by Chris Chase
Mid-size pickup trucks have become more popular in the last few years. In part, that’s because these trucks offer useful towing and hauling capability, but in a smaller vehicle that’s easier to manage in daily driving than a full-size model.
Some buyers downsize in a bid to save some cash. But with pickup trucks serving as tools of the trade for many self-employed contractors and other workers, purchase price isn’t the only consideration. Maintenance and repair costs can add up quickly if you’re buying one of these workhorse vehicles.
That’s why we asked the industry experts at Vincentric to show us which mid-size pickup models cost the least to look after in the first five years of ownership.
To calculate these estimates, Vincentric looked at a range of factors that affect a vehicle’s operating costs. Those include a vehicle’s maintenance schedule, which lays out how frequently the manufacturer recommends routine items like engine oil changes and checking/replacing transmission fluid. In most cases, you have to pay for those fluid flushes even while the vehicle is under warranty.
Take the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule seriously. Skipping a recommended service can void the warranty.
Maintenance costs also include the replacement of items whose wear and tear is harder to predict. That covers brakes and tires, which wear out differently depending on how you drive the vehicle. Generally, larger tires are more expensive, so some optional tire sizes cost more to replace.
All of the trucks on this list come with five-year/100,000-km warranty coverage for major mechanical components. However, everything else is only covered for three years/60,000 km. Generally, common replacement parts are more expensive for the trucks with higher predicted costs through their first five years. Vincentric doesn’t get into the specifics of individual part costs, but they do assume an average of 20,000 km of driving annually.
Finally, Vincentric factors in an estimated dealer service department labour charge of $126/hour for the mainstream brands that sell the trucks on this list.
Some of the maintenance intervals we list here will be shorter if you frequently tow a trailer, as this puts extra strain on the truck’s mechanical components. The dealer will be able to tell you what your truck requires based on how you use it.
Here are the results of Vincentric’s close-up look at maintenance costs in the mid-size pickup truck segment.
- 2020 Ford Ranger – $5,996.27
The Ford Ranger returned to North America in 2019 after nearly a decade on hiatus. It remains the most recent addition to the mid-size truck segment, which began to rebound around 2015.
In the Ranger, a 2.3L turbo four-cylinder engine makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and powers a 10-speed transmission and standard four-wheel drive. New for 2021 is an optional Tremor off-road package.
Ford’s fuel consumption estimates for the Ranger are 11.8/9.8 L/100 km (city/highway); the Tremor is less efficient, rated at 12.1/12.3 L/100 km.
Ranger trim levels are XL, XLT, and Lariat. The first two are standard in a SuperCab body style with a six-foot cargo bed. Optional in XLT and standard in Lariat trim is a four-door SuperCrew cab with a five-foot box. Pricing for 2020 models starts at $32,159, and $32,388 for 2021.
The Ranger’s engine has an oil life monitor with a dashboard alert to tell the driver when it’s time for an oil change. At minimum, Ford says the Ranger’s oil should be changed at least every 16,000 km, and the dealer will inspect the automatic transmission fluid at the same time. The cabin air filter should be changed every 32,000 km, and the engine air filter every 48,000 km.
XL trim comes with 16-inch tires that, in theory, should be less expensive to replace than the 17- and 18-inch wheels on the XLT and Lariat trims.
Ford’s new-vehicle warranty covers the Ranger’s powertrain for five years/100,000 km, and the rest of the truck is covered for three years or 60,000 km.
- 2020 Jeep Gladiator — $6,266.27
Introduced in 2020, the Gladiator was Jeep’s first pickup since the early 1990s, and is built on the same platform as the Wrangler off-roader.
In 2020, the Gladiator was offered only with a 3.6L gas V6 (285 hp/260 lb-ft of torque); for 2021, Jeep added an optional 3.0L diesel V6 with 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic. Fuel consumption estimates are 10.8/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway) with the diesel and automatic, and 13.7/10.7 L/100 km for gas models with the automatic.
Gladiator’s starting price is $47,845 for 2020, and rose to $48,245 in 2021 for the Sport S trim. If you plan to do a lot of off-roading, consider Gladiator trim for its upgraded axles, suspension, and tires. Its price is $54,845 in 2020 and $55,245 in 2021. Note that many of the Rubicon’s upgraded parts will be more expensive to replace if they aren’t covered by the warranty.
Jeep also uses an electronic oil life monitor and says oil changes should be done every 16,000 km at a minimum. However, the company says the recommended interval shrinks to 6,500 km or 350 hours of run time if the engine is mostly run at low RPMs, at idle, or in an off-road environment.
The Gladiator’s front and rear axle fluid must be changed at 32,000 km and then every 64,000 km.
The Jeep maintenance schedule recommends checking the brake pads and suspension components every 32,000 km, and drive shafts every 16,000. The engine air filter must be changed every 48,000 km, and the A/C filter at 32,000-km intervals.
Jeep’s powertrain warranty coverage runs for five years/100,000 km, and the rest of the Gladiator is good for three years or 60,000 km.
- 2020 Toyota Tacoma — $6,677.30
Toyota introduced its third-generation Tacoma in 2016 and refreshed it for 2020. There are no major changes for 2021. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 engine, along with four-wheel drive and, in most trims, a six-speed automatic transmission. Certain packages use a six-speed manual.
A Tacoma with the automatic transmission is the most efficient, with fuel consumption estimates of 13.0/10.5 L/100 km (city/highway). Trucks with the manual are rated at 13.8/11.4 L/100 km.
Base models start at $37,450 for 2020 and $37,990 in 2021 and come with 16-inch tires. Some of Toyota’s TRD Off-Road packages include all-terrain tires on larger wheels that may cost more to replace; the same goes for upgraded off-road suspension components.
Toyota’s maintenance schedule specifies oil changes every 16,000 km using long-life synthetic oil. Every 8,000 km, the service department will inspect the engine and cabin air filters and check wear on the brakes and tires. Every 32,000 km brings a check of the suspension and steering systems and the condition of the transmission fluid. The brake fluid has to be replaced at 48,000-km intervals.
Toyota’s warranty coverage is five years/100,000 km for the Tacoma’s powertrain, and three years/60,000 km for the rest of the truck.
- 2020 Chevrolet Colorado — $7,206.91
Chevrolet last redesigned its Colorado pickup in 2015 and has made only running changes since then to the mid-size model. The current Colorado and GMC’s similar Canyon trucks were instrumental in generating renewed interest in the mid-size pickup market. The Canyon did not make Vincentric’s list of models with the lowest maintenance costs, despite differing only cosmetically from its Chevrolet sibling.
The Colorado’s base engine is a 2.5 L four-cylinder (200hp/191 lb-ft), which upgrades to a 3.6L V6 with 308 hp/275 lb-ft. The other option is a 2.8L turbodiesel four-cylinder that makes 181 hp and 369 lb-ft. Four-cylinder models use a six-speed automatic transmission, while V6 versions get an eight-speed. Drivetrains include rear- and four-wheel drive. Body styles include extended and four-door crew cabs.
Chevrolet’s fuel consumption estimates for 4WD models are 12.2/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway) with the diesel engine; 12.7/9.9 with the gas four-cylinder; and 14.0/9.9 for V6 versions. A ZR2 off-road package (offered in diesel and V6 form) uses more fuel than regular Colorado models.
For 2021, the Colorado range starts with a basic Work Truck trim level, at $27,589, or $27,098 in 2020. The 2020 lineup included a less-expensive base trim at $24,098. LT trim is where many desirable creature comforts become standard, at $30,698 for both 2020 and 2021 models.
As with most trucks on this list, the Colorado starts with 16-inch tires. However, the most popular LT model has 17s, and the Z71 and ZR2 models get more rugged tires that likely carry a premium price tag.
Chevrolet says the Colorado has an oil life monitor to tell you when it’s time for an oil change. The maintenance schedule says the dealer should at least check the oil monitor’s status every 12,000 km. If your Colorado will spend a lot of time idling, Chevrolet says an hour of idle time is equal to 33 km of driving. If the oil life monitor says it’s time to change the oil, Chevy wants you to get that done within the next 1,000 km of driving.
The Colorado’s automatic transmission fluid must be changed every 72,000 km, or sooner if you tow frequently. The cabin air filter replacement interval is 36,000 km, and the engine air filter must be changed every 72,000 km.
Chevrolet is the only truck maker on this list that covers some maintenance costs: oil changes and filter replacements are included for the first two years or 24,000 km. Otherwise, the Colorado’s warranty is good for five years/100,000 km on the powertrain, and three years/60,000 km on the rest of the truck.
- 2020 Honda Ridgeline — $7,458.43
The Honda Ridgeline occupies the number five spot in Vincentric’s list of the mid-size pickups with the lowest maintenance costs. The Ridgeline is an outlier in this segment for being built on a crossover platform shared with Honda’s Pilot and Passport models. For 2020, the Ridgeline got a new nine-speed transmission with push-button controls. As of this writing, Honda Canada hadn’t confirmed any changes for the 2021 Ridgeline, but we expect it will arrive with refreshed styling and a few other revisions.
That new nine-speed transmission comes attached to a 3.5L V6 engine (280 hp/262 lb-ft of torque) and standard AWD. Fuel consumption estimates are 12.6/10.0 L/100 km (city/highway).
The Ridgeline carries the highest standard price of any truck on this list, at $42,705 for a Sport trim that comes with 18-inch tires.
Honda doesn’t publish a set maintenance schedule for the Ridgeline, but advises you to change the oil at least once a year, or sooner if the oil monitor says so. The Ridgeline also has an electronic monitor for its differential fluid, but Honda says that if you tow, you should change it at least every 24,000 km. The engine air filter should be changed every 24,000 km.
Finally, Honda’s warranty coverage is typical of the industry, with five years/100,000 km of coverage for the powertrain, and three years/60,000 km on the rest of the truck.