When it comes to buying a truck, the first question is usually: Is it reliable? This is critical for many consumers since they use their trucks for work or as a tool. Pulling together data, here are the most reliable full-size trucks in 2020.
Before we get to the results, we should explain how we got to the findings. Like we mentioned, we used the two sites to compare the different reliability results. We also looked at 2016-2020 model years. While these trucks have relatively less miles on them, looking at the past 5 model years — including the 2020 year — allows us to see initial quality problems as well as trucks with several thousand miles on them. This helps balance out which ones are the most reliable 2020 full-size trucks.
For Carcomplaints.com, we ranked them not only on the amount of problems consumers reported but also the total number of recalls. While recall data is hard to measure since one recall can span multiple years, we decided to add up all the recalls and come up with one total. This makes it fair for all the trucks to the best of our ability. Keep in mind, recalls can affect only one vehicle to as many as hundreds of thousands. This means take the total recall number with a grain of salt.
On the Consumer Reports data, we complied the reliability data for the past 5 years and translated this information into a grade.
First on our list isn’t a surprise to many truck fans. The Toyota Tundra ranks high on just about every reliability survey we have found and this is due to its very reliable engine and transmission.
Also, add in the fact this engine/transmission combination hasn’t changed much in the past 13 years and the truck really hasn’t changed much since 2007, and you have a winning formula for placing high on reliability rankings.
While the recent change of the transmission oil cooler removal on towing package equipped Tundra trucks has some fans questioning the reliability of the truck, it is hard to see Toyota engineering creating a problem rather than fixing one.
One final note is the argument can be made the lower sales volume also helps with the Tundra’s reliability. Just something to keep in mind.
Total Recalls: 18
Consumer Reports Grade: A
Coming in second is the Nissan Titan. Like the Tundra, the lower sales volume is probably helping its reliability score, but our findings do point to a pretty reliable truck.
For example, looking closer at the 2018 model year, which has the most complaints, we see many of the problems are really minor. The complaints consist of one seat issue, one gas pedal not responding, one paint issue and a collection of similarly one-complaint issues.
With the same engine, producing more power, and new 9-speed transmission for the 2020 model year, along with a collection of interior improvements as well as exterior changes, it is hard to see the Nissan Titan reliability dropping drastically anytime soon. This is to say as long as the 9-speed transmission proves reliable.
Finally, you maybe wondering where the Titan XD ranks. We have it ranked within the Titan since it doesn’t really fit as a 3/4 ton truck. We hear there were some transmissions issues which have been ironed out and overall it is pretty good.
Total Recalls: 11
Consumer Reports Grade: B
With low sales volume trucks occupying the top two spots, it isn’t a surprise to see the GMC Sierra in third place as the last of the low volume full-size trucks. This truck sells considerably less than its GM brother, the Chevy Silverado, and this — along with a proven history of small-block engine dependability — help it achieve a high ranking.
For the last few years, the complaints have been focused on the transmission, not the engine. Owners have had a lot of issues with the 8-speed automatic transmission leading to even a class-action lawsuit over it.
A quick note, looking at the spikes in 2014 and 2015 and we can see they are all related to poor lighting.
Overall, the GMC Sierra has been a pretty reliable truck and the new 10-speed automatic transmission coming in 2019, replacing the 8-speed in certain truck models, should help bolster this reliability ranking as well as give consumers peace of mind.
Total Recalls: 15
Consumers Reports: C
The Chevy Silverado comes in fourth and is the first among the volume sellers. Redesigned in 2019 with a radically different exterior, new models like the Trail Boss and the new 10-speed transmission, the truck has done pretty well out the gate for sales keeping pace with the rest of the market even during a down year like 2020 due to COVID-19.
Like the GMC Sierra, the 8-speed transmission is the main issue owners are seeing with the half-ton truck. Looking at the 2017 model year specifically, the majority of the complaints by far are about the transmission. Again, with the new 10-speed transmission coming for the 2019 models, co-developed with Ford, this will hopefully address those issues.
The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines also see a slight update in 2019 with a new Dynamic Fuel Management System (DFM) replacing the Active Fuel Management (AFM) System — basically a system of deactivating cylinders when not needed. The latter AFM system was reported by many owners to consume oil. We have yet to hear of similar issues with the DFM.
Also, a new 2.7-liter, turbocharged engine as well as 3.0-liter Duramax diesel join the engine lineup, and it is too early to tell how they are going to play out for reliability. Although, the wet belt driving the oil pump has some shoppers concerned about the diesel.
Total Recalls: 19
Consumer Reports: B
Next on our list is the Ford F-150. This truck has become synonymous with the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker and it is their bread and butter. With numerous different varieties of the F-150 as well as multiple engine and transmission choices, Ford fans love how you can really order a truck to fit your needs/wants.
With this said, as well as the fact Ford rolls a new F-150 off its assembly line every 53 seconds (yes, 53 seconds!), you would expect the truck not to rank as high as the lower-volume trucks due to these factors.
Contributing to this reliability as well was a faulty electronic throttle body controller causing the 2016 models to have a higher amount of issues than the next few years. This part became such a common issue to replace on the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 engine, owners learned how to replace it on their own spending around $60-$100. There are several YouTube videos showing how to replace it.
Moving beyond the 5.0-liter V-8 throttle body issue, we see the EcoBoost lineup of engines has actually performed fairly well for reliability throwing cold water on the faces of its many critics. While an early on issue with the water getting sucked into the engine through the intercooler was addressed, the engines have seen less issues since.
Overall, engine issues, though, continue to hamper the truck as well as problems with a warping dash, Sync issues and a smattering of other items.
With a new 2021 model on the horizon with a new PowerBoost hybrid system leading to a multitude of changes for those trucks, the 2016-2020 model years might seem like a safer bet while the bugs are worked out of the new trucks.
Total Recalls: 45
Consumer Reports: C
Rounding out our list is the Ram 1500. This truck has long been plagued with reliability issues and is continually on the bottom of most such lists. However, there are some important things to note.
First, the majority of issues throughout the years have been related to transmission problems. The fact is Ram, and parent company FCA, tried to build their own reliable transmission, and it just never worked out. Enter ZF Transmissions and its very reliable 8-speed transmission, which Ram has been using since the 2013 and 2014 model years for some models. This transmission single handedly resolved many of the Ram 1500 reliability issues.
Second, Ram pushes the bar the most with technology, air suspension and their 5-link coil suspension amongst all truck makers. The multitude of changes to their trucks since 2013 is staggering when you go back and look at it. These many changes and additions are ultimately going to lead to more reliability issues.
Also, they were the first with a half-ton diesel engine option, the EcoDiesel, and the first iteration of this engine in the U.S. had a lot of struggles with the EPA forcing Ram to restate performance numbers as well as quality issues.
With a new EcoDiesel, the reliable HEMI 5.7-liter V8 engine and a new hybrid setup for the 3.6-liter V-6 as well as the V-8 on dealer lots as well as the exceptional interior and exterior design, the Ram 1500 is one of the top trucks on everyone’s list. Also, their reliability rankings are starting to see improvement.
While the Ram 1500 is on the bottom of this list, it wouldn’t surprise us to see this truck steadily move upwards on future reliability lists.
Total Recalls: 54
Consumer Reports: B
The truth of the matter, when it comes to reliability, is you can end up with a lemon no matter how much research you do.
Choosing a truck that has historically had fewer problems and fewer recalls might provide fewer headaches for you down the line. However, if the heart wants what the heart wants, being forewarned is forearmed. So, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
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