7 classic trucks and SUVs under $20K
The collector-vehicle market’s pandemic boom may be over, but the classic truck and SUV market is still very competitive, with plenty of ’60s and ’70s models commanding high values. But what about those of us who want a vintage truck or SUV—and have a tight budget?
Short answer: There are still many collectible trucks and SUVs that remain affordable.
We combed through our latest valuation data looking for classic trucks that could serve as weekend workhorses or, on week-day evenings, project vehicles. Each needed to have an average value—across all engine options in a given generation—under $20,000, for an example in #3 (Good, or daily-driver) condition*. We also focused on the ’70s and ’80s, rather than the ’60s, hoping to include a few more creature comforts.
Here are seven vintage trucks and SUVs that fit the bill.
*Want to know more about our vehicle-condition rating system? Click here.
Average #3 (Good) value: $14,129
Nobody could have foreseen the wild special-edition models that Dodge would come up with its all-new pickup that launched in 1972. The Lil’ Red Express, Warlock, and Macho Power Wagon were just some of them.
Despite these ’70s Mopar pickups’ vast potential as muscle trucks or simply as weekend project machines, they remain affordable in 2wd trim. A Magnum small-block, plentiful at just about any wrecking yard, would make a fantastic swap that would add power and, depending on your camshaft choice, even fuel economy. Even the later ’80s models, including 4×4 versions, fit our sub-$20K budget.
Average #3 (Good) value: $17,198
Dodge was a little bit late to the full-size SUV market, coming in years after Jeep and Chevrolet had already joined. Dodge took the same approach Chevrolet did with the Blazer and built a four-seater with a removable top.
The second-gen Ramcharger looked much the same but gained a non-removable steel top, making the earlier ones more desirable thanks to the convertible crowd. Besides the shorter wheelbase and the removable top, everything else about the D100 applies to the Ramcharger, making it an excellent project vehicle.
Average #3 (Good) value: $11,429
The eighth-generation F-Series that debuted for 1987 was a mild refresh and its styling has aged very well, in our opinion. This was the generation before the first F-150 Lightning, which arrived in 1993, but more workaday F-Series of the late ’80s were still available with 302- or 351-cubic-inch V-8 engine options that used an instantly recognizable EFI intake similar to that on the iconic 5.0-liter found in the contemporary Mustang.
Extra power is just a cylinder head and cam swap away. With tough underpinnings, clean body lines, and durable, powerful Windsor V-8 engine options, these F-150s have everything a truck buyer could ask for. As a bonus, companies like National Parts Depot and Classic Industries offer an array of restoration parts to make your F-Series look as good as new.
Average #3 (Good) value: $11,640
Chevy’s long-lived “square-body” was available with at least a dozen different front-end and grille designs, and that’s not counting its GMC counterpart. Under the hood, you could find an array of powerplants, ranging from inline-sixes to diesel V-8s and small- and big-block gas V-8s.
The last of the square-body pickup run, in 1987 when the generation was actually dubbed R10, added throttle-body injection. If you can’t find the square-body with the look you are after, the aftermarket can help you build it; those fenders, hoods, and grilles are all interchangeable.
We’ve seen a mild resurgence in the popularity of this generation of Chevy and GMC pickups among truck enthusiasts as ’70s and ’80s nostalgia has fueled plenty of beautiful C10 customs.
Average #3 (Good) value: $13,550
First-gen Blazers, along with first-gen Broncos, are among the most collectible vintage 4x4s, and prices reflect that. The second generation of Blazer, which lasted from 1973 through 1991, can also get pricey. However, there are plenty that are still affordable, if you’re willing to forego the transfer case and opt for a two-wheel-drive model.
These early second-gen models share their powertrains with their pickup brethren, but what the 1973–5 Blazers have that their pickup and even later Blazer brethren do not are fully removable tops. Like the 1969–72 first-gen Blazer, these early square-body Blazers have removable tops from the windshield pillar back and doors without window frames, making them rather unique.
In 1976, Blazer moved to a removable calf-cab top that worked with full doors. Fewer leaks, sure—it’s just not quite a convertible.
1976–7 International Harvester Scout Terra and Scout Traveler
Average #3 (Good) value: $16,850 (Terra) $18,250 (Traveler)
Adding 18 inches of wheelbase to the International Harvester Scout II created the Scout Traveler, a narrow SUV that International Harvester offered to give buyers more cargo room and take a shot at the larger SUVs on the market from Jeep, Mopar, GM, and Ford.
The Traveler presents a vastly different profile thanks to its sloping hatchback rear. Ditch that hatchback for a half-cab and you got the Terra, a compact pickup. The wheelbase, at 118 inches, is almost identical to that of a current Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and the overall length is similar as well. That might make it a good size for some off-road trails, but there is some bad news here.
Like the Blazer we previously mentioned, the affordable versions of the Terra and Traveler are the 2WD, less suited for off-roading, but no less handsome. With almost a wheelbase almost identical to a Wrangler’s, perhaps a wrecked Wrangler could give the Cornbinder a new lease on life with a chassis swap?
Average #3 (Good) value: $12,225
Back before the Tacoma split off from the Hilux family tree, American compact pickup buyers got the same rugged little truck as every other Toyota buyer around the world. These are truly mini trucks and are quite cozy in standard-cab form. An Xtra cab option offers up more space but no extra seats, not even center-facing jump seats.
These nimble trucks have modest but reliable four-cylinder engines and the early 4×4 models in particular (1984 and 1985) are prized for their solid front-axle suspensions. Whether you want to build a Back to the Future 4×4 clone or parts-hauler for your other projects, these pickups require only simple repairs thanks to their readily available engine parts.