Did you know that pickup trucks have been the best-selling vehicles in the US for decades? Although cars like the Toyota Camry or various popular crossovers sell great, they’re not even close to the top three positions. Ford, GM, and Dodge together sell over two million of their full-size pickup trucks a year. The story doesn’t end here as Japanese manufacturers like Toyota or Nissan also have a formidable pickup truck market share. In the past, pickup trucks were utilitarian, rugged vehicles that spend most of their time on farms or construction sites. However, the situation is quite different nowadays, as these vehicles became capable and practical all-rounders. In this article, we will figure out why they are so popular and see which of them is the best of them all.
What kind of pickup trucks are there?
At first sight, all pickup trucks seem to follow a similar overall pattern. There is an engine at the front, a cabin in the middle, and an open trunk in the rear. The only noticeable variations are cab sizes, which can be single or double. Besides that, some pickup trucks also come with all-wheel drive options, while other power rear wheels only. However, take a closer look and you may notice that there are other differences, as all trucks fall into several different categories.
Full-size pickup trucks
The most widespread among all variants are full-size pickup trucks, which have been around for decades. The Dodge Ram and Ford F-150, coupled to the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra siblings, are the most notable examples. Besides these domestic classics, there are several import attempts, such as the Nissan Titan or Toyota Tundra. Because of their weight and versatile use, these trucks come with big V6 or V8 engines and an automatic transmission.
Compact pickup trucks
For those who like the pickup truck concept, but think full-size variants are too big or uneconomical, there are compact pickup trucks. They offer all the upsides in a smaller and more practical package, resulting in lower weight. This enables the use of four-cylinder engines and helps increase the fuel economy while sacrificing load capacities. You can choose from domestic trucks like the Ford Ranger or Chevrolet Colorado, or a wide range of successful import variants.
Heavy-duty pickup trucks
Lastly, there are heavy-duty pickup trucks, which are, in most cases, beefier versions of full-size ones. These trucks have the biggest engines, durable drivetrains, and stronger chassis. Unlike other categories, this one is almost only covered by domestic manufacturers.
What is the best pickup truck to buy?
Modern pickup trucks are more than just workhorses, as they combine traditional values with features associated with passenger cars. Thanks to powerful engines, smooth automatic transmissions, and spacious interiors, they often pull a double load as road cruisers. Variants that use all-wheel-drive systems are also great for going off-road, which makes them almost a perfect all-in-one vehicle.
With so many models and special variants available, choosing the best one can be an impossible mission. While there might be no universal answer to this question, we can always take the sales figures into account. When it comes to these numbers, it is impossible to beat the Ford F-150. Over a million drivers choose this truck every year, meaning that two of them drive out of a car dealer every minute. If you were to line up all F-series trucks ever made, they would wrap the Earth around the equator several times.
What is the most reliable pickup truck?
Despite being comfortable and user-friendly, pickup trucks still have an important role as commercial and utility vehicles. To be successful at performing these tasks, pickup trucks must be more reliable and durable than most ordinary cars. Manufacturers achieve this by using well-proven, robust components and systems, which are less delicate and easier to maintain. Although reliability issues can affect body integrity, transmissions, or suspension, the most common problems are with fuel and exhaust systems. This is because pickup trucks, although subjected to less rigid emissions control regulations than cars, still use various pollution reduction systems.
When talking about reliability and sturdiness, we must mention the pickup truck that went twice into the fire to save people. During the devastating Camp Fire in California, an off-duty medical worker used his Toyota Tundra to help evacuate fellow citizens. Although partially burned and damaged, the truck was still running and capable of driving after this improvised rescue mission. Besides this story, the Tundra traditionally takes the reliability award thanks to its proven engine and dependable drivetrain. On the downside, the styling and ride quality are a bit outdated, with the current design being almost ten years old.
Which heavy-duty truck is the best?
While pickup trucks in other categories offer a balanced mix, heavy-duty variants focus on workhorse-like features. Useful payload, towing capabilities, and fuel efficiency are some characteristics that play an important role here. Although gasoline engines are an option, diesel-powered trucks are the best choice in most cases. They offer loads of low-down torque, which helps increase towing capabilities and lower fuel consumption. In this class, the Ford Super Duty and Dodge Ram HD are neck to neck.
What is the smoothest riding truck?
Because of their robust and rugged suspension systems, pickup trucks can have a low ride quality when compared to cars. Many of them don’t absorb road bumps that well, have steering systems that are not very communicative or roll too much when cornering. Still, just like with everything else, some pickup trucks are better than others.
A good example is the new Ram, which uses coil springs instead of leaf ones, coupled with a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Together with a lighter chassis, this enables a softer suspension setup that results in a smoother ride without compromising payload capabilities. Among compact pickup trucks, The Ford Ranger and Honda Ridgeline are those who offer the best ride and car-like handling. This comes as a result of more elaborate suspensions and rack-and-pinion steering systems.
Almost all pickup trucks fall in one of the three categories, which are full-size, compact and heavy-duty. While their outer layout may seem similar, these differ in both design solutions and potential buyers. All of them have their upsides and downsides, so choosing the right one depends on your expectations.
If you want one of the most reliable trucks on the market, look towards Toyota. On the other hand, if what you need is a lot of pulling power as well as workhorse qualities, the Ford Super Duty and Dodge Ram HD will give you the most bang for your bucks. Pickup owners looking for a smaller vehicle with better handling, smoother drive, and better fuel-efficiency should instead get their hands on a compact model like the Ford ranger or its imported counterparts like the Honda Ridgeline or Toyota Tacoma. Get a repair and service manual for your pickup truck to keep it in top running condition.