Choosing the right pickup truck can be the difference between getting the job done and not getting the job at all. It can mean a great value for your money, or it can just be another car payment sitting in your driveway; one with a really big trunk. It has to fit your needs and your budget. There are several choices that need to be made which will decide whether your truck performs sufficiently and economically for you or simply makes you wish you’d chosen another. With all the available options being produced today, that choice is getting more difficult to make every year. Here are a few tips to help you in your quest for the best working vehicle in the industry.

Powertrain

Do you want economy or power? That’s the biggest question to ask yourself when choosing a powertrain. If you’ll be doing some heavy hauling, towing, or off-road work, you’ll want to go with something in the range of a full-size ½-ton pickup or larger with at least an 8-cylinder engine or larger. Remember to check out the available torque your vehicle puts out. The higher the torque, the more powerful the vehicle. Horsepower is more for show. Some recommendations on the large workhorses with massive torque for the 2010-2011 model years are:

Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, and F-450 Super Duty – 6.2L V8 and 6.7L diesel

Dodge Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 – 5.7L V8 and 6.7L diesel

Toyota Tundra CrewMax – 5.7L V8

Chevy Silverado 1500, 2500, and 3500HD – 6.0L and 6.6L V8s

GMC Sierra 1500, 2500, and 3500 HD – 6.0L and 6.6L V8s

If you’re only looking for light duty, and a more economical choice at the fuel pump, you’re better suited with a midsize or compact pickup that comes equipped with a smaller engine like a V6 or 4-cylinder. These include:

Ford Ranger – 2.3L 4-cyl. and 4.0L V6

Dodge Dakota – 3.7L V6

Chevy Colorado – 2.9L 4-cyl. and 3.7L 5-cyl.

GMC Canyon – 2.9L 4-cyl. and 3.7L 5-cyl.

Nissan Frontier – 2.5L 4-cyl. and 4.0L V6

Toyota Tacoma – 2.7L 4-cyl. and 4.0L V6

Another powertrain option that can make a vast difference in your truck’s compatibility is two or four-wheel drive. Even if you’re not going to be using your truck for major workloads, if you live in a climate that has inclement weather, you may want to stick with 4WD. It will sacrifice a couple miles per gallon at the pump, but you’ll appreciate the added handling in the winter. If you simply need a get-around-town vehicle, 2WD will be easier on fuel efficiency and suit you quite well. There’s also much less in the way of mechanical fixtures that can break on a 2WD truck.

Seating

Oddly enough, this is one of the choices that has the biggest effect on the overall price. How many do you need to seat? If it’s just you and one or two others, you’re safe with a regular cab or even an extended cab in a smaller pickup. If you need to haul around a work crew or a family, you’re better off going with one of the big boys and opting for the larger cabs. Something in the way of a Crew Cab or Mega Cab can typically seat 5 to 6 comfortably.

Bed Size

A standard pickup is going to come with what is called a “short bed.” This means the bed of the truck typically measures in the area of 6’ in length. Most of the trucks with very large cabs come with this size bed. Having extra seating in the cab means a bit of sacrifice in hauling capacity. On the other hand, a “long bed,” or bed that measures more in the range of 8’, is also available. It adds some extra hauling capacity, but does broaden the wheelbase which can hamper turning radius and handling. It will also drive the price up a little higher as well. Most people suffice with the short bed unless you’re using your vehicle for some major hauling or working.

Budget

Sometimes this is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? We all want the biggest and the best, no matter what our needs really are; but we have to stay within our price range. If money is no object, and kudos to you if that’s the case, then you can probably opt for one of the luxury model big boys like the F-350 King Ranch series, which has a starting price in the neighborhood of $46K and comes with everything but the kitchen sink. Many of the bigger luxury trucks are going to be in the $35K and $45K price range. You can still get a larger ½-ton truck starting around $20K, but don’t expect it come loaded with options. If you need more option, expect to pay around $25K to $30. The more midsize and compact trucks can be had starting around $17K and moving up from there.

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