Americans are paying more—much more—for pickup trucks in 2019 than ever before. Compared to just 10 years ago, there's been a 61-percent cost increase when it comes to the average offerings from Ford, General Motors, and Ram. This apparently isn't a problem for buyers, though, as pickups continue to fly out showroom doors (not literally) at record pace. But we know that's only on paper as speaking to any real-life person indicates the price of new trucks is just too damn high.
So why not buy used?
There's a massive selection of pre-loved trucks for sale on every platform from Ebay to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. They differ in size, price, and performance, but we reckon you can find the type of truck to fit your wants and needs for under the magic number of $15k. To prove it, we've compiled a handy list that you should certainly print out to keep in your pocket (or just bookmark it if you're into that).
1997 Ford F-350 Powerstroke Diesel
The Powerstroke-propelled "old body style" Ford F-350 is essentially unkillable. With its venerable 7.3-liter turbo diesel engine and "Built Ford Tough" demeanor, it'll just keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny while towing 12,500 pounds in stock form. It may be a bit on the slow side—it produces just 210 horsepower but packs 425 pound-feet of torque—so don't expect to when any stoplight-to-stoplight drags. Just know that your truck will still be running, and looking good, long after your local bros' half-ton pickups.
Many can be had for well under our $15k budget cap, even with reasonable miles. Likewise, you can find "new body style" 7.3-liter trucks for a bargain, too—we just like the older ones best.
2003 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel
Keeping up with the heavy-hitting, compression-ignition pickups, the third-generation Cummins-powered Dodge Ram is a fan favorite. The 2003 model year marked the first diesel Ram to have the improved common-rail fuel injection system, and it was also the first year of this particular body style. Like the aforementioned Ford Powerstroke, it's got a bulletproof powerplant and can survive well beyond the 300,000-mile mark. If you can, though, do yourself a favor and opt for the manual transmission as the automatics in these trucks tend to have a few problems.
Most purchase-worthy examples of these nudge against the $15k mark, but depending on your preferred equipment, you could find one with decent miles around $13k.
2006 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
While some later generation Chevrolet Silverados lend themselves to the sub-$15k territory, this is the one you'll want. Depending on what you're looking for, you can have a two- or four-wheel-drive truck in single-, extended-, or crew-cab configurations well below the set budget. It's a workhorse-friendly platform that can also cater to off-roaders and street-rodders with its extremely tunable 5.3-liter LS V8. Fork over a bit more cash and you'll be able to buy yourself a 6.0-liter V8 model that makes 300 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque.
2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost
Although received with speculation upon its release, the Ford F-150 Ecoboost has since become known as one of the most capable half-ton pickups on the market. Ford hedged a big-time bet on its twin-turbo V6 by making it more powerful in terms of torque than its proven V8, and luckily for the Detroit company, it paid off. You can have the Genesis of this model by picking up a 2011 with around 100,000 miles for the price limit.
Those who own these swear by them, so take their word, not mine.
2010 Toyota Tacoma
Next to the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota's Tacoma pickup is one of the industry's best at retaining its value. It's not uncommon to see examples with 200,000 miles commanding five-digit prices, but there are some gems out there that will land you squarely in what's genuinely a great truck.
By opting for a 2010 Tacoma, you'll have room in your budget to snatch up a V6 double cab model that's still got relatively low miles. A good deal of these were made with a manual transmission, so if that's your hot-button item, you should be more than pleased. Also, you get the famous go-anywhere attitude that the midsize truck offers in heaps so don't be gun-shy when it comes to shopping around for the perfect "Taco."
2011 Nissan Frontier
Then, if you're feeling a bit more conservative but still want a reliable import truck, the Nissan Frontier is a solid option. It's offered in the same cab and drivetrain configurations as the Tacoma, gets similar gas mileage, and lastly, it hasn't been redesigned since 2004 so no one will know that your truck isn't brand new. All kidding aside, it's a handy pickup that will get you where you need to go on a budget. Here's a two-wheel-drive V6 model with just 89,000 miles for $13,799.
2012 Chevrolet Colorado
Rounding out our list is the Chevrolet Colorado, spiritual successor to the legendary S10 pickup. While it might not have been as popular as its domestic competitor, the Ford Ranger, that helps it in the price department. You can find plenty of late first-gen Colorados in good shape for about $10k, leaving extra room financially for modifications or to simply stash away for a rainy day. This crew cab four-cylinder model could fit the bill perfectly at just $10,402.