Why are trucks so expensive whether purchased new or used? We break down the reasons to help you make an informed buying decision.
Thinking about buying a pickup truck but taken aback by just how expensive they are? You might be surprised to know that not only are trucks more expensive than the average car but their prices are actually increasing.
Yup, so expensive are these vehicles that there are now models costing as much as $100,000!
Take a minute to get over your sticker shock and then keep reading for the reasons why pickup trucks are so expensive nowadays and why Americans, Canadians, and even Australians love them so much.
How Much Do Pickup Trucks Cost?
Before we go over the reasons why pickup trucks are so darn expensive, we need to put their prices into perspective.
The average price of a pickup truck is around $50,000 in the U.S., which is a whopping 61 percent increase from what it was in 2010! At approximately $40,000, the average transaction price for all passenger vehicles is noticeably lower.
Going further back in time, a Ford F-150 Supercab had an MSRP of just $12,683 in 1990 (approximately $26,000 in 2021 dollars); today, it starts at around $33,000.
There was even a time when regular mainstream cars cost as much as pickups, if not more. A 1990 Toyota Camry LE, for instance, had a MSRP of $14,658 (~ $25,000 today), making it more expensive than the aforementioned F-150 Supercab of the same model year.
However, while the price of the Toyota Camry LE has remained virtually the same (a 2021 model still stickers at around $25,000), the F-150 has since rocketed past it.
If you’re wondering what could have possibly happened in the last 30 years for pickup truck prices to shoot up as much as they have, brace yourself for the full scoop.
Why Are Trucks So Expensive Right Now?
The reasons for high truck prices are multifold, but from what we know, the biggest drivers have been their superior capabilities compared to regular cars, new innovations in design, improved fuel efficiency, and added tech, convenience, and luxury features.
We would be remiss not to factor their increased popularity into the equation. Americans, Canadians, and several other nationalities appear to have a love affair with trucks, and this alone is the biggest driver of their rising prices.
How about we take a deeper dive into each of these factors?
It’s no secret that pickup trucks can do a lot. Of the different types of cars, they are possibly the most versatile.
Not only can they seat up to five passengers comfortably, but they can also haul more, tow more, and go places that the average sedan, hatchback, or crossover SUV simply can’t.
Their truck bed allows them to carry everything from groceries to massive furniture to lumber, while a rugged construction let’s them handle abuse like a champ.
The high ground clearance and all-wheel drive system that all pickups come with makes it possible to drive on rough roads and terrain and traverse inclement weather better than every other type of vehicle besides body-on-frame SUVs.
Finally, they often come with powerful engines that, together with their rugged construction, lets you tow whatever you need, be it a camper, a boat, or even another car.
Pickup trucks are essentially the swiss army knife of cars. Of course, building a vehicle with such an extensive array of capabilities doesn’t come cheap.
Modern pickup trucks are at the cutting edge of automotive engineering. In an effort to make them lighter, more fuel-efficient, more capable, and more durable, manufacturers have adopted many innovative designs and manufacturing techniques over the decades.
Related: What is a good mileage for a used truck?
Ford’s decision to construct the body panels of the F-150 out of aluminum is probably the most talked-about. Aluminum is cheaper and lighter than the steel trucks are usually made of; however, making a vehicle out of the material isn’t exactly easy or cheap.
Similarly, GMC introduced a carbon fiber bed on the fifth-generation Sierra pickup to make the bed more durable. You may not know this, but despite being incredibly strong and lightweight, carbon fiber is a very expensive material.
Needless to say, the increasing use of advanced materials in the construction of modern pickup trucks has jacked up their costs and selling price by a noticeable amount.
From tailgate steps to in-bed storage systems, trailer backup assist to towing cameras, and interior work surfaces to built-in power generators, today’s pickup trucks have adopted many new innovative features that make them more versatile and easier to use.
Many GMC Sierra models come with GMC’s innovative MultiPro Tailgate, while the RAM 1500 benefits from the similar but less sophisticated Multifunction tailgate, as well as the RamBox lockable storage units.
The Ford F150 can be equipped with a powerful onboard power generator, and the Honda Ridgeline has a surprisingly spacious in-bed trunk for keeping belongings out of sight of thieving eyes.
All trucks nowadays have some form of backup camera that makes maneuvering and trailering easier.
Truck buyers have to pay extra for these features, of course, and the more sophisticated they are, the more you have to pay.
The engine is the most expensive part of any vehicle, and today’s pickup trucks have some truly beefy engines. You need only look at some older trucks to see the stark improvement.
The 1980 Ford F-Series, for example, produced a meager 110 horsepower in its lowest trim and 153 hp and 309 lb ft of torque in its most powerful configuration. Not quite a powerhouse, was it?
Today, the lowest of the low F-Series produces nearly 300 horsepower, while models such as the performance-tuned F150 Raptor cranks out as much as 450 horsepower and 510 lb ft of torque. Don’t even get me started on the power ratings for electric pickup trucks.
Advancements in engine technology have certainly made trucks more capable; however, the extensive research and development costs associated with them get passed down to customers.
Pickup trucks have seen major improvements in their fuel consumption over the past two decades, so much so that the idea of a “fuel-efficient truck” is no longer an oxymoron.
Improving the mileage of large and heavy vehicles is more difficult and expensive than it is for smaller vehicles, but the same advances that have helped sedans, hatchbacks, and crossover SUVs become more fuel-efficient are now commonplace in the truck segment.
Thanks to turbocharging and fuel-injection, many mainstream models now get by with smaller, fuel-efficient engines without sacrificing power. Some also offer diesel engines, an expensive but fuel-efficient powertrain that was once exclusive to heavy-duty pickups.
Hybrid pickup trucks have also been making a comeback ever since the Chevrolet Silverado hybrid was discontinued in the 2000s, with the Ford F150 and Maverick hybrids, as well as the new Toyota Tundra hybrid, serving as noteworthy examples.
If you never want to worry about fuel efficiency, consider getting an electric pickup truck. Just be prepared to pay a premium form considering they require bigger batteries and motors than the average electric vehicle.
The key takeaway here is that improvements in fuel-efficiency and emissions have greatly contributed to the overall increase in pickup truck prices.
Not only do pickup trucks have bigger powertrains to compensate for their large size, but they also have bigger everything. Compared to passenger cars, their doors, body panels, wheels, brakes, steering wheel, and what have you are all larger.
That means they require more steel, plastic, paint, glass, textures, and other automotive materials and, therefore, more money to make.
The larger parts and components of pickup trucks also make them more expensive to maintain and repair, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Pickup trucks are no longer the barebone workhorses they were decades ago. Spend some time behind the wheel of a high end RAM 1500 or Ford F150 and you will realize that they have become luxury vehicles in many ways.
From massive touchscreen infotainment systems to premium leather upholstery, panoramic sunroofs to wireless charging, and powerful sound systems to massaging seats and heated steering wheels, modern pickups give you everything you could ask for in a car.
In addition to their long list of creature comforts, they are available with a plethora of driver assistance and safety features that make them easier and safer to drive. Self-parking, anyone? What about some ambient lighting to set the mood?
Anything luxurious commands a premium, and high-end pickup trucks are no expectation. A GMC Sierra, RAM 1500, and Ford F150 can all easily exceed the $60,000 mark with the right options.
Pickup trucks are incredibly popular in not only the U.S. but also Canada and Australia, and they are for all the reasons highlighted above.
Together with SUVs, these vehicles have become the new family car, boasting all the space, versatility, technology, and creature comforts that an individual or family of five could ever need.
Additionally, they appear to have a cool factor that makes them more appealing than sedans, hatchbacks, and even SUVs.
So popular are pickup trucks that Ford and General Motors now sell nearly 1 million pickup trucks every year, with Stellantis (parent company of RAM) not far behind. The Ford F-150, in particular, has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. and Canada for well over 30 years.
Strong demand and the willingness of buyers to pay higher and higher prices is the biggest reason why trucks are so expensive.
Why Are Used Trucks So Expensive Also?
With prices of new trucks at an all-time high, you’d think used pickup trucks to be a bargain. Not quite so!
While buying second-hand is usually cheaper than buying new, you will notice that the average used truck is still very expensive. A reason for that is because demand for used pickup trucks outstrips supply.
There are fewer trucks on the second-hand market as a result of manufacturers halving production of trucks during the Great Recession to focus on smaller, more fuel-efficient, and more affordable vehicles, which cash-strapped buyers wanted at the time.
Low supply combined with steady or increasing demand always results in higher prices.
A second reason is that pickup trucks are very durable and last a very long time. Because they are built for work and other heavy-duty applications, they handle the challenges of daily driving better than other vehicles.
In other words, buyers are simply willing to pay more for a vehicle they know will last a long time.
The final reason is that trucks of all makes and brands hold their value very well, or at the very least, better than the average car. Used trucks, therefore, are expensive because they depreciate slowly.
Expensive Truck FAQs
Got more questions about truck prices? Keep reading for more answers.
Why Are Pickup Trucks So Overpriced?
Pickup trucks are more expensive than other vehicles because they require more materials to make; offer better capabilities and versatility; have a “cool” factor that makes them more appealing; and enjoy very strong demand.
Ultimately, they are “overpriced” because people are willing to pay high prices for them.
What Are The Cheapest Trucks To Buy New?
Small pickup trucks are the cheapest class of trucks, followed by mid-size trucks. The Ford Maverick is the cheapest truck you can currently buy new in the United States and Canada, followed by the Hyundai Santa Cruz.
The midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are the cheapest Chevrolet and GMC trucks, while the Toyota Tacoma is the most affordable Toyota truck.
If you want a cheap Nissan truck, look at the Nissan Frontier.
Will Pickup Truck Prices Go Down?
We don’t see truck prices dropping anytime soon. First, today’s pickups are much more advanced, luxurious, and capable than trucks of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, making them more expensive to make.
Second, as long as they remain popular and customers are willing to shell out for them, truck manufacturers will continue to hike their prices.
What Is The Cheapest State To Buy A Truck?
If you are in America, it’s important to know that cars and trucks can have slightly different prices depending on the state you live in. The cheapest states to buy a truck are the ones that don’t have a sales tax and/or charge low registration fees.
New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware, Montana, and Alaska don’t have a sales tax, so they fit the bill. However, with the exception of New Hampshire, you may have to pay sales taxes, excise taxes, and other taxes at the municipal level.
Oregon has the lowest registration fees, but New Hampshire isn’t far behind. Therefore, with no sales tax and very low registration fees, New Hampshire is the cheapest U.S. state to buy a truck.
Unfortunately, if you’re buying out of state, you will still need to register the vehicle in your home state.
So, there you have it — all the reasons why pickup trucks are so expensive.
While you might think they are overpriced heaps of metal, there is no denying their spaciousness, rugged capability, and luxury and tech features.
Pickups have transformed from barebone work vehicles to offering something for just about everyone. While not the ideal family vehicle, they are by far the most versatile.
So, why are trucks so expensive? In short, it’s because there is a strong demand for them and people are willing to pay high prices to own one.