This pickup truck buying guide is intended to help you purchase the type of truck that is perfect for your needs. With so many options out there at such a wide range of price points and capabilities, it’s not always easy to cut through the marketing and figure out just how much truck you need and which best fits your budget. Check out these tips that should make the decision a little easier.
Where Do You Drive?
Will your truck spend most of the time driving on paved roads with little chance of seeing snow? Then a two-wheel drive truck will do the job just fine. If you plan on exploring off the beaten path, live in a snowy region, or live/work where dirt is the most common road surface, then you should consider a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive truck. Two-wheel drive trucks tend to be a little cheaper to buy, while four-wheel drive trucks tend to get slightly reduced fuel economy due to driveline friction. Four-wheel drive can also be useful in special situations, like pulling a boat out of the water on a slippery ramp. If you do more local driving than cross country, an electric truck may be just the ticket with several options coming the market soon.
What Do You Tow?
If towing is your primary concern, then our pickup truck buying guide recommends that you determine exactly how heavy a trailer you regularly haul and then research your purchase accordingly. If you are under 10,000 lb. — the average trailer weight in the U.S. is actually right around 3,500 lb. — then you’ll most likely be completely satisfied with a light-duty, half-ton truck. If towing over 10,000 lb. is something you plan on, then it’s worth investigating three-quarter and full-ton designs that offer dual rear-wheel axles. Some modern one-ton trucks can tow over 35,000 pounds when properly equipped! Just be honest with your needs to keep from buying more truck than you will actually realistically use.
Truck beds are not all created equally, as they typically range between 5 1/2 – 8 feet in length. If you find yourself needing to haul drywall and plywood home from the hardware yard, you might be frustrated by the limitations of a short box. At the same time, our pickup truck buying guide needs to make clear that a long box can be difficult to park, especially in a city situation. Understanding your hauling needs plays an important part in deciding how long of a truck bed you need.
How Many Passengers?
A truck that’s being used for the job site might only need a single bench seat to get the job done, but if you plan on driving your family around on a daily basis then a four-door design is infinitely more practical. You’ll also want to take into account whether you’re driving teenagers or toddlers in the second row, as that will determine the size of the cab itself.
One more thing to remember in our pickup truck buying guide: The cab configuration can often limit the size of the cargo box that can be attached to the pickup, so keep that in mind while doing your research.
Big, Not So Big, Maybe Small?
Don’t think that a full-size truck is the only option for getting the job done. Mid-size trucks are so capable these days — and so much bigger than they used to be — that in many ways they resemble the full-sizers of a decade ago. You can often satisfy your towing and hauling needs with a smaller, and easier-to-park pickup instead of splurging on a big bruiser. There are also new small truck options on the market.
Knowing how you plan to use your truck will help you make the right purchase. Use our pickup truck buying guide to pick the truck that’s best for you.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.