How to Buy the Pickup Truck

At first glance, shopping for a pickup truck might seem a lot like shopping for a car. Pick a color, engine and trim, and you're set, right? But once you consider all the special uses for pickup trucks and the growing number of styles and options, you can quickly get lost in a maze of choices.

Here, then, is how to make truck shopping easier. If you understand the big picture and narrow your options logically, you can more easily find the right truck for you.

Midsize Or Full-size? Know What You'll Carry And Where You'll Go

How you plan to use the truck will steer you through many of the ensuing choices. If you simply like the idea of driving a truck and don't plan on hauling anything major, a midsize truck such as the Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma would be perfect for you. These are much easier to drive and park on a daily basis yet still provide plenty of utility.

What Size Is Right For You?

Everyone can identify a pickup truck, right? The open cargo bed attached to their rear ends is usually a dead giveaway. However, identifying the two size categories (mid-size and full-size) and the two separate classifications (light-duty and heavy-duty) can be more difficult to the uninitiated. These different variations also come with their own set of compromises, many of which are not immediately obvious unless you're already familiar with their unique attributes.

Compact Pickup Trucks

This pickup truck category consists of the Chevrolet Colorado (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon), Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma. Chrysler also jumped back in with its Jeep Gladiator—a spinoff of the popular Wrangler SUV. Most are built using body-on-frame construction like their full-sized brethren, and they usually offer a range of four-cylinder and V6 engines. The Honda Ridgeline uses unit-body construction and an independent rear suspension—borrowing underpinnings from the mild-mannered Honda Pilot SUV. This helps the Ridgeline deliver among the most refined rides of any truck.

Why You Might Need a Pickup Truck

A full-size SUV, or midsize SUV with a torquey engine and tow package, can do much of what a pickup truck can do. They’re often a bit easier to live with day-to-day as well. So, when do you need a truck?

When you need a truck bed, trucks have more capacity for carrying stuff than any other form of vehicle. They also carry it separate from the passenger cabin, which can be useful if you regularly carry building materials, dirt, plants, or anything else that leaves you hosing out the thing you carried it in.

Trucks can typically tow more than even the most powerful SUVs as well. So if large trailers or boats are part of your routine, you’re probably better off with a pickup.

Trucks hold their resale value a bit better than SUVs, too. Many of today’s vehicles stay in good running condition longer than most did just a generation ago. So chances are, you’re going to hold onto your next vehicle for a long time. The average vehicle on American roads is over 12 years old. But when the time comes to part ways with it, there’s a better market for old trucks with some life left in them than for old SUVs.