Which is the Right Truck for Me?

Shopping for a tough, towing titan of terrain? Find out more about trucks here.

Which is the Right Truck for Me? | CarMax

October 2016

When you’re in the market for your next car, it is worth taking a look at the range of used pickup trucks available.

The pickup truck has long been associated with ranching or roughing it. These days, however, you don’t have to be hauling horses to be considering a Ford F-150 or a Chevy Silverado 1500. Whether you’re towing, off-roading, or just plain getting around town, today’s trucks are more versatile than ever.

In addition to improving a truck’s utility, automakers have added more tech features and increased cab size, so there’s no sacrificing comfort when you hit the open road. Trucks get the job done, and now offer more features to provide a refined ride. Here are some tips to help you find a truck that fits your lifestyle.

Types of Pickup Trucks

The half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton classifications for pickup trucks used to represent the maximum weight that a truck could carry. These classifications are now largely outdated, with each class of trucks now capable of carrying far weightier loads than their classification might indicate.

For everyday driving comfort, look at half-ton pickups. Half-ton pickups are the most popular class of trucks. Trucks in this category include Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra, and they offer ample towing capability without sacrificing refinement and fuel economy. With extended cab configurations and an array of tech features, these trucks perform well as both a safe family vehicle and an all-purpose workhorse.

If you’re looking at a truck primarily for heavy towing and hauling, you should focus on the three-quarter-ton and one-ton classes of trucks, also known as full-size and heavy duty respectively. The three-quarter-ton class includes the Dodge Ram 2500 and Ford F-250. For extreme towing capability, check out one-ton trucks like the Ford F-350 and GMC Sierra 3500.

Engine and Power

For the everyday truck owner, most half-ton trucks can get the job done. In general, half-ton trucks provide plenty of four- to six-cylinder engine options. Three-quarter-ton trucks typically feature the less fuel-efficient V8 engine, though V6 engines are also available.

There are not many engines that beat the efficiency of a diesel engine, though. Not long ago, only heavy duty trucks offered diesel engines, and the increased towing power and impressive mileage that comes with diesel power. Now light duty and full-size trucks also offer diesel options, like the torque-rich half-ton Dodge Ram 1500.

Towing 

A truck’s maximum towing capability depends on factors such as engine size and axle strength. Depending on their engine and design, light-duty trucks have a towing capacity that ranges from 3,000 to 8,000 pounds.

Three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks are the most popular for towing, with a maximum potential towing capacity ranging from 5,000 to 13,000 pounds. For really big jobs, trucks like the heavy duty Chevrolet Silverado HD offer towing capacities above a staggering 20,000 pounds. If you’re planning to haul heavy trailers, boats, and other weighty items, you may want to check out one-ton trucks.

Off-Roading

If you’re looking to break in your new ride with an off-road adventure, one thing to consider is your engine—specifically, your truck’s torque and horsepower. Another must-have is four-wheel drive. While engine power is important to an off-roading truck, you’ll need just a little more “oomph” to get you up and over steep grades and rocky landscape.

A half-ton truck like the Toyota Tacoma offers four-wheel drive, raised suspensions, locking rear differential to keep the back wheels turning in mud or dirt, and plenty of tech gadgets to optimize performance.

Top Pickup Trucks

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start trucking. Get started on your search with CarMax’s most popular pickups:

  1. Ford F150
  2. Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  3. Dodge Ram 1500
  4. Toyota Tacoma
  5. GMC Sierra 1500
  6. Toyota Tundra
  7. Nissan Frontier
  8. Ford F250
  9. Ford Ranger
  10. Chevrolet Colorado
  11. Nissan Titan
  12. Chevrolet Avalanche 1500
  13. Dodge Ram 2500
  14. Chevrolet Silverado 2500
  15. Honda Ridgeline


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