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1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning side view

10 Cheap Trucks that Feature Amazing Power

Get the most bang for your buck with this list of cheap trucks that have stellar power.

Updated March 15, 2018

Shopping around for a powerful truck will bring you to one conclusion quickly – they are expensive. While it’s true that the best trucks on the market are going to require some investment, all hope is not lost. We’ve put together a list of cheap trucks that are available with surprising power.

Some of these are older models that you’ll find on the used market, but we’ve also searched out the “budget” choices of the newer lines as well. Maybe your next truck has made it to our list!

Toyota T100 (1992 – 1998)

This Toyota model is an oldie but a goodie. In fact, a quick search of used truck databases will quickly give you lots of options for under $5,000. In case you’ve never heard of the T100, it was part of Toyota’s venture to break into the full-size market.

Unfortunately for Toyota, it ended up being smaller than most full-size trucks but still larger than a compact option. This turned some people off to the thought of purchasing one. Then, they hit another roadblock because the truck seemed to rust easily.

With that being said, if you can find a used Toyota T100 on the market that is clean, you have yourself one heck of a nice first truck. Be on the lookout for a model with the supercharged 3.4-liter V6 engine because this produces 260 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.

1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning

For a few years after the 1995 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning died, Ford decided to have another go at it. We’re glad they had a change of heart, considering it came back for a second go in supercharged form. I was even able to find some of these cheap trucks priced at under $10,000 used.

This truck features a shorter wheelbase and short bed. On top of that, it comes equipped with a 5.4-liter Triton SOHC V8 and a belt-driven supercharger. With these two things combined, this Ford produces 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque.

This is a stunning 165 horsepower increase when compared to a standard 5.4 Triton truck. Not just that, this 4,670-pound truck is capable of hitting 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds. Over the years, there were a few additional adjustments like the supercharged engine of 2001 that produced an increased 380 horsepower.

Toyota Tacoma 2nd Generation (2004 – 2015)

When you are looking for the best cheap trucks, you are inevitably going to come across the Toyota Tacoma. That’s because it isn’t difficult to find a decent, used Tacoma for under $10,000 depending on the year you choose.

The second generation of Tacoma won numerous awards, including Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in 2005. Even then, Toyota placed a 4.0-liter engine and a six-speed manual transmission into this beauty.

If you are looking for something a little updated, you’ll want to start your search in the 2009 range, as that’s when Toyota revised the grille and added some LED tail lamps.

Starting in 2009, Toyota also ramped up the safety features that were included in this truck, earning them the IIHS Top Safety Pick. This included front seat-mounted side airbags, active front headrests, and curtain side airbags. These features are so rare in a truck like this, in fact, that the Tacoma boasts being one of the few small pickup trucks to earn this rating.

Toyota Tundra 2nd Generation (2007–2013)

Because it seems wise to have a third Toyota on our list of cheap trucks, we added this Toyota Tundra as well. A quick search online produced numerous results of decent trucks for under $10,000, making it a great first buy.

What you’ll notice specifically about the second generation is that Toyota held nothing back. First, they made it larger than the first generation which meant higher capacity. If the 2,000-pound payload and 10,000-pound towing ability aren’t enough, how about the top engine choice of a furious 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque?

The second-generation Tundra boasts sales in the six-figure digits while selling just shy of 200,000 units back in 2007 alone. Even with impressive numbers such as these, it still didn’t catch the F-Series.

2015 Nissan Frontier

As we break into the market of newer models, it is still possible to find cheap trucks. For example, used 2015 Nissan  Frontier trucks are available for under $20,000 in good condition. While the Frontier was first considered to be a compact truck, it was redesigned in 2005 as a mid-sized rival to the Tacoma.

The styling was similar to the full-size Titan and this truck had a towing capacity of 6500 pounds. The standard engine was the 4.0-liter VQ family V6, otherwise known as the VQ40DE. This produces 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado WT

With prices starting at just $20,000, this was one of the cheaper trucks of recent years. It featured a 200 horsepower, 2.5-liter I-4 engine that was capable and practical for everyday use. Along with that, several other highlights made the Colorado unique from some other choices.

First, it had the off-roading performance of a ZR2. There aren’t too many trucks that can say that. This truck gives drivers a strong and balanced amount of power without putting out a lot of cash, which makes it a great first truck.

The crew cab variant actually has a backseat that is quite adult-friendly. How many trucks in this price range can claim that? In addition, there is also front-seat headroom and several connectivity and multimedia options.

2017 GMC Canyon SL

Another contender for a cheap truck is this offering from GMC. Much like the Colorado, this truck started right around $20,000 new and is powered by the 2.5-liter I-4 engine with 200 horsepower. There is also a turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine available.

With a refined ride quality and minimal interior noise, this Canyon is about more than just towing and hauling. Its cabin is full of some neat tech features and comforts for all passengers to enjoy. The extended cab of this truck also gives it the look of a big truck in disguise.

2018 Nissan Titan S

Hopping into the newer options, there are still ways to get what you want on a budget. No, these trucks aren’t considered your typical cheap trucks, but they’ll work if you want brand new without the massive bill.

The Titan may not receive the same recognition from truck lovers like a Ford or Ram, but it’s designed using the same formula. The standard engine is a V8 with 390 horsepower and it is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

While it does have one of the lowest per horsepower price of the newer trucks, it can’t keep up with the competition when it comes to towing. That doesn’t make it any less of a great choice if you are looking primarily for a comfortable cabin, a special off-road model, or customizable cargo box.

2018 Ram 2500HD

The Ram 2500HD is the least expensive of the heavy-duty pickups on the market. Starting at just over $30,000, the basic trim includes steel wheels, air conditioning, an unpainted bumper cover, cruise control, and not much else. You won’t even get power windows or locks at the base price.

With that being said, there is an available 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that makes up for these minor details. It also has an impressive towing capacity of 13,900 pounds and a 3,040-pound payload capacity. What this truck lacks in comforts and extras it is sure to make up for in ability.

2018 Ford F-150

If you thought we’d get through a list without bringing the F-150 in to play, you were wrong! This has been Ford’s top-selling model for decades, and for good reason. This good-looking hauler is perfect for any personality and any job.

For 2018, there are three available bed and cab styles plus several appearance packages available. Pair the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque with the ten-speed automatic transmission and you have yourself a winner. In fact, this truck is capable of towing at 13,200 pounds which is actually best-in-class. You can’t really argue that the F-150 is not only iconic but also the most capable around.

Ready to Weigh in on Your Favorite Cheap Trucks?

After seeing a wide variety of cheap trucks from the past and present, it’s time for you to weigh in. If you were picking your ideal cheap truck, what would it be? Would you choose something from our list or do you know of something better?  Let’s hear it!


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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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