By on March 17, 2021

Buy/Drive/Burn returns today with another “cheapest of” installment, the latest in a series that’s seen us cover sedans, midsize trucks, and most recently some convertibles.

And today we’re discussing the cheapest full-size trucks on offer in 2021.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Silverado ekes out about a $1,000 savings over the cheapest GMC Sierra twin, so it’s our GM entry today. The cheapest configuration is the rarely-selected Regular Cab. Trims range from a WT 4×2 with 4.6-liter V6 (285 hp) and six-speed auto for $28,900 through the High Country with 5.3-liter V8 at $57,600. The WT Regular Cab is only available in long bed format (8’6″), and eight exterior colors are free. Interiors are Jet Black in color, though cloth or vinyl materials are available per customer preference. GM adds a freight charge of $1,695 on to the Silverado for a final ask of $28,900.

Ram 1500 Classic

Believe it or not, Ram still offers their Classic last generation truck in 2021. It’s available in basic Tradesman and more upscale Express and Warlock trims, where Tradesman starts at $28,700 and Warlock at $36,945. Both trims use the same 305-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 as the Chrysler Voyager from the B/D/B entry the other week. All trims also use the same eight-speed automatic. Here, basic dollars net a 6’4″ cargo box rather than the eight-foot of the Chevy. Two colors, red or white, are available for free. Interior options include a gray and black cloth or gray vinyl, free of charge. Ram adds $1,695 destination charge, for a grand total of $30,395.

Ford F-150

Last but not least, it’s today’s most expensive option the Ford F-150. In its basic Regular Cab and short box (6’6″) configuration, Ford asks $28,940. There are 25 configurations available, which range from XL to Platinum where the entry fee is over $59,000. Our basic dollars select XL trim and mean power comes from a 3.3-liter V6 good for 290 horsepower. Those horses are routed through the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic. Eight different exterior colors are available at no additional charge, as well as vinyl or cloth interiors of dark gray. After the $1,695 destination charge, the F-150 will cost buyers $30,635.

Three basic trucks vie for the lowest number of your dollars possible. Which one’s worth a Buy?

[Images: GM, Ram, Ford]

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64 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: The Cheapest Full-size Trucks in America for 2021...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the Silverado. A GM-built pushrod V6 in 2021? For ajla that’s a total knockout win. Wouldn’t even cross-shop anything else.

    Drive the F150. Don’t love the engine but Ford makes a good truck overall. You get the 10A and “Antimatter Blue” is a cool color.

    Burn the Ram. Unless it has at least 400hp I’m very not interested in a FCA/Stellantis product.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Recent news indicates that GM is going to stop producing the not that old DI 4.3 V6. It means the base engine will be the Tripower turbo 4. Get that Big 6 while you can.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Yea I saw. I think the V6 might live on in the vans for a few more years though. I believe GM has had a pushrod V6 in production since 1959. End of an era, but we’ll be saying that alot over the next decade. Buick doesn’t even make a car anymore.

        I expect the NA 3.6L is on borrowed time too. The last GM V6 offerings *ever* will likely be the the turbo units in the current CT4BW and CT5.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I just figured out the master plan: make gas ICE suck so much the driving public begs for the BEV despite drawbacks and price.

          “Buick doesn’t even make a car anymore.”

          Buick hasn’t made a Buick for a bit now. Zombie brand.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Buick’s an easy target, but I have to say – I had an Encore for a few weeks a couple of years back when my car was in the body shop, and it wasn’t bad at all. It was comfortable, and it was a good highway cruiser. If you can wait until GM Giveaway Season, you can score a ridiculously good deal on one. Lease it for a few years and chuck it in.

            Main problem was that the fuel economy was just awful for such a small, slow car.

          • 0 avatar
            Yankee

            28-Cars-Later: I think you’re onto something! Make the trucks suck and price them so high that people resort to electrics even in a class where they are not really ideal yet. Paying $30k for a base truck with crank windows? Who has money to waste like that?!?!? I think readallover (see below) also hit the nail on the head. These trucks just exist so they can list a “starting at” price in the advertising next to a model that costs $10-20k more). You have a better chance of seeing Bigfoot on a dealer’s lot.

          • 0 avatar
            namesakeone

            “Buick doesn’t even make a car anymore.” Neither does Lincoln.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Yankee

            Seems to be that way. Although I suspect pricing isn’t based on what I’m about to suggest, but automakers for the most part of lost billions if not trillions combined on BEVs nobody wanted in the first place and *you* pay for it through product they can sell. Tesla’s most profitable product is *stock* and their market cap is $673.63 *billion* dollars to build the only EV people seem to want buy and its still what, 1.5% of all units sold? How much more of this misallocated capital would we need to go to Mars? Serious question. But they will get what they ultimately want, Agenda 2030 and later a 1984-esque world realized. That and possibly Peak Oil are the only things this could be about at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      “I’m very not interested in a FCA/Stellantis product.” Not just not interested but “very” not interested. You should reconsider, they make good products. My last generation Ram 1500 (now Classic) is a great truck.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Tell me if I’m wrong but the 4.3 V6 that GM is using these days is an overhead cam engine. The old pushrod 4.3 derived from the 350 small block has been gone for several years.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      100% agree. GM pushrod V6, the venerable, reliable, and smooth 6-speed, and I can get a vinyl interior (this is a work truck).

      It is a toss-up for me on the Ford and the Ram, slightest edge to the Ford.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Burn every 2WD truck ever sold north of Florida.

    If I could pick an Ace of Base 4×4, it would be the Ford for the rust proof body. That calculation would change if I could have the non-Classic Ram and add options, since they are the only ones who let you add a significant amount of equipment to a regular cab.

    In any case that Chevy face is headed straight into the fire.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This! We just had a snowstorm here in Denver a couple of days back, and one of my neighbors spent the better part of an hour and a half trying to get out of his parking space in his loud-a**, fully bro-dozed diesel F350. Tore up like six towels doing it. On the one hand, it was comical (this is the same jackhole who likes to remote start that thing every damn morning at 5:30 for about 10 minutes, no doubt to prove his “I hate PC” bonafides), but then again, he produced about as much noise and smoke as a B-52, which kind of drowned out the laugh track. Meanwhile, it took all of 10 minutes for the lady in the Subaru Forester to dig out and get on her way.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        A bro-dozed 2WD would be a new one for me, but I guess I can’t put anything past people these days.

        Even if he had a 4×4, the rubber band street tires combined with an open differential (why these are still available on 4×4 trucks boggles the mind) could lead to some hilarious results in the snow.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I’m not too fond of anything in 4×2 either. But since I’m more into trucks than cars, it would be a toss up between buy/drive a Ford or Chevy. It would depend on factory rebates and dealer pricing. 4×2’s are typically “lot poison” in Northern Canada.

      I’d burn the Ram, I test drove a new base model 4×4 with V6 once. It downshifting roughly into first and had an odd rattle in the rear (box was empty of cans, I looked).

  • avatar
    jagerninja

    Is it wrong that these are basically fungible to me? They’re work trucks, and they’ll probably all do the job. I actually went to the configurator to look at interiors to make a decision as to which one would be nicest to live with for the price.

    To that end: buy the Ford. It seems to put the most bang for buck in with the price tag, with a nice interior, good locks, and some nice-to-haves like free paint options (I’d take one of the blues).

    Drive the Ram, since I think it’s curious that Ram still makes their last-gen model for the work truck crowd. It’d be kind of neat to drive it back to back with one of the others and see how they compare at this point.

    Burn the Chevy. Its looks do nothing for me, and living in a place with hot summers, I will never drive another car that only offers black interiors.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “I think it’s curious that Ram still makes their last-gen model for the work truck crowd…”

      Around here they sell well to private owners, but I am living in one of the 50 poorest counties in the United States.

      People buy the cheapest full size truck they can get new (preferably with 4×4), beat the hell out of it for 10 years or so, towing their horse trailers, hauling hay, hunting. Depending on where they live half the distance to their house might be 2 track trail, and then when they’re done – send it to the scrapyard buy another new truck and start over again.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Eh, I don’t care for any of them. If you could still get a manual trans on these base models it might pique my interest.

    From this lot I’d Burn the RAM (needs Hemi), Buy the Ford (I do appreciate the aluminum body – I know the grumblings about frame/component rust on the new gen. That can be oil coated). And drive the Chevy because it has an 8 foot bed.

    Now what would I want? F150 extended cab XL 2.7 turbo 6, 4×4, trailering package, extended range fuel tank, oh and front bench seat. Tough enough to work and fast enough to get out of its own way. Can still taxi the kids for short trips and 4×4 because everytime you leave the city limits around here you run into a dirt road. Actually saw one just like that on AutoTrader recently, even had a vinyl interior. Heck might have been a canceled fleet order.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    None of the new trucks appeal to me that much. But we know all can do the job and all can be had at discounts. For me, I’d go with whatever I can get cheapest – which is probably the Ram. So buy, drive, burn in that order.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Dah.
    I ll get the GMC. $1000 more than the Chevrolet. Still Cheaper than Ram or Ford.
    And it s good looking

  • avatar
    readallover

    When was the last time you saw anything close to base spec on a dealer lot? 1979? These are merely an advertising exercise. Nissan and Toyota could have stolen huge market share, but instead followed the Big 3 and filled their lots with $60,000 heavily optioned 4X4`s.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Here’s what I see the guys who would have bought base trucks buying. Granted those guys fall into usually the recently retired or the guy who is buying a truck to commute in and then do weekend projects – he doesn’t really have anything to tow and isn’t going to try to take the whole family to Disneyland in his truck.

      They buy the midsize trucks in fairly low trim.

      I’m interested to see what the Maverick looks like when it is released.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Trucks” aren’t exactly “trucks” anymore. They serve as surrogates for full-size sedans, minivans, certain SUVs, male-bought PLCs, and probably some other segments I’m forgetting.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      Of course they don’t stock these because they don’t sell in the huge numbers. However buyers can order them.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      A few months ago, I did look over the Silverado inventory of my local Chevrolet dealer. They did have a few base-models on the lot, all painted white, albeit with a $3000 option package (which included, among other things, power windows and locks and cruise control).

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “When was the last time you saw anything close to base spec on a dealer lot?”

      All of the time but at the fleet side of the lot. ;)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Hey Corey, you may want to review this once I get it fixed:

    https://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/d/pittsburgh-2004-volvo-c70-convertible/7290160132.html

    • 0 avatar

      Wow $4 seems high for a kinda wrecked one!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ah true, but the reason PAG’s finest pull so low on the block is because they are closer to FWD Jaguars than Volvos. You have to do all of the servicing on schedule and if you don’t, it doesn’t play well as time goes on. This one spent its life living under a building and has 38K original miles with the first (and original) owner servicing it to the 30K mark per the receipts and thus it is not yet jacked up outside of cosmetics. I sent for a fender and bumper cover in that paint code from a yard in Texas, hope to be under 5 all in. This is also one year over the 15 year minimum to qualify for a “classic car” plate so I can get $150/year insurance.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    If genuine WORK TRUCKS were FWD, they would have unladden traction, not need the extra expense of 4WD and have a much lower bed for work duties. 95% of work trucks do not need 4WD and many of the ones that have 4WD will get hopelessly stuck by a tradesperson trying to get 20 feet closer to a worksite.

    Time to start building light trucks for the 22nd century.

  • avatar
    mikey

    This is easy …keeping in mind a 2WD is useless to me …. Buy the Ford , inside and out the best looking of the three.
    Drive the Chevy …ugly as it is . The Chevy trucks will run forever, and when they do break, parts and service is always available. I previously owned a new EB Mustang and Ford service was atrocious. Last fall i needed to drive 25 miles to get a mechanic that could change the plugs in my 05 GT Mustang …Apparently the 4.6 plugs are a nightmare to change.

    Yes ..the Ram has come a long way..But one of them needs to burn!! Sorry Mopar fans

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      “Last fall i needed to drive 25 miles to get a mechanic that could change the plugs in my 05 GT Mustang …Apparently the 4.6 plugs are a nightmare to change.”

      Yes they are and can break. I believe they are two piece and you need a special tool if you want to minimize the risk of breaking them. I did the same (took it to a dealer) for my 06 GT Vert.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, I wouldn’t buy a 2wd truck here in Colorado unless I had a supply of sandbags (and filling the bed with them defeats the whole purpose of having a truck in the first place, far as I’m concerned).

    Having said that, I’d pick the Ram – it’s probably the best looking truck on the road (as trucks go, anyway), and the Pentastar engine is good.

    Drive the Ford.

    Burn the Chevy – Lord, that thing’s ugly.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Pretty easy and it follows the general public’s sentiments.

    Buy the Ford.

    Drive the Chevy.

    Burn the Dodge since it is so old and comes with a crappy engine.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually think alot less of the 3.3 then the pentastar. I havent driven one with the 10 speed but the old 3.3 with the 6 speeed felt alot slower then the pentastar. At this point the pentastar may also be the most reliable engine Stellantis makes.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The 3.3 is now 10 speed like all the other F-150s. That’s one area I think GM could considerably improve things, just make the 10 speed standard across the board.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          I don’t know how things currently are on the GM side of the fence but in blue oval land their six speed was thoroughly sorted out and the ten speed still isn’t.

          These new transmissions with a three overdrives to dither between are for the EPA first and the customer second.

  • avatar

    Buy the ram only decent looking one of the bunch plus penta star/ 8 speed is nice.

    Drive the Chevy, 4.3 is a great engine but god is it ugly much better as a GMC.

    Burn the Ford, Honestly the last refresh makes the F150 look much better but not sure that could get me over Fords recent QC issues and the 3.3 seems like the worst engine of the 3.

  • avatar
    kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh

    omg the Silverado uber cheap has HAND CRANKS for the windows …

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      All three of them have manual windows as standard equipment.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I don’t know of a dealer that stocks any without power windows/locks. Around a decade ago, they weren’t even available on base trucks (same with cruise). I got used to, or efficiently at adding/rigging power windows/locks to new F-series XLs, stripped from a Cadillac or something, what ever donor was in the yard.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Burn the Chevy. This one’s easy. Probably the best powertrain here, certainly the best motor, but so is the 6.2 in the good trims and that still isn’t enough to undo the pre-crashed front end and meh everything else. Soon to be an even easier Burn decision with a standard four cylinder.

    Drive the Ram. Older isn’t a bad thing. The V6 and 8 speed are totally sorted out by now. It still has that 00s cheer in the styling. Coils in back are still a huge improvement, inexplicable to me that nobody’s had the sense to copy that even 13 years later and the first one is probably going to be the 2022 (2023?) Tundra. Anyhow I like these, more than the 2019s to be honest.

    Buy the Ford. Not enough motor, but these aluminum trucks are so light – 500 pounds lighter than the Ram – that it should make it up there and then some. If the Antimatter Blue is anything like my Blue Jeans it’s antimatter in the sun and 8/10 of the way to dark gray the rest of the time, so drop that for Velocity Blue please.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    IMHO:
    Buy the Ram
    Drive the Ford
    Burn the Chevy

    Full disclosure: I had a RAM 1500 (Classic), tradesman package, crew cab 2-wheel drive with the 5’7″ bed as a company vehicle a couple of years ago. The 8-speed transmission with the 3.6 Pentastar is fantastic. I never had problems merging onto the highway. Nor did I ever feel that it could not get out of its way fully loaded with passengers and cargo. A little Dicey in winter but with a springtime project ahead I put about 500 pounds of bagged sand and gravel in the back and it helped tremendously

  • avatar
    dal20402

    4×2 is useless anywhere near my area. Burn them all.

    If we can option them up to 4×4, then:

    – Buy Chevy. These are work trucks and the standard 8-foot bed wins.
    – Drive Ford. It’s nicer inside than the old Dodge.
    – Burn the Dodge by default, although I don’t really have any beef with it as a work truck.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      You’d take the 4X4 over an extended cab 2wd, if you could only have one (upgrade)? Either are a huge price bump in the El Cheapo class and I’ve had to make that call. Regular cabs you regret every day of the year.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I hear you on the extended cab, but in winter around here, for any work truck application, I’m taking 4WD. (The problem is mud, not snow.) There’s a reason you’ll find that fewer than 5% of trucks on PNW dealer lots are 2WD.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    If I’m not mistaken, these are the only new American vehicles which can still be had with crank windows, excepting the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana (which have a $100 “power windows delete” credit on the options list).

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would buy the Ford with its aluminum body and its non-black interior.

    Drive the Chevy with its 8 foot bed.

    Burn the Ram with its Fiat Stellantis quality.

    But in reality I would buy a base midsize truck in the extended cab.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    A few months ago, I did look over the Silverado inventory of my local Chevrolet dealer. They did have a few base-models on the lot, all painted white, albeit with a $3000 option package (which included, among other things, power windows and locks and cruise control).

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    There’s a Platinum regular cab? And a High Country? Regular cabs are mid-trim at most, XLT, SLT, etc, unless something changed.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Nope this is still correct.

      I thought you could get a Big Horn Ram with more equipment than the others offer in a regular cab, but it turns out that’s 2500/3500 only.

  • avatar
    rvakenya

    I bought a 1990 Chevy C2500 at auction for $1600 with 86k miles on it. No rust. Looks like hell and after a new fuel tank, lines, and TBI rebuild, runs fine. After this post, I see I saved the cost of the truck and only paid the shipping cost of a new one. And I had the fun of wrenching on it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Smart to buy that 1990 Chevy probably one of the best Chevy trucks ever made.

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