back to articles | March 13, 2023 | Jeremy Bowler

Categories: Vehicle & Buying Research

8 Things To Consider When Buying An SUV Or Pickup Truck

The decision between buying a pickup truck or an SUV can be a difficult one. Both vehicles have advantages, depending on your preferences and lifestyle. Statistics show pickup truck sales are rising in the US for various reasons.


The decision between buying a pickup truck or an SUV can be a difficult one. Both vehicles have advantages, depending on your preferences and lifestyle. Statistics show pickup truck sales are rising in the US for various reasons. A 2020 US study reported over 3 million pickup truck sales, an increase of 4.5% from 2019, while SUVs recorded a 1.2% decrease in the same period. This article weighs the pros and cons of SUVs and pickup trucks to guide you. If you are undecided about whether a pickup truck or an SUV is the best fit for you, explore both options using the factors below to identify which suits your needs.

1. Fuel economy

Due to their powerful engines and heavy weight, pickup trucks are typically less fuel-efficient than cars or SUVs. Gas prices can also be more expensive for trucks requiring premium fuel. Yet, some pickups now come with smaller, more fuel-efficient engines and have improved aerodynamics, making them relatively better on fuel consumption. A vehicle's fuel economy depends on several factors: engine size, weight, and design. It's vital to consult fuel economy ratings and compare different models before purchasing. However, it's worth noting that technological advancements have made some SUVs and pickups more fuel-efficient than in the past. Certain models of SUVs and pickups are available with alternative fuel options like hybrid, electric, or natural gas, which offer better fuel economy and emissions.

2. Off-road capability

Pickup trucks and SUVs are popular for off-road enthusiasts due to their all-wheel drive and high-ground clearance capabilities. However, the design and performance of these vehicles differ in significant ways. Pickup trucks are known for their superior payload and towing capacities, making them ideal for hauling heavy loads over rough terrain. They also tend to have better suspension systems and can easily handle dirt roads, steep inclines, and rugged terrain, providing a smoother ride when driving off-road. On the other hand, SUVs are more comfortable and offer greater passenger capacity, making them a better choice for families heading out on off-road adventures.

3. Utility

Pickups and SUVs both offer great utility, but they have different strengths. Pickups are better for hauling and towing heavier loads, while SUVs are better for carrying passengers and cargo inside. A pickup truck, for instance, can haul everything from furniture to construction materials to camping gear and other items such as tailgate generators for social events and so on. With a bed separate from the cab, you can easily transport large or bulky items that wouldn't fit in a traditional car or SUV. Some SUVs can also tow, but not as much weight or in as difficult terrain as pickups. If you need to tow a trailer or a boat, a pickup truck is often the best choice. Some models offer advanced towing features like trailer sway control and integrated trailer braking.

4. Cost

It isn't easy to generalize whether pickups or SUVs are more expensive, depending on factors such as make, model, and trim level. Sometimes, pickups can be more expensive due to their heavy-duty capabilities and spacious beds. SUVs can be more expensive than others due to their luxurious features and advanced technology systems. Pickup trucks can be more expensive than other vehicles, and maintenance costs can also be higher. Additionally, insurance rates for pickup trucks are often higher than for cars or SUVs. Ultimately, the price of either vehicle depends on personal preferences, individual needs, and budget constraints. It's best to research specific models and compare prices before purchasing.

5. Ride Comfort

While pickup trucks are great for hauling cargo and towing trailers, they may have a rougher ride than other vehicles. Due to their stiff suspension and heavy weight, pickup trucks can be bumpy and uncomfortable, a major downside for daily driving. SUVs typically offer more riding comfort than pickups. SUVs have higher ground clearance and more interior space and often come with more modern suspension systems that provide a smoother ride than pickups. Also, many SUVs have additional features, such as adjustable suspensions, that allow drivers to enhance ride comfort.

6. Safety

Regarding safety, both SUVs and pickups have improved in recent years due to advancements in crash protection technologies. However, data shows that SUVs tend to be safer than pickup trucks on average. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), SUVs had a lower fatality rate per registered vehicle than pickups in 2019. Besides, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that SUVs had lower driver death rates than pickup trucks. However, it is vital to note that the safety of a vehicle depends on various factors, such as size, weight, and design, and there are safe options within both SUV and pickup categories.

7. Resale Value

SUVs and pickup trucks are popular among drivers in the United States, but which offers a higher resale value? Recent data shows pickup trucks tend to hold their value better than SUVs. In fact, according to a study by iSeeCars, pickups occupy all of the top five spots for vehicles with the highest resale values after five years. On average, pickups retain 58.8% of their value after five years, compared to 50.1% for SUVs. That can be attributed to various factors, including the high demand for pickups and their reputation for durability and longevity. So if you're looking for a vehicle with a high resale value, a pickup truck may be the way to go.

8. Environmental impact

Due to recent technological improvements, SUVs and pickups significantly impact the environment, but SUVs tend to be eco-friendlier. According to a report by the EPA, the average fuel economy for SUVs in 2021 was 25.9 miles per gallon (MPG), compared to 20.1 MPG for pickups. Additionally, SUVs emit fewer smog-forming pollutants per mile than pickups. However, it's worth noting that both vehicles can be made eco-friendlier by using alternative fuel options like a hybrid, electric, or natural gas. The best eco-friendly choice will depend on individual driving habits and needs.

Ultimately, the decision of which type of vehicle to drive rests with you. Yet it is essential to consider your lifestyle and requirements when deciding between a pickup truck or an SUV.