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7 Of The Best Midsize Truck Models: Strong & Durable

The midsize truck market offers a wide range of options. It can be tough to know exactly what you need out of a vehicle as compared to what the vehicle offers. We took a look at the best midsize trucks available and did a quick rundown of each. Read on for more details about what a midsize truck is, how to make the best choices for yourself, and which midsize truck we like the best.

PRODUCT NAME

PRICE

FORD EXPLORER SPORT TRAC

FORD EXPLORER

NISSAN FRONTIER

NISSAN FRONTIER

HONDA RIDGELINE

HONDA RIDGELINE

TOYOTA TACOMA

TOYOTA TACOMA

FORD RANGER

Ford Ranger

GMC CANYON

GMC Canyon

CHEVROLET COLORADO

CHEVROLET COLORADO

Product FAQ

1. What Qualifies as a MidsizeTruck?

Although it may seem like an obvious moniker, “midsize” means something specific in the truck world. Think about it: can you name any “small” trucks that aren't also classified as “midsize” by some? It turns out there once was a popularity of compact trucks, like the Datsun and Toyota pickups of the 1960's and 70's. As the demand for more versatile trucks grew, the “midsize” truck was a good compromise between the compact truck and the full-size working truck. 

While those compact trucks are largely a dated concept, the naming for truck sizes stuck around. The “midsize” truck of the 1980's and early ‘90's is now the smallest truck on the market, so “small” and “midsize” often refer to the same vehicles. Commonly, midsize trucks are passenger vehicles that also offer some of the capabilities of a full sized truck. They tend to have better fuel economy, smaller payloads, and smaller engines than their full-sized brothers.

2. What Are the Capabilities of a Midsize Truck?

In order to discuss the capabilities of the midsize truck, a quick explanation of “class” is in order. The US Department of Transportation has defined 8 Gross Vehicle Weight Class Rating designations for the purposes of categorizing cargo capable, road legal vehicles. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of any vehicle is the sum of its weight and cargo- this includes the frame, engine, full fuel tank, interior, etc. plus the weight of passengers and a cargo space at capacity. 


Class 1 is the smallest, with a GVWR of 6000 pounds or less, and Class 8 being the largest with a GVWR of 33,000 pounds or more. Now that we have an understanding of GVWR, we can discuss what capabilities vehicles within that class rating have. The midsize truck is a Class 1 vehicle, along with SUV's, small cargo vans, and mini-vans. 


This means that a midsize truck can be expected to perform in similar ways to these other vehicles or to have similar drivetrain and engine specifications. The main capabilities of a midsize truck are light cargo transport and passenger transport. Depending on the configuration of the vehicle, a midsize truck may be better suited to one task over the other. 


For instance, many midsize truck configurations do not offer much in the way of seating but do have a full sized bed. These trucks will, naturally, be better at hauling light loads than moving kids to and from school. Overall, you should consider your needs:

  • Payload- How much weight do you want to haul in the bed? How large does the bed need to be to accommodate commonly hauled items?
  • Towing Capacity- How much do you plan to tow?
  • Fuel Economy- How efficient do you need to be? How often and how far do you drive?
  • Engine to axle ratio- What is the best ratio to meet the needs above? (The higher the ratio, the more towing capacity and lower fuel economy)
  • Passenger accommodation- Who will be commonly riding with you and what space requirements do they have?
  • Trim level- What kind of interior features do you want?

3. What Kinds of Engines do Midsize Trucks have?

Midsize trucks are most commonly available with gasoline engines. While it may seem concerning at first glance, mid-sized trucks often have smaller engines than we generally associate with trucks. Engineering has come a long way in the past couple of decades! Modern-day six-cylinder engines perform better and have better fuel economy than older model eight-cylinders. Midsize trucks do perfectly well with the better-designed four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines. Some are available with V-8 engines, though, for those of us who need more power.

4. What Does “Best in Class” Mean?

Advertisers love to throw this around, don't they? Rated Best in Class for 2018! What does that even mean? See “What are the Capabilities of a Midsize Truck” for a quick rundown of the GVWR class designations. In short, Best in Class is a marketing term that means when a vehicle is compared to other vehicles of its kind within the same GVWR Class, it outperforms the competition in one or more areas. 

Keep in mind that most vehicles can be decked out with different trim levels and configurations, and be sure to ask exactly which configuration of a model received the accolade.

5. What Is the Average Fuel Economy of a Midsize Truck?

Fuel economy is important these days for any vehicle purchase. Gas prices are unreliable and generally on the rise. Some of us have concerns about our carbon footprint, and some of us have real concerns about shelling out hundreds of dollars at the pump! Whatever the reason, most of us want an efficient vehicle, and the “truck” is historically synonymous with “gas-guzzler.” The midsize truck, however, performs as well as the average SUV and minivan, with an average fuel economy of 20 mpg combined.

6. Where Can You Buy a Midsize Truck?

Vehicle sales once occurred only on a car-lot. These days, the internet allows you more options. While a visit to a local dealership or used-car lot is still a viable and popular option for purchasing a vehicle, websites like Carvana.com and Vroom.com offer the convenience of shopping at home. Online marketplaces only offer used vehicles due to franchise laws, but some vehicles have only hundreds of miles on the odometer and are close to new. Carvana and Vroom both offer 7-day trial periods before you are locked into your new car.

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How We Reviewed- What Makes the Best Midsize Truck?

The following products were reviewed based on the following parameters Features, Pros & Cons, Price, Where to Buy, and Warranty. We read up on each vehicle extensively, took some test drives, and asked real questions to real owners. We take our comparisons seriously, and we treated each vehicle with the level of scrutiny we would employ if we were considering a purchase ourselves.

Overall Price Range of This Product (and Similar Products)

The best midsize trucks are available between $20,000 and $45,000 dollars depending on optional features and additional specs.

What We Reviewed

  • Ford Explorer Sport Trac
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Ford Ranger
  • GMC Canyon
  • Chevrolet Colorado

Ford Explorer Sport Trac

FORD EXPLORER

Features

The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a truckified version of the Ford Explorer. As such, it has a lot in common with its SUV brother in look, feel, and capability. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac was only manufactured until 2010, but for those seeking used vehicles it is a viable solution. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is one of the best midsize trucks for families, offering ample cabin space with the added utility of a small truck bed. It is available with either a 4.0 liter V6 or a 3.4 liter V8. Both options come with an automatic 5-speed transmission and all-wheel drive.

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PROS  

  • 40 inches of head room, 42 inches of leg room
  • SUV sized back seats
  • Lots of safety features
  • Good for families looking to carry along camping gear, strollers, and other lightweight everyday objects

  CONS

  • Abysmal 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway
  • Smaller truck bed offers some utility, but not much better than an SUV
  • No longer in production, used only

Price

A used Ford Explorer Sport Trac will run from about average to high cost .

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Where to Buy

The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is only available used. Check your local used car lots, but keep an eye on classifieds, Craigslist, Vroom and Carvana for the most options.

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Warranty

There is unlikely to be an intact warranty on a used vehicle with the last run in 2010. Good luck with that!

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Nissan Frontier

NISSAN FRONTIER

Features

The Nissan Frontier makes our list of the best midsize trucks because it offers exactly what we need in a truck. There is plenty of cargo space, there is acceptable cab space, and it all comes in at a reasonable price point for a fully loaded truck. The standard available engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 171 foot-pounds of torque. The ride is smooth, the interior is comfortable and we couldn't complain about any of the features we tried out. The only issues we had were that the bed size is small and the back seat was too tight for adults or car seats.

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PROS  

  • Comfortable ride
  • Luxurious add ons
  • Towing capacity and payload are good for a 4-cylinder vehicle

  CONS

  • Fuel economy is lower. 19 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
  • Short bed
  • Tight backseat

Price

A new Nissan Frontier is available from medium to high price depending on trim level and options.

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Where to Buy

Your local Nissan dealer will be the only place to buy this new, but if you are looking to pick up the best midsize truck for you on the used market, check out Vroom and Carvana.

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Warranty

Nissan offers an industry standard 3 yr/36,000 mi basic, 5 yr/60,000 mi powertrain warranty.

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Honda Ridgeline

HONDA RIDGELINE

Features

When it comes to a modern feel, the Honda Ridgeline is easily the best midsize truck we checked out. It looks ultra sleek, has modern and luxurious trim packages, offers a super smooth ride, plenty of space for people and stuff, and keeps up with the competition in terms of power and torque. 


The Honda Ridgeline comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 boasting 280 horses and 262 lb-ft of torque. These options pair beautifully with the standard six-speed automatic tranny and front-wheel drive. For more towing and traction control, the Ridgeline is available as an all-wheel drive vehicle, bringing down 5000 pounds of towing capacity while maintaining a respectable 28 mpg highway.

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PROS  

  • Roomy and modern interior
  • Optional full-size bed, or bed extender for 5' bed!
  • 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
  • 1400 lbs of payload

  CONS

  • 40 inches of both headroom and legroom make it smaller than some
  • 3500 pounds of towing capacity is half that of the Canyon or the Colorado
  • Color options are needlessly tied to trim level

Price

The Honda Ridgeline starts at medium and amps up to high priced fully loaded. These numbers do not include dealer rebates or sales.

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Where to Buy

Honda Ridgeline can be purchased at many used car lots and at your local Honda dealer. Used Ridgelines are available online at Vroom, Carvana and Ebay.

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Warranty

Honda offers an industry standard 3 yr/36,000 mi basic, 5 yr/60,000 mi powertrain warranty.

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Toyota Tacoma

TOYOTA TACOMA

Features

The Tacoma is a comfortable ride. It has long been a favorite in the midsize truck arena and for good reason. The limited body roll, smooth ride experience sits on top of 159 horses, a 2.7 liter four cylinder and 180 foot-pounds of torque. Toyota also offers a 3.5- liter V-6 paired with a six-speed manual transmission for more power, more towing capacity, and more fun. The only downsides to this vehicle are tight cabin space, fewer trim level luxury options, and a more compact bed size.

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PROS  

  • 20 mpg city/ 23 mpg highway means you won't be at the pump every day
  • Comfortable, smooth ride
  • Engine upgrade options
  • Over 1-ton payload, 6400 lb towing capacity
  • Seats 5
  • Ample safety features

  CONS

  • Less than luxurious trim options
  • 5-foot bed limits the dimensional size of cargo

Price

The Toyota Tacoma is available for a starting price of about average. After additional features and options, the top price comes in around a bit high.

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Where to Buy

Toyota Tacoma can be purchased new at your local Toyota dealership. Used vehicles can be purchased at select used-car sales lots, Vroom, Carvana, Craigslist and Ebay.

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Warranty

A new Toyota Tacoma is backed up by a Basic Coverage Warranty for 36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. The Powertrain Coverage Warranty lasts for 60 months or 60,000 miles. It takes care of issues arising with the engine, transmission and transaxle, front-wheel-drive systems, rear-wheel drive systems, seatbelts, and airbags. The third warranty is a Rust-Through Coverage warranty which protects you for 60 months or 60,000 miles. Some states also have Emissions coverage that coincides with local emissions regulations.

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Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger

Features

Ford Ranger is one of the oldest and most trusted names in midsize trucks. It continues to be one of the best midsize trucks for good reason. Ford has put a lot of engineering time into its Eco-Boost feature, which pairs fuel economy and power. The Ford Ranger offers 310-foot pounds of torque and manages to do so with a 2.3 liter 4-cylinder.


The fuel economy is 23 mpg combined, making it the most efficient, highest torque vehicle in its class. When it comes to payload and towing capacity, the Ranger is no slouch: 1860 pounds of payload and 7500 pounds of towing capacity. This truck is, overall, the best midsize truck on the market.

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PROS  

  • Highest torque, best fuel economy combination
  • 1860 pound payload and 7500-pound towing capacity
  • Comfortable and spacious interior
  • 6' bed
  • 40-inch headroom, 43-inch legroom
  • Best size rear seat

  CONS

  • Fords do not have the longevity of some other trucks on our list

Price

A new Ford Ranger will run you between average and a bit expensive, making it one of the more reasonably priced midsize trucks out there.

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Where to Buy

Check out your local Ford dealer for a new Ford Ranger. Used trucks can be bought at your local used car dealer on online at Carvana, Vroom or Ebay.

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Warranty

Ford offers an industry standard bumper to bumper warranty for 3 years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain and paint adhesion warranties last for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

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GMC Canyon

GMC Canyon

Features

The GMC Canyon features 2.5-liter inline-four engine with 191 lb-ft of torque. It is available with a six-speed manual or automatic. To amp up the drive feel, optional 2.8 turbo-diesel engine or a 3.6-liter V-6 with an eight-speed automatic are available. Depending on how much money you are looking to spend, a decked out Canyon can be one of the best midsize trucks on the market. It has ample customization options, reliable manufacture, and plenty of space in both the cab and bed.

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PROS  

  • Lots of customization options
  • Luxurious trim levels
  • 20 mpg city and a staggering 30 mpg highway!
  • 42 inches of headroom, 45 inches of legroom
  • 6-foot bed available

  CONS

  • Tight rear seat space
  • Additional options are costly
  • Essentially a Colorado clone

Price

The base model GMC Canyon starts around slightly average and ends up at expensive price fully loaded.

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Where to Buy

The GMC Canyon can be purchased new at your local GMC dealer. Used vehicles can be purchased online through Vroom, Ebay, Carvana or Craigslist. Make sure you do your research on any used vehicle.

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Warranty

GMC stands behind the Canyon with a 3 Years/36,000 Miles bumper to bumper warranty. The drivetrain is warrantied for 5 Years/60,000 Miles.

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Chevrolet Colorado

CHEVROLET COLORADO

Features

The Chevy Colorado is very similar to the GMC Canyon. It is available in three cab-and-bed configurations, allowing for the perfect mix and match of cargo to passenger space. The standard option is a 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder with 191 lb-ft of torque. For more power, the optional are a 3.6-liter V-6 or a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel inline-four can be added. There are three transmission choices, bringing the perfect drive experience within reach. The Colorado has a sporty look to it, making it stand out as a cute truck- we aren't sure if that is good or bad. It also offers a large color range, including a very attractive blue.

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PROS  

  • Lots of customization options
  • Full sized bed available
  • 1500 pound payload, 7000-pound towing capacity
  • 42-inch headroom and 45-inch legroom
  • 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway

  CONS

  • Tight back seat space
  • Essentially a Canyon clone in terms of features and performance

Price

The Chevy Colorado starts at more than average and quickly ramps up to high price after added features and trims.

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Where to Buy

Your local Chevy dealer is the readiest option for purchasing a new Chevy Colorado. Used Colorados are available through various means, including Carvana and Vroom.

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Warranty

Chevy offers the same warranty as GMC. That is 3 yr/36,000 mile basic coverage, bumper to bumper and a 5 yr/60,000 mile powertrain limited warranty.

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The Verdict

When we compare the trucks on this list, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. The Ford Ranger offers decent fuel economy paired with excellent torque, payload and towing capacities. The interior is the roomiest of any of the trucks here, and the full-size bed will allow you to haul whatever you like. The other trucks on this list have plenty to offer, and are worth a look though. If we were to pick three of the best midsize trucks we would go with the Ford Ranger, followed by the Toyota Tacoma and either the Chevy Colorado or the GMC Canyon.