A silver 1999 Chevy Silverado 1500 is shown from the front driving in a desert.

Four Generations: The Silverado

There are two kinds of truckers: those who want modern trucks and those who want classic trucks. Sometimes you’ll come across people who want the in-between. Alright, so maybe there are three kinds of truckers: those who want modern trucks, those who want classic trucks, and those who want the in-between. This third kind of driver is often looking for a truck with modern features that incorporates the history of tried and true trucking. Drivers looking for such a truck will likely find what they are looking for in a used Chevy Silverado.

Having been a mainstay in the Chevy lineup for over twenty years now, the Silverado is continuing to push forward and break boundaries. When a vehicle stays in a brand’s lineup for a long time, it’s interesting to see how that vehicle grows, evolves, and develops over the course of its life. Now in its fourth generation, the Silverado has done a fair amount of growing, evolving, and developing over the last twenty-four years. So, let’s take a look at each generation of the Silverado and see what the used Silverado market offers drivers looking for a healthy blend of modern capability and classic charm.

First-Generation Silverado

Trivia time: What year did the Silverado debut? For those of you who answered 1999, you’re incorrect. “Oh, well, it must have been 1998 since that’s when they started selling the 1999 model year.” Still incorrect.

How, you ask? The Silverado actually started as a mere trim in 1975. In its life as a trim, it took a lot of notes, learning from the greats of the era and developing the skills it needed to be the great truck of its generation. 1998 is when the Silverado finally made its big break as its own model and officially hit the market, so in fairness to those of you who answered either 1998 or 1999, you were correct after all.

Built upon the then-brand-new GMT800 platform, the Silverado focused more on architectural strength than previous Chevy trucks. The Silverado has crafted a unique legacy for itself by ushering in a new era of work-oriented trucks with the new millennium. Since innovation is kind of the Silverado’s thing, the first generation brought with it a new line of Vortec V8 engines. The 1999 Silverado reached peak performance with the 5.3-liter V8 engine, which provided 270 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque.

Looking at those specs, it’s amazing to reflect upon how far the Silverado has come. Avid fans of the Silverado know how much stronger the truck’s performance specs are today, and those of you who are not yet avid fans will soon find out how much stronger the specs are today.

While the 1990s may not feel like that long ago, it is rather sentimental looking back on the 1999 Silverado because it reminds us of the turn of the millennia and an era gone by. Combining the leanness of a classic truck with the strength of a modern truck, the first-generation Silverado is the embodiment of the transition from one generation to the next.

A blue 2007 Chevy Silverado 1500 is shown from the front parked on a dirt road.

Second-Generation Silverado

After eight years on the market, the Silverado wanted to take a step up the ladder. So, in 2007 it went in for an update and came out as the second-generation Silverado. The new Silverado took this step up the ladder by taking its place on the GMT900 platform (recall, the first generation was built on the GMT800 platform). Now, when we discussed the first-generation Silverado, I said that the truck was more focused on strength than aerodynamics, but that certainly does not mean that the Silverado was not concerned with aerodynamics. This new generation brought with it a significant increase in aerodynamics by way of a sloped windshield and tight panel gaps.

Part of what makes the Silverado such an excellent truck is that it has always kept the balance between form and function, so these aerodynamic efforts served to make the truck even more stylish and fit for the 21st century. While the first generation looks like a 1990s truck, the 2007 Silverado fits in with great ease on the road today. Think back to the 2007 auto market; we were just starting to see the rise of infotainment screens, minivans and family vehicles were starting to include DVD players, and vehicles were beginning to be not only functional but livable. That is the market that ushered in the second-generation Silverado.

The truck certainly found a home in this market, taking the title of North American Truck of the Year at the 2007 American International Auto Show. With such acclaim behind its back, the Silverado could keep trucking and continue to innovate with its eyes on the future—and a new generation.

Third-Generation Silverado

The shift from 2009 to 2010 felt like a big transition. Perhaps it was because nobody knew whether to say “twenty-ten” or “two-thousand-and-ten.” The Silverado, however, was too busy being great during this transition to worry itself with such concerns and instead waited until 2014 to enter its new generation. When it did, though, it was a big deal for the automotive market. With the combination of engineering and technological breakthroughs, the need for better work capability in trucks, and the previously-mentioned market for livable cars increasing, the Silverado had its work cut out for it. But just like always, the Silverado did its work and did it well.

The third-generation Silverado brought with it three new EcoTec3 engines. The 6.2-liter V8 engine was the big kicker of the year and continues to be the vehicle’s big kicker even into the current model year. This engine allowed the Silverado to cross the threshold and reach 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, specs for which it is still renowned today. These aren’t easy numbers to reach, and the Silverado has been going strong with these specs for almost ten years.

The two big focuses of the third-generation Silverado were work and luxury; innovative and flexible pickup bed solutions enabled truckers to work better by day, and better luxury interiors allowed them to enjoy weekend getaways. Now, the interiors were not only designed for fun; they were also designed to make things easier for truckers who were hard at work on the job, but in such a way that it could be disguised for the sake of atmosphere when the work day was over.

With four available trim options, the 2014 Silverado could be modified to suit the needs of each individual trucker. The engineers, technicians, and designers at Chevy really poured themselves into this model, delivering what was Chevy’s best truck up to that point. But that point in time has passed, and we’re in a new generation now.

A popular used Chevy Silverado, a blue 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 is shown parked in front of a building.

Fourth-Generation Silverado

What does the fourth generation look like for the Silverado? Well, we’re living it right now. 2019 ushered in the current generation, and while the Silverado’s usual mode of operation is giving more, this new Silverado recognized that sometimes less is more. Having lost 450 lbs, one would think that the 2019 Silverado must have been significantly smaller than its predecessors. However, this lightweight Silverado was actually larger in almost every dimension.

This unique architecture made the truck more agile and flexible, which was matched by the flexibility of its six engine and transmission combinations. Significant increases in work capability and cargo loading, such as the Durabed with its best-in-class cargo volume and twelve tie-downs, made this a game-changer for truckers everywhere. And the Silverado is not done changing the game.

Innovation for the Long-Haul

The Silverado has set a standard of innovating to meet truckers’ ongoing and ever-changing needs. Many trucks come and go in far less than twenty years, but the Silverado is only getting better thanks to its commitment to excellence. It is this excellence that allows it to press forward in becoming one of the first electric trucks in history with the Silverado EV or in becoming a leading off-roading truck in the new Silverado ZR2.

The Silverado is a great truck to buy used because of the dynamic progress it has made throughout the span of its four-generation life. It provides a healthy combination of classic history with modern features, making it a well-balanced truck that offers a wide variety of features throughout its many model years. Whether you’re looking to the past or the future of the Silverado, you’ll find good things.