The Pros and Cons of Pickup Trucks Explained

Chevrolet Silverado Pickup Truck 2021

Are you torn between a sedan, SUV, minivan, or pickup truck? When it comes to getting a new vehicle, this is one of the first decisions you have to make. Of those, the pickup truck is the most popular and it has a number of reasons why.

Most of the pros and cons of a pickup truck have to deal with its large size and truck bed. They are typically safer, better at off-roading, more reliable, and their beds are very useful. The downsides are that trucks are harder to drive and park, more expensive to maintain, and typically cost more.

In this piece, I’m going to explain everything about trucks. I’ll give you a list of pros and cons to help you make your decision, and I’ll compare it specifically to other vehicle options on the market.

What Is a Truck?

Also called a pickup truck, a truck features an engine in the front, seating in the middle, and an open-air bed at the rear. The bed is used to haul larger and heavier items.

Trucks have been around for a long time, and they’re actually the most-sold vehicle on the market in America. The #1 selling vehicle is the Ford F150, but it goes beyond that. In a lineup of the 10 most popular vehicles, 5 of them are trucks.

Dodge RAM 1500 2021 TRX off-road pickup truck with a beautiful sunset landscape
2021 Dodge RAM 1500 TRX

Pickups are incredibly popular, and you might be wondering how they compare to other options on the market. Let me define who they’re competing against and then I’ll jump into the pros and cons of trucks.

Options Besides Trucks

For the entirety of this matchup, I’ll be comparing trucks to every other vehicle on the market for consumers. I should take a second to explain all the other options that will be compared to pickups.

  • Sedans. More simply called a “car”.If you’ve seen a Civic or Camry on the road, you know what a sedan is. This is a 2-door or 4-door vehicle that’s small, cheap, and easy to drive.
  • SUVs. Bigger than sedans, SUVs offer more space, a more comfortable ride, and more luxuries. If a celebrity is riding in the back of a vehicle, it’s often an SUV.
  • Minivans. Minivans are the less luxurious, more spacious version of an SUV. They have sliding doors at the rear and a much bigger trunk. Jokingly called “Soccer Mom Vans”, these are a favorite option for people with families — they’re also the best pick for road trips.
  • Motorcycles. Motorcycles typically sit in their own category, so it’s not really fair to compare them to pickups. Still, most of the pros and cons that I discuss later will also apply to these bikes.

Pros of Trucks

Let me start with some of the major benefits of owning a truck. There are more niche pros of using a truck, but I want to keep things broad in this section.

Better Safety

One thing you’ll notice about trucks is that they’re large and heavy. If you peel back the body of your truck, you’ll also see that the framework is completely different.

With a sedan, the framework and body are combined. They use cheaper manufacturing and materials to make a less expensive vehicle. Unfortunately, this also makes a less safe car in the case of an accident.

In a truck, the framework is separated from the body. This adds another level of rigidity and durability to the truck. More importantly, it makes it safer in the case of a collision.

When you combine the added weight and better structural stability, you get a safer option to drive. Some SUVs are safer than trucks in certain tests, but they are both favored over sedans.

Has an Invaluable Truck Bed

The truck bed is arguably one of the biggest benefits of owning a truck. No other vehicle offers a better way to store, haul, and load bulky equipment.

The bed of a truck has a lot of different functions. You can get a cap to close the area and safely store tools for extended periods of time. The bed can be converted into an eating and lounging area between projects. It can even be converted into a camper.

Construction worker unloading tools near a job site from the bed of the pickup truck

If you are buying lumber, the truck’s viability quickly stands out. You can just throw the lumber in the bed of the truck. Trying to squeeze the same wood into a sedan or SUV is much more difficult and sometimes can’t be done.

Trucks also offer different sizes for their beds. You can get a longer option if you plan on loading it up with more equipment routinely.

Another time that truck beds come in handy is when you or a buddy is moving across town. If you have a pickup, you become “the friend with a truck” who gets called every time someone moves.

They Can Fit Plenty of Passengers

A lot of trucks only offer 2 or 3 seats, but that doesn’t mean your friends have to Uber to meet you for dinner. There are different cab options for trucks. The largest options can comfortably seat 6 people and offer more legroom and headroom than even an SUV.

The best part? These larger cabs are very popular and can commonly be found on the market. The downside is that extending the cab also worsens the maneuverability, increases the price, and adds to the total weight of the pickup.

Can Tow and Haul More

Another category that can’t be compared is a truck’s ability to tow and haul. If you need to drive with a trailer behind your vehicle, a pickup is the best option.

The towing capacity refers to how much weight can be pulled. With a truck, can tow more than 6 tons pretty easily. Heavy-duty trucks like the F-350 can tow more than 12 tons. Comparatively, a Honda Civic can tow 1,000 pounds (half a ton) and a Toyota Rav4 can tow 3,500 pounds (1.75 tons).

Pickup truck white towing a boat parked on the side of the road near the mountains in the summer landscape going to the water

This is great news for boat owners, people who need to move, or anyone who buys large and heavy items.

Towing something that’s heavier than your vehicle’s rated towing capacity could be disastrous. It could destroy your suspension, or not slow down with the rest of your vehicle — smashing into the rear of your vehicle and totaling it. More commonly, the vehicle just won’t move in the first place. Throwing a 20-foot boat behind a Civic means that you’ll just be spinning your wheels and straining your engine without going anywhere.

Better Visibility

Driving a truck comes with a lot of extra visibility. This is due to a few reasons.

Firstly, you’re sitting much higher. The driver’s seat of a truck is a lot higher off the ground than an SUV’s or sedan’s.

The next reason is how much glass there is around you. With a truck, it’s commonplace to have tons of large windows. This gives you great visibility all around you as you drive.

Finally, there’s also no trunk. This means that you can see clearly out of a window right behind you. With a hatchback or SUV, the rear window is pretty small and often hard to see out of.

Take Them Off-Roading

A lot of trucks on the market offer either 4WD or AWD. SUVs offer similar drivetrains, but sedans are usually FWD or RWD, with optional upgrades for AWD.

Toyota Tacoma tan color pickup truck driving off-road

In addition, trucks have grippier tires, better ground clearance, and favorable weight distribution. When you combine these factors, you get a vehicle that’s great for off-roading.

In fact, you’ve probably seen truck commercials where a big F-150 is climbing through muddy and hilly terrain with ease. Trucks are great for off-roading and driving on unpaved surfaces.

Better in Poor Weather

The truck’s off-roading ability also shows up in poor weather. They’re a great option when roads are snowy or rainy

As you head north, you’ll see more and more trucks. People in snowy regions understand the value of a pickup.

In certain matchups, an SUV can outperform a truck on a snowy road, but both options are much better than sedans.

Super Reliable

Pickups are much more reliable than sedans, and usually more reliable than SUVs and minivans. It has to do with the ruggedness that trucks are built with.

Toyota Tacoma 2017 black pickup truck exploring the backroads of Moab, Utah
2017 Toyota Tacoma

Since they are designed to drive off-road and haul a ton of cargo, they are over-engineered. Simply driving a truck to work is underutilizing the truck, resulting in a more reliable option.

In other words, it’s like a bodybuilder doing everyday tasks. With their extra muscles, bringing in the groceries is so much easier and puts less strain on their body as compared to an elderly person.

Great Resale Value

Trucks typically have favorable resale values. Since they’re more reliable and often last longer than cars, trucks can be sold for more money.

Vehicles shouldn’t be purchased as investments, but it’s always nice to get more money after owning a vehicle for a number of years and selling it.

Insurance Is Typically Cheaper

Insurance companies use a few factors to create a quote for you. They’ll combine things like safety, vehicle worth, and added safety features to come up with how much money you’ll need to pay.

Car insurance written on the road in yellow

Compared to other vehicles, trucks will often cost less to insure long-term. A few years ago, a study found that new trucks were 15% less expensive to insure compared to new sedans.

However, large trucks are more expensive to insure.

People in Rural Areas Need Them

There are lots of Americans that live in areas that simply need trucks. They might rely on dirt or gravel roads to get them into town, and a sedan can’t handle that abuse every day.

These same Americans might also need to routinely haul beds full of groceries, equipment, and produce. The simple fact is that there are regions of rural America that couldn’t exist without pickups.

Perfect for Tradespeople

Finally, trucks are crucial for a lot of people who are in the trades. People in construction, for example, need to carry a lot of heavy, bulky equipment to the job site. If the job is in a field somewhere with no paved roads, a sedan or SUV won’t cut it.

In this case, a pickup checks every box on the list and can allow them to make a living. The same is true for roofers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and many more trades.

Cons of Trucks

Now, let me talk about some of the downsides of owning a truck. This isn’t to dissuade you from buying one, it’s just a way to paint the full picture for you.

Worse Gas Mileage

Pickups are often cited as the class of vehicle that offers the worst gas mileage. It has to do with their bigger engines, heavier curb weights, and larger stature. I can find plenty of examples where a sedan offers more than double the gas mileage that a pickup offers.

A man fueling up his white pickup truck at the gas station

The truth is that trucks aren’t the best choice if you’re an eco-friendly driver.

The good news is that there are a handful of EV trucks coming out, but they can’t compare with the EV market of sedans already on the market.

Harder to Maneuver

Since trucks are longer, wider, and heavier, they’re also a lot harder to maneuver. This refers to how easy it is for a vehicle to drive around twists and turns.

Trucks have a wider turning radius, longer stopping distance and a harder time swerving around cones. This becomes really obvious when you’re in a parking lot.

Parking Is a Pain

Speaking of parking lots, trucks are a real pain to park. Again, it has to do with how huge these vehicles are as compared to other options on the market.

It’s such a problem that it’s common to find parking lots with designated spots just for pickup trucks.

Ford F150 2014 pickup truck white parked inside of a parking garage with tight space
Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

When it comes to parallel parking, truck drivers have the most difficult job. A spot where a sedan can easily fit can be un-parkable for a truck. Since SUVs are usually smaller than trucks, even they have an easier time parking.

If you live in a big city where parking is a problem, a pickup probably isn’t the right choice.

Maintenance Is More Expensive

When something goes wrong on a truck, it’s often an expensive fix. Since the components are bigger, stronger, and over-engineered, getting replacement parts is more expensive.

Even though trucks are physically easier to work on, they usually hurt your pockets a little more. This is even more true if you take your truck to a mechanic.

Fewer Choices

Even though trucks are so popular, there aren’t a ton of options on the market. Each truck has a lot of different trim levels, but there are only a dozen or so trucks to choose from.

In reality, truck owners will pick between around 5 options (all of which can be found on the top-10 selling vehicles in America).

When it comes to sedans and SUVs, you can find hundreds of choices. This allows you to essentially hand-pick the exact vehicle you’re looking for. With trucks, there will be more compromising.

Items Can Be Stolen from Bed

Even though the bed of your truck is a great addition, there is a single flaw that’s pretty massive: there’s no built-in security for your bed.

If you have $10,000 in equipment hanging out in your truck’s bed, there’s nothing stopping a thief from grabbing that equipment and walking away. The bed is open and easy to steal from.

Pickup truck with tools out in the open and more tools on the bed and floor beside it

That means that parking outside overnight is never a good idea if you have stuff in your bed. Even parking on the job site comes with some risk if the site is open to the public.

Owners will add lockable truck caps to their beds, adding some extra protection. Still, it’s easier to rob a truck bed than it is to break a window in an SUV.

More Expensive Upfront Costs

Another negative of trucks is that they commonly cost more than other vehicle options. Although you get more bang for your buck, a truck will cost more than a comparable sedan or SUV.

As I mentioned earlier, trucks also come with a higher resale value. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll spend more if you buy a used truck than if you got a used car.

In the end, people are willing to spend more due to the added benefits of a pickup. Still, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to write a bigger beck if you want the luxury of owning a truck.

Conclusion

I just covered some of the major benefits and drawbacks of owning a pickup truck. Personally, I think the pros outweigh the cons, but the decision is ultimately up to you. If you want to learn more about trucks, take a look at my website. In addition, check out my list of recommended products to make owning a truck even easier.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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