Ford Maverick on Desert

Budget-Friendly Small Pickup Trucks: Top Models for 2023

In the dynamic world of automobiles, the appeal of buying a small pickup truck has been steadily growing. This trend is reflected in the market projections, with the pickup trucks market in the United States expected to grow by 1.70% from 2023 to 2027, reaching a market volume of US$79,310m by the end. This growth underscores the increasing popularity of these versatile vehicles among a broad range of consumers.

As the world moves into the future, the market is teeming with options that cater to the discerning buyer who values both functionality and budget consciousness. The focus here is not just on any trucks but specifically on those that strike an impressive balance between cost, features, and efficiency.

From the robust and stylish 2023 GMC Canyon to the innovative and budget-friendly 2024 Ford Maverick, each truck has its unique appeal. Delve into what makes each model a worthy contender in the compact pickup truck arena.

The Popularity of Small Pickup Trucks

The popularity of small pickup trucks is on the rise, as evidenced by the growing market size and sales figures. According to a report from Fortune Business Insights, the total market size of pickup trucks globally was valued at USD 199.23 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to USD 299.98 billion in 2030. This will register a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period from 2023 to 2030.

This growth is driven by factors such as increased consumer preference for online shopping and high demand for fuel-efficient vehicles for outdoor activities like boating and camping. Moreover, the report highlights that North America accounted for a significant portion of the market, with a value of USD 129.24 billion in 2022. This region is expected to reach USD 187.50 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 4.8% during the forecast period.

This growth is attributed to the robust economy, higher disposable income, and evolving consumer preferences in regions like the U.S. and Canada. The demand for these trucks is further fueled by the growing e-commerce sector, requiring efficient last-mile delivery solutions and the popularity of off-road activities that favor the versatility of pickup trucks.

Benefits of Small Pickup Trucks

Small pickup trucks offer a unique combination of features that make them an attractive choice for a wide range of consumers. These vehicles are known for their fuel efficiency, maneuverability, and versatility, making them suitable for both personal and commercial use. Here’s a rundown of each factor:

Fuel Efficiency:

One of the primary advantages of small pickup trucks is their fuel efficiency. Compared to their full-sized counterparts, these trucks are generally lighter and have smaller engines, which translates to better gas mileage. This makes them an economical choice, especially for those who use their vehicles for daily commuting or long-distance travel.


Another significant benefit of small pickup trucks is their maneuverability. Their compact size makes them easier to handle and navigate through city streets and tight parking spaces. This is particularly advantageous for drivers who frequently travel in urban environments or need to access remote locations.


Small pickup trucks are incredibly versatile. They are equipped to handle a variety of tasks, from hauling equipment for work to carrying gear for weekend adventures. Many models come with customizable bed configurations and advanced towing capabilities, allowing them to adapt to different needs and lifestyles.

What do people say?

The growing popularity of small pickup trucks is not just a trend but a reflection of their practical benefits in various sectors, particularly in commercial fleets. Jeff Krogen, the vice president of Fleet Strategy for Enterprise Fleet Management, highlights the benefits of compact and mid-sized trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, and Ford Maverick. These small pickup trucks of 2016 also offer a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), greater engine availability, and fewer ordering restrictions compared to larger trucks.

Firstly, despite recent price increases, small pickup trucks remain priced well under their full-size counterparts. Compact pickups average about 30% less on similarly equipped models. This price advantage, coupled with lower depreciation rates and fuel costs, makes them a favorable choice for commercial fleets.

The availability of these small trucks has also proven to be more efficient, with quicker production times. They also offer unique toolbox configurations with shelving, sliding trays, storage bins, and more, expanding their utility for delivery and services.

With the discontinuation of the mini cargo class, fleets are looking for alternatives. Compact trucks with various cap and tonneau options have become a popular choice, offering expanded utility for diverse commercial applications.

The choice of a compact truck over a full-size model is also influenced by safety and maintenance concerns. Overweighting, a common issue with larger trucks, can lead to premature aging, safety issues, and increased maintenance costs. Compact trucks, with their appropriate sizing and capacity, help mitigate these risks.

Affordability and Budget Considerations

When it comes to choosing a vehicle, affordability is a key factor for many buyers. Small pickup trucks offer an attractive balance of cost-effectiveness and functionality, making them a popular choice for those on a budget. Here are just some of the factors that contribute to this:

  1. Lower Upfront Costs: Small pickup trucks generally have lower starting prices compared to their full-sized counterparts. For instance, the 2023 Ford Maverick XL FWD Hybrid, one of the most budget-friendly options, starts at just $22,595. This makes it an accessible option for buyers looking for a new truck without breaking the bank.
  2. Fuel Efficiency: These trucks often offer better fuel economy, which translates to long-term savings. The Ford Maverick, for example, boasts up to 42 mpg, making it an economical choice for both city driving and longer trips.
  3. Incentives and Lower Insurance Costs: Many small pickup trucks qualify for various incentives, including lower insurance premiums due to their size and safety features. This further reduces the overall cost of ownership.

The Top Budget-Friendly Small Pickup Trucks for 2023

With all that said, this year brings an exciting lineup of small pickup trucks that blend affordability with impressive features. Here are some of the best models out of 2023 trucks for budget-conscious buyers this year, with a rundown of their key features, performance, and price range.

1. Ford Maverick

  • Key Features: The 2022 Ford Maverick is a true compact pickup truck built on the “C2” platform used for the Bronco Sport and Escape crossovers. It offers a classic, upright pickup shape and is equipped with a variety of clever design features.
  • Performance: The standard drivetrain is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid system producing 191 horsepower. It also offers a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine. The Maverick can tow up to 4,000 pounds and has a 1,500-pound payload.
  • Price Range: The base model starts at $20,995, with a final price around $26,860 for other trims.

2. Hyundai Santa Cruz

  • Key Features: The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a small pickup based on crossover utility underpinnings, offering a unique design that’s more akin to an SUV with an open cargo bay.
  • Performance: It features two 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engines, with the base engine producing 191 hp and the optional turbo-4 boosting that to 281 hp. The Santa Cruz is designed for urban and suburban users with active lifestyles.
  • Price Range: The Limited AWD trim variant with the highest specs is priced at $41,500, including additional features and delivery fees.

3. Nissan Frontier

  • Key Features: The 2022 Nissan Frontier is a comprehensive redesign of its predecessor, offering a modern powertrain, new sheet metal and interior, and a more masculine appearance.
  • Performance: It comes with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine rated at 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The Frontier is designed for both work duty in fleets and personal use.
  • Price Range: The mid-level SV trim, likely the highest-selling version, starts at $35,140, with option packages that can bring the total to around $42,205.

4. Toyota Tacoma

  • Key Features: This 2023 Toyota small pickup truck stands out with its rugged design and versatile capabilities. It offers a range of features like a deck rail system, projector-beam headlights,  and front dual-zone automatic climate control (V6 only), enhancing both its functionality and comfort.
  • Performance: The Tacoma is available with a 3.5L V6 engine, delivering 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. It offers a choice of a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. With a maximum towing capacity of 6,800 lbs and a maximum payload of 1,155 lbs, the Tacoma is well-suited for both work and leisure activities.
  • Price Range: This small pickup truck from Toyota starts at a base MSRP of $28,600 for the SR model, with higher trims like the TRD Pro reaching up to $48,035. The mid-level trims, such as the SR5 and TRD Sport, offer a balance of features and affordability, with prices starting at $30,390 and $35,510, respectively.

Ownership Costs and Savings

Owning a small pickup truck can be more cost-effective in the long run compared to larger trucks. This is due to several factors, including maintenance, fuel, and insurance costs. Here’s how they impact your savings:

Maintenance Costs:

Generally, smaller vehicles, including small pickup trucks, tend to have lower maintenance costs. This is because they often have less complex mechanical parts and smaller engines. In contrast, larger trucks may require more frequent and expensive maintenance due to their larger size, more complex systems, and heavier usage.

Fuel Costs:

Small pickup trucks are typically more fuel-efficient than larger trucks. This is due to their lighter weight and smaller engines. Over time, the fuel savings can add up, making small pickup trucks a more economical choice, especially for those who use their vehicles frequently or for long distances. Just look for the best small used pickup truck in the market.

Insurance Costs:

Insurance costs for small pickup trucks are often lower than for larger trucks. This is because smaller trucks are generally considered less risky to insure. They are less likely to be involved in severe accidents and are cheaper to repair. Larger trucks might have higher insurance premiums due to their higher value and the potential for more significant damage in accidents.

Consumer Experiences

In an article from Business Insider, author Tim Levin provides an in-depth review of the 2022 Ford Maverick, Ford’s brand-new compact pickup. This review offers valuable insights into the experiences of consumers considering budget-friendly small pickup trucks.

  1. Practicality and Affordability: The Ford Maverick stands out for its practicality and affordability. Priced at $20,000, it’s the cheapest new truck available, appealing to buyers seeking pickup capability without a hefty price tag. This aligns with the needs of many small pickup truck owners who prioritize budget and functionality.
  2. Features and Comfort: The Maverick XL hybrid, despite being a base model, offers a pleasant interior and useful features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, it lacks some creature comforts like cruise control and power mirrors, highlighting the trade-offs in more budget-friendly models.
  3. Performance and Fuel Efficiency: The Maverick’s hybrid engine delivers impressive fuel efficiency, with 33 miles per gallon on the highway and 42 mpg in the city. This aspect is particularly appealing to owners who are conscious of fuel costs and environmental impact.

Levin’s experience with the Maverick reflects a common sentiment among small pickup truck owners: the appeal of a functional, affordable vehicle that meets everyday needs. The Maverick’s compact size, combined with its functionality and fuel efficiency, makes it an attractive option for urban dwellers and those needing a versatile vehicle for various tasks.

Government Incentives and Rebates

For buyers of small pickup trucks, especially those leaning towards eco-friendly models, understanding available government incentives and rebates is crucial. These incentives are designed to encourage the adoption of vehicles with lower emissions, aligning with broader environmental goals.

Both federal and state governments offer various forms of incentives. These can include tax credits, which directly reduce the amount of tax owed by the buyer. For instance, in the United States, the federal government provides tax credits for electric vehicles, which could extend to small electric pickup trucks. These credits are a significant factor for buyers considering eco-friendly options, as they can substantially lower the overall cost of the vehicle.

In addition to tax credits, some regions offer rebates. These rebates provide a refund to the buyer after the purchase of the vehicle, further reducing the financial burden. Other incentives might encompass reduced registration fees, exemption from certain taxes, or even non-monetary benefits like access to carpool lanes, which can be a significant advantage in urban areas.

The availability and specifics of these incentives vary greatly depending on the location and the type of vehicle. For example, electric and hybrid vehicles often receive more substantial incentives due to their lower environmental impact. It’s important for potential buyers to research both local and federal incentives to fully understand what is available in their area.

Fuel Efficiency and Environmental Impact

Small pickup trucks are increasingly recognized for their fuel efficiency, a significant factor in their growing popularity. According to, the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information, these trucks often feature smaller, more efficient engines and lighter frames, contributing to better fuel economy compared to larger models. This efficiency is not only beneficial for the owner’s wallet but also for the environment.

The environmental impact of vehicles is a growing concern, and some of the best small pickup trucks offer a more eco-friendly option. Their improved fuel efficiency results in lower greenhouse gas emissions and less air pollution. This is particularly true for models that incorporate hybrid or electric technologies, further reducing their environmental footprint.

Safety Features and Technology in Small Pickup Trucks

Small pickup trucks have also made significant strides in safety features and technological advancements, making them safer and more comfortable than ever before. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides comprehensive safety ratings for various vehicle models, including small pickups, on their Top Safety Picks page.

Modern small pickups are equipped with a range of safety features that were once only found in high-end models. These include advanced airbag systems, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), and a host of driver-assistance technologies like lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. These features significantly enhance the safety of the vehicle, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Technological advancements have also played a crucial role in improving the overall driving experience. The best trucks also now come with infotainment systems that offer navigation, connectivity, and entertainment options, making long drives more enjoyable. Additionally, innovations like adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, and rear-view cameras add convenience and ease to the driving experience.

The combination of these safety features and technological advancements has transformed small pickup trucks into vehicles that are not only practical and efficient but also provide a high level of safety and comfort. This makes them an increasingly popular choice for a wide range of drivers, from individuals to families.

Small Pickup Trucks: Affordable & Efficient

It is evident that smaller variants of pickup trucks offer a compelling combination of affordability, efficiency, and versatility. They stand out as practical solutions for a wide range of consumers with government incentives and rebates for eco-friendly models, combined with their inherent fuel efficiency. Looking to the future, it’s evident that these trucks will continue to play a vital role in the automotive landscape. The best trucks of 2023 are a testament to this trend, offering a range of options that are sure to appeal to a diverse group of consumers.



The Author

Scroll to Top