Rapidly rising prices for new trucks have left the U.S. auto market with just five pickup models that start for around $25,000 or less.
The average transaction price for a new midsize pickup truck hit $32,960 last year, up from $25,908 just five years earlier, a 27 percent increase. That’s too expensive for many shoppers. Here’s a look at what buyers get when they seek a budget pickup truck.
2018 Nissan Frontier King Cab
At a starting price of $19,965 including the $975 destination charge, the Nissan Frontier King Cab is the lowest-priced pickup sold in the U.S.
It is basic, but the truck isn’t as Spartan as the price might indicate. It offers features such as cruise control, standard Bluetooth and 5-inch touchscreen audio system with Siri Eyes Free. A backup camera system and air conditioning are standard.
The Frontier doesn’t come as a single-row regular cab model, so the King Cab with a small back seat is the base model. It is equipped with rear-hinged rear doors. The rear seats flip up to reveal storage boxes.
Other amenities include a locking dual glove box, center console, front-door pockets that will accommodate one-liter bottles and several cupholders and power points.
The King Cab’s base powertrain is a 152-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. It produces up to 171 pound-feet of torque. The power ratings are the lowest in the segment, but it is also the least-expensive truck.
The Frontier also trails the other trucks in several categories.
It has the shortest wheelbase, 125.9 inches. At 205.5 inches, it also has the shortest overall length.
The truck is also the narrowest and has the least ground clearance. It has a payload of 900 pounds, trailing the other trucks.
2018 Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab
The base Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup has a suggested retail price of $21,195 including the $995 destination charge. Its level of equipment takes it beyond what many picture for a base truck. For example, the standard sound system has a 7-inch color screen with Bluetooth streaming audio for music and most phones. The screen size is the largest in the under-$25K group in a tie with its General Motors’ sibling, the GMC Canyon.
The Colorado and Canyon also share Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which is not available in the other trucks in this group.
The Colorado also ties the Canyon for widest at 83.9 inches and for longest wheelbase at 128.3 inches. It edges the GMC truck by a fraction of an inch for longest overall at 212.7 inches. Both Colorado and Canyon share honors for longest bed length at 74 inches.
The standard 200-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is neither the most powerful nor highest torque of the under-$25K group. In the Colorado it does have the best fuel economy, however. The EPA fuel economy is 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg overall.
The Colorado, Canyon and Toyota Tacoma have the lowest towing capacity — 3,500 pounds.
2018 GMC Canyon Extended Cab
The GMC Canyon is very similar to the Chevrolet Colorado. Grille, trim and badging are the
biggest differences. The specifications and capabilities are virtually identical.
The GMC Canyon SL Extended Cab is the lowest-priced version of the midsize pickup with an MSRP of $22,095 including the $995 destination charge. It, like the Colorado, has rear-hinged rear doors to provide access to the rear seat.
The Canyon ties the Colorado for widest at 83.9 inches and for longest wheelbase at 128.3 inches. Both Canyon and Colorado have the longest bed lengths in the under-$25K set at 74 inches.
The Canyon’s 200-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine helps the truck deliver the best fuel economy in the group. The EPA fuel economy is 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg overall, the same as the Chevy Colorado.
The Canyon has a sophisticated standard audio system with a 7-inch touchscreen. It offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
2018 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab
Buyers willing to shell out $25,525, including the $975 destination charge, for Nissan’s Frontier Crew Cab get a much better-equipped truck than the King Cab model described earlier. But that’s a big price jump.
The extra money buys a pickup equipped with a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine and six-speed manual transmission. That’s the most horsepower available in an under-$25,000 pickup. Likewise, the 281 pound-feet of torque is the best in the group.
The maximum payload jumps from 900 pounds in the four-cylinder King Cab to 1,450 pounds. Maximum towing capacity increases from 3,790 pounds to 6,640 pounds, the best in the under-$25K class. So the price bump does add significant extra capabilities.
With the Crew Cab configuration the rear seat is big enough to accommodate adult passengers. But there is a sacrifice. The Crew Cab has a truck bed of only 59.5 inches, the shortest among the least-expensive trucks.
2018 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab
The least-expensive 2018 Toyota Tacoma is an Access Cab, or extended cab, that has a starting price slightly over $25,000. Its suggested retail price is $26,445, including a $1,045 destination charge. Discounts and incentives pull the price below $25,000, according to NADA Guides.
Toyota Safety Sense P, standard on the Tacoma, gives the pickup the most robust set of safety equipment. It includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with sway warning system, automatic high beams and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control.
The Tacoma is the only vehicle in the set to offer automatic transmission standard. The standard engine is a 2.7-liter four cylinder producing 159 horsepower.
The Tacoma’s reputation as an off-roader is validated by its 9.4-inch ground clearance, the most of any under-$25,000 truck. It also has the smallest turning diameter — 40.6 feet.
The Toyota Tacoma ties the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon for lowest towing capacity at 3,500 pounds. It does offer the highest payload, however, at 1,620 pounds.
Standard sound system is by Entune Audio with the media bundle that includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, AM/FM, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth, voice recognition and hands-free phone capability. Standard Siri Eyes Free enables voice control of an iOS mobile device that is linked to the truck’s in-dash audio.