Pickup Truck Buying Guide

Helping you choose the right truck

America is full-size-truck crazy and mid-size trucks such as the Nissan Frontier pickup and Ford Ranger don’t sell nearly as well as the full-size Ford F Series, Chevy Silverado, and Ram trucks. In fact, these three truck lineups occupied the sales podium in this order in 2020 in the USA and sold more combined units – 1,937,773 – than all the SUVs in the top 15 best-sellers list combined.

But there aren’t just full-size trucks and many automakers, including Nissan, Toyota, Chevrolet, and Ford sell smaller mid-size trucks as well. Should you buy a full-size truck or would a mid-size truck work best for you? Let us guide you through the truck classes and suggest a few criteria according to which you can choose the right truck for you.

The Different Types Of Trucks

We can divide trucks into roughly four categories:

  • Unibody, lifestyle trucks such as the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Mid-size trucks such as the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado
  • Full-size trucks such as the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150
  • Heavy-duty trucks such as 2500, 3500, and 4500 versions of full-size trucks

The unibody truck is quite new and is for people who want a compact load bed and a truck form factor but don’t want to give up car-like handling or spend too much money. They are aimed at the lifestyle market and aren’t work trucks; they’re more like crossover trucks. Mid-size trucks are great for people who want to do light work. Full-size trucks cover all the bases, from luxurious family crew cabs to massive models that are made for towing enormous rigs.

The Buying Criteria

These are the main considerations when you are truck shopping:

  • Price: How much can you spend? Unibody trucks start at around $20,000 and are the cheapest trucks out there. Mid-size trucks usually vary between $25,000 and $45,000 and full-size trucks have a starting MSRP of around $30,000. Heavy-duty full-size trucks go well beyond that to over $60,000, with the top-end Ford F-450 Superduty topping $90,000.
  • Cab and seating configurations: Regular cabs have only one row and can seat three people at most. They aren’t family vehicles and are made for working only. Extended-cab pickups offer a back seat, but it can be cramped and the space is often used for additional cargo space inside the truck. True crew cabs have the roomiest back seats and are real family vehicles. They are offered with many luxury and safety features and can do double duty as work and family vehicles.
  • Engine choices and gas mileage: The 2.5-liter hybrid base model of the Ford Maverick unibody truck is claimed to deliver as much as 40 miles per gallon in the city, but larger trucks can be far heavier on fuel than this. Diesel-engined mid-size truck can often return close to 25 mpg in mixed use, but gas-powered trucks’ fuel economy is far worse. Six-cylinder and V8 gas engines in the largest heavy-duty trucks will struggle to beat 15 mpg overall, despite some of them offering 10-speed automatic transmissions.
  • The load bed: The lowest payloads belong to the unibody trucks and the Ford Maverick can cart a maximum of 1,500 pounds around. Mid- and full-size trucks have load beds that are typically between five and eight feet in length and a mid-size truck can usually load between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds. Full-size trucks can load as much as 4,000 pounds or more.
  • Towing capacity: Properly equipped, a unibody Hyundai Santa Cruz can tow as much as 5,000 pounds, but if you really want to tow big rigs, you have to look elsewhere. A towing capacity of 7,000 to 8,000 is fairly typical for a mid-size truck, but even the smaller full-size trucks can nearly double that figure. The biggest of the heavy-duty full-size trucks can tow close to 40,000 pounds.
  • Safety: Crash tests are not conducted on most trucks, but their weight helps a lot in a crash, especially with a smaller vehicle. Driver-assistance features are important and nowadays, you should ensure that any truck you consider has at least forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring.
  • Driving experience: Only the unibody trucks drive and handle like normal passenger cars. The mid-size trucks use body-on-frame construction and while they are handily compact and easy to drive, they still basically feel like trucks to drive. The largest heavy-duty trucks have harsh suspension made for hauling and not comfort. The smallest of the full-size trucks offer a good balance, with the Ram trucks standing out for their excellent ride quality. You could also further improve your driving experience with the right parts from BD Diesel.
  • A Toyota VIN decoder is a web-based tool that can be used to check the status of a Toyota vehicle before buying it, To check click here. A 17-digit VIN number is assigned to every Toyota car. If you check for Toyota parts numbers online, you can learn about your vehicle’s history, maintenance records, engine type, year of manufacture, model, and the parts that go with it.


This analysis of what America’s truck market looks like should give you a fair indication of what type of truck you need. Peruse their specifications, research them online, and then go for a test drive in the vehicles on your shortlist. Buying used is also a feasible option, but make sure the truck has a vehicle record, a full service history, and no salvage title.

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