The Ford F-150 is part of the F-Series, a descriptor used to cover the entire succession of Ford pickups that have been in production since 1948. Since that genesis, millions of Ford trucks have been sold. In fact, the F-Series has been the most popular vehicle sold in the United States for nearly every year of the past three decades. Originally conceived as a rugged, no-frills workhorse, the Ford F-150 has since morphed into a well-appointed, versatile pickup truck with a wide range of trim levels.
There's a lot of competition among full-size pickup trucks these days. But the F-150 is a great choice because it offers impressive mileage thanks to its lightweight aluminum body and a range of efficient and powerful engines. While previous generations offer less efficiency and power, they're still comfortable and very practical trucks.
Current Ford F-150
The full-size Ford F-150 pickup is known for its competence, comfort and customizability — offering everything from hardcore off-road performance to luxury comfort. There's a range of cab and bed-size combinations along with several engine options. Picking the right F-150 can be daunting, but buyers should be able to find the exact setup to match their needs and budget.
The F-150 is available in six trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited. A high-performance off-road version called the Raptor is reviewed separately. There are also three cab styles: regular (two-door), SuperCab (four-door) and SuperCrew (extended four-door). Regular and SuperCab trucks can be had with a 6.5- or an 8-foot bed, while the SuperCrew can be had with the 6.5-foot bed or a shortened 5.5-foot bed.
Engine options for the F-150 start with the base 3.5-liter V6 producing 282 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. A turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 (325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque) is also available, along with a 5.0-liter V8 (385 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque). These engines are all paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. At the top of the range is a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 375 horsepower and a massive 470 lb-ft of torque; it is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The V8 has a tow rating of 8,900 pounds with the standard axles and 10,800 pounds with optional upgraded axles. The maximum towing capacity with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is 12,200 pounds.
Trim levels range from the utilitarian XL to the Western-influenced King Ranch to the luxurious, fully loaded Limited. Basic equipment includes 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, a cloth-upholstered 40/20/40-split folding front bench, and a four-speaker stereo with a 4.2-inch display screen. Trailer sway control and pre-wired trailer connections are also standard, and 4x4 models get front tow hooks. Moving up through the trims nets buyers a host of both practical and luxury extras, from leather upholstery, power seats, heated front and rear seats, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, parking sensors, a rearview camera and more.
Optional extras include an off-road package, side steps and power steps, a trailer hitch and a trailer backup assist system, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, spray-in bedliners, power-folding and heated mirrors, power-adjustable pedals and much more.
In reviews, we were impressed by the high towing and payload ratings, the comfortable cabin, the extensive convenience and safety technology, and the performance from each of the engines. On the downside, the nature of the turbocharged engines makes it difficult to match the optimistic EPA ratings. Buyers looking for a basic work truck will do well with the XL, and those who need to move passengers should give the XLT a look. Ultimately, the F-150 is one of our favorite all-around trucks, and most buyers should be able to find a version that fits or exceeds their needs.
Used Ford-150 Models
The current generation of Ford F-150 was introduced in 2015 and represented a radical, if subtle, change for the model. The dimensions of the truck remain the same, but the body is now made from aluminum rather than steel, making the truck some 700 pounds lighter. Ford also added a new turbocharged V6 to offer improved fuel efficiency.
The previous generation (the 12th F-Series generation overall) was produced from 2009 to 2014, and it offers much of the same equipment and experience as the current generation. The 12th-generation truck was available in no fewer than nine trim levels: the base XL, sporty STX, well-equipped XLT, rugged FX2/FX4 models, luxurious Lariat, Western-inspired King Ranch, and the opulent Platinum and Limited variants. A 3.7-liter V6, a 5.0-liter V8 and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 were all available for this generation. All were mated to a six-speed automatic.
In reviews, we found the F-150's interior to be comfortable and quiet, but its ride and handling to trail that of, at the time, newer competitors. The powertrain lineup provided performance ranging from adequate to downright thrilling. For just about any truck buyer, a used F-150 will be an excellent choice, but keep in mind that there is plenty of stiff competition.
Compared to earlier F-150 generations, the generation starting in 2009 boasts updated styling, an updated interior and new features, including the Sync voice-command system, a navigation system, and a full complement of airbags as standard equipment.
It's worth noting that the 2009 and 2010 trucks did not have the more powerful engine lineup found in the 2011 and later F-150s. Those earlier powertrain choices consisted of a base 4.6-liter V8 (248 hp), a high-output 4.6-liter V8 (292 hp) and a 5.4-liter V8 (310 hp). The 248-hp 4.6-liter engine came with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the more powerful 4.6-liter V8 and the 5.4-liter V8 had a six-speed automatic. Given the truck's heft, either of the more powerful V8s will make better choices than the base engine, and we recommend buyers looking for a truck from this generation start their search with the 2011 model year. Other than minor equipment shuffling, changes have been minimal since.
The 11th-generation F-Series was produced from 2004 to 2008. This F-150 was available in a variety of trim levels and body styles. The XL was the basic truck, and the STX offered a few additional features, but the volume-selling XLT provided the best bang for the buck. You'll also encounter the off-road-oriented FX4 trim level, the sporty FX2 (in 2007), the luxurious Lariat, the even plusher Lariat Limited (for 2008) and the thematic King Ranch and Harley-Davidson editions. During this truck's run, available engines included a 4.2-liter V6 (202 hp), a 4.6-liter V8 (231 hp) and a 5.4-liter V8 (300 hp). In 2007, the 4.6-liter V8 got a power upgrade to 248 hp. Harley-Davidson models had a supercharged V8 that cranked out 450 hp.
Almost all variants from 2004 to 2008 had a four-speed automatic transmission, but the V6 came standard with a five-speed manual. All F-150 trim levels and body styles could be configured with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, although the FX4 trim came standard with four-wheel drive.
In reviews, we found this F-150 generation to be an improvement over previous generations. Ride and handling were excellent, and the interiors were attractive and functional for the time. Acceleration and braking, however, were lackluster, and we often found the F-150, even with larger engines, to be underpowered relative to the competition. The truck's heft and old-school four-speed transmissions didn't help.
The earlier 1997 to 2003 F-150 model wasn't as refined as the 2004 to 2008 model, but it was a capable truck. When it debuted, its smooth exterior styling was a dramatic departure from the previous angular F-150s. Cab styles, trim levels and powertrains were an improvement over the pre-1997 models. Engines included a 4.2-liter V6, a 4.6-liter V8 and a 5.4-liter V8. In 2000, the first Harley-Davidson edition was released. The King Ranch trim and the crew-cab body style were introduced in 1998. In 1999, the high-performance Lightning version, which had been added in 1993 but discontinued in 1997, reappeared.
Before 1997, F-150 models placed utility first and luxury second. These trucks were available in two body styles and a few trim levels. The XLT Lariat was typically the top trim until the Eddie Bauer trim debuted in 1995. Main engines choices were a 4.9-liter inline-six, a 5.0-liter V8 and a 5.8-liter V8.