Consumer Reports 2021 least reliable full-size trucks; GM dominates?
When shopping for a new full-size truck, one of the primary questions is if it will be reliable since trucks are often kept longer than other vehicles. This idea and a recent news report from Consumer Reports led me to compile this list of 2021 least reliable full-size trucks.
If you are a GM fan, you may want to skip this story.
How the 2021 least reliable full-size trucks list is created
Each year, Consumer Reports releases a list of the most and least reliable vehicles for the upcoming model year based on previous survey results. This year, the least reliable vehicle list included 10 models with the 2021 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra and the smaller, mid-size Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon added to this list.
In fact, the Silverado was at the top of the dubious list.
The rest of the list included various SUVs. I dug a bit deeper into the data from Consumer Reports and came up with the 2021 least reliable full-size trucks ranking. This data is comprised of 329,000 survey responses from owners representing an average of 200-300 responses per vehicle models according to Consumer Reports.
Finally, the list included from 2000-2020 model years with the survey asking for problems in the past 12 months to determine the 2021 reliability prediction. With trucks largely using the same parts year after year, even through a new model is being launched, this can be a fairly good gauge on reliability — at least for the first few years of ownership.
Let’s start with the least reliable and work our way up to the most reliable from those survey responses.
5. Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra
At the top of our least reliable list are the full-size GM twins, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Consumer Reports gave them the lowest grade possible pointing out problems with the transmission, brakes and in-car electronics (infotainment system) among other items.
I dug into this data and was surprised I couldn’t narrow down the specific problems and what exact transmission they were referring to. The video on this post lays out my research.
The fact is the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra can be purchased with a dizzying variety of engines and transmissions such as the often criticized 8-speed transmission. This makes the Consumer Reports data hard to narrow down for consumers. My best advice is to shop for the 10-speed transmission since it is the newest and I’m not hearing negative things. Yet.
4. Ford F-150
The best-selling full-size truck on the market, per my calculations based on sales reports, the Ford F-150 also has the distinction of offering the most variety of cabin configurations, engines and bed lengths as well as option groups. In my view, this makes the third place ranking quite a surprise.
Why? More sales and more variety often add up to more quality issues since you are offering so many different versions and selling so much volume. The fact is, nobody wants to buy a lemon or a problem-plagued truck. However, it does happen, and the odds are higher with more volume and options.
Ford has started the move to narrow down some options and is using its new 10-speed transmission across the board cutting down on powertrain variety. This is a good thing in my book, and my expectation is quality will continue to improve even with the sales volume.
3. Nissan Titan
The other non-Detroit 3 truck, the Nissan Titan, is next on our list. This truck made a big splash with a much larger model, as well as a Cummins-powered diesel XD model, being unveiled in 2015 for the 2016 model year.
For the last few years, quality has been pretty good on these trucks from my understanding, and its ranking on our list isn’t a big surprise to me.
It has been slightly refreshed for the 2020 model year with addressing several of the key criticisms including a sun roof, more trim differentiation through different grilles and other small details. I expect to see this truck remaining high on most reliability reports.
1. Toyota Tundra (Tied)
The long-time gold standard for reliability, the Toyota Tundra tied with the Ram 1500 as the 2021 most reliable truck.
Now, there are two ways to look at this.
First, the Tundra is currently the oldest truck on the market in terms of when it was refreshed. The thinking, then, is most of the bugs have been worked out by now and while this is likely true, Toyota also has a solid reputation for quality and this truck has always scored well in that regard.
Second, you could actually make the case it has fallen in regards to tying with the Ram 1500. What I mean is: Ram’s quality has been so bad for so long, it now pulls Toyota’s quality down by tying with the brand.
With Toyota dropping its transmission cooler for the 2019 and 2020 model year, I have to wonder if this factored into the survey responses. Time will tell if that decision will pan out.
1. Ram 1500 (Tied)
This is a bit of a surprise with so many recent changes for the Ram 1500 truck including a whole new infotainment system, new 48-volt battery-powered, belt-driven motor generator (aka eTorque system) and many other improvements.
As one of the historically worst performing brands for reliability, the Ram 1500 has started seeing signs of improvement with a surprise victory from J.D. Power’s inital quality study.
Also, playing a huge role in the improvement is the 8-speed ZF transmission Ram started using in 2013, which was their Achilles’ heel for reliability.
With sales rising and more miles getting put on the 2019 models, we are going to be curious to see how next year’s report looks.
The bottom line on the least reliable full-size trucks
Be an informed consumer. Predicted reliability of a new model is just that, predicted. A guess really.
As you shop for a new truck, keep this list in mind as well as many others that we have covered below. Then, add your own thoughts to the list. This is the best way to choose the best truck for you.