When considering purchasing a different kind of vehicle, one of the factors to consider is how difficult it is to drive. Pickup trucks have earned quite the reputation for being difficult vehicles to drive. While this is true to some extent, pickup trucks have actually become significantly easier to drive over the years.
Depending on the specific vehicle, driving a pickup truck can be as easy as driving a car. Driving a truck is harder when it's:
- An older truck with less safety and convenience features.
- A heavy-duty truck
- A longer truck (length of the bed and cabin)
- A wider truck (like a dually)
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the main differences between driving a car and driving a pickup truck.
Not all of these are disadvantages. Some features make driving easier. However, it's important to be aware of them all when making the decision to get a truck.
Let's take a look at the unique aspects of driving a pickup truck.
Trucks Have Higher Seating
Most full-size pickup trucks sit much higher than cars, which gives the driver a better view of the road. The added visibility increases situational awareness which is a good thing for everyone on the road.
It's worth mentioning that the increased height of pickups can make it difficult for some people to enter and exit the vehicle.
Some find climbing into the cab of a truck a challenge without the aid of a side step. Fortunately, most new models have that step as a built-in feature. For your convenience, these steps extend when the door is opened and retract when the door closes.
A Higher Center of Gravity
The higher seat position is simply a result of pickup trucks' higher ground clearance than cars. Ground clearance is the distance from the ground to the bottom of the vehicle's body.
This increased height places a pickup truck's center of gravity higher than that of a car. This means pickup trucks are easier to roll than cars. When driving a pickup, making turns at higher rates of speed can be disastrous.
A front-heavy vehicle
Pickup trucks are usually front-heavy and light in the rear when they're empty. This is meant to be offset by towing or hauling heavy loads in the back. Pickup trucks tend to drive better when they are loaded or are pulling a trailer. For example, pickup trucks are more prone to fishtailing in wet or icy conditions when there's no load in the bed keeping the vehicle's rear weighed down.
Newer pickup truck models offer advanced suspensions for better handling and ride. An upgraded suspension will make the truck easier to drive. This is definitely worth looking into if you don't usually haul or tow.
Beware the Blind Spot
The elevated seating position makes it easier to see the road in front of you, but the length of the vehicle makes it more difficult to see what's going beside the vehicle and to the rear.
Backing up can be one of the most difficult things to do with a pickup truck. When backing up, you need to be sure that there is nothing beside or behind the vehicle. Many new pickup trucks are equipped with backup cameras - and even 360 degrees cameras - which make backing up a breeze. Aftermarket cameras can be added to trucks to aid with backing and to eliminate blind spots behind your truck.
Fortunately, pickup trucks are equipped with mirrors that are much larger than car mirrors. These large mirrors provide a clear view down the side of the vehicle. Many new pickups have large power mirrors that are easy to position from inside the vehicle so that you can see down the flanks of your truck. To easily check the rear blind spots, simply lean forward while looking at the mirror. Mirror extensions can be added to the existing mirrors for even greater visibility when towing.
Luxury trucks often have sensors all around them for additional safety. These sensors monitor your blind spots and prevent you from changing lanes if there's another vehicle in the way.
Read more: How To Safely Backup A Pickup Truck.
Powerful Engines can be Tricky
Pickup trucks are essentially workhorses. Their engines are built for strength; they're made to haul and tow. If you don't haul or tow, trucks can really thrust forward when you hit the gas pedal, so be cautious.
Even the newer V6 engines in today’s pickups have impressive power. Designed to pull heavy loads with less fuel, they can launch off the line with too much throttle. In wet conditions, this sudden increase in tire spin can be dangerous. Fortunately, the traction control system that's common on most modern trucks can alleviate this problem.
Older pickups, though, can get very squirrely if too much gas is applied. Wet roads can be a challenge on takeoff, so if you will be driving a pickup truck that's not equipped with traction control, spend time practicing driving it so that you can get well acquainted with how it handles any weather condition.
Pickup engines generally produce more horsepower and torque than cars so that they have the power to haul and pull a load. This added power must be handled with care, especially when you are driving a pickup without a load, or in inclement weather.
Pickup Truck - A Rough Ride?
Some people say that pickup trucks have a "rougher ride" than a car because they have stiffer suspensions. In other words, a pothole that you hit with your well-sprung sedan largely goes unnoticed, but the same pothole can make a pickup jump sideways if it's hit too hard.
With that said, the overall ride quality of pickup trucks is improving. More and more people are using pickup trucks as daily drivers, so truck manufacturers are making the suspension systems much more forgiving. Unless you buy an older truck or a larger heavy-duty truck, the ride quality should be comparable to that of a car.
The Weight and Lengths of Pickup Trucks
Pickup trucks are longer and heavier than the average vehicle.
The size and weight of a pickup truck mean that turning and maneuvering requires a different technique than driving a car. Four door pickups with long beds can be hard to maneuver for novice pickup drivers. Add a trailer to the mix and a significant amount of skill is required to safely drive large, heavy, powerful pickup trucks.
Again, fortunately, technology can help. Where parking is concerned, ">some new luxury trucks can literally park themselves! Some ">newer trucks have intelligent onboard systems that make backing up with a trailer effortless!
Read more: 11 Tips For Backing Up A Travel Trailer Or 5th Wheel.
Longer Braking Times
Due to their increased weight and the fact that many trucks still use drum brakes on the rear instead of disc brakes, pickups can take longer to stop than cars.
Let's consider some more physics. The heavier the object, the longer it will take for it to stop. Pickups will take longer to stop than other cars like sedans. A pickup that's towing or hauling a heavy load will take even longer.
Be sure to maintain a proper following distance when driving a pickup. Until you know how it will react in different braking situations, you need to take care in all driving conditions because every pickup truck has different braking characteristics. Just like accelerating, hard braking causes a pickup to go into a slide, unless it's equipped with an anti-lock braking system, and not all trucks are.
Again, newer - and more expensive - pickup models can make life easier and safer. ">Adaptive cruise control means you don't have to worry about braking as often. Your pickup knows to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and will brake as needed to avoid a collision.
Rigged for Towing
Most trucks come with a way to add a towing ball to their bumper, but to be able to tow a large, heavy trailer they need to be equipped with a towing package. A towing package can include a professionally mounted hitch, wiring for the trailers lights, and upgraded brakes.
Have you ever seen a truck going down the road, pulling a trailer, and the hitch is almost dragging the ground? Don't be that person, because this type of towing is dangerous. Just because your Ram 1500 can pull it doesn't mean that you should start driving. First, make sure that the load is balanced correctly.
A trailer with a weight that exceeds the towing capacity of your pickup can make your truck light in the front end which impedes steering and makes it hard to stop. As with any vehicle, know your pickup and its limitations, and driving it should not be too hard.
A word about Full-Size SUVs
Although this post is about driving a pickup, it's worth mentioning full-size SUVs too. These beasts can be as heavy and powerful as pickup trucks. In fact, SUVs are essentially pickup trucks with a larger cabin.
A Ford Expedition weighs more than a Ford F-150. This means that all of the principles and concepts we've discussed also apply to SUVs.
If you're looking for a large strong vehicle that can tow an RV, a full-size SUV may be as good an option as a truck. The pickup truck and the SUV both have unique pros and cons.
So, is driving a Pickup Truck Hard?
There's definitely more to consider when driving a pickup truck, and maneuvering it certainly takes some getting used to. But with some time and practice, driving a pickup truck can become second nature.
The easiest trucks to drive
If you're looking to make driving a pickup easier, you should probably look for a truck that is -
- Has more safety features
- Is a light-duty model
- A shorter truck - with a short bed
Why drive a truck?
You may be wondering at this point, why drive a truck? Why not just stick to the smaller sedan. That's a good question. For some people, driving a pickup truck is a job necessity. They need to haul weights or tow - something you can only do with a heavy-duty vehicle.
For others, the appeal of pickup trucks lies with their strength and performance, especially in bad weather conditions. If you have to drive in the snow every winter, a 4-wheel-drive truck could keep you safer on the road.
For many other pickup truck owners, this is just a matter of personal preference. Pickup trucks are cool! For many, they have become a symbol of American culture. During the late 20th century, pickup trucks became a "fancy toy" for affluent urbanites. Manufacturers came up with new trim levels, designed for comfort rather than work. Today's high-end pickup trucks offer all the bells and whistles that fancy sedans do.
Is a pickup truck a car
Tips for driving a truck - a recap
We've covered a lot of tips about making driving a truck easier. Here's a quick recap.
Stay within the speed limit and remember that the physical forces at play are multiplied when you're driving a heavier vehicle.
Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you
Your vehicle is heavy and will cover more distance when braking.
Never drink and drive and don't get on the road if you're too tired.
Keep your passengers safe
Make sure everyone buckles up and never take people in the bed of the truck.
Get to know your truck
Take the time to get to know your truck's behavior on the road. Like we said, a truck is not a car. It takes some time to get the hang of driving a pickup truck. Take your time before attempting towing or driving along challenging roads.
How about you? Do you drive a truck or a large SUV? Please leave us a comment letting us know about your experience!
Considering buying a truck but still unsure? We have some suggested reading for you! Check out these related articles in our site -
The pros and cons of owning a pickup truck
When is the best time to buy a pickup truck