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Budget Buy Under $10,000: F-150 vs Sierra

Chris Kaiser

With $10,000 to spend we find out which is the better buy for a used pickup, the Ford F-150 or a GMC Sierra.

Well Loved, Needs a Good Home

Many of us in the market for a pickup aren’t looking for them to replace our daily driver. Instead, we need something for towing or hauling or any of the myriad sundry chores that fill up our weekend days. And if you’re like me and blew through your budget on that new boat or camper but still need something pull it with, you’ll need to find a solid second-hand pickup. To help narrow the search we’ve pitted the Ford F-150 against the GMC Sierra 1500 for the best truck for $10,000.

2010 Ford F-150 and 2012 GMC Sierra 1500 - carsforsale.com

Saving on a used truck comes with one natural concession, miles on the odometer. At a budget of $10,000 you’re going to run into lots of well-loved trucks that have seen in excess of 100,000 miles and sometimes many more than that. But, with a bit of searching, you can find examples in good condition between 120,000 and 150,000 miles, in our price range. For the F-150 and Sierra, that means trucks that are roughly ten to fifteen years old. Or more specifically, the second-generation Sierras (2007-2013) and the twelfth-generation F-150s (2009-2014).

Specs – An Embarrassment of V8s

2010 Ford F-150 4.6L V8 - carsforsale.com
2010 Ford F-150 4.6L V8 - carsforsale.com

The 12th-gen F-150 started with three engine options. The first two were two- and three-valve versions of the same 4.6L V8 making 248hp and 292hp respectively. The third was a 5.4L V8 making 310hp. In 2011, a new base 3.7L V6 (302hp) was introduced along with a new 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 (good for 365hp) and the 5.0L Coyote V8 (at 360hp). In 2013, upper trim models added an optional 6.2L V8 producing 411hp. We’d err on the side of either the 5.4L or 5.0L V8s. The EcoBoost might be more powerful but it comes with reliability issues. The 6.2L might be hard to find for under the ceiling of $10,000.

2007 GMC Sierra 1500 4.8L V8 - carsforsale.com
2007 GMC Sierra 1500 4.8L V8 - carsforsale.com

The 2nd-gen Sierra began with four different engines, all Vortecs, a 4.3L V6 (195hp), a 4.8L V8 (295hp), a 5.3L V8 (319hp) and a 6.0L V8 (367hp). In 2009 GMC added an even larger 6.2L V8 that topped out at 403hp and 417lb.ft. of torque. The 4.8L and 5.3L V8s are most plentiful.

In the end, the F-150 and Sierra come out pretty close on the numbers, and both, excepting the Ford EcoBoost, have proven durable over time. Towing for the F-150 topped out around 11,300lbs. with its 6.2L. The Sierra lags slightly behind in this category at approximately 10,600lbs. While both numbers will vary by year and powertrain configuration, the F-150 nudges a little ahead of the Sierra in terms of towing.

Driving and Comfort – Kind Enough and Tough Enough

2009 Ford F-150 - ford.com

2009 Ford F-150 – ford.com  |  Shop Ford F-150 on Carsforsale.com

The F-150 mixes a comfortable road ride with respectable handling dynamics. In fact, the F-150 isn’t nearly as ponderous as you’d expect out of a full-size truck. Power is ample from the available V8 engines. The real fun of this generation resides with the SVT Raptor, sadly well above the $10,000 mark.

2012 GMC Sierra 1500 - gmc.com

2012 GMC Sierra – gmc.com  |  Shop GMC Sierra 1500 on Carsforsale.com

The Sierra’s ride and handling are at or above par for trucks of this vintage. Here too, the V8 engines come recommended, providing ample oomph to get this full-size up to cruising speed even in towing situations.

The F-150 and Sierra end up dead even when it comes to driving and comfort on the road. Get a V8 in either and you won’t be left wanting for pulling power. Neither truck distinguishes itself, but then neither offends either.

Interior – Good for Both Work and Play

What Car Should I Buy? Cool Mom Car Edition

The F-150 offers, for its day, a well-appointed and fairly upscale interior. Space was ample, with bench seating accommodating three passengers with ease (a feature we miss in the mega-luxury pickups of today). In F-150s with a center console you’ll find lockable storage and room for a laptop computer. Noise in the cabin is well controlled, even at lower trims.

Like the F-150, the Sierra makes the most of its full-size stature to provide a spacious interior. It too can handle three passengers across with ease. Both the Work Truck and SLE trims of the Sierra are fairly bare bones, utilitarian affairs, with beefy handles and knobby controls designed for ease of use. The SLT significantly ups the quality of the interior with standard leather seats (an option on the SLE) and a 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat, among other features.

Both trucks flirt with premium level materials and the designs well-serve the dual masters of utility and comfort, but we found, at $10,000, you’re likely to find more to like in the F-150.

Trims and Features to Look For

2010 Ford F-150 XLT - carsforsale.com
2010 Ford F-150 XLT - carsforsale.com

The most common trim you’ll find for the F-150 at $10,000 will be the XLT. Its standard features include two 12-volt outlets (front and rear), power windows, a 4-speaker stereo and AM/FM radio, tire pressure monitoring, dual front airbags as well as side and curtain airbags. Higher trims sweeten the pot with items like a 10-speaker stereo, leather and heated fronts seats, navigation, and satellite radio.

2012 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE - carsforsale.com
2012 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE - carsforsale.com

Your typical Sierra at $10,000 will be either the Work Truck or the SLE trim. There you’ll find amenities like a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control, two 12-volt outlets, a 6-speaker stereo, rear window defogger, and a six-way power adjusting driver’s seat. The SLT trim adds things like leather seats, a Bose stereo and a CD player with MP3 playback. In 2013, the Sierra added standard trailer-sway control and hill start assist.

The premium of the GMC brand comes through in terms of features, and you’re likely to find more of them in the Sierra than a comparably priced F-150. On the flipside, those trucks tend to carry more mileage than their Ford counterparts. So grandma was right, ain’t nothing for free in this world, including daytime running lights.

Conclusion – Number One for a Reason

At a budget of $10,000, the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra 1500 are very evenly matched. The Ford comes in slightly ahead on performance, while the Sierra offers more bells and whistles. The deciding factor for which you end up purchasing may largely hinge on the mileage and condition of the individual trucks in question.

2012 GMC Sierra 1500 - gmc.com

2012 GMC Sierra – gmc.com  |  Shop GMC Sierra 1500 on Carsforsale.com

In the end, we’d recommend the F-150 by a slim margin. Most examples you’ll find for around $10,000 will have fewer miles than equivalent Sierras. When buying an older used truck, beggars can’t be choosers, and likely deal breakers tend to be things like towing capacity and crew versus extended cabs. In those cases, most people will be satisfied with either truck.

WINNER: 12th-Generation Ford F-150

2014 Ford F-150 - ford.com

2014 Ford F-150 – ford.com  |  Shop Ford F-150 on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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