Off-roading can be a great adventure, but you need a truck with the right features to get through the worst terrain and, more importantly, have the most fun. See our list of the best off-road trucks chosen by our experts and find out what off-road equipment will make traveling off-pavement safer and smarter.
What are the Best Types of Trucks for Off-Roading?
That large “4×4” sticker on the bedside of so many new pickup trucks means it has serious 4-wheel-drive (4WD) capability, right? Sometimes, yes, that’s true. And other times, it’s not that simple. Before we get the finer details, let’s start with some broad strokes. What does 4WD really mean and how is it different from all-wheel drive (AWD)?
Cars, SUVs, and trucks with AWD are great for on-road traction. They can drive on dry, wet, or slippery pavement seamlessly and the driver can trust that the system will deliver torque to the wheels that need them. So how does AWD work? Most systems proportion torque fore and aft to the front and rear differentials when slip is detected. These systems are somewhat fluid in the way they split up the vehicle’s torque. And that’s important for pavement driving because it makes the system’s moves nearly transparent to the driver.
These systems are wonderful for snowy roads or the occasional dirt two-track. “On snow and ice, AWD does a really good job of balancing lateral traction with forward traction,” says Dave Harriton, President of American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), a premier builder of parts and complete vehicles for off-road expeditions.
The range of AWD capability varies quite a bit between manufacturers. Most systems are active all the time, meaning you will have AWD traction without turning a knob or placing the vehicle in a special mode setting. However, some systems do have modes like “snow” or “slippery” that can optimize the system for various conditions and adjust other vehicle controls like the throttle mapping, vehicle stability control, ABS, and traction control to match. And manufacturers can calibrate their traction control system to make AWD vehicles fairly capable dirt performers.
Every new AWD vehicle has a traction control system that will use the brakes to slow a spinning tire and send torque to another tire that may have traction. Some systems work better than others. Manufacturers like Jeep, Subaru, and Toyota offer AWD vehicles with enhanced capability for traveling off-road. These automakers use more sophisticated electronic controls and stability control systems better suited to off-road travel. Some of these systems can tackle rougher conditions than a typical AWD vehicle. But as good as they are, most AWD systems have limited capability for serious off-roading.
“On pavement, all four wheels typically have equal weighting so AWD works well”, says Harriton. “But in off-road conditions that’s not the case. As soon as the suspension flexes and one tire gets light, all the power will typically go to that tire.” And if the vehicle’s stability control system isn’t programmed to react quickly and strongly enough to reroute torque effectively, you’re stuck.
Part-Time 4-Wheel Drive
Part-time 4-wheel-drive systems do two things that AWD systems cannot do. First, they have the ability lock the drivetrain into an equal torque split between the front and rear axles. Second, they provide low-range gearing to help the vehicle crawl over rough terrain. When both of these features are combined it adds up to serious traction capability. And though we’re referring to this type of 4WD system as “part-time,” there are plenty of part-time systems that have an AWD mode — so you’ll have that effortless foul-weather traction, too.
But when faced with a difficult off-road obstacle, AWD will struggle to send torque fore and aft to slipping tires. Some systems will even overheat while trying to limit slip and route torque to wheels that have traction.
By shifting the system (with a button, knob, or lever) into 4WD high range, each axle receives an equal serving of torque and that can really boost traction. This locking function creates the best traction driving off-road. But 4WD high range should only be used when off-pavement or in deep snow because otherwise it can negatively affect the vehicle’s handling, bind up the drivetrain, or create excessive tire wear.
“You can feel that lack of a differential between the front and rear axles when you’re going around a corner on dry pavement,” says Harriton. “And what you’re feeling is also hard on the vehicle. You don’t want to drive on dry pavement with a part-time 4WD system engaged.”
When the trail gets really rough, part-time 4WD systems typically offer additional gearing accessed in a “4WD low range” or “4 Low” setting. A typical 4WD pickup truck has a low range around 2.7:1, but a highly-capable Jeep Gladiator Rubicon has a low range of 4.0:1, allowing it to creep very slowly. Harriton says, “Generally the lower the low range ratio is, the more off-road oriented the vehicle is.”
That gearing acts as a torque multiplier, so you’ll have the engine’s full power band available but the tires will be turning much more slowly. It’s the key to slow-speed off-roading like traveling over large rocks or through deep sand or mud.
“You really want a 4×4 with low range because it gives you more fidelity in terms of off-pavement control,” says Harriton. “You can pull your tire right up to a rock and then ease up onto it at engine idle speed or close to it.”
And, he says, using low range can really reduce heat and stress in the drivetrain compared to high range. Low range can be smart to use even in situations that at first don’t appear to be that difficult.
“I’ve seen people drive out onto the beach and they won’t use 4WD low range because they don’t think the terrain is difficult,” says Harriton. “But when they start spinning the tires, struggling through the deep sand, and building up a lot of heat in the drivetrain, they might ruin a brand new transmission. If they had just put the truck in 4WD low range, they’d be fine.”
A standard 4WD truck will certainly get you far. But larger and more aggressive (knobby) tires are perhaps the most transformative off-road option you can select when buying a new truck.
The standard wheels and tires on most 4×4 trucks are mild in their sizing and tread design. This means they handle well on pavement while providing a quiet, comfortable ride and good fuel economy. But the standard tires don’t typically offer the height, traction, or durability off-roaders need.
The optional tires available from the factory are usually a small step in the right direction.
“Off-road tuned original equipment tires in practice end up having to juggle a lot of requirements and strike a lot of compromises,” says Woody Rogers, V.P. of Marketing for Tire Rack. “And that makes them fine for mild off-roading but not well suited to anything more than that.”
The OEM optional tires will usually have a tread pattern that offers a little more traction. And the overall diameter could be taller too, which will increase the ground clearance underneath the vehicle and keeps the mechanical bits clear from scraping on rocks, dirt mounds, and logs.
Should You Consider Aftermarket Tires?
Tires in the aftermarket can offer a much wider breadth of capability. There are plenty of great all-terrain tires that walk a nice line between added dirt traction and good road manners as well as winter grip.
“A good aftermarket tire will give you a traction improvement in mud and across rocks and in sand. In most cases sidewall and tread durability are improved as well,” says Rogers. “The chip and tear resistance in the tread is enhanced, too.”
Whether you move to the optional OEM tires or go for a new set of aftermarket tires, pay attention to the wheel size. Generally, a smaller wheel size is better for off-road use. So if given the option, go for the largest diameter tire on the smallest diameter wheel size. In other words you want a thick, cushy sidewall for off-roading, not a low-profile one.
“A smaller wheel with more sidewall height really improves the ability of the tire to conform to irregular surfaces like rocks,” says Rogers. “And it gives you more latitude when you want to air down for traction.”
The online forums about your specific vehicle can be a great source for tire knowledge. In terms of sizing, forum members can let you know what tires hit and which ones fit specifically in off-road scenarios. And they might have personal experiences with certain tires that could be helpful too.
Must-Have Off-Road Features
This is a great time to buy an off-road-focused truck. That’s because there’s some fantastic off-road equipment and technology that can be ordered individually or bundled into an off-road-specific package. Here are the features that are most valuable when you venture off the pavement.
Selecting a larger and most aggressive tire from the factory will often increase ground clearance and help make the most of your 4-wheel-drive truck’s performance on the trail. But keep the wheel size in mind. A 32-inch tall tire on an 18-inch wheel is better than a 32-inch tall tire on a 20-inch rim for off-road work because there’s more sidewall available to conform to obstacles.
“Bigger wheels look really cool but it’s not really that practical for going off-road,” says Rogers. “Less sidewall height puts the wheels at greater risk along with the sidewall itself from a pinch or cut situation.”
These are thick, protective sheets of steel or aluminum mounted to the frame on the undercarriage of the truck. They are located in spots to specifically cover vulnerable components like the radiator, transmission, differential, fuel tank, and more from taking on damage while off-roading. Some protection packages are better than others. The Chevy ZR2 Bison, developed by AEV, has five super-strong skid plates with an optional sixth.
“In general, I’d say skid plates are definitely worth it if you plan to take the vehicle off-road,” says Harriton. “They really protect components in a major impact.”
Hit a higher-speed trail in a stock 4×4 and the ride might get very bouncy very quickly. That’s especially true in desert environments. Most manufacturers offer upgraded dampers (shock absorbers) as part of an off-road package. But some are better than others.
The very best ones allow for a smoother ride at much higher speeds over rough terrain than a standard truck can handle. These dampers are better at managing heat, which can degrade a shock’s performance.
“It pays to know what type of terrain you plan to drive on and what dampers are included in the package,” says Harriton. “Look for larger reservoirs for cooling, and larger diameters in the shock body which will slow the fluid down and can indicate the dampers have bigger, beefier components inside.”
A part-time 4WD system is really only 2-wheel drive if you have open differentials in the front and rear axles. That’s because the tire with the least traction will slip first. To make sure your 4×4 has all four wheels pulling when the trail gets tough, opt for selectable locking differentials in the axles. On many vehicles this feature is integrated into an off-road package. At the push of a button, these diffs can electronically lock for difficult trails. Push the button again, and the diffs are open (unlocked) and ready for street use.
“There’s no real downside to having factory selectable lockers, except for cost. It’s probably the single best upgrade you can have for any sort of off-road performance,” says Harriton. “Just having a rear locker is about 70% of the improvement, because you typically need lockers when climbing and the weight transfers to the rear axle.”
Disconnecting Front Swaybar
All new vehicles have front swaybars to add handling stability and counteract body roll when driving on pavement. But these swaybars can limit the flex and movement of the front suspension when driving off-road. That can result in a tire spinning or lifting off the ground as it hunts for traction. Swaybar disconnect systems unlock that additional suspension movement, creating more traction, improved ride comfort, and the ability to tackle harder trails.
“It’s a pretty amazing device. It makes a huge difference off-road for increasing articulation,” says Harriton. “To be able to keep the tires planted over uneven terrain and then still allow excellent on-road manners is very impressive.”
A winch mounted on the front of your truck can help pull you out of trouble when your truck is stuck and no one else is around to offer a yank from a tow strap. The best part about buying one from the factory or through your dealer? Often times they’ve been crash tested to make sure the winch system conforms to stringent safety regulations. Ford offers a dealer-installed winch on its Super Duty Tremor. Chevrolet offers one on the ZR2 Bison. Every Ram Power Wagon comes with one factory installed.
It’s an expensive but valuable piece of equipment. “A winch can be a real lifesaver,” says Harriton. “But there are a lot of nuances to safely using a winch. We offer our customers training on recovery techniques using winches and other devices. A winch is one of those pieces of equipment that you really need to understand before using it.”
The alternative to using a winch? Always head onto the trail with a friend in another 4×4 and bring along a recovery strap in case either vehicle needs to get unstuck.
Our 2021 List of Best Off-Road Trucks
1. 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Starting Price: $42,600 | Rating: 4.1
In the world of midsize pickups, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is one of the most capable and versatile. The ZR2 package features a 2-inch taller suspension with increased wheel travel thanks to a wider track. This helps the truck tackle off-camber and rocky terrain without losing grip. Special dampers from Multimatic offer greater high-speed damping control. They can take a pounding without overheating, so this is one truck that can handle higher-speed desert 4-wheeling.
The ZR2 excels at slow-speed crawling thanks to the selectable front and rear locking differentials and more aggressive tires. In his review of the ZR2 Bison, KBB’s Matt Degen said: “The one time we were close to getting stuck, the ZR2 Bison’s locking diffs worked like off-road magic. Combined with the truck’s low-range 4-wheel-drive, once engaged the locking diffs made short work of the loose dirt to easily extract us.”
The ZR2 is available with a powerful 3.6-liter gas V6 engine or torque-rich diesel for increased efficiency and range — great for long-distance off-road camping thanks to its 20 mpg average combined rating. See Chevrolet Colorado models for sale near you
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2. 2021 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Starting Price: $54,535 | Rating: 4.5
The Power Wagon nameplate is the granddaddy of off-road pickups with roots that stretch back to the 1940s and WWII. Like the original, today’s Power Wagon is a heavy-duty workhorse. It’s based on the Ram 2500 pickup and is the ideal truck for owners that need a pickup that can handle work and play. The Ram’s off-road toolbox is full of tech.
KBB contributor Colin Ryan says, “The Power Wagon, based on the Ram 2500, is the off-road specialist of the range. It deploys an ingenious suspension with a disconnecting anti-roll bar, 360-degree camera system, and a Warn winch with a synthetic line.”
The Power Wagon comes standard with a strong 6.4-liter V8, too. However, this isn’t the truck you might select for high-speed desert driving. It’s better-suited for creeping along slower-speed trails. See Ram 2500 models for sale near you
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3. 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Starting Price: $64,145 | Rating: 4.4
The Raptor is a full-size light-duty pickup truck that excels at higher-speed off-roading. “The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor, available specifically as a SuperCrew model with a short bed, continues as a tremendously capable off-road pickup, but it has been improved in several notable ways,” says KBB’s Andy Bornhop. The new Raptor has a suspension with even more wheel travel (15 inches of overall movement in the rear and 14-inches up front). And it’s all managed by beefy Fox racing shocks.
This is a truck designed to swallow up big bumps at speed and take a lot of abuse, yet ride smoothly on pavement. The newly optional 37-inch tires make sure there’s plenty of ground clearance, too. The Raptor’s intelligent modes and locking rear and optional limited-slip front differentials also make the truck an admirable slow-speed off-roader. The 450-horsepower twin-turbo V6 certainly makes for rapid acceleration. But a Raptor R is reportedly on the way with a supercharged V8 and a big increase in horsepower. See Ford F-150 models for sale near you
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4. 2021 Ram TRX
Starting Price: $71,690 | Rating: 4.5
Ford owned the extreme off-road pickup truck category for many years with the Raptor. No more. Last year, Ram unleashed the Ram 1500 TRX, a high-speed off-roader that can finally take on the legendary Ford. The TRX’s supercharged V8 offers incredible acceleration on road or off thanks to the full-time 4-wheel-drive system (there’s no 2WD). KBB’s Allyson Harwood says, “If you are ready to speed through sand washes in a purpose-built truck, you have a new full-size pickup to add to your wish list. The supercharged 6.2-liter 702-horsepower engine in the Ram 1500 TRX is a beast, far surpassing the Ford Raptor’s 450.”
With a beefed-up frame, long-travel suspension (13 inches in the front and 14 inches in the rear) with all-new Bilstein E2 dampers and tall 35-inch tires, the TRX has a natural ability to gobble up miles of desert. There’s an electronic locking differential in the hefty new Dana 60 rear axle, too. However, the front axle has no traction adding device. So rock crawling may not be the TRX’s strength. But with a fording depth of 32 inches, the TRX is built to handle plenty of other hardcore scenarios. In fact, this could be the ultimate mud running truck. See RAM 1500 models for sale near you
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5. 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor
Starting Price: $40,995 (XLT) | Rating: 4.4
The midsize truck segment is heating up when it comes to off-road performance. Ford’s new Tremor package for the Ranger (there’s a similar Tremor package for the F-150 and Super Duty, too) adds a lot of great off-road equipment at a fairly economical price. The Tremor package, which works out to a $5960 upgrade on XLTs (another option package must also be specified), can be added to any XLT or Lariat Ranger and brings a slightly taller suspension with more wheel travel and Fox dampers, 32-inch tall tires, a locking rear differential, and a wider stance. That equipment helps create nearly 10 inches of ground clearance and improvements in angles of approach and departure.
The Tremor package isn’t so extreme that the Ranger’s on-road personality is compromised. In fact, the ride and handling are actually improved over the standard truck. The sole powertrain, a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic, is still plenty potent — making for a very fun truck in the dirt. KBB contributor Colin Ryan says, “The steering is direct and responsive, helping to make the Ranger feel more like a midsize SUV from behind the wheel, rather than a bulky truck.” See Ford Ranger models for sale near you
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6. 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Starting Price: $44,320 | Rating: 4.0
Even the lowest Jeep Gladiator on the price ladder has off-road capabilities that exceed most midsize pickup trucks. That’s because the Gladiator basically uses a stretched Wrangler chassis with a durable solid-axle suspension at each end that flexes well across difficult terrain. For those that want to take on rougher trails, Jeep offers the legendary Rubicon as well as the Mojave off-road spec packages. And both packages are the same price.
The Rubicon is geared for slow-speed trails and the Mojave for higher-speed ones. KBB contributor Colin Ryan says, “The Mojave and Rubicon models have wider tracks, bringing extra stability, plus locking differentials (rear in the Mojave, front and rear for the Rubicon) and specialized suspensions from Fox, a well-respected third-party supplier. The Rubicon underlines its off-road credentials with an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar for optimum axle articulation.”
Indeed, these models have just about every off-road tech tool — standard. Options include all-terrain or mud tires as well as a choice of manual and automatic transmissions. And there are three engine options: a potent 4-cylinder turbo, a V6, or a diesel. The Gladiator Rubicon is easily the most capable slow-speed midsize pickup available. See Jeep Gladiator models for sale near you
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7. 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Starting Price: $44,235 | Rating: 4.6
Toyota pickups are known for their reliability and long life. But they also carry a strong reputation for off-road capability. Toyota offers a great TRD off-road package with larger tires, improved shocks, and an electronic locking rear differential. But the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro model, which costs about $10,000 more, features a further upgraded suspension. This suspension carries slightly more height with slightly more wheel travel, along with Fox dampers. The suspension upgrade is modest but delivers big dividends when you hit the desert with some speed.
This is a truck that performs equally well for high-speed off-roading and slow-speed technical challenges. And speaking of those, Toyota’s Crawl Control comes standard here. It’s an off-road cruise control system of sorts that makes short work of tough climbs. TRD equips the Pro with an excellent front skid plate, so it can take a beating. And every Pro model uses Toyota’s smooth V6.
KBB’s Matt Degen says, “With 278 horsepower on tap, the 3.5-liter V6 moves the Tacoma with brisk bursts of acceleration and also enables it to tow up to 6,800 pounds.” Toyota says the 2022 TRD Pro model will be even more capable with a taller suspension, even more wheel travel, and enhanced clearance. See Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you
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8. 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4
Starting Price: $54,700 | Rating: 4.2
The GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 and its close cousin, the Chevy Silverado 1500 Trail Boss, are currently the most capable full-size pickups GM makes. These packages come with a 2-inch lift and 32-inch Goodyear Duratrac tires as well as the Z71 and X31 (for GMC) grouping of parts. The Z71/X31 package includes Rancho shocks, a 2-speed transfer case, locking rear diff, skid plates, hill descent control, high-capacity air cleaner, and an integrated dual exhaust. They also lose the low-hanging air dam for better clearance.
It’s a solid package that fits nicely in between a more extreme Raptor or TRX and a standard-issue 4×4 pickup. The ride quality on road and off is smooth and the chassis has just enough off-road capability to have fun in the dirt. The GMC AT4 comes standard with a 5.3-liter V8. And it can be optioned with the efficient (26 highway mpg) 3.0-liter turbo-diesel straight 6-cylinder or the stout 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8.
KBB’s Matt Degen says, “Our test model was fitted with the excellent 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, the Sierra’s top-of-the-line engine. This big V8 has a healthy growl, and power off the line is smooth and quick. The 10-speed automatic offers quick response when you accelerate, and power delivery is easy and rewarding. Shifts are smooth, not jumpy, and can be quickened when you engage the Sport drive mode.” See GMC Sierra 1500 models for sale near you
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9. 2021 Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor
Starting Price: $52,320 | Rating: 4.8
The Ford F-Series Super Duty is America’s most popular heavy-duty pickup. But until recently, there was no serious off-road package to complement the truck’s rugged personality. Last year, Ford launched the Tremor package as a $3,975 option for XLT-and-up Crew Cab short box Ford F-250 and F-350 trucks. Opting for the Tremor brings a slightly taller and re-tuned suspension with upgraded shocks, big 35-inch tall tires, an electronic locking rear differential, and a limited-slip front differential. Plus there’s plenty of skid plating.
Kelley Blue Book contributor Colin Ryan says, “A fording depth of 33 inches and a rock-crawl mode makes a Tremor-equipped Super Duty into a real off-road warrior.” The package requires an upgrade to the larger 7.3-liter 475-horsepower gas V8. It’s also available with the Power Stroke diesel engine, which makes the Tremor quite a bit different from the Power Wagon. It also means the Tremor can handle much more payload and a much heavier trailer. So as a capable off-roader that can haul a serious load, the Tremor is in a class of one. See Ford F-250 models for sale near you
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10. 2021 Ram 1500 Rebel
Starting Price: $49,620 | Rating: 4.5
You can think of the Ram 1500 Rebel as the more sedate and sensible older brother of the TRX. The Rebel is a great deal because even though it lacks the 702-horsepower engine and advanced long-travel suspension of the TRX, the Rebel is an excellent performer off-road. The Rebel package includes a 1-inch-taller suspension with Bilstein dampers. Its optional adjustable air suspension works great and really separates this truck from any other light-duty 4×4. There’s an absolutely massive skid plate up front, and it’s a strong one. The Rebel has an electronic locking rear differential and nice, low 3.92:1 gearing on most models turning fairly aggressive 33-inch tall tires. A V6 is standard but either a burly 5.7-liter V8 or light-duty diesel are both optional.
Kelley Blue Book’s Andy Bornhop says, “The 5.7-liter V8 with 395 horsepower is paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Buyers also can opt for this same torquey pushrod V8 but fortified by Ram’s eTorque mild-hybrid option. With this system, the alternator is replaced by a motor/generator that can store energy or add it for better acceleration, economy, and passing.” The Rebel works well in the dirt to be sure but isn’t so specialized that it compromises on-road ride and handling. This is one truck that’s easy to live with as a daily driver. See Ram 1500 models for sale near you
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5 Great Used 4x4s
Older 4x4s have a number of advantages over brand-new trucks. First, they are inherently more affordable. Yes, the prices of used vehicles are high these days. But they’re still cheaper than going for a new truck and taking an immediate hit when the rig rolls off the dealership lot. Secondly, if the truck already has a few dents and dings, you won’t mind as much if it picks up a few more on the trail. And third, because it’s used there may be some worn parts that are in need of an upgrade. That gives you a good excuse to spend some of the money you saved on some more aggressive tires and other goodies.
1. 2016-2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD
Fair Purchase Price: $36,605 (2019 Tacoma TRD Off-Road)
The current Toyota Tacoma has been around since 2015. For each of those model years, the company has offered a TRD Off-Road package. The package includes an electronically locking rear differential as well as skid-plating and Bilstein dampers. When it comes to ground clearance, the 265/70R16 all-terrain tires provide almost 10 inches under the front skid plate.
At times, the 3.5-liter V6 can feel like it needs more torque, but this is generally a smooth, quiet V6. And on the street, we have few complaints. The Tacoma is an excellent platform for moderate off-roading and because they are so popular, the aftermarket offers loads of parts and upgrades for them. And because Tacomas have a solid rep for quality and reliability, you have the peace of mind that your new used truck won’t spend most of its life in the repair shop. See Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you
2. 2015-2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
Fair Purchase Price: $36,239 (2020 Frontier Pro-4X)
The midsize Nissan pickup of today hasn’t exactly innovated like its peers. The Frontier was been in service relatively unchanged from the 2005 model year until 2021 when it received a new powertrain. So there are plenty of Frontiers to look for. The Pro-4X model is the one to get for off-road work. Like the TRD package from Toyota, the Pro-4X offers Bilstein shocks and large 265/75R16 tires. The suspension isn’t raised but it does ride amazingly smoothly on road and off.
The Frontier’s frame structure feels very robust. Pro-4X trucks had skid plates for the oil pan, fuel tank, and transfer case, plus an electronically locking rear differential. The torquey 4.0-liter V6 is great off-road, too. The soft suspension, large squishy tire sidewalls, and excellent traction make the Nissan a lot of fun in the dirt. Around town, the Frontier has steering that feels heavy combined with a wide turning circle. The interior is a little dated compared to newer trucks, but find one that has most of the options and you won’t miss much. See Nissan Frontier models for sale near you
3. 2015-2018 Ram 1500 Rebel
Fair Purchase Price: $43,625 (2018 Rebel)
The original Rebel was only around for three years before Ram came to market with the current model. But that Rebel is an excellent 4×4. Every one of these trucks comes with an air suspension that was taller than the optional air suspension on every other Ram. That 1-inch ride height boost made room for 33-inch-tall 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country A/Ts. These tires have a nice thick sidewall that makes them excellent for off-road use. Rebels also have a smaller diameter rear sway bar, a unique steering tune, and Bilstein shocks at each corner. The only thing missing from the package is an electronically locking rear differential. A rear limited-slip is optional.
Most Rebels came packing the powerful 395-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 hitched to an 8-speed automatic and turning 3.92:1 gears. That’s a recipe for one quick truck. And to our eye, this generation of Ram has some of the coolest truck styling of the period. The Rebel is one excellent driving package that’s smooth-riding on the street and surprisingly capable off-road. See Ram 1500 models for sale near you
4. 2010-2014 Ford F-150 Raptor
Fair Purchase Price: $23,912 (2010 Raptor Super Cab)
The original Ford Raptor was so innovative and so unexpected, it may end up a collectible 4×4 someday. The original Raptor was seven inches wider than a regular F-150 which, along with new A-arms and wider axles, allowed it to have over 11 inches of wheel travel up front and over 13 inches in the rear. And the motions are controlled by internal bypass Fox Racing Shocks. In addition, this generation of the Raptor came with an electronic locking rear differential as well as an off-road mode. The earliest models came with a 5.4-liter V8. But most trucks used the much-improved and more potent 6.2-liter V8.
Our pick would be a SuperCab over the longer Super Crew to boost nimbleness and speed on the trail. And we’d hunt down one painted that original Molten Orange Tri Coat. Speaking of speed, these trucks are capable of gobbling up long stretches of rough desert terrain without breaking a sweat. Just don’t push it to race-truck speeds — YouTube is littered with videos of old Raptors paying the price for too much throttle. See Ford F-150 models for sale near you
5. 2013-2018 Ram/Dodge Power Wagon
Fair Purchase Price: $24,478 (2013 Power Wagon Tradesman)
The modern-era Dodge Power Wagon hit the off-road scene for the very first time back in 2005. It was an immediate hit with 4-wheel-drive enthusiasts, thanks to the taller suspension, 33-inch tires, locking differentials, and that innovative swaybar disconnect system. The second generation of the model hit in 2010 with fresh bodywork. But the equipment remained similar including a heavy-duty Warn electric winch. Under the hood was a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 383 horsepower paired to a 5-speed automatic. The chassis is raised 2 inches to clear taller tires. It uses electronic locking differentials in each axle and a disconnecting front swaybar. Later models received a 6.4-liter V8 with over 400 horsepower.
In 2013, the Power Wagon went to a coil-sprung rear suspension and a new front suspension design with increased flex. In 2017, Ram added the sweet optional retro “Macho” Power Wagon graphics which looked so right on the flanks of these big trucks. The only real downside to the Power Wagon in terms of capability is the small-ish 33-inch tires. This is a truck with very large axles riding underneath. So this is a truck that could use more clearance. The good news is Power Wagons can fit a larger tire without lifting the truck. So buy a used Power Wagon, install some slightly larger tires, and hit the trail. See Ram 2500 models for sale near you