More and More Consumers Paying Big Bucks For Smaller Trucks

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here
more and more consumers paying big bucks for smaller trucks

U.S. sales of midsize pickup trucks jumped 54 percent in September 2016 to nearly 40,000 units.

While massive year-over-year increases in pickup truck sales can often be attributed to commensurate increases in incentives, as seen with the Ram P/U’s victory over the Chevrolet Silverado in September, midsize pickup truck buyers are willing to pay big bucks.

Average transaction prices in the Toyota Tacoma-controlled midsize pickup truck segment last month, according to Kelley Blue Book, rose 6 percent compared with September 2015. That was by far the biggest increase for any segment in average transaction prices.

These are hardly the sub-$20,000 antiquated Ford Rangers of 2010.

On average, consumers were buying $32,350 midsize pickup trucks in September 2016.

Led by the surging Toyota Tacoma, every member of the five-truck category posted noteworthy year-over-year sales improvements, including the Honda Ridgeline’s astounding 165,800-percent uptick.*

As full-size pickup sales grew just 1 percent in September, a modest 1,784-unit year-over-year improvement, four automakers produced 14,076 additional midsize pickup sales.

The 39,969-unit September result marked the eighth consecutive month in which Americans registered more than 30,000 midsize pickups.

After claiming just 12 percent of the overall pickup truck market in September 2015 — and only 14 percent in calendar year 2015 — midsize pickup truck market share soared to 17.3 percent in September 2016; 16.8 percent so far this year.

Only in August, when midsize pickup truck share jumped to 17.9 percent, has the sub-segment garnered a greater chunk of the overall pickup truck market this year.

The sudden rise in midsize pickup share is all the more impressive when one considers the dearth of available nameplates. True, a decade ago, during peak Ridgeline, small/midsize pickup truck share was a loftier 21 percent. But a bundle of niche players, such as the Mitsubishi Raider, Mazda B-Series, and Isuzu i-Series, were at that time joined by the five nameplates that still exist and high-volume competitors from Dodge and Ford.

Dodge was consistently selling substantially more than 100,000 Dakotas per year prior to 2006’s harsh decline.

Ford Motor Company, which had grown accustomed to selling 300,000 Rangers per year, was entering a phase in which the nameplate wouldn’t crack the 100,000-sales mark. But the Ranger, like the Dakota, remained a major player in the small/midsize pickup truck market in 2006.

After letting the Ranger go — not in the sense of allowing it to run free, but in the manner of not getting a shower and changing out of pajama bottoms in the morning — Ford determined that remaining Ranger customers were purely interested in a cheap vehicle. “It was often times only a purchase because it was an expensive Ford product, not as a pickup,” a Ford spokesperson said in 2010.

“We’re investing in F-Series because the small truck segment has steadily shrunk from almost 8 percent of total industry sales in 1994 to 1.9 percent of industry sales in 2012,” Ford’s Jackie DiMarco told Reddit in 2013, failing to point out that the automaker’s own neglect of the segment played a role in the segment’s decline.

But the game in which a new Ford Ranger would play is conducted on a whole ‘nuther field. Although CAFE requirements pose a challenge for midsize trucks, Automotive News reported last year, the F-150’s move upmarket has opened a gap in Ford’s lineup for a less costly product.

“We think we could sell a compact truck that’s more like the size of the old Ranger, that gets six or eight more miles per gallon than a full-size truck, is $5,000 or $6,000 less, and that we could build in the U.S. to avoid the tariff on imported trucks,” Ford’s Doug Scott told Automotive News last year.

To what degree that strategy has changed, with the average light-duty full-size ATP up to around $38,000 and the midsize truck market quickly transforming, will be made known after Ford reveals its real plans for the Wayne, Michigan, factory.

Whether Ford can engineer a Ranger that much more efficient than the F-150 remains to be seen. But current evidence suggests Ford doesn’t need to worry too much about bringing the Ranger to market with affordability as its main selling point. Midsize truck buyers do not want a full-size truck, and the next Ford Ranger to land in North America won’t be a full-size truck.

That fact alone should be more than enough for Ford to find tens of thousands of paying customers.

* The Ridgeline wasn’t on sale at this time last year, during the hiatus between the first and second-generation Honda pickups.

[Images: Toyota, Honda, TTAC]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

More by Timothy Cain

Join the conversation
4 of 173 comments
  • CombiCoupe99 CombiCoupe99 on Oct 12, 2016

    Just spent 13,000 for a 2002 Tacoma 4X4 - not sure how much longer I can wait for a new small truck. I don't want a midsize - I want a small truck. I know we are told we don't want small trucks any more - so why are 14 year old toyotas still fetching 66% of their original MSRP?

    • See 1 previous
    • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 15, 2016

      @DenverMike True the older Tacomas are still commanding a large price but I wonder if the same will hold true in the future for the new Tacomas that are sold today? It seems that with a much improved Colorado/Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, and in a few years a new Ranger that this might eventually effect the value of Tacomas especially since Toyota is ramping up to produce more and since the basic Tacoma has not significantly changed in over 10 years. With the increased sales of midsize trucks and the newer redesigned models on the market that other manufacturers will enter this market and many will have better more modern alternatives to the Tacoma. Many of the Rangers and S-10s are holding there values much better in the past few years than they have before but with an influx of newer midsize trucks this will effect them as well.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 12, 2016

    @Robert Ryan--Yes, and so is the ute. What the US considers a pickup for the most part is classified as a light truck. I have a 99 S-10 that I use as a truck for hauling things but then I use it as a personal vehicle and not for business. I do not consider a midsize pickup any less of a pickup as any other pickup even though it might not have the same hauling and towing capacity. I use my pickups for truck like things as well as for commuter duties--to me its like a Swiss Army knife which can perform a multitude of tasks.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriors
  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.