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15 Different Types of Pickup Trucks Explained

2021 ford 150 raptor
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Pickup trucks have become iconic vehicles that are no longer the domain of the farmer or the tradesman. These workhorses have found popularity in a wide range of sectors of the public, from being used as utility vehicles to being a fashion statement. This has driven the pickup design to include features for various activities from urban to recreational and farming applications.

Pickup trucks come in many configurations, depending on their intended purpose. From light to medium and heavy-duty to luxury trucks, half-ton, three-quarter, and one-ton versions to full-sized, compacts, regular cab, crew cab, extended cab, and electric and hybrid models.

Pickup trucks can be seen on farms, homesteads, dirt bike tracks, suburban driveways, and even parked in executive parking bays in the city center. The pickup truck has moved from being a rural utility vehicle to an icon of the motor industry. They have even become popular in the suburban setting, and it is not unusual for them to be driven by soccer moms! Pickup trucks have evolved to have many models that are suitable for various functions.

Light-Duty Pickup Trucks

2021 ram 1500 trx
2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Light-duty pickup trucks are often used by local tradesmen such as electricians, garden services, and for people who own a pickup truck for urban and suburban driving. They generally have smaller engines, a shorter wheel-base, and a smaller load bin.

The interior of a light-duty pickup has the features that you would expect to find in a mid-range SUV, and its driving expectations would be for more on-road applications, such as suburban streets and highways, rather than dirt roads.
They are generally only 2-wheel drive models but may incorporate some all-terrain features such as diff-lock because of the driving conditions that these vehicles are intended to be used in. The suspension in these vehicles would not allow for heavy loads to be transported with these vehicles, but they make good towing vehicles for small to medium boats and trailers.

The Honda Ridgeline is typical of a vehicle in this class, as is the Ram 1500, but the most popular light pickup truck in the USA in 2020 going by sales is the Ford F-150 pickup truck. [Source:]

Medium-Duty Pickup Trucks

toyota tacoma
Toyota Tacoma

Midsize or medium-duty pickup trucks are ideal for everyday use because they offer a great balance between power and size. These trucks are used by all kinds of people for all kinds of purposes. They are relatively small, nimble, and maneuverable. You can even park them in regular garages!

Just because these trucks are of medium size doesn’t mean that they are lacking in power. With their small size and maneuverability, they make for a lot of fun in or outside of town.

This type of pickup easily handles everyday tasks and can be used to carry cargo, These pickup trucks have plenty of room for the family and ample amount of cargo space, but they’re still easy to drive and park around town.

In general, small pickups are more maneuverable than other trucks on the road. They can fit through tighter spaces and may be easier to park.

The mid-range pickups that are the most popular in the mid-range pickup truck category are the Toyota Tacoma as the front runner, followed by the Chevrolet Colorado and the Ford Ranger. [Source: Hedges Company ]

Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks

2018 Nissan Titan XD
The 2018 Nissan Titan XD on display at the Chicago Auto Show

Heavy-duty pickup trucks are in a class all of their own and normally feature large engine capacities in the form of large displacement V8 engines. The suspensions installed in these vehicles make them capable of carrying heavier loads than the other pickup versions.

The towing capacity of these heavy-duty pickup trucks is pretty impressive and also what makes them popular with fifth wheel or caravan owners. They can also be used to tow larger boats and trailers that carry heavy loads for industrial size deliveries.

The heavy-duty pickups generally have models that are off-road ready and include features such as 4 wheel drive, diff-lock, and computerized off-road driving modes.

The most popular heavy-duty pickups by sales quota in the USA are the Ford F-series, with the models that have the large 5.0L V8 engines. Other examples are the Nissan Titan XD, Chevrolet Silverado 2500, GMC Sierra 2500 HD, Ford F-250 Super Duty, and the Ram 2500 HD.

Luxury Pickup trucks

The fact that there is a category of luxury pickup trucks is a testament to the fact that these vehicles have made their way into all sectors of the population for a wide range of purposes.

Luxury refers to the fit and finish of the interior of the vehicles as well as various add-ons that offer a more comfortable ride and gadgets and features in the cabin that offer luxury rather than performance features for the truck.

Pickup trucks that fall into the category of luxury models can be trucks from any of the other categories of trucks, from light-duty trucks to heavy-duty trucks. The luxury models generally cost more for all the additional features included in the vehicle.

The features that can be included in luxury models are items like wood accents in the interior of the cabin, high-end upholstery, WiFi mobile phone connectivity, state-of-the-art sound systems, heated seats, climate control, and advanced electronics for the interior of the cabin.

Half-Ton Pickup Trucks

The category of half-ton pickups is in reference to the load that the pickup is able to transport in its load bin combined with passenger weight. In other words, the truck’s maximum load-carrying capacity. The half-ton designation does not refer to the weight of the truck itself.

Typically this means that the carrying capacity of the truck is 1000-pounds, which is half of a ton. Modern half-ton trucks can generally carry more than this load, but the term has become associated with light-duty pickup trucks. As a result, the name continues to be used for trucks in this category even if their carrying capacity is greater than 1000-pounds.

It is not only the load bin that restricts the load size but also the type of suspension that is installed in the truck.

Most half-ton pickup trucks would be considered to fall in the category of light-duty pickup trucks, so if you hear a pickup truck described as a half-ton truck, it is a light-duty pickup truck.

These trucks are popular among suburban and city dwellers who do not typically transport heavy loads on a regular basis or tradesmen in the city that need a truck to transport their tools and supplies to and from job sites.

The half-ton designation also does not indicate the maximum towing capability of the vehicle, but the towing capacity of the vehicle will be proportionate to its payload carrying capacity.

The towing capability of the vehicle is normally calculated by taking into consideration various characteristics of the vehicle, such as engine capacity, suspension capacity, transmission, rear axle, and braking system, in conjunction with payload capacity. [Source: Bell Engineering ]

Three-Quarter Ton Pickup Trucks

ford f-250 super duty
Ford F250 Super Duty

Historically, a three-quarter-ton truck was a pickup truck that could carry three-quarters of a ton as its total payload. In times gone by, when pickup trucks were purchased as workhorses, it was important for the purchaser to know the carrying capacity of the vehicle.

The three-quarter-ton truck was designated as such because of its capacity to carry a combined weight of passengers and payload of 1500-pounds.

These trucks were considered medium-duty pickup trucks, and the name has continued to be used for medium-duty trucks, even though the modern versions of these trucks are capable of carrying more than the 1500-pounds that the name implies.

Modern examples of three-quarter-ton pickup trucks or medium-duty trucks are the Ford F-250 and the Chevrolet Silverado 2500.

One-Ton Pickup Trucks

The one-ton pickup truck terminology refers to the modern heavy-duty pickup truck category. These are the muscle cars of the pickup trucks and have large engines, axles, and suspensions made to carry heavy loads and beefed-up braking systems.

Some models in this range feature dual rear wheels, and diesel engines are often featured on these vehicles to better cope with the loads that they are capable of carrying or towing.

The naming convention of a one-ton truck is retained for the historical convention, but modern one-ton trucks or heavy-duty pickup trucks are usually capable of carrying payloads that well exceed the one-ton mark.

Examples of one-ton pickup trucks are the Ford F-350 and the RAM 3500 trucks.

Full-Size Pickup Trucks

Full-Size pickup trucks is a reference to one-ton pickup trucks or heavy-duty pickup trucks. These trucks usually have much more cabin space and incorporate larger engines, usually in the V8 range.

Full-sized pickup trucks typically ride higher off the ground compared to other pickup trucks, which makes them ideal for off-road driving. These trucks often come with all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel drive options to further boost the off-road capability of these trucks.

Full-sized pickup trucks are the most expensive models of pickup trucks, which can be a deciding factor for many people to opt for a midsize or medium-duty pickup truck.

Compact Pickup Trucks

The name compact pickup truck has different meanings in different locations. In some places, it means that the pickup truck has a much smaller load bay and the passenger compartment makes up most of the vehicle. The front-end of these vehicles often look more like a sedan than a truck.

The other definition of a compact pickup truck is the extremely light pickup trucks that are based on sedan car models, have limited ground clearance, and are intended for urban use only.

They are typically only two-wheel drive, some even being front-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive, a further indication of their urban intention. They also have small petrol engines, often in the range of 1600cc to 1800cc.

Compact pickup trucks are the smallest of the pickup trucks and typically are used for small parcel delivery by companies or for very light load transport. From a recreational point of view, some people who do outdoor sports such as mountain biking or surfing may use these vehicles to transport their sporting equipment.

Compact pickup trucks have lost much of their popularity in recent years, and the population has been more interested in light-duty pickup trucks in favor of compact pickup trucks.

Regular Cab Pickup Trucks

Historically, pickup trucks were made and workhorses for load transportation rather than people carriers. As such, they had cabs with limited space.

Regular cab pickup trucks stay true to this historical standard and only have a cab that can take two people, each with their own bucket seat. If the truck is fitted with a bench seat in the cab, it can accommodate three people in the cab, including the driver.

The original Ford F-150 trucks that came out from the 1960s to the 1990s all featured a regular cab as the standard model.

Regular cabs have lost much of their appeal to the public, and as a result, many pickup truck manufacturers no longer offer the option of a regular cab in their truck ranges.

Crew Cab Pickup Trucks

A crew cab pickup truck is a truck that has 4 regular doors on the truck, and the vehicle can accommodate a maximum of 5 adults in the cab of the vehicle. Usually, the configuration for this would be 2 persons in the front, including the driver, and 3 passengers in the back seat.

It is termed a crew cab because it is intended to carry the crew that you need for the job that you are going to with your pickup truck.

The inside of the cab of these trucks is generally quite spacious and resembles the available space n a medium-sized sedan, but with more headroom.

The load bay of pickup trucks with a crew cab is typically reduced to accommodate the larger cabin space of the vehicle.

Extended Cab Pickup Trucks

Extended cab pickup trucks have front seats and rear seats but only two full-sized front doors. The rear seats are typically accessed by opening the front door and leaning the front seat forward to allow passengers entrance and exit of the rear seat.

Some extended cab models have small courtesy doors that are rear-hinged to provide easier access to the back seat. Models that have this small door do not require that the from seat is moved forward to give access to the rear seats. This courtesy door is not, however, a feature on all extended-cab models.

Typically, the seating space in an extended cab pickup truck is not as spacious as that in a crew cab truck and is therefore only intended for occasional passenger transportation.

Chassis Cab Pickup Trucks

The chassis cab pickup truck is a truck that comes with a cab, often a regular can or an extended cab, but no load box. Where the load box would normally sit, the chassis is exposed.

The purpose of this type of pickup truck is for the fitment on aftermarket equipment to the chassis in the place of the load box. This could take the shape of a flatbed, a tank bed for transporting liquids, tow truck equipment, or light lifting cranes.

These trucks are intended more for agriculture and commercial use rather than general public urban and suburban use.

Electric Pickup Trucks

Tesla Cybertruck
Tesla Cybertruck

Electric vehicles are improving in reliability, speed, power, and charging capabilities, and it is only a matter of time before electric vehicles will be more commonplace in the pickup truck sector.

A number of major pickup truck manufacturers have been developing electric models, along with some new players in the market.

Ford is one notable manufacturer that is soon to launch an all-electric version of the Ford F-150, which is due for release in 2021 or early 2022. Another is Chevrolet, with their Silverado Electric pickup, which they plan to release in 2025.

Newcomers to the vehicle market, such as Rivian, intend to deliver their R1T, an all-electric pickup truck, in the middle of 2021.

The iconic Tesla brand is also working on an electric version of the pickup truck, called the Tesla Cybertruck, which will most likely go into production in the latter part of 2021.
[Source: Car And Driver ]

Hybrid Pickup Trucks

Since the fully electric pickup truck is still a promise from manufacturers that is almost on our doorstep, the next best thing is a hybrid pickup truck.

This technology combines the combustion engine with electric motor technology to produce a vehicle that uses both engine technologies in the form of a hybrid.

The hybrids lack some of the power of the fully combustion-engined versions, which is why they are mostly in the light-duty and medium-duty pickup truck range.

Most truck manufacturers currently offer hybrid trucks in their model range, including Ford’s Hybrid F-150, the GMC Sierra hybrid, the RAM 1500 hybrid, and the Chevrolet 1500 hybrid, which was the first mass-produced hybrid pickup truck.

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