No, You Don't Need to Buy a Pickup Truck

You may want one. You don't need one.

cost of trucks has gone up
alashiGetty Images

I love pickup trucks. Statistical odds suggest you love them, too. Trucks are America's most popular vehicles, and they've now subsumed several automotive niches they weren't designed for.

In 2022, many drivers feel like they need a pickup truck. Few actually do.

Or course, pickups offer plenty of utility: Farm and construction jobs require considerable towing and hauling capability. Some people have large camping trailers or boats they move regularly.

But farmers aren't the buyers blowing the average purchase price for a full-size truck well past $50,000. Many, if not most, pickups seldom get used as intended. And they're just not the best choice for most drivers.

Here's why you should think twice before making a truck your next vehicle.

Pickup trucks are crazy expensive

Pickup trucks have become far more sophisticated and luxurious than their humble, three-on-the-tree forebearers. Demand for them is at record highs and seemingly rising, with buyers who both want and need them. Off-road accessories are pricey. The chicken tax on foreign production protects the market from being undercut.

Truck prices were getting out of hand before the pandemic, with the average price creeping for a full-size truck toward $50,000. And that number is now approaching $60,000.

The bottom line: if you're willing to accept a different type of vehicle, you can get more car for your money.

Pickup trucks are inefficient

Pickup trucks have made great strides in efficiency. But they are still heavy boxes moving through space, and as such, they remain the least fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.

And in the most popular full-size category, trucks — Ram, GM, Nissan — are still often using fuel-thirsty, high-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8s.

Trucks are particularly inefficient for city driving — the new Tundra earns 18 mpg, which was a dramatic improvement.

Meanwhile, the most efficient combustion trucks are still not that efficient. And the Ram 1500 TRX achieves a laughable 10 mpg in city driving. Even if you ignore the environmental impact — which you shouldn't — high gas prices are making a pickup truck a ludicrously expensive way to commute to work.

Pickup trucks are enormous

Trucks have gotten bigger. Part of that is all cars getting bigger, with airbags, crumple zones and additional safety tech. Part of that is that trucks are now, predominately, four-door vehicles, which still need to accommodate at least a five-foot bed behind them.

In much of the country, car infrastructure was designed before these behemoths were a thing. And if you live in an area where there are other people, a pickup can be an absolute nuisance to park, maneuver in tight situations and fit into public and private garages.

trucks aren't ideal for off roading
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Pickup trucks aren't ideal for off-roading

Off-roading modification is a crucial appeal for buying a pickup. But a pickup truck is not the optimal tool for off-roading. As noted, full-size trucks are large, limiting what sort of trails you can go on. Pickups also have longer wheelbases than SUVs, when shorter wheelbases for off-roading give you a smaller turn radius and better breakover angle for getting over obstacles. The Jeep Wrangler can make it over things the Jeep Gladiator can't.

Off-roading trends have changed to suit pickups. Lately, manufacturers have been hyping desert-running, which plays into pickup truck strengths — stability when moving quickly — much better than other off-roading types.

Pickup trucks aren't that great in the snow

Do you need a vehicle for winter driving? There are better choices than pickup trucks. Pickups are front-heavy, and — even if they have 4x4 capability — they most often drive in rear-wheel drive.

When trucks are unloaded, there's not much weight holding down a pickup truck's rear wheels, which are doing the driving. And if you don't shift to 4x4 when the snow starts falling, you'll feel even a brand new modern truck start fish-tailing.

If winter is your ultimate concern, an all-wheel-drive crossover — heck, even a front-wheel-drive car on winter tires — may be the better option.

Pickup trucks don't make great family cars

Pickup trucks have assumed a role as America's default family car. They aren't optimized for that.

Kids accumulate a lot of crap. And in a pickup truck, there's nowhere to put it that's lockable or waterproof except in the passenger cabin. Sure, you can pay into the four figures for a fancy tonneau cover for the bed. But even then, it will be hard to secure everyday items in the bed, and harder still to get them out.

Still want a pickup truck?

Yeah, me too. Just don't pretend it's about utility. In this day and age, buying a pickup truck has more to do with fashion than functionality.

Do you agree with this take? Let us know in the comments below.

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