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Thinking about cutting loose in the great outdoors? Be sure to check out our list of the best used off-road pickups to get you there without breaking the bank.

Off-Roading On a Budget

Off-road pickups are the original automotive Swiss Army knife. Adding rough road gear to a regular pickup truck blends daily driving duty and workaday utility with the ability to get lost on an off-the-grid adventure. Automakers typically offer a range of trims or factory packages that allow owners to handle everything from fire road camping trips to full-on desert racing. These days, new vehicles are exceptionally expensive and the 4×4 focused kit often sits on the pricey end of any truck spectrum. So, here are some options on the used market to get your off-road pickup truck kicks.

Ford F-150 Raptor

2011 Ford F-150 Raptor - netcarshow
2011 Ford F-150 Raptor - netcarshow

Believe it or not, Ford has been making the Raptor for over 10 years now, and what a ride it’s been. First unveiled in 2010, the fact that any automaker would offer such a bonkers getup under warranty had enthusiast jaws dropping. That first-gen Ford F-150 Raptor ran until 2014 and arguably set the bar for how wild a factory pickup could get. Using the bones of their venerable F-150, Ford set to creating a pickup ready to tackle any unpaved surface. Part of the appeal of these original Raptors is that they were developed by Ford’s Special Vehicles Team and so, sport SVT badging. Absorbed, along with Ford Racing, into the Ford Performance umbrella in 2014, SVT was known for their low production, factory hot rod approach making them sought after vehicles. Later Raptors do not carry this badge of high performance honor.

2013 Ford F-150 Raptor 6.2L V8 - carsforsale.com
2013 Ford F-150 Raptor 6.2L V8 - carsforsale.com

Another noteworthy aspect to the early F-150 Raptors is the naturally aspirated V8 rumbling under their hood. For the first year, a 320-horse, 5.4L version was used but look for the later 6.2L V8 setup cranking out 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. Second and third-gen Raptors sport turbocharged mills that, while impressive, can’t match the big V8 for pure aural pleasure. Encouraging owners to indulge in full sending of their Raptors are the Fox Racing internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs and 2” factory lift that allows for 11” of front suspension travel and 12” out back. The unmistakable look of a Raptor is due to the 7” wider track over a typical F-150, the better to fit those 35” all-terrain tires and bulging fenders. A locking rear differential and “full off-road” mode that silences electronic nannies furthers the Raptors’ penchant for 4×4 shenanigans. All of this put together makes for an exciting option when shopping for a used off-road pickup truck.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2016 Toyota Tacoma - pressroom.toyota.com
2016 Toyota Tacoma - pressroom.toyota.com

Lovingly referred to as the “Taco”, Toyota’s Tacoma pickup truck is a long running nameplate with a reputation for bulletproof durability. TRD, short for Toyota Racing Development, has been applying their brand of factory-approved, off-road kit to the Tacoma for more than 20 years with a range of capability. The third-generation of this midsize pickup began in 2016, so there are ample opportunities for a solid used off-road pickup that benefits from the Tacoma’s latest model improvements like added High-Strength Steel in the frame. Enthusiasts will appreciate the availability of a 6-speed manual transmission, paired with the more potent V6 engine, which allows for careful control in low-speed situations.

2016 Toyota Tacoma - pressroom.toyota.com
2016 Toyota Tacoma - pressroom.toyota.com

TRD Pro sits atop the Tacoma off-road trim ladder for good reason. Fox internal bypass shocks with remote reservoirs soak up as many bumps and thumps as you can throw at them. The 1” suspension lift helps with that as does the thicker anti-sway bar. A TRD-branded front skid plate protects from rocks while LED fog lights keep the trail illuminated. Plus, a catback exhaust adds some zip to the exhaust note. Inside, drivers can turn the Multi-Terrain Select knob for preset driving modes like Mud and Sand or Loose Rock as well as electronically activating the locking rear differential. There is also a Crawl mode that manages low-range throttle and braking while the driver steers through the roughest bits.

Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

Power Wagon is a nameplate dating back to big military trucks from the 1940s capable of taking on the toughest terrain. It was an apt name then as it continues to be today, especially on a 2019 Ram 2500. Benefitting from the all-new fifth generation Ram Heavy Duty platform that launched that year, a used Ram Power Wagon looks the off-road part with the equipment to back it up. A thumping 6.4L V8 is under the hood with 429 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to power through the sticks and stones. A 2-speed transfer case and locking differentials on both axles ensure maximum traction.

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2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

Bilstein dampers are fitted at all four corners and the 33” all-terrain tires lend a hand in the overall 2” lift and resultant 14.2” of ground clearance, enough to ford 30” of water. The rear axle is beefed up with a larger 11.5” ring gear, a bevy of skid plates protect the underbody, and an extra joint is added at the front upper axle mount. Ram calls it “Articulink” and in combination with the electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, it allows for 26” of front wheel articulation. Should you manage to get this beast stuck, a 12,000 lb WARN winch is fitted to the front bumper to free things up.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison - media.chevrolet.com
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison - media.chevrolet.com

Introduced in 2019, a used Colorado Bison has all the best off-road bits and the ability to go where the full-size pickups can’t fit thanks to its mid-size scale. The ZR2 model is already a capable dirt roader with its trick Multimatic DSSV dampers, factory 2” suspension lift, and 3.5” wider track versus a standard Colorado. A gas-powered V6 is standard, but opt for the available Duramax turbodiesel with its 369 lb-ft of torque for unstoppable low-speed crawling along with the longer range that comes from its improved fuel efficiency.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison - media.chevrolet.com
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison - media.chevrolet.com

To convert the ZR2 into a Bison, Chevy collaborated with renowned off-road manufacturer American Expedition Vehicles. They lent their expertise to create hot-stamped, ultra-strong boron steel skid plates that protect the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and the locking differentials used on both front and rear axles. Stamped steel bumpers up front and out back feature winch provisions, fog lights and integrated recovery points. 31” Goodyear DuraTrac off-road rubber sits under bigger fender flares and provides some cushion for when you’re working out the 8.6” of front suspension travel and 10” in the back.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

No off-roading vehicle discussion would be complete without a Jeep and fortunately, when that conversation centers specifically on used off-road pickups, Jeep gets to participate. While the Gladiator and its extra-capable Rubicon trim are “new” as of 2020, the Gladiator name dates back to the mid-60s. It was a highly competent off-roader then and it’s only gotten more so today, especially when it comes to those all-important angles. As in, a relatively steep 43° approach angle and 26° breakover angle, both of which are easier to line up with the off-road camera up front.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

Beefy 33” tires are standard on the Gladiator Rubicon as are Fox dampers and full undercarriage skid plating. When the going gets especially tough, the front sway bar can be electronically disconnected via dashboard button. The 2-speed transfer case enables 4×4 high and low ranges while a Crawl feature makes low-speed traversing of rocky roads that much easier. Locking differentials are fitted front and rear with steel rock rails along both cab and bed to keep the body from getting wrinkled. There’s also an Off-Road+ button that does the “thinking” by automatically optimizing vehicle systems to best manage climbing over boulders, slogging through mud, or whatever other challenging terrain you can think of for this used off-road pickup to tackle.

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Niel Stender

Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his 1990 Cherokee and 1989 Starion, so it’s not surprising that he would put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Hampshire to use in the car world as a vehicle dynamics engineer. Now engineering sentence structures, his writing infuses his auto experience with his time in marketing and his sales experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he focuses on some of the more technical mechanical systems that are found under the hood and throughout a vehicle.

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