Truck Buying Guide

Durable, flexible and capable of handling a variety of tough jobs, the truck is a resourceful open-bedded vehicle that can be both stylish and utilitarian. These workhorses of the road are available in different styles, configurations and sizes, and have played an important part in the labor work force. All trucks provide the driver with a commanding vantage point, and most have ample space for hauling large loads. Some models also include extra seating for additional passengers.

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The History of Trucks

In 1925, the first production line-manufactured truck that was available to the public was actually a variation on the Model T Ford. It had a rear modification to add a cargo bed and was known as the Model T Ford Runabout with Pickup Body.

The first closed-cab pickup truck was Ford’s Model A, which came along in 1928. It was equipped with a safety glass windscreen and roll-up side windows. The Model A was originally powered by a four-cylinder engine, but in 1932, Ford introduced the option of having a 65 horsepower flathead V-8 to replace the four-cylinder.

This added muscle transformed the Model A pickup into a true workhorse, ideally suited for use in the many parts of the country, which was still predominantly rural. By 1936, Ford was the industry leader in trucks and had already produced more than three million vehicles.

In 1955, Japanese automaker Datsun introduced the first compact pickup truck. In the following decade, compact model pickups became popular in the United States. Datsun's chief competitor Toyota also entered the market, and the two Japanese automakers dominated the compact truck market for a decade. Eventually, the big American car companies took notice, and during the 1970s, U.S. automakers contracted Japanese automakers such as Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu to manufacture compact trucks such as the Chevrolet Luv and the Ford Courier.

Truck Variations.

Compact trucks are only one of the several different varieties of commercially produced trucks available to buyers over the years. The compact, however, is currently the most popular variety of truck according to worldwide sales. Built like a miniature version of a standard twin axle heavy truck, compacts have conventional cabs and gas tanks with the same capacity as a passenger car.

Midsize trucks were introduced to the public in the 1980s when the Dodge Dakota was presented. Essentially a compact truck available with a V-8 or a V-6, the Dakota set the standard for the midsize truck with its added power and impressive capacity to carry a full-size load.

However for drivers who are looking to get the job done, there is nothing like a full-size pickup, which is a large, powerful vehicle designed to carry heavy loads. The average full-size has the capacity to haul about 1,000 pounds. Standard bed sizes allow for carrying materials up to 4- and 8-feet long.

Even larger than full-size are dual-wheeled pickups, better known as “Dualies.” These vehicles are essentially full-size pickups with four wheels on the rear axle alone. Sometimes dual-wheeled models are equipped with a "fifth wheel" connector in the bed to assist with towing trailers and other heavy loads.

Four-wheel drive trucks are designed for driving over rugged terrain. These trucks are driven by all four wheels and outfitted with rugged suspensions. Often such vehicles are also driven for recreational purposes.

Truck Brands

Popular compact truck in the U.S. and Europe include the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon, and the Ford Ranger.

The Dodge Dakota is still a popular model in the midsize segment of the truck market; however, it now competes with a number of other models including the GMC Canyon, the Nissan Frontier, and the Toyota Tacoma. While many midsize trucks are now only available with 4- or 6-cylinder engines, the Dakota still offers the option of a V-8 engine.

Several models of full-size trucks are big sellers today such as the Chevrolet Silverado, the Dodge Ram, the Ford F-Series, and the Toyota Tundra and others.

Who Drives Trucks?

Because trucks tend to be so useful and versatile, they can fit any driver. Heavy full-size trucks and dual-wheeled models are ideal for anyone who needs a vehicle for towing or hauling purposes. Compacts are also very utilitarian and offer similar fuel economy to a midsize or compact sedan.