It’s the most wonderful time of the year! What’s that? The holidays? No, not that, it’s car shopping time! Thousands of people just like you are shopping for used cars from Durham, NC to Berkeley, CA, looking online for the best models and the best deals nationwide. As they do it, hundreds are surely asking the most commonly-asked question in America too. No, not, “What’s up?” “What do you want for dinner?” or “Where’s the remote?”! The question is, “Which used truck is better: the Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado 1500?”
A Truck for Everyone
Alright, we’re being facetious, but there is some truth to it. The Ford F-Series claims over 40 years as America’s best-selling model – in 2019, Ford sold more F-series trucks than the 4th and 5th most popular models, RAV4 and CR-V, combined. The Silverado is America’s 3rd-best-selling model, at least in recent years, but if the virtually identical GMC Sierra’s sales get lumped in, then GM’s full-size pickup is nipping on Ford’s heels.
With literally millions of trucks on the road, they occupy an outsized proportion of the used market as well, and their popularity ensures that they’re still hot commodities long after they first drive off the lot. With competition that’s been so tight for decades, there’s no model that’s clearly superior to all others. However, each model excels at certain things. The best truck to look for depends on if you’re budget-focused, have a minimum towing need, want to be environmentally friendly, or maintain a mild tech addiction. No matter what, there is a truck out there for you.
The Best Budget Truck
Prices on the used market vary wildly, but there are a few basic truths: older, higher mileage, lower-trim models will be cheaper, and negotiation is key. The price of a used truck depends on depreciation, which is how much value has been lost since the initial purchase. Depreciation is driven by age, mileage, service history, warranty, general condition, and market-driven considerations like desirability.
Pickup trucks generally depreciate less than average vehicles. They’re built to last and stay relevant long after new trends are introduced, unlike luxury models, which quickly become obsolete. One of the best for this is the Chevy Silverado, which depreciates an average of 45.2% over five years. That’s a little bit higher than average for trucks, but one of the lowest for any vehicle in the $35,000-50,000 range. While the F-150’s depreciation isn’t much higher at 47.3% (industry average overall is over 49%), you ought to find that similarly-equipped F-150s will be a little less expensive than same-age Silverados.
To put this into numbers, we looked at Kelley Blue Book for fair market values of used F-150 and Silverado 1500 models. Low-trim XL Fords with a regular cab, among the lowest cost models in the lineup from 2011-2015, average $9,300-14,700 while LS and Work Truck Silverado 1500s of the same age are worth $10,300-15,600. So shoppers can save about $1,000 by choosing F-150, and about $1,000 for every year older the truck is. But trim is more important than age – high trim 2011 truck models sell for over $18,000, so you’ll save more by lowering your trim standard than by looking for an older truck.
Lastly and perhaps, most importantly is mileage. High mileage trucks are more reliable than cars – 1.8% of trucks reach 200,000 miles or more, compared to only 1% of all models overall. If you’re looking to save, then a high-mileage used truck isn’t a bad idea. Mid-trim 2013 F-150s and Silverados with 150,000 miles versus only 50,000 miles are worth about $14,300 / $22,900 and $14,600 / $23,300 respectively, as if every 1,000 miles is worth $100 off the values!
When Push Comes to Shove, Who Pulls More?
Ford has a reputation for delivering the best towing and hauling capabilities in the segment for a given model year, but capabilities have ballooned to the point that modern mid-size and light-duty trucks can challenge 10-year-old light and heavy-duty equivalents. If you have heavy towing or working needs and are trying to save by searching on the used market, it’s important to know the limits of every truck you’re looking at.
From 2011 to 2015, the Ford F-150’s specs went from 11,300 lbs towing and 3,060 lbs payload to 12,200 lbs and 3,300 lbs, respectively. Max capability requires very specific configurations, though. Most trucks from those years fall around 8,000-9,000 lbs and 9,000-10,000 lbs towing limits, with some models under 6,000 lbs. In comparison, the 2011 Silverado 1500 caps out at 10,700 lbs towing capacity, and the 2015 model maxes at 12,000 lbs, which is to say it’s practically the same.
In other words, if capacity matters, an equivalent F-150 is generally stronger, but you’ll need the right configuration to make the most of either truck’s architecture. Moving from a 7,000 lbs capacity to 10,000 lbs is about tracking down models that have higher rear axle ratios and powerful engines. In general, that means a preference for V8 models, but don’t get caught up in the cylinder count. Ford’s 3.5L Ecoboost V6 is it’s the best offering from 2011-2015. These details might be harder to obtain than year, mileage, and trim level, but that’s what’ll matter most to folks in need of a workhorse.
If we’re being honest, most drivers will never need the full towing or hauling capacity of their pickup truck. They choose a truck because they like the high seating position, the spacious interior, and the convenient utility of a cargo bed with ample towing ability. For these drivers (and budget-minded drivers), the fuel efficiency of the truck may be a prime factor in their selection. While trucks are not and have never been the most efficient vehicles out there, the gains of the last decade have been remarkable. Ford’s 2015 Ecoboost engines are rated for 19 MPG combined, and the 2011-2013 Silverado Hybrid, one of the industry’s first hybrid vehicles, achieves about 21 MPG combined. It just goes to show that if towing isn’t everything, it’s not a stretch to find a respectably efficient used F-150 or Silverado!
Tech Ahead of Their Time
Everyone knows you won’t find the newest tech in an older truck. However, drivers who appreciate connectivity features like Bluetooth and touch-screen infotainment or driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control don’t need to quit on tech cold turkey just to buy a used truck. Both Ford and Chevy have integrated these features and more so that today’s used trucks don’t feel as antiquated as one might expect.
The 2011 Ford F-150 was heralded by a heavily revamped lineup. Bluetooth, SYNC infotainment, a backup camera, and heated, power-adjustable seats can be had even on these 10-year-old trucks, although one should look to Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim to find them. By 2013 MyFord Touch infotainment became available on higher trims, including the Lariat – this is accessible on 2014 XLT trim along with standard cruise control and Bluetooth. With the 2015 redesign, a 4.2” audio display became standard, and the available 8” MyFord Touch boasts improved responsiveness over prior years. 2015 also marks the introduction of blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and 360-degree camera systems, so drivers who love these features should look back no farther than the 2015 F-150.
GM’s specialty is introducing technology to make driving easier. 2011 included 10-way power adjustable and heated seats in LTZ trim, but it’s the safety tech that stands out. The Silverado 1500 is the only 2011 truck you can find with remote start, and an ultrasonic rear parking assist was available even then, a feature that still isn’t standard on all trucks. Cruise control is standard across the board from 2012 on, and the now-ubiquitous StabiliTrak electronic stability control program gains hill start assist and electronic trailer sway control capability. The 2012 LTZ trim also features ventilated seats and heated, power adjustable, auto-dimming side mirrors. Powertrain grade braking was introduced in 2013, along with an available integrated trailer brake controller for optimal trailering control, and a rear entertainment system became available on the LTZ.
The fully-redesigned 2014 Silverado sports many upgrades, including a standard CornerStep rear bumper for easy cargo bed access, and introduces us to plush High Country trim. Chevy MyLink is introduced with a 4.2” or 8” touch-screen with intuitive media control and voice recognition capabilities. Advanced driver assists like forward collision alert and lane departure warning make their first appearances too. This is already more advanced than the 2015 Ford F-150’s suite, and the 2015 Silverado adds Wi-Fi capability to the list, furthering Silverado’s legacy as a leader in technology.
An Iconic American Driving Experience
Pickup trucks are something of an American obsession, and few images illustrate the classic American driving experience better than an F-150 with a camper in tow or a stylish Silverado 1500 cruising into town. If you’re shopping for a used truck, especially in the range of 5-10 years old, it’s hard to go wrong between these two models. They are, after all, the two best-selling designs in America. Whether you’re all-in on finding the lowest cost, highest capability, best efficiency, the newest tech, or any combination of thereof, there are reasons to love the F-150 and Silverado 1500 from any year. The best one for you, in classic American fashion, is for you to decide.