Pickup Truck Prices

An interesting consumer benchmark.

The discussion section to Wednesday’s post “Making It Worse,” exploring the reasons that brands once known for producing high-quality products gradually shifted to lower-quality products, touched on a lot of issues but somehow devolved from people no longer being willing to spend what it costs to buy a pair of high-quality, American-made boots but somehow still being willing to pay big money for pickup trucks that are larger and more luxurious than they really need.

That led me to doing some quick search on the evolving pickup truck market and, sure enough, the prices have gone up rather considerably over the years—well beyond that which would be explained by inflation (at least, as measured by the Consumer Price Index) alone.

Writing at The Drive just before the COVID pandemic sent used car prices through the roof, Caleb Jacobs examined “Here’s How Much the Ford F-150 Has Increased in Price Over the Decades.”

We’re taking a look way back to the original Ford F1 half-ton from 1948 for this comparison, since that’s the modern truck’s closest equivalent. Even adjusted for inflation, trucks ain’t as cheap as they used to be—far from it. In fact, base pricing for a current-generation F-150 is significantly more than double that of the aforementioned F1. Then again, when you consider everything you get on modern trucks—from safety equipment and emissions gear, to features that make it basically a rolling office that can tow many times its own weight—it does make some sense.  

These prices all represent the entry-level models for the first year of each generation. Original MSRPs are provided by the National Automobile Dealers Association, and the inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ official online tool is reflected in italics.

  • 1948 Ford F1 (First Generation): $1,279 – $13,836.62
  • 1953 Ford F100 (Second Generation): $1,362 – $13,128.14
  • 1956 Ford F100 (Third Generation): $1,577, – $15,087.06
  • 1960 Ford F100 (Fourth Generation): $1,972 – $17,256.28
  • 1967 Ford F-100 (Fifth Generation): $2,237 – $17,433.23
  • 1973 Ford F-100 (Sixth Generation): $2,889 – $17,387.85
  • 1980 Ford F-150 (Seventh Generation): $5,697 – $18,774.76
  • 1986 Ford F-150 (Eighth Generation): $8,373 – $19,587.47
  • 1991 Ford F-150 (Ninth Generation): $11,967 – $22,795.45
  • 1997 Ford F-150 (10th Generation): $17,875.00 – $28,806.05
  • 2004 Ford F-150 (11th Generation): $17,900.00 – $24,781.06
  • 2009 Ford F-150 (12th Generation): $22,000 – $26,714.92
  • 2015 Ford F-150 (13th Generation): $26,615 – $29,198.64

Ford suggested a retail price of $1,279 for the introductory F1 truck some 72 years ago, which equates to $13,836.62 in today’s money. For that, you got a 226-cubic-inch inline-six and a three-speed manual gearbox. Work capabilities seem modest, especially when pitted against trucks from this century, as the ’48 F1 had a GVWR of just 4,700 pounds. In other words, you’d better not be hauling too much around the farm.

Later generations progressively grew larger and more comfortable for everyday use. Options like a 390-cubic-inch Lincoln Y-Block V8 became available for the second-gen, while displacement was honed in later down the line. One fairly constant option has been the 5.0-liter V8 which was introduced in 1967 and is still available today, albeit severely overhauled.

The first crew-cab F-Series truck—by far the most popular configuration in today’s world—was rolled out in 1965, but wouldn’t make its way to the half-ton until 1980 with the “Bullnose” generation. 

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned more than once, the four-door, full-sized pickup truck is far and away the vehicle of choice for my students, most of whom are mid-grade military officers. They’re considerably more expensive than the base models–many upward of $70,000. They’re enjoyable enough to drive but are gas guzzlers and a giant nuisance in the parking lot—both if driving one* or trying to navigate around them.

CarGurus has an listing of what F-150s from every year going back to 1975 are going for on the used market. They fluctuate rather wildly on a 30- and 90-day basis, let alone over the course of a year. For whatever reason, the 1982 model is up 139.52% year-over-year, going for $23,950 as of today. The 1997 model is, for whatever reason, a comparative steal at $5979–less than half the cost of the 1996 model and almost $1200 less than the 1998.

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*I owned a smallish Mazda B-2000 pickup from my days as an Army officer through my first job out of grad school, roughly 1989-1996, and it was no more unwieldy than a four-door sedan. I’ve driven the modern crew cabs a handful of times, including a roughly three-week stint as a loaner vehicle when my minivan was in the shop.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    In a previous millennium, I owned a 1948 Chev 3/4 pickup. Straight 6, 4 speed, 0-50 in a half day, braking same. Recently drove a neighbor’s F150, and My Dawg, that thing was huuuugggggeee. If it hadn’t been for the sensors a cameras, I’d have had zero idea where the corners were.

    ETA – wtf is up with a 40 year old truck costing 4x what it was NEW????? You punk kids get offin my lawn!

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    As late as 1983 a friend of mine bought a small Toyota pickup truck because it was the only new car he could afford. It was thousands of dollars cheaper than, say, a Corolla. Interestingly, when I searched for a picture of one, every single image showed the truck jacked up, and most had expensive restorations. So there must still be a fan base for what was a very bare bones vehicle. If I remember correctly, it didn’t come with a radio, or perhaps it was optional.

    I was out walking yesterday and came upon a guy standing next to his new-ish Dodge pickup, and I almost laughed out loud. The race to see who can make the most ridiculously huge and cartoon-like grill is in full swing. It’s happened gradually, but once you see it you can’t un-see it. I’m willing to bet I’ve hauled more construction material on roof racks attached to normal cars then most of these life sized Tonka truck owners have ever hauled in their ridiculously small beds.

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  3. @MarkedMan: Agreed about the grills. They are ridiculous.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    People often compare today’s oranges to yesterday’s apples. Health care costs a lot more than it did back when. But you’re significantly more likely to survive a heart attack today, ditto cancer, and meds now give boners to old men, and antidepressants to old men who no longer care if they get a boner. And even lazy, self-indulgent people who can’t be bothered to moderate what they eat can shoot up some Mounjaro and lose weight.

    As for cars, I get that some older cars are beautiful, but unless forced by circumstances, why would you drive an older car? I have an SUV that does zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds and crumple zones and airbags if I lose control from going zero to sixty in 4.4 seconds. Also, it gets bitchy if I try to change lanes into some other car and I don’t think it will even let me run over a pedestrian. Cameras everywhere, radar, run-flat tires, more entertainment than I can manage, and unlike cars I used to own, it won’t rust out in five years.

    Not everything works like computers, which have become more affordable. We demand a lot more, we get a lot more, and it’s more expensive.

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  5. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: I did laugh out loud a few years ago when I passed on I-75 a maybe 5′-4″ blonde housewife type driving all alone in the biggest Land Rover. As an engineer the 150 lb payload in a 5,000 lb vehicle struck me as hilariously incongruent.

    I believe Freud is no longer current in psychology, but it appears, and I have read articles to this effect, Freud still drives truck and SUV marketing. Mine’s bigger than yours. I sit looking down on you. And the grills are designed to look macho and threatening. (And are a big driver of pedestrian/cyclist deaths.) I drive an old Mazdaspeed3 with a grill explicitly designed to look like a smile. Mine’s not bigger than yours, it’s more fun. I used to have plates that read SEGRIN. James notes that part of the price increase in pickups is size, tow capacity, interior appointments, electronics, etc. Which is basically saying there’s a lot of marketing inflation on top of monetary inflation. As you note, PUs were once a cheap basic transportation option. Now they’re ostentatious “luxury’ vehicles. And parodies of a 1948 working truck.

    James, your pupils, driving 70K PUs, are what, Colonels? Pay above “blue collar”. The original discussion was not about inflation, but that despite inflation “blue collar” types still manage to buy a modern equivalent of ostentatious cowboy boots. One wonders how much hauling and towing your officer students do.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR10: Mostly majors but, yes, they make low six figure incomes. And I often joke that they all moonlight as construction workers.

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  7. Andy says:

    My dad bought a first-generation Chevy Blazer in 1971, one of the first “SUV’s” He gave it to me many years ago, and I’m in the long (and expensive) process of restoring it. Back then, it was just a modified Chevy pickup.

    Tagging onto what Michael said, the trucks of yesteryear are very different from the trucks of today, just like an “SUV” today is very different from my classic Chevy Blazer in almost every way. They are more expensive adjusted for inflation today because you’re getting a lot more.

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  8. MarkedMan says:

    Probably worth pointing out that modern pickup trucks are almost perfectly designed to kill other people when they are in an accident. Check out this list of 2017-2021 cars most deadly to other drivers:

    Rank Model Other Driver Deaths per Million Registered Vehicle Years
    1 Ram 3500 Crew Cab Long Bed 189
    2 Dodge Charger 164
    3 Ford F-350 Crew Cab 147
    4 Ram 2500 Mega Cab 154
    5 Kia Optima 134
    6 Kia Rio 133
    7 Ram 2500 Crew Cab Short Bed 122
    8 Ford F-250 Crew Cab 120
    9 Dodge Charger 105
    10 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Short Bed 104

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  9. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: About what one would expect, and this is other drivers, not pedestrians/cyclists. But Kia Optima and Rio? How’d they get on this list?

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR10: My thoughts exactly! It’s not like they have spears on the front!

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR10: Looking at pictures on the innertubes, they look to be more pull the pedestrian/bicyclist under the wheels designs than push them up onto the hood ones. But that’s just my guess.

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  12. steve says:

    My first pickup was a C-10, my last one was an F-150. The C-10 really drove like a truck and its only amenity was a radio. The F-150 drove like nice, but large car and had all of the amenities that our cars had. Cars now last twice as long. Not sure about pickups but would expect the same. The F-150 also got a lot better gas mileage. Not good but better.

    Steve

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  13. Carmakers have been pushing these extremely large pickups in part because even the entry level models and city cars(Like the Fiat Panda, Toyota Aygo or the late Ford Fiesta) are lasting longer and people are keeping it for longer.

    So, even if these large gas-guzzlers packing the parking lots are bad they are there in part because of a very good thing for consumers as a whole.

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  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @steve:.. Not sure about pickups but would expect the same.

    I bought a new ‘92 F-150 Super Cab with an 8 ft. bed. 6 banger gasoline motor with an automatic transmission. Fitted it with an aluminum camper shell with ladder rack, loaded it up with tools of the trade and a 28 ft. fiberglass extension ladder and put it on the job. After 13 years, 14 states and 320,000 miles I parked it for the last time. The only major repairs were a new head gasket and since I did not properly maintain the automatic transmission it had to be rebuilt after the first 100,000+ miles. Don’t remember how much that cost just that it was a lot of money. I religiously maintained the transmission after that. At 300,000+ miles I took it back to the independent shop that had done the rebuild for an inspection. When I told the guy that he had rebuilt the transmission 200,000 miles earlier he looked at me and said: “Rebuilds don’t usually last that long.”
    I guess I got my moneys worth.

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