a quick rundown of problematic Tundra offerings, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

Air Induction Pump

Customer Complaint: “Got a check engine light and the P0418 code. Researched this and found a lot of issues on older Tundras where they extended the warranty because of a faulty design or construction. Took it to Alamo Toyota, and they said that the 2012 Tundra was not covered. They gave me an estimate of $3,300 to repair. This is ridiculous for a system that is part of emissions control. I would like to see Toyota extend the warranty to the 2012 Tundras since they know it is a continuing issue with their design.”

Repair Costs: $3,100

Premature Transmission Failure

Customer Complaint: “My transmission failed after 18,000 miles.”

Repair Costs: $5,500

Now that's how you spec a truck., Jonathon Klein

Honda Ridgeline

Like Toyota, Honda prides itself on reliability, low cost of ownership, and general favorability in terms of purchasing and driving. It’s no wonder the company’s Ridgeline gets top marks. 

NHTSA History

2021 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 0

2020 

Complaints: 10

2019 

Complaints: 42

2018

Complaints: 39

2017

Complaints: 124

Great truck, this., Jonathon Klein

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Ridgeline, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the truck’s reliability.

2021: 81/100

2020: 81/100

2019: 79/100

2018: 80/100

2017: 81/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

Every Ridgeline is different, and we have the receipts to prove it. Below, we have a quick rundown of issues, customer complaints, and repair costs to help inform your next car purchase.

Electrical Issues

Customer Complaint: “Emission problem, hill-start-assist problem, trailer-stability problem, and power-steering problem warning lights all came on at the same time at about 26,000 miles.”

Repair Costs: N/A

Fuel Injector Failure

Customer Complaint: “My 2017 Honda popped on the Emission System Problem light around 60K. The service agent said to ignore it because it'll probably turn off on its own. It did. Then it came back and went away for several months. In November 2019, the vehicle started to run poorly — hesitating on acceleration, burning more gas. Dealer service diagnosed the problem. After some short homework, I realized this is a pretty common problem with the 2017 Hondas. My wife's 2017 pilot had the same problem right after mine started acting up.”

Repair Costs: $2,200

Ok, so maybe this is a TRX, but it's based on the 1500!, Stellantis

RAM 1500

RAM’s 1500 is the company’s bread and butter. Going up against the likes of the Ford F-150, the 1500 is a great truck with a reliable history. Here’s our deep dive. 

NHTSA History

2021 

Complaints: 28

2020 

Complaints: 84

2019 

Complaints: 406

2018

Complaints: 174

2017

Complaints: 296

Isn't there always more time for the TRX?, Stellantis

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Ram 1500, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the truck’s reliability.

2021: 83/100

2020: 83/100

2019: 80/100

2018: 81/100

2017: 81/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

Despite brands’ best efforts, reliability can shift between one car and another within the same make, model, and year. As you research your truck purchase, consider these issues, customer complaints, and repair costs.

Electrical Issues

Customer Complaint: “Engine stalls, and the emergency brake engages while at a stop. The truck (a 2020 Ram 1500 Limited, 5.7-liter hemi E-Torque) has about 700 miles on it, and this has happened about eight times. The first three or four times the dash message said something about the hood being opened. (It wasn't.) The last couple of times the dash message says something like … service not available.”

Repair Costs: N/A

Transmission Issues

Customer Complaint: “This is a fairly new truck, and it shifts into first gear when coasting to a stop very harshly 75 percent of the time. Even if your foot is on the brake, it will lurch forward when it shifts down to first. Twenty-five percent of the time, it does not lurch, but then it seems to be in second gear, and when you accelerate from a stop, it will then shift to first gear suddenly, like it never got to first gear, causing another lurch when starting to move. This is annoying enough that my wife, who never notices this stuff, started asking what was wrong with this truck. I have not taken this to the dealer yet due to time constraints but will be shortly. It is enough to make me rethink my buying a Ram.”

Repair Costs: N/A

New face, who dis?, GMC

GMC Canyon

General Motors’ GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado are badge-engineered siblings. Underneath the sheet metal is the same exact midsize truck and, thanks to that platform sharing, a lot of money was spent on its development, leading to a fairly reliable truck. Here’s how it breaks down.

NHTSA History

2021 

Complaints: 1

2020 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 4

2019 

Recall: 0

Complaints: 2

2018

Complaints: 18

2017

Complaints: 38

Canyon out there doing Canyon things!, GMC

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Canyon, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the truck’s reliability.

2021: 80/100

2020: 80/100

2019: 78/100

2018: 80/100

2017: 79/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

Even if they were built one after another on the assembly line, each Canyon is different. Check out these issues, customer complaints, and repair costs, and consider the natural risks involved in your next vehicle purchase. 

Transmission Issues

Customer Complaint: “Problem seemed to manifest after 30-45 days on a brand-new vehicle. Transmission jerking, shuddering, hiccups, etc. Took four weeks to get an appointment for a service tech to look at it on a Saturday. Went for a short, five-minute drive, and he agreed it was very annoying. Said it would not hurt the vehicle to continue driving it and I would need to make arrangements for repair during the week. He needed a day to flush out the existing fluid and replace it. According to him, that is the fix. There is a new fluid they are using that prevents all the problems with the eight-speed transmissions. I reserve judgment. Service is scheduled for June 13, 2019. To be continued ....”

Repair Costs: $100

Torque Converter Slipping

Customer Complaint: “My son has a 2018 Canyon. Same torque converter problem. They replaced it. Now it is shifting so hard I think it is going to break the motor mounts.”

Repair Costs: N/A

Dirtbike in the bed? Check., GMC

GMC Sierra

The big brother to the GMC Canyon, the GMC Sierra nameplate has been around for quite some time. In its history, it’s been both unreliable and reliable, varying from year to year. However, the most recent Sierra is solidly reliable. Here’s what we found out. 

NHTSA History

2021 

Complaints: 14

2020 

Complaints: 61

2019 

Complaints: 142

2018

Complaints: 86

2017

Complaints: 182

Off to the races., GMC

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

To get a better sense of what experts and consumers think about the Ridgeline, we tapped JD Power’s consumer reliability score to better illustrate the truck’s reliability.

2021: 87/100

2020: 87/100

2019: 84/100

2018: 85/100

2017: 78/100

Common Problems and Repair Costs 

Sierra No. 1,345,356 is not the same as Sierra No. 1,345,357, and dozens of personal stories prove that ownership is half the battle of reliability. To help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car, we’ve gathered these issues, customer complaints, and repair costs to inform you of what’s possible.

Infotainment Flickering

Customer Complaint: “Infotainment screen has a mind of its own. I have had the truck for two weeks, and I'm taking it back to the dealer tomorrow for the third time. The infotainment system flickers back and forth. Extremely distracting while driving.”

Repair Costs: N/A

Brake Failure

Customer Complaint: “We have had the vehicle less than three months, and when leaving for work in the morning the brake pedal was extremely hard. Also, the following errors came up: Trailer Brake Malfunction. Do Not Drive Vehicle Over 62 mph, Brake Light, Traction Control Disabled, ABS Malfunction. Was told it would take two days for the part, and when I picked up a loaner they changed that to five days because none of the dealers carry the part. Well, today has been a week, and still nothing on my truck. Hope this gets resolved soon so I can enjoy the truck I am paying for and not a loaner.”

Repair Costs: N/A

What You Need to Look For When Buying a Reliable SUV?

As with any transaction, there are a few key points that every customer should know and ask for before slapping your John Hancock on the dotted line. These helpful tips prevent you from purchasing a car that forces you to ask yourself, “What have I done? What in God’s name have I done? How much is it to replace a hybrid system?! ” *sob-screaming continues*

Never fear, The Drive’s editors put together exactly what you’ll want to look for whenever you purchase a new or used crossover. Ready? 

Check Service Records

A car’s service records are its history. They should have everything from fluid flushes to significant repairs. This is the car’s life on paper and is really seen as how the last owner took care of it.

When your car comes with a stack of papers shoved neatly into its service book, you’re likely not getting a lemon. But if all you have is one receipt from McDonald’s, we’d look elsewhere.

Obtain a CarFax

A CarFax report is a great tool. This little sheet of paper can tell you whether that car has undergone any major operations prompted by big-time accidents and tiny little fender-benders, or if it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean after the ship that was carrying it capsized off the coast of Georgia

Look For Rust

Whether you’re buying from a cold-weather locale or the car has crisscrossed the country throughout its life, you’re going to want to get down on your back and start looking for oxidation, otherwise known as rust. Do a thorough inspection, because if you miss a patch of rust in the wheel well, you’ll likely have a front-row seat to your car slowly disappearing as if Thanos snapped it out of existence.

Look For Extreme Wear

Look, there are drivers out there, definitely not us, who think they’re Dominic Torreto. They drive their cars hard and put them away wet, both of which are not great for the car’s overall health. You’ll want to check the car’s tires, work your way through its transmission, hit small speed bumps to check its suspension, and ask for an inspection by a trusted mechanic. 

Video

Here’s a short video of a handful of trucks meeting their makers during crash testing.

FAQs About Trucks

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Which used trucks should I absolutely avoid? 

A: Always do your research before buying a new or used truck. There are reams of firsthand knowledge from qualified experts and owners who will give you the 411 on a truck’s reliability. What you’ll want to avoid, however, are trucks without complete service histories, trucks with salvage titles, and trucks that look beat to hell. 

Q: What’s the best all-around truck?

A: Ah, the proverbial question. There’s no right or wrong answer here, unfortunately. Like all vehicle opinions, everyone’s entitled to their own. The author’s personal favorite all-around truck is the Honda Ridgeline, but you’ll get 10 different answers from 10 people. 

Q: What is the most reliable older used truck?

A: Past our five-year mark, it becomes exponentially harder to determine reliability, as there are so many factors that affect it. We could say stick with the list above, but you’re likely to have a unique experience. Our advice is to follow the rules of what affects reliability detailed above.