Ask TFL: Which Is the Most Reliable Off-Road Truck?

Does it really take a manufacturer many years to work out the bugs?

2021 toyota tundra trail edition 4x4 reliable

On this “Ask TFL” segment, Ed brings up a question of reliability when it comes to well-equipped full-size 4×4 trucks. Here is the question.

Ed writes: “I love Reliability… yet Toyotas are boring. I love beautiful interiors and a nice ride, yet RAMs are gas guzzlers and their reliability is questionable. I love the concept of a GMC AT4, yet the ‘old’ interior is only available in black. Ford’s new 2021 truck seems interesting, yet it is also very questionable. It’s new, and they usually need a few years to iron things out. I would love your suggestion as both an on and off-road truck that’s comfortable, and has high luxury, technology, and ultra-high reliability.

It sounds like Ed wants a fairly luxurious 4×4 pickup truck that has exceptional reliability. Naturally, reliability is a very difficult subject to get to the bottom of. One place with detailed data that is always freely available is the (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) government site. NHTSA performs their own crash and safety evaluations, but they also track vehicle recalls and aggregate owner complaints.

Here is a look at the most popular 2020 crew cab 4×4 half-ton trucks that are sold in the United States with their recall and complaints information. This data is from

Yes, every vehicle ever made has had a recall or a formally filed complaint at one time or another. How does this help us to find the most reliable pickup truck? It’s just a guide. We need to look at the total number of complaints, the severity of the recalls, and how wide-spread these recalls are. As just one example, the 2020 Ford F-150 lists a recall for a rearview mirror. The image may be distorted, or the camera becomes inoperable. The overall severity of this issue is not very high, but this recall affects 620,246 trucks and SUVs – which makes it annoying to a large number of people. The 2020 Toyota Tundra has a wide-spread recall for a fuel pump that may fail while driving. This type of failure has a higher severity. The 2020 Nissan Titan has zero recalls, but Nissan sells far fewer Titans than Chevy sells Silverados.

Does it really take a manufacturer many years to “work out the bugs” on a new generation of a truck? I would say this description no longer applies to a brand new vehicle. It’s often the case, that new generation of vehicles keep major components from previous generation of trucks. For example, the 2021 F-150 keeps most of its engine components and the 10-speed transmission from the 2020 F-150. Any truck of any year will continue to have some bugs to work out or not.

If you love technology and comfort in a 4×4 truck, the current Ram 1500 Rebel is difficult to beat. Is the Ram Rebel reliable? We owned a 2019 Rebel for over a year and nearly 21,000 miles. It did not let us down, although it was not as efficient as the EPA ratings suggested.