You don’t have to tell me that Americans like pickup trucks. And the bigger the truck, the more likely it will be seen as an object of desire. Monthly and annual sales charts are kind of a broken record; number one is the Ford F-series, followed by the Chevy Silverado, Ram’s line of transporters, and somewhere not far from the line, the GMC Sierra. The big Japanese players fall a little lower in their place — not that there’s anything wrong with 100,000 Toyota Tundra sales — and smaller trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado have also proved very popular.
In addition to their sales figures, the average cost of new trucks has also increased.
Now I don’t pretend to have the right to tell people what to buy or not to buy with their own money. But I just don’t understand why a growing number of Americans are choosing to spend huge sums of money on super-luxury pickup trucks.
Let me first say that I understand the appeal. After all, people love beautiful things. I know I do. I’m willing to spend far more than the average American on a variety of discretionary items, from wine and spirits to cameras and lenses. I’ve even spent my own money on vehicles I don’t need, but still want. A certain vintage VW campervan certainly qualifies. I also currently own a large, inefficient SUV with a 454 cubic inch big block V8.
So if your answer to the question I’m asking here is that you’re willing to pay the bulk of a hundred thousand for a chrome and leather-covered pickup just because you want to, then that’s definitely not the case. you need my permission – go buy one.
The part I don’t understand is this: why, as a rational person, wouldn’t you rather split your garage in half? On the one hand, there would be a nice car that is quiet, drives and handles just as well and has above-average fuel consumption. Maybe it has a few hundred horsepower on gasoline, or maybe it’s electric. On the other side (or even outside) is a decent pick-up truck parked. One that can tow 10,000 pounds, carry something nearly a ton in the bed, and have all the goodies most Americans want in their cars, including cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, and a decent infotainment screen.
If all you’re interested in buying brand new, a look at Ford’s online configurator for the F-150 proves it’s not hard to price out a nice F-150 XLT 4×4 with a rear seat and an EcoBoost engine. for something around $49,000. A loaded F-150 Limited costs about $86,000. Both are fully capable of doing truck-like things, but one costs nearly $40,000 more than the other because it’s slathered in leather, wood, and technology.
I don’t choose Ford. It’s a similar story with Ram, Toyota and General Motors. We recently ran a piece where we picked out the best and worst vehicles the automaker currently sells, and I chose a full-sized large truck for both categories. About the Chevy Silverado 3500 HD that I chose as GM’s best, I said:
“For less than $58,000, a buyer can get a four-door, four-wheel drive, dual-rear-drive Silverado with a 6.6-liter turbo diesel engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Skip the creature comforts (many of which are available) and you’re left with a truck with 910 pound-feet of torque and a pack strong enough to tow a whopping 36,000 pounds or up to 7,400 pounds in bed to transport.”
About the GMC Sierra Denali, which I chose as GM’s worst, I said:
“I just went to GMC.com and used their online configurator to virtually build a 2023 Sierra Denali that would cost $86,360. Naturally, I chose the very best bling, including beautiful pearly white tri-coat paint and 22-inch shiny chrome wheels. It really is a beautiful pickup, but one I would definitely never do any real trucking with.”
And that’s the problem as I see it. Trucks serve a very important purpose in modern society. People have to haul things, whether it’s John and Jane Homeowner looking to maintain their yard at the weekend or the construction workers who show up at their job site every morning with a full load of tools in lockable bins in the bed. We buy RVs and tow them hundreds of miles. We haul our boats to the lake, our dirt bikes and race cars to the track, and sometimes we even dump a lot of rocks and gravel into the beds.
We need trucks. Trucks are good. They are excellent tools when used for their proper purpose. In fact, they are probably the best vehicles America builds. But we don’t have to use all these trucks as our daily drivers. There are better tools for that.
Before you think I’m going to tell you to buy an electric car (not that that’s the worst idea in the world), check out this earlier opinion article I wrote. Whatever you want, you can buy a very nice, gently used car for the $40,000 price difference between the aforementioned F-150 XLT and F-150 Limited.
If I were spending my own money, I’d be looking at a certified pre-owned F-150 with the 5.0-liter V8 for under $35,000. There are over a dozen in my area with warranties for sale right now (remember how many of these things Ford sells?). That’s no small amount, but it’s not so much that I’d be afraid to fill his bed with building materials. Or, you know, any of the other tasks trucks are good at. You could choose to go really cheap and get something like an old used Dodge Dakota or Toyota Tundra.
Either way, you’ll have enough money left over to put another nice car in the garage, one that’s just as luxurious, quieter, more comfortable, more fun to drive, easier to park and, yes, significantly more efficient. Two tools, and each of them is built specifically for their specific task.