The SUV may be today’s most popular vehicle overall, but there’s no denying the allure of American-as-apple-pie pickup trucks. Thanks to their inherent toughness and versatility, as well as their increasingly family-friendly nature, the top pickups continue to be best-sellers year after year.
Though only a few manufacturers actually make pickups, the models they produce cover a wide range of sizes and capabilities, from basic midsize work trucks to heavy-duty behemoths loaded with luxury features. Identifying the best pickup for your needs can be difficult, even for those well-versed in axle ratios, payload limits, and the difference between conventional and fifth-wheel towing.
That’s why the Edmunds experts rate and review every pickup on the market. Based on our hands-on vehicle testing, we’ve put together this guide to help you narrow your search for the best pickup truck. Please note that, because of the complexity of optioning pickup trucks, the maximum ratings cited below may only be available in highly specific builds rather than across the range.
Best Trucks for Towing
When choosing a truck for towing, know that a higher tow limit generally correlates with a higher cost. Most midsize trucks max out above 3 tons, though acceleration can be anemic when you’re approaching the limit. Full-size trucks will cost a bit more but tend to top out above 10,000 pounds. Heavy-duty pickups aim for stratospheric towing capability, and their torque-rich diesel engines should make towing up mountain passes a breeze. Go up one more grade to 3500 series trucks for a dual rear-wheel option that provides a more stable towing experience. Properly equipped, these trucks can tow more than 20,000 pounds, even reaching 30,000 pounds in some cases. View our full list of the Best Trucks for Towing.
Top Features for Trucks
As of 2019, every new pickup comes standard with a rearview camera display, a previously optional feature that takes a lot of the guesswork out of navigating tight spots. Surround-view monitors are even better, giving a 360-degree view of the area immediately around the truck. Tall hoods can make it difficult to surmise exactly where the front of the pickup is, so front parking sensors are another nifty feature. Additionally, trucks are pretty wide, so it’s nice to have a lane departure warning system that alerts you before the truck drifts too far.
Outside of advanced driver aids, there are a few truck-specific features to look out for. Tie-down cleats help you secure everything in the bed, while cargo bed lights can help you find your gear in the dark. Tow mirrors are wide and have multiple pieces of mirrored glass so you can keep track of your trailer. As long as you’re not looking for the best off-road truck, ground-clearance-reducing side steps are a handy way to make sure everyone can easily enter and exit the cab.
Choosing the Best Pickup Truck for You
If you just like the look and feel of a truck, a midsize pickup is an inexpensive way to break into the market. It’s also bound to be easier to park and drive. A full-size truck is ideal for those who need more room in the cab, want a larger bed, occasionally tow large items, or simply prefer the added features available on full-size trucks. Heavy-duty trucks make the most sense for those who frequently tow heavy equipment.
While the number of different pickup models is fairly small, there’s a great deal of differentiation within each model range. The nearly limitless customization options can make it difficult to sift through dealer inventory to find the perfect vehicle. Visit our Truck Rankings to understand each model’s strengths and weaknesses. Our in-depth vehicle reviews provide a detailed analysis and trim breakdown of every new truck on the market. Once a model catches your eye, find a specific truck in your area by clicking on its inventory page. No matter where you are in the research and buying process, Edmunds has tools to help you find your perfect pickup.