Right Driver

Should you buy a pickup truck?

A solid choice for tradespeople, farmers and people who need to access the wilderness as part of their job or hobby, the pickup truck is a popular choice. But should you buy one?

Advantages of a pickup

The rugged suspension, four-wheel drive and high ride height mean some pickups have the off-road confidence that can deal with a wide variety of terrain, all while carrying critical supplies, materials or equipment.

Your average town car won’t deal with this sort of terrain

If you’re carrying wet, dirty or smelly items, the pickup’s tray keeps them separate from the cabin. This applies to motorbikes, dogs, scuba gear, building supplies and more.

As pickups can be retrofitted with all manner or front, mid and rear racks, they can be used to carry long items, such as 6m lengths of timber, just like a van can.

They can also be fitted with cages, racks and toolboxes to make transporting equipment more convenient; lockable toolboxes get around the problem of the pickup’s tray being inherently insecure.

A pickup with a custom kennel

The cargo tray can be accessed from three sides, giving more convenient loading options.

Tall items can be carried in pickups without a rigid canopy.

Heavy loads can be carried in some pickup trucks – sometimes up to 1500kg.

Disadvantages of a pickup

It’s impossible to secure anything in the cargo tray unless there’s a lockable lid. This means you have to take things with you, whereas in a car you could hide them in the boot.

This lockable, retractable lid is convenient for security, but is an expensive add-on; rigid lids also work, but you then cannot carry tall items in the tray

Pickups tend to be noisier on the road and they don’t handle as well as a car because they have a high centre of gravity and often have tyres that are designed for off-road driving as well as on-road driving, meaning they are a compromise.

It’s much easier to tip a pickup on its roof than a vehicle with a lower centre of gravity

The turning circle is usually worse than for a car.

The diesel engines of some utes are noisy and unrefined. They also don’t respond well to lots of low-speed urban driving as they need higher speeds to burn off the particulates.

When loading, it’s not always possible to reach items from the side or rear, meaning you need to climb up into the pickup’s cargo tray to retrieve objects.

The cargo tray itself is low-friction, therefore items slide around; most people who use pickups as a daily driver will put things like shopping behind the front seats. This is something to consider if you plan to buy just a single-cab pickup, as while you’ll have the maximum space possible for the tray, you’ll have minimal internal storage.

If it’s a double cab (i.e. there’s a row of seats behind the driver) those seats are very upright because the back of the cab is vertical – they’re not bad for short journeys, but not comfortable for long journeys.

You can learn how to load a pick-up safely.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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