Pickup Vs. SUV

by Evan Gillespie
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When it comes time to choose a truck, you might be tempted to think that there's little difference between a pickup and an SUV. However, the two classes of vehicle are entirely different in their strengths and weaknesses. Even if they're dressed up in fancy features, pickups are designed to be workhorses, while SUVs are better suited to being the family car.


In terms of crash outcomes, pickups and SUVs both have an advantage over smaller, lighter vehicles. By virtue of their design, however, pickups are subject to some safety disadvantages. Most pickups lack a full-size back seat, which is the safest place for a passenger to be in the event of a crash. Pickups are also less likely to be equipped with safety features such as antilock braking systems, traction control and side-impact airbags than are more costly SUVs aimed at a family market.


Pickups have significantly different weight distribution than most SUVs, resulting in distinct handling differences. In a pickup with an empty cargo bed, the bulk of the vehicle's weight is in the front, and when combined with rear-wheel drive, this can cause problems with traction and handling. More balanced front-to-back weight distribution in SUVs, along with the prevalence of four-wheel drive in the class, means that SUVs often have the advantage over pickups in this category.


The open bed of a pickup truck allows for more flexibility when it comes to handling cargo. Cargo is less constrained by the volume of the cargo compartment, and loading and unloading is easier. In SUVs, cargo space is balanced with passenger space, generally resulting in smaller, less convenient cargo spaces. The closed cargo space of an SUV, however, means that cargo is not exposed to the elements, and loads can be hauled more safely and with less risk of damage than they can in a pickup.

Fuel Economy

Neither pickups nor SUVs are the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road, and variations within each class mean that there is no clear winner when it comes to fuel economy. According to the government's Fuel Economy website, the most fuel efficient SUVs, which achieve up to 34 mpg, far outpace the most efficient standard-size pickups, which can do no better than 23 mpg, but that's because of the availability of hybrid SUVs. On the other hand, the least efficient large SUVs guzzle gas, performing as poorly as 10 mpg, while the worst standard pickups fare slightly better.

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