pickup truck

Buying Your First Pickup Truck

Buying a truck isn’t the same as purchasing a car or SUV. Payload and tow ratings, cab and bed configurations, and 4×2 or 4×4 are just some of the terms used to describe truck models. For a first-time truck buyer, these terms can get confusing. Here is a guide to help you do your research for your first pickup truck.

Know Your Budget

Before you even start researching the different models available for your first pickup, you need to know how much money you have to work with. Trucks are more expensive than cars or even SUVs and come with a much higher sticker price if you want the extra bells and whistles. If you’re on a limited budget, you may want to consider a used pickup for your first model.

So, how much are we talking about? Well, even a basic full-size truck is probably going to cost at least $40,000. Now, you can find mid-size or compact trucks for about what you would pay for an SUV or full-size sedan. Just remember that the base price won’t come with all the amenities you might want. Even more importantly, it may not have the capability you are looking for.

The bottom line is that when you’re shopping for a pickup truck, you may want to look at used models unless you are satisfied with a base trim.

Understanding the options of a pickup truck

While SUVs come with a few configurations, such as two- or three-row models, most cars are pretty standard. On the other hand, trucks offer a lot of combinations for you to choose from. Let’s start with the cab, which can offer just one row with a bench seat, often referred to as a regular cab. You also have the option of a second row with the first row being either a bench seat to provide room for six or bucket seats to seat five. These double cabs may feature four doors or just two doors where the front seat leans forward for entry. Often, the cabs with two rows are known as crew cabs, mega cabs, extended cabs or other terms specially coined by the brand.

The second area of configuration for pickup trucks is the bed. Truck beds come in different sizes to fit the various needs of the driver. They may be labeled as short bed, standard bed, or long bed. When measured, you may end up with a 4’6”, 5’7”, or 8’ bed to haul your cargo. Storage in the bed is another feature many buyers want with closed cargo bins attached to the sides. These bins are often lockable and keep tools and supplies dry and secure.

Capability of the truck

If you’re in the market for a pickup truck, capability is probably one of the most important aspects of this vehicle. It can also be one of the most confusing with several unique terms used to describe what the truck can do.

Payload and towing capacity are two of the most often used terms to describe how powerful a truck is. You’ll also hear other words used about the capability of the model, but for a first-time buyer, you should focus on these two. Payload describes how much weight the truck can haul in its bed and cab while towing capacity describes the amount of weight the truck can pull with a trailer or RV.

Part of a truck’s capability is whether it is an all-wheel drive or two-wheel drive model. If you plan to go off-road or live in an area where hazardous road conditions are a concern, you’ll want to think carefully about what you need. All-wheel drive means the truck runs on all four wheels at all times. While four-wheel drive indicates that the truck can switch from two wheels to four wheels on demand. This is also labeled as 4×2 or 4×4 when the dealership describes the model.

You can often tell the basic capability of a truck by the description used. Light duty trucks are usually compact or mid-size, also known as a half-ton truck. They can handle small loads and some towing, but their capability is limited. Heavy-duty trucks, also referred to as one-ton trucks, are designed to tow heavy loads and have a higher maximum towing capacity.

Comfort and technology in your pickup truck

Most manufacturers of pickup trucks put the focus on capability and strength and cut corners on luxury for the base models. You may find trucks with vinyl upholstery and manual locks and windows while still providing impressive strength.

For a truck that provides the capability and leather upholstery with heated and cooled seats, expect to pay $70,000 or more. Unless, you decide to buy used. These comfort amenities come at a premium price if you want to “have it all.”

Technology was once considered another luxury for trucks, but it has become more standard in current models. Even the base trim will include a multimedia system, although the screen will probably be much smaller. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on most trucks. Not to mention, Wi-Fi is almost a necessity for owners who use their trucks for work on remote sites.

Buying a truck is a lot more complicated than shopping for a car or SUV. Know what you need, what you want, and what you’re willing to compromise on for your first pickup truck. 


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Joyce Morse Farinella
Hello! My name’s Joyce Morse Farinella and I’m a full-time writer who loves to research interesting and strange topics and explain them to others. I also enjoy hanging out with my daughter and being a foster parent. I love to travel and hang out at home, getting writing inspiration from both."


    1. Great article! I was thinking about trading in my Nissan sedan for a truck. Now I’ll know what to look for.

    2. Prepare to buy a used truck if you would like to spend less than 40,0000

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