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10 Cheap Trucks that Feature Amazing Power

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

1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning side view

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!

What Is The Best Cheap Truck You Can Buy?

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 making it one of the best cheap pickup trucks. 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, even though it made for a great work truck. 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. Take it for a test drive and you’ll see why it’s one of the best cheap truck models you can buy.

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 regular cab form. I was even able to find some of these cheap pickups 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.

Imagine how this truck would look with a decent set of alloy wheels and some modifications.

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, which offered decent fuel economy.

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. It’s an excellent cheap truck.

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’s cheaper than the Chevy Silverado and featured a 200 horsepower, 2.5-liter I-4 engine. It is 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 like the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD.

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, more like the GMC Sierra.

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. When compared with other Japanese trucks like the Honda Ridgeline, we found that the Nissan comes out on top in almost all areas.

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. If you want to save more money, opt for a used Dodge Ram instead.

If you’re searching for cheap diesel trucks, you may want to choose this option but with the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel I6 engine. It’s got quite the towing and hauling power when equipped with a tow package.

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. Any model year of this beauty will do you proud. This good-looking hauler is perfect for any personality and any job. Plus, when you add on a set of aluminum wheels, you can make a fine looking pickup truck out of it.

For 2018, there are three available bed and cab styles plus several appearance packages available, including the popular Ford F-150 XLT. 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.

Of course, if you want to get a great deal on a Ford truck, you could always consider the Ford Ranger instead. However, this isn’t going to give you the power and towing ability you desire.

Buying Tips

If you’re in the market for a new or used pickup like the Dodge Ram or Ford F-150, we’ve got some buying tips to help you find the best deals on cheap trucks for sale.

Prepare That You’ll Spend More

Utility vehicles have just got more than most new car models do. Utility vehicles have more towing and hauling capability because they are heavier-duty. In 2018, the average midsize car sold for just over $25,000. In comparison, the average selling price for a truck was about $48,000. That’s quite the price difference.

If you planning to make a purchase, you need to come to terms with this fact. Of course, purchasing used will help you to keep the price in line. If you must buy a new truck, make sure that your car payment isn’t more than 15% of your take-home pay per month.

If the vehicle is for work purposes, you can also ask the company to help you pay for part of the bill.

Know How You Plan to Use It

Before you make that purchase, you want to evaluate your needs. If you plan to tow your boat, you might want four-wheel drive for additional traction on the ramps. On the other hand, if you plan to take camping trips with your family in your large fifth-wheel camper, you might want to invest in a dually for additional stability.

If driving a truck is just something you want to do, these extras might not be necessary. A midsize model such as the Toyota Tacoma might fit your needs perfectly. On top of that, the smaller trucks are easier to drive for daily purposes.

Evaluate What Duty You Need

This brings us right into our next point. Do you need light, medium, or heavy duty (or perhaps even…SUPER duty??) capability? Once you’ve decided what you’ll tow, figure out the weight of your load. This will tell you what type of truck you need. While pickups were once divided by the payload: half-ton, 3/4-ton, etc, they now go by the light, medium, or heavy-duty classifications.

For example, a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ford F-150 feature decent towing capacity, but they are both considered to be light-duty trucks. If you skimp on the power you need, you might have trouble hauling and towing. Make sure you purchase more than what you’ll need to account for the future.

If you plan to buy cheap used trucks, make sure you always check the vehicle history. You don’t want any surprises down the road. Sometimes, used car dealers even offer the CarFax report for free, so it’s worth asking about.

Choose Your Axle Ratio and Engine

Many truck buyers want the perfect balance between power and decent fuel economy. In the past, these larger vehicles were known for guzzling gas, but newer models are more fuel-efficient. A modern V6 is often able to do the same job as a V8 from the past.

In heavy-duty trucks, you’ll find diesel is the preferred method of providing power, but we are also seeing the option in more light-duty trucks as well. Just make sure you factor in the additional cost you’ll pay at the fuel pump.

Then, give consideration to the axle ratio. Pickups are configured with a range for you to pick from. Your choice affect the towing capacity and fuel economy. The higher the axle ratio is, the more you’ll be able to tow, but the less fuel-efficient it will be.

Choose Your Cab and Bed Size

Many automakers offer a few cab sizes to choose from. Crew cab trucks offer four full-size doors and a roomy back seat. The double cab also features four doors, but the rear ones tend to be smaller. The smallest option is your regular cab which only offers one row of seating. The cab size is going to affect your bed length, so they both need to be considered.

If you want a standard crew cab, your interior space will shorten the bed. If you opt to go with a larger interior space plus larger bed, you’ll need to consider maneuverability.

Most bed sizes measure 5.5, 6.5, and 8-feet. While you might want the maximium amount of hauling room, you need to consider what that means for parking. Will the larger truck fit in your garage? Don’t forget you can always purchase a bed extender which adds more space as well.

Choose Your Options and Trim

The final things you must consider is your trim and options. Even if you purchase used, you can still figure out exactly what you’re hoping to find before buying. Lots of truck have special editions, so it’s imporant you understand what’s included in the Ram Sport Appearance Package or Chevrolet’s All Star Edition.

Make yourself a list of the features you hope to receive. Then, you can give that list to the dealer and let them do the work for you. If there are some things you’ll be flexible with, this will help you get behind the wheel faster. You can pick a color you prefer, but this is one of those things you might want to be flexible with if you desire to find the best price.

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!

About Brian Jones

Brian Jones spent over 30-years at various dealerships as an ASE Certified Master Tech. These days he works with those dealerships to create quality automotive content while spending more time with his family near Dallas, TX. In his spare time, you'll still find him playing with tools, cars, and many other "manly" gadgets. Brian's passions include traveling, pickup trucks, and anything related to motorsports.