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Vehicle buying guide - Trucks & Pickups

June 10, 2005 11:05 PM EST | Consumer Info , Trucks/Pickups | Email to Friend

A Truck is a vehicle with two or four doors and an exposed cargo box. Below is a list of things you should know before you buy.

Size/Market Segment: Most trucks fall into either the compact or full-size category, although there are a few models designated as midsize.

Price: Base model compact trucks are some of the cheapest vehicles on the market, but premium models can cost into the mid- to upper-$20Ks. Full-size trucks range from the low-$20,000s to the low-$40,000s.

Engine/Fuel Economy: Compact trucks offer four-, five- and six-cylinder engines that deliver respectable mileage. Full-size trucks offer six-cylinder engines on base models, but most trucks use V8 or even V10 engines that return marginal fuel economy numbers at best. Most full-size trucks also offer diesel engines that provide plenty of towing power and better mileage.

Safety: Most trucks offer basic safety equipment like front airbags and seatbelts for all passengers. Some newer full-size trucks offer more advanced systems like side curtain airbags and electronic stability control.

Drivetrain: Almost all trucks offer both manual and automatic transmissions, as well as two- and four-wheel drive. Many vehicles also offer traction-aiding devices like limited-slip/locking differentials and electronic traction control.

Passenger Capacity/Interior Space: There are three basic body styles for trucks: regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. Regular cabs have two doors and seat between two and three comfortably. Compact extended cabs add mostly extra storage space, while full-size versions can seat three additional passengers. Rear clamshell doors make it easier to get people and cargo in and out of the back of extended cabs. Crew cabs have four full-size doors and seat between five and six passengers comfortably.

Versatility of Interior Seating: Most trucks with extended or crew cabs offer the ability to either fold the entire rear seat up or at least one half or the other. Some newer full-size trucks also allow you to fold the front-passenger seat flat to provide a handy tablelike surface.

Towing Ability: Compact trucks can tow between 3,000 and 7,000 pounds, depending on how they're equipped. Full-size trucks can tow as much as 12,000 pounds with certain engines and suspension configurations, although most range between 8,000- and 10,000-pound capacities.

Bed Capacity: Most compact truck beds are 6 1/2 feet long, although a few models offer longer beds. Almost all full-size trucks offer long and short beds that range between 6 1/2 and 8 feet long depending on the brand and/or cab configuration.

Operating Costs: Compact trucks are generally very fuel-efficient and cheaper to insure because of their low buy-in cost. Adding four-wheel drive to any truck will further add to annual operating costs as well.

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