Buying Advice

Ranked: Best used pickup trucks under $20,000

The Toyota Tacoma is generally regarded as a competent truck, both on- and off-road.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

It's not just new cars that people are after. The used car market is full of good cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans that are available at prices far lower than a brand new car.

iSeeCars, a car search engine, analyzed over 6.1 million cars from model years 2011 and newer to determine the used cars that demonstrated long-term reliability and have an average safety rating of at least 4 stars out of 5 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Shoppers with a budget of $20,000 can purchase the following reliable trucks that are less than 10 years old.

2011 Toyota Tundra

2011 Toyota Tundra

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Average Used Price: $19,064
The Toyota Tundra lineup was streamlined for 2011 and Toyota upped the power on its 4.0-liter V6 engine thanks to fresh variable valve timing. All models got trailer sway control as well. The 2011 Tundra was offered in two grades (Tundra and Tundra Limited): three cab styles (Regular, Double Cab and Crew Max): three wheelbase lengths (126.8, 145.7, and 164.6 inches, depending on model and configuration): three bed lengths (78.7, 97.6, and for CrewMax only, 66.7-inches): and with three engine choices (one V6 and two V8s).

2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

​Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Average Used Price: $19,937
The 2013 Silverado was the final year of the model's generational run before its redesign. Like the 2012 model, the 2013 truck was noted for its strong engine offerings, spacious Double and Crew cabs, and smooth ride quality. Trucks equipped with the Z71 Off-Road package come with skid plates and heavy-duty shocks.

2012 Toyota Tacoma

2012 Toyota Tacoma

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Average Used Price: $18,963
The Toyota Tacoma was refreshed for the 2012 model year. it got new front-end design, an updated interior, fresh audio system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a USB port. Additionally, the Double Cab V6 ordered a new Display Audio System. When it was new, buyers could opt for a heavy-duty all-weather flooring.

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

This 1971 Chevrolet K5 Blazer was custom built for hip hop star Future.

Photo courtesy of Ringbrothers

Future has gotten a new vintage car. The hip-hop star from Atlanta, Georgia has received delivery of a 1971 Chevrolet K5 Blazer that was fully customized by Ringbrothers.

Under the hood is a 6.2-liter LS3 engine that is paired with a 4L80-E transmission. The crate engine was standard in the fifth-generation Camaro SS and C6 Corvette and is now sold as an aftermarket part by Chevy. It delivers 430 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a heavy-duty offering from General Motors, the parent company of Chevrolet, that has been used in everything from the Suburban to a Bentley Continental.

1971 Chevrolet K5 Blazer 

Photo courtesy of Ringbrothers

Ringbrothers, a shop in Spring Green, Wisconsin, gave the Blazer a custom BASF British Racing Green paint scheme after restoring the body of the Blazer with 3M products. It rides on gold 18-inch HRE wheels.

"We first started building Blazers a few years back, and they've really taken off in popularity since then," said Ringbrothers co-owner Jim Ring. "There is no assembly line at our shop, as each build is completed by hand, bespoke to the owner's request. There is no other Blazer in the world like this one."

Future's K5 Blazer also has a custom tan interior designed by Upholstery Unlimited and an exhaust provided by Flowmaster.

"We're humbled that people continue to come to us for special projects like this," said Ringbrothers co-owner Mike Ring. "We realize that our customers could get a new Ferrari or Lamborghini but choose us instead. It's an honor we don't take lightly, so we put our heart into each project. We're glad Future appreciates that."

In addition to K5 builds, Ringbrothers has released several K5-specific products, including a glove box door, hood hinges, and a dash gauge bezel. Future's Blazer features those parts, along with a custom carbon fiber hood and custom tailgate with integrated seating. The musician's Blazer also has a JL Audio sound system.

Trending News

 
 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris punches above its weight.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Folks are always fascinated about what I do for a living. "Oh, you drive a different car every week? That's so exciting!"

What follows is a fairly predictable set of questions. "What's your favorite car?" (Rolls-Royce Wraith). "Have you ever driven on a race track?" (Numerous times.) "What's the fastest you've driven?" (180 MPH in a Porsche Panamera on the Autobahn in Germany.)

But then I'll start asking them questions, trying to learn about what they drive and why. What car do you have and why did you buy it? What other cars did you consider? What do you look for in an automobile?

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris has Toyota looks up front.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's my own form of market research. I can't review a car if I don't understand who my reader is and how to best guide them. It's part of why I don't dive too deep into horsepower and performance figures — I've found that, performance cars excepted, most vehicles perform adequately for the everyday tasks that people buy them for.

That brings us to this week's car, which is perhaps one of the least-interesting cars I've tested — but in a very good way. The sub-$20,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback is aimed solidly at folks who want an affordable, entry-level vehicle that's safe, practical, and with just a touch of luxury-ishness.

My tester was the (slightly) fancier XLE trim, pricing out at $19,680. It's equipped with an adequate if unexciting 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a whopping 106-horsepower. The engine might be tiny, but it comes with the added bonus of 32/40/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel economy. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (and a real transmission too, not a continuously variable unit that some folks love to hate).

2020 Toyota Yaris The hatchback is convenient but the car also comes in a sedan variant.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It has 16-inch wheels, a bunch of airbags, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a seven-inch color touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has push-button start, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Oh, and there's automatic climate control too, which I've seen missing on cars that cost way more than this.

Here's where things get a bit confusing. Toyota sells the Yaris in other markets around the world, and it's their own in-house vehicle. But the Yaris sold in America is a rebadged Mazda2 that's assembled at Mazda's facility in Salamanca, Mexico. It's related to the Toyota Yaris sedan which used to be called the Scion iA, which is also built by Mazda, but also has the Toyota brand on it.

Whatever.

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris rides okay, about what you’d expect for a sub-$20,000 vehicle.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I've driven a lot of Mazdas and a lot of Toyotas, and it's obvious to me that this is a Mazda. That's not a bad thing. Mazdas vehicles have punched above their weight for a long time (I had a 2011 Mazda3 for years, and I've praised them frequently in these pages), bringing both upscale materials and design to lower-priced segments. That's true here too. The Mazda2 — I mean, Toyota Yaris Hatchback — doesn't feel like a stripped down econobox. It's small and maneuverable and the engine, though a little noisy, gets you through traffic nicely.

It's a great new car for a teenager or for someone looking to spend as little money on a new car as possible. New cars, after all, come with new car warranties and can appeal to folks who don't want to imagine what came before when buying something used.

The Yaris competes with the Honda Fit, which is a perennial favorite in this class, and it seems a little nicer and a little more polished, though with less rear-seat legroom if you anticipate carrying adults back there.

2020 Toyota Yaris Even low-cost models have an infotainment screen these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The front is comfortable and attractive enough, with solid buttons and knobs and dials that are all pleasing to touch and fiddle with (which isn't as common as you'd think). It seems to be a better car than it's bargain-basement price would indicate, with a solid ride, comfortable seats and two reliable names behind it.

I took it to Costco (as I have with all my COVID-era test drives) and, with the 60/40 seats folded down, was able to fill it with ease. It swallowed up toilet paper and paper towels and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper and all manner of other things. It's no Rolls-Royce Wraith, but I'd be happy to recommend the little Yaris to someone looking for a new car that won't break the bank.

Trending News