Pickup trucks are flexible vehicles. They can help you haul your family, tow your toys and carry your gear all at the same time. Some are pavement queens, others are specialized for adventure — and some aren’t even technically pickups at all. With the wide variety of pickup trucks in the market, it can be tough to choose which one is right for you.
That’s where your friends at CNET Cars come in. We’ve driven them all, from the venerable Ford F-150 to the all-electric Rivian R1T. If you’re struggling with a buying decision, take a look at our recommendations for pickup trucks that fit your lifestyle and needs.
There is a reason the Ford F-150 is the bestselling truck, nay, the bestselling vehicle in America: It just works. Available with three cab options, three bed lengths, four different gasoline engines, a hybrid variant and a soon-to-be-released electric powertrain, there’s a wealth of customization to be had. And that’s before you dig into the eight different trim levels and two- and four-wheel drive options.
The Ford also comes with some cool features that aren’t found in the rest of the market. An onboard generator can provide up to 7.2 kW of power and you can get four 120-volt, 20-amp outlets and one 240-volt, 30-amp plug. Ford says you could set up a mobile welding shop with this much juice. The gear selector folds flat, making way for a fold-down work surface, and the seats can recline nearly 180 degrees for a quick nap.
Depending on your configuration you can tow up to 14,000 pounds and haul 3,325 pounds, which is more than the max numbers from the Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.
As for tech, the F-150 is available with all the advanced driver’s aids you could ever want including Active Drive Assist. On certain mapped and divided highways the F-150 will allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel, although a driver-facing camera makes sure your eyes remain on the road. The F-150 starts at $31,685 including $1,695 for destination.
It’s been awhile seen we’ve seen the Tundra on a best-of list, but the all-new 2022 model deserves some props. It doesn’t have as many engine choices as the F-150, relying instead on a 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 with 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque on SR5 and up trims. If you want more, opt for the iForce Max power plant with electric assist, pushing out 437 ponies and 583 pound-feet of torque. Yowza.
A new coil spring set up in the rear along with available self-leveling rear suspension with adaptive dampers make the Tundra much better to drive on the pavement. Towing comes in at 12,000 pounds with a max payload of 1,940. Finally, a new straight path assist feature makes sure the trailer will go exactly where the truck is pointed while backing up, without any steering input from the driver.
The old Tundra was pretty much tech-free, but this next-generation full-size truck has an available 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster and an optional 14-inch touchscreen housing an all-new infotainment system. It’s a major upgrade with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, pinch-to-zoom capability and natural speech recognition.
The 2022 Toyota Tundra starts at $37,645 including $1,695 for destination.
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Coming back for the 2019 model year after an eight year hiatus, the Ford Ranger gets the midsize market right. Equipped with a punchy 2.3-liter turbocharged i4, good for 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, power gets to the pavement via 10-speed automatic transmission. The extra torque over the competition means it’s easy to get the Ranger up to speed on the highway and the 10-speed is just as awesome, never hunting for a gear. For those who want to venture off the pavement, the new Tremor package adds all kinds of off-road goodies.
Towing capacity is a whopping 7,500 pounds, regardless of configuration. A two-wheel drive Ranger can haul 1,905 pounds of payload beating the pants off the Toyota Tacoma and GM’s Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins. A 4×4 Ranger can carry a bit less: 1,696 pounds.
There is plenty of tech with an available 8-inch touchscreen running Sync3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A standard blind-spot monitoring system that covers the length of a trailer makes it easier to haul stuff around town. Lane keeping assist is also standard, but adaptive cruise control is extra. Expect to pay a starting price of $27,440 including $1,295 for destination and a $645 acquisition fee.
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If you go by sales numbers, the Toyota Tacoma is the midsize pickup king, but there is more to a truck than just sales reports. We like the Tacoma first and foremost for its reliability and excellent resale value. A four-cylinder engine is standard but do yourself a favor and go for the 3.5-liter V6 with a six-speed manual transmission, but know that the most fuel economy you’ll get out of a four-wheel drive Taco is only 20 miles per gallon.
Why doesn’t it take top dog? It offers less towing and hauling capabilities than the Ranger — a maximum of 6,800 pounds towing and up to 1,685 pounds in the bed. The six-speed automatic transmission is finicky and loves to upshift quickly and the throttle response is laggy. Further, the interior is cramped and uncomfortable and the infotainment, though equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is still behind the Ranger’s in terms of graphics and processing speed.
The Toyota Tacoma starts at $27,715 including $1,215 for destination.
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You can have your heavy-duty Ram in 2500 or 3500 guise with a single or dual rear wheel with a 6.4-liter V8, a 6.7-liter Cummins diesel or a 6.7-liter high-output Cummins diesel. The regular cab and crew cab can be had with a huge 8-foot bed, or you can go the opposite direction and opt for the cavernous mega cab with a still substantial six-foot, four-inch bed.
We’re putting the Ram on top over the Ford for a few reasons. The high output 6.7-liter produces 420 horsepower and edges out the Ford with 1,075 pound-feet of torque. Similarly, the Ram can tow just a smidge more: 37,090 pounds with a gooseneck trailer. Remember that in many states, only drivers with a commercial license can tow this kind of weight, so be sure to check your local regulations before you go off and tow the equivalent of nine elephants.
Maximum payload here is 7,680 pounds but what is most enjoyable is the driving experience. The Ram 2500 can be had with a five-link coil suspension or an air suspension, and we really like Ram’s Uconnect infotainment with its big ol’ 12-inch touchscreen and tow-specific navigation.
The 2022 Ram Heavy Duty starts at $39,545 including $1,795 for destination.
The F-Series Super Duty truck is available as an F-250, F-350 or F-450 with a single or dual rear wheel set up and your choice of a 6.2-liter V8, a 7.3-liter V8 or a 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8. That diesel will deliver 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. The Super Duty starts at $38,190 including $1,695 for destination.
Depending on how the Super Duty is configured, you can tow 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck trailer, 32,500 pounds with a conventional trailer and can haul 7,850 pounds of payload in its bed. As in the Ram, remember that a commercial license is usually needed to tow that kind of weight.
What sets the Ford apart is that it can be had with the Tremor off-road package with 35-inch tires, drive modes with a rock-crawl mode and suspension tuned for the dirt. Sure, you may not need to take your giant pickup truck out wheeling, but isn’t it nice to know you could?
Hauling and rock crawling with the 2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty
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Towing a trailer can be intimidating. Visibility is tough, backing it up is difficult and folks can get really nervous behind the wheel. The Silverado 1500 is available with up to 15 different camera views to put your fears at rest.
The transparent trailer technology is really cool, giving drivers a view of what is behind them. We also like the rear side view option, which gives a trailer length indicator showing vehicles in the trailer’s lane-change path. A rear trailer view displays guidelines to help in backing up and you can even have a view inside the trailer to check in on your livestock. To help in hooking up the trailer there are four available hitch view angles as well. Finally, you’ll get a jack knife alert and a bed camera with zoom functionality. Rounding out the tech is SuperCruise, which calibrates for drag and increased braking distances and allows drivers to go hands-free, eyes-up on 200,000 miles of mapped highways.
The Silverado is also available with on-screen checklists to make sure you’ve done everything when hooking up, trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring as well as trailer lighting checks so you won’t be driving down the highway with one tail light out like a noob.
Depending on configuration the Silverado can tow anywhere from 8,900 pounds to 13,300 pounds. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 starts at $33,595 including $1,695 for destination.
When it comes to find the luxurious pickup truck rig, the Ram is tops. The range-topping Limited trim really goes all-in on luxury, but this special edition takes the cake. Inside you’ll find plush, supportive quilted leather seating, available with heating and cooling in both the front and rear, natch, and the rear seats can recline. Add a jeweled rotary shifter, a suede headliner and a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon Premium Sound system — you bet your sweet bippy this truck is fancy.
While the cabin design is top-notch, the Ram also delivers a stellar ride quality. The Limited gets air suspension standard so it rides like a dream, even on the optional 22-inch wheels, and the self-leveling technology means the rear won’t squat when trailering. The air suspension can also lower the truck when you’re getting in and out, so no jumping is necessary.
On the tech front you can get everything you could possibly want and then more. A 12-inch infotainment screen, head-up display, digital rearview mirror — it’s all possible. Driver’s aids are here too, with full-speed adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring that covers the length of a trailer and a 360-degree camera. The price is pretty luxe as well: The Ram 1500 Limited 10th Anniversary Edition costs $61,870 after a $1,695 destination charge.
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If you really want to get off the beaten path, you can’t go wrong with a Jeep Gladiator. There is a huge difference between trims and for my money, I’d pick the Mojave trim over the Rubicon since it’s made to go faster when the dirt gets rough. With a 1-inch front lift and retuned 2.5-inch Fox internal-bypass shocks with remote reservoir and a front hydraulic jounce shock for extra damping, the Mojave can soak up whoops that would turn a Rubicon into a pogo stick. Rear lockers and a 2.71 transfer case mean the Mojave can handle just about anything the desert can throw at it.
However, if slow-speed rock crawling is your jam, then you should snag yourself a Rubicon. This is the ne plus ultra of rough and ready Jeeps with front and rear lockers, a disconnecting front sway bar for more articulation and a super-low 4.0:1 transfer case. One added bonus: The Rubicon is available with a 3.0-liter diesel engine in addition to a 3.6-liter gas V6.
Both trims have over 11 inches of ground clearance and best-in-class approach and departure angles. However, towing and payload suffers with all the fancypants off-road goodies. Expect to tow a max of 6,000 pounds and haul 1,200 pounds in the bed of a Mojave. The Rubicon can handle a bit more — a max of 7,000 pounds towing and 1,200 pounds of payload.
The Jeep Gladiator starts at $36,910 including $1,595 for destination.
The new kid on the block gets our pick for the best full-size off-road truck. The Ram TRX has a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 stuffed under the hood for 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. That’s Baja 1000 trophy truck kind of power, people. It’s also getting into some trophy pricing: $77,575 including $1,795 for delivery.
Keeping it all in check is adaptive 2.5 Bilstein Blackhawk E2 shocks that can adjust the compression and rebound damping in 20 milliseconds. Remote reservoirs keep the shocks cool in the hot and dusty desert environments and the truck boasts 13 inches of travel in the front, 14 inches in the rear. And, oh yeah: You can jump it. Ram claims 2,000 pounds of damping force absorption at each corner.
The Ford Raptor is still a worthy competitor, in fact it does towing and hauling just a bit better than the Ram TRX, but for all-out raucousness, whoop-running and dune jumping, the TRX is the current king.
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If you want to get far off the grid with plenty of gear, check out the Ram 2500 Power Wagon. This heavy-duty truck has plenty of room in its 6.4-foot-long bed for an aftermarket rack, a rooftop tent, a fridge and whatever else you might need to keep you comfy while camping. Payload is rated at 1,560 pounds, so go ahead and add the coffee maker, a set of recovery boards and a blender for end-of-day margaritas.
The Ram comes standard with solid axles and lockers in the front and rear, a disconnecting sway bar for more articulation and a 12,000-pound Warn winch. It also has massive amounts of ground clearance, 14.3 inches, which gives the big boy some impressive geometry. I’m talking 33.6 degrees of approach angle, 26.2 degrees of departure angle and 23.5 degrees of breakover angle. Not too shabby for a truck with a 149-inch wheelbase.
The 6.4-liter V8 engine pushes out 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. The EPA doesn’t give fuel economy for heavy-duty trucks, but we averaged about 12 miles per gallon combined when we drove it. With a 31 gallon tank you could get 372 miles of range, but we recommend bringing fuel with you. We wish the Power Wagon were offered with the 6.7-liter diesel engine that’s available on other Ram HD trims, but alas, it is not to be. You’ll shell out $59,185, including $1,795 for destination, for a new Power Wagon.
If all these trucks sound a little too, well, trucky for you, check out the Ford Maverick. As a unibody vehicle it isn’t technically a truck, but it performs most truck duties well enough for many consumers. The Maverick starts at $21,490 including $1,495 for destination.
It’s 2.5-liter hybrid powerplant is good for 191 horsepower and a ridiculous 37 mpg combined (42 mpg city, 33 mpg highway). It’s compact enough for city use but can still tow 4,000 pounds when equipped with all-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It also has an excellent payload capacity of up to 1,500 pounds in its 4.5-foot-long bed. Plus, the independent front and rear suspension means ride quality is much nicer than a standard pickup truck.
There isn’t any low gearing, ground clearance is only 8.3 inches — 8.6 with all-wheel drive — and the geometry isn’t spectacular. Don’t expect to be going far off the beaten path in the little Maverick.
Bottom line: You won’t do any rock crawling with the Ford Maverick, but if you need to haul and tow things and want a smooth pavement rider, there is no need to look any further.
Read our 2022 Ford Maverick review.
Like the Ford Maverick above, the Honda Ridgeline is a unibody vehicle that isn’t technically a truck. Though it should fit the bill for folks wanting to have the convenience of a bed for hauling, while maintaining more compliant road manners. The Ridgeline starts at $38,865 including $1,225 for destination.
It’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s compact enough for city use but can still tow 5,000 pounds and has an excellent payload capacity of up to 1,583 pounds in its 5-foot-long bed. The independent front and rear suspension means ride quality is much nicer than a standard pickup truck, and it returns an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg combined.
Off-roading isn’t top of mind for the Ridgeline with it void of any low gearing, ground clearance is only 7.6 inches and the geometry isn’t spectacular. The all-wheel drive system has modes for snow, sand and mud, however, and can throw 70% of the power to the rear wheels — and then 100% of that power to whichever rear wheel needs it.
As with the other unibody trucks out there, crawling over boulders isn’t going to be an ideal scenario for the Ridgeline, but if you need to haul and tow things and want a smooth pavement rider, this Honda should definitely be on your shopping list.
If you live where parking is at a premium but you need the utility of a truck, check out the diminutive Hyundai Santa Cruz. Available in front- or all-wheel drive and with an available punchy turbocharged engine, the Santa Cruz is fun to drive and fits nicely into a city landscape.
For hauling smaller-sized loads the 4.5-foot bed is perfect. Sure, it’s not as long as a mid-size truck, but it can haul a healthy 1,753 pounds. Plus it’s super easy to reach into with short bed sides and a low bed floor. And it’s pretty fuel efficient to boot, with an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
There is plenty of tech on SEL models and higher like forward-collision braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear-seat occupancy alert. Higher trims get Highway Drive Assist and the cool blind spot view monitor, which puts a side-view video display right in the gauge cluster when the turn signal is engaged.
The best thing about driving the Santa Cruz is that it’s small and easy to maneuver. Even midsize trucks can feel beastly from behind the wheel, but all that goes out the window with the Santa Cruz. It’s nimble enough to shoot through traffic and it’s easy to park, all while maintaining most of the utility of its larger brethren. Expect to pay a $25,365 starting price, including $1,225 for destination.
Read our 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz review.
Sure, the Rivian is in a class of one right now… until the GMC Hummer EV, Chevrolet Silverado EV and Ford F-150 Lightning make their way into dealerships. However, it’s still a ridiculously capable truck that is at home on the street with its comfortable ride and out in the dirt with its 15 inches of ground clearance.
The R1T has a 135-kWh battery pack that stores enough power to go 314 miles. Further, the truck can accept a charge of 200 kW, adding 140 miles in just 20 minutes. IT can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, ford three feet of water and tow up to 11,000 pounds. Yowza.
The Rivian is also flush with storage space. A gear tunnel behind the rear seats has enough room for recovery gear and overnight bags. The frunk is almost as big and the bed is 54 inches long. Sure, it’s shorter than your standard full-size truck, but not too shabby.
Deliveries are happening right now, but you’ll still have to preorder your Rivian R1T starting at the tune of $67,500. The company does not list any destination fees.
Comparison of the best trucks for 2022
|Category||Name||Horsepower range (hp)||Torque Range (lb-ft)||Max towing (lbs)||Max payload (lbs)||Starting price|
|Best truck overall/Best full-size truck||2022 Ford F-150||290-430||265-570||14,000||3,325||$31,685|
|Best truck overall runner-up/Best full-size truck runner-up||2022 Toyota Tundra||389-437||479-583||12,000||1,940||$37,645|
|Best midsize truck||2022 Ford Ranger||270||310||7,500||1,860||$27,440|
|Best midsize truck runner-up||2022 Toyota Tacoma||159-278||180-265||6,800||1,685||$27,715|
|Best heavy duty truck||2022 Ram HD||370-420||429-1,075||37,090||7,680||$39,545|
|Best heavy-duty truck runner-up||2022 Ford F-Series Super Duty||385-475||430-1,050||37,000||7,850||$38,190|
|Best truck for a newbie tower||2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500||277-420||383-460||13,300||N/A||$33,595|
|Best luxury truck||2022 Ram 1500 Limited 10th Anniversary Edition||260-395||269-480||11,500||2,000||$61,870|
|Best midsize off-road truck||2022 Jeep Gladiator||260-285||260-442||7,650||1,700||$36,910|
|Best full-size off-road truck||2022 Ram TRX||702||650||8,100||1,310||$77,575|
|Best truck for overlanding||2022 Ram 2500 Power Wagon||410||429||10,590||1,520||$59,185|
|Best small truck||2022 Ford Maverick||191-250||N/A-277||4,000||1,500||$21,490|
|Best small truck runner-up||2022 Honda Ridgeline||280||262||5,000||1,583||$38,865|
|Best city truck.||2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz||191-282||181-311||5,000||1,753||$25,365|
|Best electric truck||2022 Rivian R1T||835||908||11,000||1,760||$67,500|
How we made our list
We make sure to drive and review every vehicle we recommend. CNET Cars has decades of combined experience and our picks represent the vehicles we would want to own for each individual category. Pricing is taken from every manufacturer’s websites, but the dealer sets the final price.
And remember, we don’t actually get to own everything — as much as we’d want to — so we can’t comment on long-term reliability. We recommend that you talk with current owners to get an idea of maintenance costs and the like.
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