2020 Ford F-150 Super Duty
The Ford Motor Company

12 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Truck

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2020 Ford F-150 Super Duty
The Ford Motor Company

Pickup Nitpicking

In April 2020, pickups outsold cars in the U.S. for the first time in history, and for four consecutive decades, the best-selling vehicle in America has been a truck. Trucks are big, powerful, reliable beasts that work hard and play hard. Although they’re more than capable off-road, today’s trucks are comfortable, luxurious, and tricked out with amazing tech and safety features. All that coolness can make it easy to ignore the simple fact that trucks aren’t for everybody. Pickups come with major drawbacks that will likely be deal-breakers for many car people considering a switch.

“Trucks are big,” said Jerry Wilson of Complete Auto Guide. “They're also expensive, more difficult to park, and can't squeeze into tight places. They can be really heavy, too, which is far from ideal in a world of ever-increasing gas prices. Don't get me wrong, pickup trucks absolutely have their place. But think about if that place really has to be your driveway.”

Related: 16 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About America's Best-Selling Vehicle

2020 Chevy Silverado 1500
2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 by General Motors (CC BY-SA)

Most People Won’t Use the Features That Set Trucks Apart

The features that make trucks so enticing are on full display in the TV commercials that stoke their bottomless popularity — the ability to tow massive toys, carry crushing payloads, and nimbly trot across wild streams and rock formations. Before you start narrowing down color choices for your new pickup, ask yourself how often you’re really in any of those situations.

“The appeal of trucks is that they offer higher utility with space and the weight they can carry, as well as their ability to provide drivers with the option to drive off-road,” said Arnoldas Vasiliauskas of CarVertical. “But how much do people really go off-road when everywhere you look, cemented roads are already placed? How much heavy-lifting will you really be doing with your car when delivery services are already available? The bottom line is, the utility of trucks does not benefit most of their drivers as those utility features are almost never really used.”

Related: Why People Are Crazy About Jeeps and Why You'd Be Crazy to Buy One

2008 Ford F250
contrastaddict/istockphoto

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Part of the pickup’s allure is that trucks are big, imposing, powerful vehicles that project strength and durability. All awesome traits, but traits that come in really big packages.

“Today’s full-size vehicles are gargantuan,” said Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com. “A Ford F-150 Supercrew has a wheelbase of 145 inches and is 232 inches long. By comparison, a Ford Explorer SUV has a wheelbase of 113 inches and is 198 inches long. Full-size pickups can become a maneuverability challenge on narrow two-lane roads, not to mention garages, driveways, and parking lots.”

Bigger vehicles also tend to translate into higher maintenance and repair bills.

“The bigger the truck, the bigger the tires and brakes, which adds to their replacement expense,” said Reina.

Related: 50 of the Biggest Cars Ever Made

Pickup Truck Groceries
Sisoje/istockphoto

Loading and Unloading Isn’t Always Easy

SUVs, crossovers, and minivans have evolved to make loading and unloading cargo as easy as humanly possible. Sliding doors, touchless entry, and push-button disappearing seats are just a few of the features designed to make the getting of stuff into and out of your vehicle a snap. Trucks, not so much, despite their reputation as the quintessential haulers of things. Despite all the modern advances and improvements that have taken place, the classic bed-and-tailgate layout remains virtually identical to that of decades past.

“And, thanks to the fact that the cargo area is so high, it's a lot harder to load things into the back of a truck than into the typical SUV,” Wilson said.

Related: 14 Car Innovations We Could See in the Next Decade (And One We Won't)

Traffic
JLFCapture/istockphoto

They Can Be Too Tall for Comfort

Accounting for about 15% of all vehicles, full-size pickups are the single most-popular vehicle segment on the road in the United States. From the tires up, full-size pickups have gotten absolutely enormous, and they’re not just wide and brawny. Pickups have gone vertical, and the exaggerated height can be a major adjustment for people who come from the car world.

“As the tallest vehicle on the road, spatial awareness will be a challenge,” said Vasiliauskas. “Your truck’s size presents difficulties for you to judge your own speed and distance from other vehicles in traffic.”

Related: The Most Popular Trucks in America

Pickup Truck Bed
timnewman/istockphoto

The Bed Configuration Has Its Limits

There’s a strange satisfaction in watching farmers and rig workers toss baled hay and machine parts into pickup beds in slow motion on all those dreamy truck commercials. In reality, however, the defining characteristic of a pickup truck — the bed — has its drawbacks. As previously stated, truck beds are up higher and harder to access than the cargo areas in SUVs, wagons, and vans. But truck beds are also exposed to the elements and the stuff they carry can bounce around or even be ejected during travel.

“How frequently do you really need the use of a pickup’s bed,” asked Reina. “If you find that you’re going more than a year without using the bed for its intended purpose, you may be better off renting a truck when needed.”

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Pickup Truck
MCCAIG/istockphoto

Say Goodbye to Secure Cargo Space

The other main drawback of the open truck bed is security. When the seats are filled with passengers, there’s no room to tuck away anything else safe and sound inside. Literally everything you’re toting from point A to point B has to sit exposed and within arm’s reach of whoever is passing by should you decide to stop to use the bathroom or grab a coffee.

“Unlike sedans and SUVs, there is no secure cargo area outside the passenger compartment,” Reina said. “Unless a lockable bed cover is added, which can defeat the point of having the bed.”

2020 Ford F-450
The Ford Motor Company

Interior Configurations — and Passenger Space — Are Limited

Unlike SUVs, there is only so much room and only so many possible configurations a pickup can utilize to get the most out of interior passenger space.

“Regular- and extended-cab pickups have no or limited rear-seat capacity,” said Reina. “Moving to a crew cab gains full-size rear doors but adds to the overall bulk of the vehicle.”

Related: 43 Most Over-the-Top Trucks You Can Buy

Fuel Gage
kckate16/istockphoto

Their Design Has Inherent Drawbacks

Virtually all vehicles have been manufactured with either body-on-frame construction or unibody construction since cars and trucks have been a thing. Today, the design depends mostly on the type of vehicle.

“All full-size and most mid-size pickups are still manufactured as body-on-frame products,” said Reina. “Sedans and SUVs long ago switched to unitized construction, which is lighter.”

Body-on-frame construction is easier to design, build, and fix after accidents, but the fact that unibody vehicles are lighter directly affects the all-important factor of fuel economy.

“The body-on-frame weight penalty plays a role in the poorer gas mileage that pickups get,” Reina said — which leads to the next drawback.

Related: 12 Gas Guzzlers We're Ashamed to Admit We Still Want

Truck Gas
cpopik/istockphoto

They’re Not Great on Gas

It’s not just their body-on-frame design. Pickups are built for towing and carrying, so they tend to have engines that are big, powerful, and thirsty. Since they must, by definition, have open rear beds, they’re also not particularly aerodynamic, which goes a long way to stifling fuel economy.

“Trucks don’t have very good gas mileage,” said Jake McKenzie, content manager for AutoAccessoriesGarage. “If you’re just using a truck to drive to an office and back, you’ll be spending a lot more on fuel than your car-driving coworkers.”

Pickups average less than 20 mpg — worse than cars, wagons, SUVs, and even minivans and vans — and have the worst record in terms of improvements in fuel economy since the 1970s across all categories of vehicles. But the industry is at the dawn of an exciting new era. All major automakers are releasing or planning to release fully electric pickups that could remove boundaries for countless potential converts who are only still clinging to their cars because they get better gas mileage.

Related: 21 Ways to Get Better Gas Mileage

Pickup Truck Exhaust
Toa55/istockphoto

They’re Eco-Ugly

It’s a good thing that the pickup EV revolution looks like it’s poised to take off — in their current form, trucks are big polluters.

“There’s no denying how much trucks are environmentally non-friendly,” said Vasiliauskas. “Trucks’ higher fuel consumption means they produce more greenhouse gasses than smaller cars.”

2020 Ford F-150 Pickup
shaunl/istockphoto

Trucks Aren’t Cheap

There are certainly many motorists who are truck people on the inside but who are stuck getting around in sedans or crossovers instead for one reason and one reason only — cost.

“They’re expensive,” McKenzie said. “Truck prices have steadily risen much faster than inflation over the past few decades.”

Average people started being priced out of pickups around the time of the Great Recession, and between 2008-2018, the average price of new, full-size, light-duty pickups grew by 48%. By early 2020, the average price of a new pickup hit nearly $50,000 — $49,543, to be exact.

Related: These Cars Are the Most Likely to Surpass 200,000 Miles

Moving
ca2hill/istockphoto

The Truck Person Gets Lots of New Best Friends

Trucks are awesome, in part, because they can do things that regular passenger vehicles can’t. Most people don’t tow and haul big stuff frequently enough to justify owning a pickup — but there are a few times a year that a truck would come in handy for just about everyone. When those moments arise, one phrase rings out among friends in a jam: “Who do we know who has a truck?”

“You’ll get called for a lot of favors,” McKenzie said. “When you’re the one with the truck, you’d be surprised how often your friends are moving and could really use your help for the day.”

Related: 32 Most Reliable Trucks of All Time