How to Select the Right Truck for You

Picking the Perfect Ride for You and Your Family

Trucks are arguably the most versatile mode of transport you can choose today. They can haul much heavier loads than passenger vehicles, carry as many goods as you require, and even be used on the farm or worksite.

Trucks are also less likely to suffer from mechanical problems than cars, can be driven for longer distances, and can effortlessly tow heavy trailers.

Trucks are also excellent people carriers and suit larger families to a tee. There are compact trucks, luxury trucks, and trucks built for off-roading. With so many options on the used car dealership showroom floor, it pays to narrow down your options to the trucks that will suit you the best.

Pickup size

In the U.S., there are four delineated types of pickup truck based on their size:

  • Compact—Small bed size and basic engine (e.g., Toyota Tacoma)
  • Mid-size—Best all-around trucks (e.g., Chevrolet Colorado)
  • Full-size—Most popular truck size in the U.S. (e.g., Ram 1500)
  • Heavy-duty—More powerful engines and stiffer suspension for towing and payloads (e.g., Ford F-250)

Choosing between these categories should be the first thing you do when narrowing down the trucks that best suit you. Compact trucks excel in the city and offer the best economy. Mid-size trucks add more utility and space, and full-size trucks are even more versatile. Heavy-duty trucks are generally reserved for commercial applications where hauling and carrying heavy loads is a common occurrence.

Bed length

The truck bed is another name for the cargo box at the back of the vehicle used to carry more oversized items. Where the cabin of a vehicle is designed to carry passengers, the bed is for carrying equipment, which can be anything from worksite tools and lumber to shopping bags or dirt bikes.

Pickup bed lengths haven’t been standardized, and manufacturers are free to call their beds anything they like regardless of how much they can carry. We can, however, generalize about the various bed lengths on the market right now and split them into three categories:

  • Short bed—Around 5.5 feet in length, a short bed is big enough to carry a large TV or several bags of mulch, but contractors will find the space lacking.
  • Standard bed—Around 6.5 feet in length, the standard bed provides plenty of space without the difficulty of maneuvering a long bed.
  • Long bed—A long bed, around 8 feet in length, is the best option when you plan to haul ATVs, canoes, or extra-long drywall from the hardware store. The long best is the most versatile, but it’s also a bit harder to maneuver in tight spots.

Cabin size

Manufacturers refer to their cabins with slightly different names, but we can group them into four categories:

  • Regular Cab—a two-door vehicle with one row of seating, allowing for a longer bed.
  • Extended Cab—A two-door or four-door vehicle with two rows of seats. The back row offers less room than the front seats.
  • Crew Cab—A four-door vehicle with ample room for front-seat and rear-seat passengers.
  • Extended Crew Cab—Even more space in the front and rear for passengers, often at the cost of bed length.

Choose your cab size based on how many passengers you expect to carry most of the time.

Towing capacity

All trucks can tow a trailer, but some are more capable than others. A truck with a Class 3 towing capacity, like a compact pickup truck, can usually tow up to 5,000 lbs. A truck with a Class 4 towing rating can usually haul up to 10,000 lbs., which typically requires a full-size truck. To move up to hauling nearly 20,000 lbs., you’ll need a heavy-duty Class 5 truck.

So, how much towing capacity do you need? As a rough guide, a Class 3 compact pickup truck can haul a small travel trailer. A Class 4 full-size truck can haul a camping trailer. A Class 5 heavy-duty truck can haul construction equipment, large trailers, and boats.


No doubt the most crucial statistic for many buyers, trucks come in a great variety of prices. You can pick up a new Ford Ranger Lariat for around $30,000, for example, whereas a Ford F-150 Limited with all the bells and whistles costs over $70,000.

The best way to reduce the cost of your truck purchase is to buy used. A five-year-old truck will cost around 41% less than it did when it was first sold, for example, and with trucks routinely lasting for hundreds of thousands of miles these days, there are fewer compelling reasons to buy a new truck over a used one that’s been treated well.

Now You’re Ready, Time To Shop!

There’s a truck out there for everyone, no matter their needs and budget. Research the options carefully, and you’ll drive off the car dealership lot with the perfect vehicle to see you through the next decade and beyond.