Trucks are made for hauling and towing. And the Ford F-150 has only gotten better at those two jobs over the years. As the model year number rises, generally so does the towing and payload capacity as Ford fiercely competes with its rivals. At this rate in the truck race, we'll have pickups that fly to the moon to haul rock there. Still, if you don't mind something that tows slightly less or shaving a little bit off the horsepower and torque numbers, you can find a nice F-150 in the used lot as well.
The Ford F-series is the bestselling lineup in the United States. With so many of them around, you won't have any trouble finding used Ford F-150s. In this guide, we'll help you navigate all the different generations and model years of the Ford F-150 so you can get exactly the pickup truck you want at a price you can live with.
Tenth Generation (1997-2004)
You may notice we're not starting at the beginning. The first generation of F-series trucks debuted in 1948 before most of the people reading this were even born. If you are fortunate enough to own a truck that old, our hats off to you. But you're probably going to need a different guide. The first F-150 arrived in 1975 during the sixth generation of the F-series.
But let's jump forward to the tenth generation. That was when Ford split the F-150 from its Super Duty siblings the F-250 and F-350 in a major lineup shakeup. In styling, the F-150 came into its own in a dramatic departure from the previous generation. One of the strengths of this generation is the wide variety of cab and bed configurations.
The base 205-horsepower 4.2-liter V6 engine got the generation started, followed by a 231-horsepower 4.6-liter V6 in 1999. By 2004, the Ford F-150 had a towing capacity of 8,800 pounds.
Eleventh Generation (2004-2008)
In 2004, Ford released the F-150 on an all-new platform. We would avoid that first model year because some buyers complained that the windows wouldn't roll up all the way and spark plugs would break off in the head. Later years are fine. The base engine on the eleventh generation is a 5.4-liter V8 engine. This upped the Ford F-150's towing game to 9,300 pounds, or 9,500 pounds by 2008. Oh, and don't bother looking for a two-door configuration in this generation, since all F-150s had four doors, the rear doors accessing either a row of seating or in-cabin storage.
Twelfth Generation (2009-2014)
The two-door configuration became an option again starting in 2009, but the biggest news of the twelfth generation was the entirely revamped engine lineup. The base 3.7-liter V6 engine was a marked improvement, along with the potent twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that came to be known as the EcoBoost. This generation fared much better in terms of the number of reported consumer complaints, but the 2012 model year is one to steer clear of due to a few but noticeable number of complaints regarding sudden loss of power to the engine. But those problems seem to have been largely resolved, and by the 2010 model, the F-150 can tow up to 11,300 pounds.
Thirteenth Generation (2015-Present)
The current generation is the thirteenth one. Some say Ford gambled big with aluminum, but that gamble was a good bet. The F-150 was able to shed hundreds of pounds, even while strengthening vital parts. The F-150 visibly changed, with C-shaped headlights on either side of a trapezoidal grille. The F-150 can now tow up to 13,200 pounds, when properly equipped, in line with the generally increasing numbers for this tougher and tougher truck. Consumer complaints have dropped to new lows, so you can expect good performance with very few, if any, glitches.