If you’ve been wondering how on earth the average transaction price for new vehicles can be close to $50,000, the answer is “pickup trucks.” Full-size car prices are rapidly rising above 50,000, and when you consider that four of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in 2022 were the American brand’s four full-size pickups by a huge margin… well , the flaws of using a base mean to express such data becomes apparent.
However, there are more than just full size trucks to consider should you have an imaginary check for exactly $50,000. The No. 8 best-selling vehicle was the Toyota Tacoma, and while I seriously doubt anyone would choose the current one (the next one is another story), the Ford Ranger and the vastly improved Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are also on the market . mid-range table. Oh, and the Nissan Frontier, because I could totally see Stocksdale choosing that. Oh, and the Jeep Gladiator, because of Hurd… and possibly Korzeniewski. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us put our fake money somewhere where relatively few people put their real money.
Enough preamble. Here are the rules.
You have to spend every penny of the $50,000 on the truck yourself with an MSRP of less than $1,000 on either side. You can’t spend $36,000 on a work truck and spend the rest on guns.
The truck must be new.
Okay, let’s see what everyone chose!
2023 GMC Canyon AT4 with the Sport Bar package
Editor-in-Chief James Riswick: I started this exercise thinking I would go with a big truck. That didn’t take long. After adding the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine to an F-150 XLT Super Crew, I had nothing left to spend on valuable options. i could be buy a well-equipped Ram 1500 Crew Cab with the base V6 (a perfectly cromulous engine), but honestly I looked at the thing and said, “Am I really excited about that?” No I was not. On the other hand, this GMC Canyon AT4 is really cool! Check out the paint and the off-road bauble and that sweet, sweet Sport Bar package that makes me feel like Marty McFly. The interior has heated and ventilated leather seats, a nice strip of camel-colored leather on the dashboard, and all the Google-powered tech I could want. Sure, that Sport Bar package cost $2,995 and forced me to sacrifice adaptive cruise control, but it’s really cool. The only Colorado to offer it is the ZR2, but for that you have to get an insane amount of extra junk that pushes the price above $59,000. Sure, I could just get a ZR2 without the Sport Bar, but hey, I’ve made my bed at this point. And there’s this ridiculous thing of steel pipe wrapped around it.
2023 Jeep Gladiator Willys
Co-Editor Byron Hurd: Predictable? Me? Never. It’s no secret that I’m a Jeep fan, and the Gladiator has been on my short list since it first debuted. Ideally I’d have a 4xe, but the base V6 with a six-speed manual transmission would be a solid replacement for my aging JK Wrangler – another 6MT V6, but of the dreaded 3.8-litre variety. $50,170 will get you a 2023 Willys in Sarge Green with the three-piece hardtop and cold-weather package. I would have loved to have jumped for the spray-in bedliner and one of the available tonneau covers, but unfortunately the numbers don’t work that way. But since the only option on my JK was air conditioning, this would be a pretty serious upgrade.
Sure, it’s possible to get a decent full-size truck for this price, but unlike a half-ton, the 18-foot Gladiator fits in my 95-year-old garage with the door closed. If anything, I’d be more interested in moving to something like the Maverick, but that only gets really attractive with a PHEV drivetrain. No pressure, Ford.
2022 Ram 2500 Trader
Senior Editor, Consumer, Jeremy Korzeniewski: Never mind full size trucks, it turns out you can hardly get a real, fully usable, heavy work pickup truck in America for just under our apparent $50,000 price limit. If I was spending my own money I’d add a few options that would push it a few thousand over the limit, but for this exercise here’s a brand new Ram 2500 with a 6.4-liter V8 engine with 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft, four-wheel drive and a six-passenger CrewCab body with an 8-foot long bed. I chose this burnt orange color from Ram’s Low-Volume option list because it looks cool. It’s pretty basic and barebones, but it will get just about any job done with a towing capacity of around 17,000 pounds and a maximum payload of something in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds.
That’s a truck and it costs $50,955. You can indeed do something similar starting with a Chevy or Ford, but I prefer the Ram as a starting point, partly because the big Hemi engine comes standard along with the 8-speed automatic transmission, and Ram allows buyers adding an option or two without forc
ing them into a large additional package that immediately raises the price by several thousand dollars.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wouldn’t literally buy this exact Ram 2500 Tradesman truck since it was spec’d for this exercise. I would add useful things like the off-road package and the spray-in bed liner. I’d also splurge on a few nifty features like the 12-inch touchscreen and the Level 2 Equipment Group that adds a power-sliding rear window and a folding rear seat. That would put the price closer to $55,000 and is a more realistic scenario for most buyers. But even if you stick to our big $50 budget, you can barely get a work truck to do truck-like things.
2023 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition with HPD package
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: I rarely have to tow anything or do things with a truck, so if I’m forced to buy a pickup, it’s going to be the Honda Ridgeline. It’s the most car-like truck money can buy, which is 100% right up my alley. To reach the $50,000 threshold, I went either way (but mostly up). I started with the Black Edition, the highest trim level possible with all the bells and whistles, then ticked the box for the HPD Bronze package, because the wheels and revised bodywork that comes with it look infinitely cooler than what you see on the base gets truck. Since I’d likely be using it for more menial tasks like camping or mild off-road adventures, I went with some roof rails and a basket that will increase my carrying capacity if I want to go off-grid for an extended period of time. The fact that Sonic Gray Pearl was one of the paint options was a pleasant surprise, and I couldn’t say no to it – in case you haven’t seen it in the light, it has a strong blue/shimmering effect when the sun hits it fall . All in, I walked out the door with a $50,989 Ridgeline, which put me just under the maximum budget.
2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2
Editor in Chief, Green, John Beltz Snyder: I had a nice rad Ford Maverick Tremor (insert) outfitted with an adjustable Yakima bed rack and tent, standalone solar light/speaker, outdoor shower, rear seat entertainment, and a bunch of other goodies. It was a fun exercise, but I wouldn’t do it with real money. Instead, I’d go for the new 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 in Harvest Bronze with the Convenience and Tech packages and steel driveshaft. $49,935. Finished. Now let’s go find some mud and stones.
2023 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
News Editor Joel Stocksdale: There’s an awful lot about the Nissan Frontier that I like. It’s still a fairly compact truck for its class, which is nice to maneuver both on and off pavement. It has a velvety smooth and powerful V6, which is becoming rare in this segment, and the nine-speed automatic it comes with is just as good. But even more than the powertrain, I really enjoy the steering and handling. It still has a hydraulic power steering system and it has a lot of feedback. It’s a little heavy, but I’m willing to make that trade. It’s even pretty good at cornering for a truck. As such, it’s one of the most attractive pickups to drive. As a bonus, the thick, square shoulder shape is handsome. Nissan even has a ton of great colors available!
As it turns out, $50,000 will allow you to utilize almost every option Nissan offers. I went with the Pro-4X, thinking I might as well get the most off-road-capable version of the truck (especially since that helps increase the price tag). I went for the woodsy Tactical Green Metallic and a little extra flash on the exterior with the beadlock-style wheels, rear sport bar (not shown), hood decal, black Frontier lettering and black exhaust finisher. Inside, I opted for the leather interior for easy cleaning. Many of these options required the inclusion of option packages that included other useful features such as injectable bed liner, tracks, tow package, remote start, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, surround view cameras, heated seats, heated steering wheel, wireless device charging, upgraded sound system and sliding roof. That still wasn’t enough, so I added a bed extender, step and grab bar, outdoor Bluetooth speaker, rubber floor mats and illuminated door sills. All inclusive, including destination, came to $49,982. All the Frontier I could ever need and then some.
Trucks with a king size bed
Editor-in-Chief Greg Rasa: Jeremy’s Ram HD is a lot of truck – but it’s also gutted. Stick to half a ton and you can get a surprising amount of optional equipment for less than $50,000. You only need to make one consideration.
If you want to carry passengers, go buy an SUV. If you want to haul stuff, the working man configuration… the truck that every farmer I know buys… is a regular cab with an 8 foot bed. Yes, they still make them. Although unfortunately, no, no longer with manual transmissions.
The eight-foot box is the main criterion here – that’s the most truck, with a reasonable amount of comfort, for the money. Skipping the crew cab is key to affordability: There’s a $5,600 difference between a two-door Ford F-150 XLT and a four-door. Even a Super Cab costs $4,395.
So, short cab, long box. That’s the
ticket. Two examples:
– 2023 Ford F-150 XLT. Starts at $41,800. (The base XL starts at $33,695.) That leaves money to add 4WD; upgrade to the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6; tick the XLT Mid trim group with power driver’s seat and a host of other niceties (currently free for that package); payload package; pull package; FX4 package with skid plates and other off-road kit; spray-in bed liner; Co-Pilot 360 electronic aids. And check it out, a two-tone paint job! You are well rested for $50,140.
— 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 WT 4WD. Starts at $38,395. Then upgrade to the 5.3-liter V8 and 4WD. Furthermore, it is equipped largely the same as the F-150 with the addition of various work truck, trailer, off-road, chrome and interior packages. And yet there’s money left over for a Multi-Flex tailgate, running boards and even a handy tent for camping on a truck – because with an eight-foot box you’ve got plenty of room to stretch out. Also: love those steelies. All in, $49,540.