Over the last several years pickup trucks have risen in popularity, not just as a work vehicle for hauling construction equipment or making dump runs, but as a family car. In fact, pickup trucks are quickly becoming one of the most desirable options for a family vehicle in the United States. With an abundance of models featuring luxury upgrades and safety technology, you might be wondering if a pickup truck is right for you. One major question remains, though. Is driving a pickup truck hard?
Yes, driving a pickup truck can be harder than a regular car, especially at first. Pickup trucks are longer and heavier than the average commuter or family van. There is a definite learning curve when it comes to parking, turning, and controlling such a powerful engine.
However, modern pickups are expertly engineered and designed. Luxury and safety features abound in all models made within the last ten years. Heated leather seats, spacious interiors, backup cameras, and sturdy frames make a pickup truck one of the safest and most enjoyable vehicles to drive.
With a little bit of practice, you will find that pickup trucks are reliable, comfortable, and easy to operate.
Design Features That Make Driving A Truck Harder
The most obvious difference between a pickup truck and your average sedan is the height. Stepping up into the typical 1500 series truck, even a crew cab model designed for passengers, is a leap compared to sliding into a Honda Accord or minivan. Thankfully there are many options for a sidestep, which is a step that hangs beneath the exterior of all doors. Most base models made within the last five years do include a sidestep. If you have small children or elderly people that you will need to regularly transport you may need to consider getting a lower sidestep, or sacrifice that coveted five-inch lift.
There is a significant benefit that comes with the increased height: greatly increased visibility. The first time you drive a pickup truck you will not fail to notice the freedom brought by seeing over the majority of traffic surrounding you. No more craning your neck to check if you can safely pass that slow SUV on your morning commute!
The added visibility does come at a price, however. Small vehicles directly next to a high profile truck can be nearly invisible to the driver. If you need to change lanes make sure that you check your mirrors and look over your shoulder. Larger vehicles have larger blind spots, which can be a significant danger for pedestrians, animals, and low profile vehicles.
With an average of 17 feet in length, pickup trucks are a tad longer than your average car. How does that affect the driving experience? When it comes to driving the length of the truck does not have a dramatic impact. Merging may feel different at first due to your concern about space, but in time it will feel natural. The most difficult challenge that length brings is parking and turning. A pickup truck has a much wider turn radius which requires more attention and care to master. The best way to become a master at parking a pickup truck is to practice, but if you need the added peace of mind new models feature guided parking for both parallel and perpendicular parking.
A pickup truck can weigh anywhere from 5,000 lbs. to 12,000 lbs.! Being vehicles designed to haul and pull large loads they are built heavy and tough. The extra weight also gives you more control of your vehicle in rain, mud, dirt, and snow. If you live in a state that can have real winter weather or enjoy riding the backcountry roads a pickup truck’s weight brings an important advantage. Are there any drawbacks though?
A disadvantage that some may consider significant is stopping power. Pickups need a greater distance to slow down, especially at high speeds. Always maintain an appropriate following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, and make good use of that height advantage to spot any upcoming obstacles as early as possible.
Center Of Gravity
The bigger step it takes to climb into a pickup truck also means it has a higher center of gravity. How does this affect you? A high center of gravity means a pickup is top-heavy, which increases the possibility of rolling over on a tight turn at higher speeds. Consumerreports.org provides a few tips on how to prevent a rollover. Ensure your tires are not bald, do not overload your vehicle, and obey the posted speed limit.
Are you concerned about the height of the seats in a truck? If you are someone with shorter legs, do not fear. The vast majority of all modern pickup trucks have adjustable pedals to accommodate just about anyone’s comfort or needs.
How Powerful is a Pickup Truck’s Engine?
The roar of a 2019 2500 Dodge Ram Limited’s 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel engine is impressive, to say the least. Once you realize it has 19,780 lbs. of towing capacity it’s downright intimidating. Even a Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, in the 5,000 to 8,000 lb tow range, pack an impressive punch. If you want to haul heavy construction equipment, a fishing boat, or a trailer for moving furniture a pickup truck is not going to let you down.
But what about when you are not towing? Does the increased engine power have a negative impact on your day to day driving experience? With the advances in modern technology and the introduction of luxury features driving a pickup truck is comfortable, smooth, and quiet. However, there is one thing you will want to take into consideration when operating such a powerful vehicle.
Torque and horsepower are terms you hear used constantly in commercials for new pickup trucks. Most of us have a pretty good understanding of horsepower — the working power of the engine that determines a vehicle’s top speed — but what about torque?
An engine’s torque affects its towing and starting power. Both a race car that lurches from a full stop to breakneck speeds and a semi-truck pulling giant construction equipment are examples of torque in action. If you need a truck with powerful torque for hauling you would want to look into diesel engine options, which are more powerful.
If you are not interested in hauling heavy loads and do not want a truck with a diesel engine, do you still need to worry about torque? Worry may be too strong of a word, but you should definitely be aware of the increased starting power your truck has. A pickup truck will “jump” forward if you press the gas pedal too hard after a full stop. The situation where this may be a problem is pulling in to a tight parking spot. Make sure that you apply gentle pressure on the gas pedal when in tight situations in order to avoid any accidents.
How Hard Is Backing Up A Pickup Truck?
Perhaps the most stressful experience when driving any car is backing up. Whether you are backing out of your driveway, a parking spot at a busy grocery store, or a tight space in a parking garage (yes, pickup trucks can fit in parking garages) there are few general tips you should keep in mind.
Know Your Blind Spots
As with any car you drive for the first time a pickup truck has new and different blind spots that you will need to learn and become familiar with in order stay safe out on the road. Always remember that larger vehicles have larger blind spots. The need to stay as aware as possible of small cars, pedestrians, and animals is great.
Sensors And Alarms
One of the greatest aspects of newer pickup trucks is the addition of proximity sensors and alarms. If you are willing to pay a little bit extra most truck models offer the addition of a backup camera that gives you a clear view of everything behind the vehicle. Combined with motion sensors that alert you if a person or another vehicle passes behind you while reversing, you will be able to backup with confidence, no matter how long your truck-bed is.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Although sensors, cameras, and alarms are great tools for increasing safety, they are no replacement for an attentive and aware driver. Experience and practice, when combined with modern safety technology, make for a remarkably safe and enjoyable driving experience in a pickup truck.
Does A Pickup Truck Take Longer To Stop?
As mentioned above heavy vehicles do take longer to come to a complete stop. Before taking your pickup truck on the highway you should take it for a few laps around the block at the car dealership or in your neighborhood. Test the brakes repeatedly until you feel comfortable with gaging how early you need to begin slowing down in order to reach a full stop. Don’t waste the advantage your vehicle’s increased height provides you! Watch ahead to spot when cars further up begin to apply their brakes and make sure you leave a couple of car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.
It is also very important to keep in mind that the heavy weight of a pickup truck does provide better traction on dirt and snow, but it does not help you come to a full stop faster. In fact, dirt and snow can increase the stopping distance for a pickup truck.
Do Pickup Truck’s Have Modern Safety Features?
Due to the massive increase in popularity that pickup trucks have experienced over the last decade, even the basic models of every brand have expansive safety features to make your everyday driving experience as safe and comfortable as possible. Listed below are the features I deemed to be the most important that you should look for in a pickup.
- Forward Breaking: Sensors placed on the front of the vehicle are capable of determining if a collision is imminent. If the driver does not apply the brakes fast enough the vehicle will begin braking automatically.
- Blind Spot Warning System: This system uses a host of sensors around the vehicle to detect nearby objects. If there are any vehicles (obstacles, pedestrians, etc.) visual warnings will alert the driver. Some systems even use tactile warnings, such as the steering wheel shaking.
- Front And Rear Park Assist: When the vehicle is under 5 MPH this system will alert the driver to objects within 8 feet of the vehicle, whether in forward drive or reverse. A combination of audible beeps and a visual color bar insure the driver knows how much space they really have to spare.
- Backup Camera: This feature utilizes either the center console screen or a small screen on the rearview mirror to show the driver a view from a camera placed on the rear of the vehicle. This really comes in handy when backing into a tight space, but also for lining up your hitch with a trailer. If you intend to pull trailers of any kind with your truck, I highly suggest making this piece of tech a priority. If you have an older pickup truck that does not have this feature, there are after market options.
- Teen Driver Mode: Chevrolet and GMC both offer this feature in all of their new mainline vehicles, including Silverados and Sierras (mid-size pickup truck models). The expansive set of safety features are activated by a special key fob that you have your young driver use when using the family truck. A few of those features include muting the volume when either of the front passengers seat belts are unfastened, a speed limiter that does not allow the vehicle to accelerate beyond 85 MPH, and a report card that is sent to the parent/guardian with accumulated data.
If you are looking for a vehicle that will serve all of your needs, whether it’s hauling furniture for a friend, driving the kids to a soccer match, or taking your significant other on a date, modern pickup trucks check every box.
Their size may seem like an obstacle in the beginning, but once you take one for a spin you’ll come to realize the differences are not as extreme as once thought. New technology and top-tier interior designs have revolutionized the industry, securing pickup trucks as some of the most comfortable and safe vehicles available.