6 work trucks made for construction

By Jenny LescohierJune 16, 2021

Looking for a new rig? Shopping for a work truck?

A quick Google search will make your head spin, as automakers know America loves its pickup trucks and everyone and their brother wants a piece of that (apple) pie.

When it comes down to it, you can weed out the Honda Ridgelines and go ahead and chuckle at the Jeep Gladiators you’ll find on some “best” lists. There are really only six full-size pickup trucks worth gracing your job site. (Fun fact: the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and the Ram 1500 are the three best-selling vehicles in America - not just trucks, all passenger vehicles. That should give you a hint.)

But first, a word about what’s worth looking at in a truck used for construction work. As mentioned, there is no shortage of choices on the market, and each make and model offers an abundance of options. At the end of the day, your truck needs to be easy and pleasing to use, tough enough to stand up to the task at hand, and ideally, fuel efficient enough to leave some money in your pocket.

So with that, here’s the rundown on this year’s leading work trucks (models are listed here in alphabetical order by make. To find out how the experts at MotorTrend rank these vehicles, click here):

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Chevy Silverado 1500

The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are largely identical mechanically, but have diverged aesthetically more than ever since 2019, with some afficianados claiming the GMC comes out on top on that score.

The Silverado, however, offers a choice of five engine options, including a diesel, and a wealth of trims, features, and technology, as well as the ability to spec a basic workhorse, a luxury-lined commuter, or something in between. That being said, the interior is still not highly rated.

Big towing capacity - 13,300 lbs - and agile handling (relative to a pickup truck) are considered standout traits of the Chevy Silverado 1500. For 2021, Chevy now offers the multi-function tailgate previously restricted to the more-deluxe GMC Sierra.

Engine options include a 3.0L diesel I-6 (277 hp, 460 lb-ft); 4.3L V-6 (285 hp, 305 lb-ft); 2.7L turbo I-4, (310 hp, 348 lb-ft), 5.3L V-8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft); and 6.2L V-8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft).

Fuel Economy is a combined 14-23/18-33/16-27 mpg.

Base price ranges from $30,595 to $61,790. 

Ford F-150

The 2021 Ford F-150 features a subtly redesigned body and clever interior, though many of the same engines that

Ford F-150

were offered last year.

A hybrid joins the range, dubbed PowerBoost, that not only brings 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft by way of a twin-turbo V-6 engine and an electric motor, but also the ability to power several tools at once and even a welder.

Ford F-150 also comes with several new features, ranging from the ability to setup a bed by folding down the front seats to a hideaway shifter.

The 2021 F-150 is at least as competent as its predecessor, with a towing capacity of 14,000 lbs.

Available engines include a 3.0L diesel V-6 (250 hp, 440 lb-ft); 3.3L V-6 (290 hp, 265 lb-ft); 2.7L twin-turbo V-6 (325 hp, 400 lb-ft); 3.5L twin-turbo V-6 (400 hp, 500 lb-ft); 5.0L V-8 (400 hp, 410 lb-ft); and 3.5L twin-turbo hybrid V-6 (430 hp, 570 lb-ft).

Fuel economy is a combined 16-25/22-27/19-25 mpg.

Base price is $30,635 to $66,030.

GMC Sierra 1500

GMC Sierra 1500

The 2021 GMC Sierra costs a little more than its mechanical sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado, but experts say it’s worth it, simply for its cleaner looks. Beyond that, GMC offers options such as a carbon-fiber bed and the MultiPro multifunction tailgate.

Otherwise, GMC and Chevy offer the same engines and chassis, as well as what experts call ‘dated-feeling’ interior tech and design, and a slightly disjointed and choppy driving experience. Maximum towing capacity is 12,100 lbs.

Available engines include the 3.0L diesel I-6 (277 hp, 460 lb-ft); 4.3L V-6 (285 hp, 305 lb-ft); 2.7L turbo I-4, (310 hp, 348 lb-ft), 5.3L V-8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft); and 6.2L V-8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft).

Fuel economy is a combined 14-23/18-30/15-26 mpg.

Base price range is $31,695 to $63,785.

Nissan Titan

Nissan Titan

Last year saw the Nissan Titan lineup add a new nine-speed automatic transmission, slightly tweaked styling, and a simplified lineup of cab and bed choices.

The V-8 engine gained more power with the 2021 models, as well as a larger infotainment screen and more sound-deadening to enhance its roomy interior work environment.

Still, experts say the Nissan’s driving performance lags behind those of the best trucks in the class. It can’t tow as much - at a maximum capacity of 9,350 lbs - and Motortrend said its interior technologies and materials don’t measure up. There are limited configurations available as well.

Titan is powered by a 5.6L V-8 (400 hp, 413 lb-ft) engine with a combined fuel economy of 15-16/20-21/17-18 mpg.

Base price ranges from $37,785 to $63,905.

Ram 1500

Proclaimed the 2019 Truck of the Year by Motortrend, the

Ram 1500

Ram 1500 received an overhaul that saw it become more refined, more luxurious, more well-rounded, and more technologically advanced than any other half-ton on the market, reports said.

Motortrend also tapped the heavy-duty model for its 2020 prize, and then gave the 2021 model top honors.

The powertrain lineup includes gasoline V-6 and V-8 options, a diesel V-6 that offers up to 30 mpg on the highway, and eTorque hybrid technology standard with the gas V-6 and optional on the Hemi V-8.

Whether you choose the work-grade Tradesman or opt to load up the Limited with every bell and whistle, experts say you’ll have a tough time finding a better (or, in the case of the TRX, a quicker or more powerful) truck than the Ram 1500.

Said to feature a high-quality and ergonomically friendly interior, best-in-class tech and infotainment, Ram 1500 is described as “great to drive, rides like a cloud.”

The cost of available luxuries can add up, however, and Ram 1500 trails behind the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado in towing by a hair with a towing capacity of 12,750 lbs.

Available engines include a 3.6L V-6 (305 hp, 269 lb-ft); 3.0L diesel V-6 (260 hp, 480 lb-ft); 5.7L V-8 (395 hp, 410 lb-ft); and 6.2L supercharged V-8 (702 hp, 650 lb-ft).

Fuel Economy is a combined 10-22/14-32/12-26 mpg.

Base price ranges from $33,940 to $71,790.

Toyota Tundra

Toyota Tundra

Introduced in 2007, the design of Toyota Tundra is arguably getting a bit stale. Experts say it doesn’t measure up to top-rated trucks in terms of interior technology, fuel efficiency, performance, fuel economy, or even aesthetics.

Still, it’s said to offer a comfortable ride, and comes with a standard V-8 powertrain that can tow 10,200 lbs and offers many advanced safety systems. The TRD Pro model is reportedly highly capable off road, featuring remote-reservoir dampers and a tough underside armor.

Powered by a 5.7L V-8 (381-hp, 401 lb-ft) engine, Tundra offers combined city/highway gas mileage at 13/17-18/14-15 mpg.

A fully loaded model prices out at well under $60,000, where the increasingly luxurious top-level domestic rigs are just getting started.

Base price ranges from $35,270 to $54,645.

Electric trucks coming soon

There’s no longer any doubt the auto industry’s future is electrification. There will be more gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric trucks, and full battery-electric pickups such as Ford’s new Lightning F-150.

That last category will bring a host of new companies to the industry, such as renowned Tesla, but also startups such as Rivian, Lordstown Motors and Bollinger. For a look at what those companies and more are working on, click here.

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