Find the Best Pickup Truck for Your Needs

With these truck buying tips, learn how to find the best pickup truck for your job, and whether a new or used pickup truck is the right choice.

| February/March 1992

Does your wife refuse to drive the family Dodge station wagon now that you've used it to haul manure from the cow barn to the south patch? Does your Chevy Eurosport bottom-out and high-center every time you drive out to the highway to get your mail?

Maybe you need a pickup truck. Until horses and oxen make a really big comeback, pickups are here to stay on farms and ranches, large and small, for businesses and for pleasure. Pickups are modem-day America's utilitarian, jack-of-all-trades workhorses. They're available in a surprisingly large variety and in a broad range of power and payload capabilities.

Once you've recognized the need to replace your small hauler, station wagon or sedan with a utility vehicle, the next — and most difficult — task is to find the best pickup truck for your needs: your hog farm, your furniture-refinishing business or the family's third pregnancy in five years. First, can you afford to buy new, or will it have to be a used truck that needs refitting to make it serviceable? Next, can you afford to feed a big V-6 or V-8 in a heavy hauler? Or do you prefer the thrifty sips of a small, imported, four-cylinder mini-pickup to serve your needs?

And what's the maintenance-cost factor of the truck you think you'd like to buy? Four or six new spark plugs cost less than eight. But four, six or eight cylinders each use only one oil filter. However, it costs more to fill an eight-quart oil sump in a Chevy 350 diesel engine than it does to top-up a four-quart reservoir in a Ford Ranger. Can you do the maintenance work — outside tune-ups, plug changes, carburetor adjustment and lubrication — yourself, or will you have to take your truck to a dealer or a local service station? The greater the complexity of a truck and its accessories, the more routine maintenance and repair will cost, even if you do the work yourself.

Before making a purchase, consider situations that might be called "overtruck" and — conversely — "undertruck." If you live alone beside a paved road and make your living as a goose down plucker, you certainly don't need a Ford F-350 four-wheel drive, one-ton truck with full six-passenger crew cab. And if your thing is making and selling home-built anvils by the gross, you won't be able to get by with a standard three-quarter ton, entry-level model either.

Figure Out the Truck Payload Capacity

This is probably the most important specification for any given pickup truck, and this handy figure isn't always one of the numbers provided by the manufacturers. It's sometimes difficult to figure out exactly how many pounds of cargo you can stuff into a particular truck. Here's the formula for calculating (before you buy, for heaven’s sake!) a specific truck's payload capacity:

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