When purchasing a truck, one of the first steps to take, is a realistic assessment of your needs. Here’s a handy guide on some things to look for when looking for a truck to purchase.
How much room do you need?
Regular Cabs (with no back seat) are the least expensive and tend to have longer beds, but will seat a maximum of 3 people.
Extended Cabs have a “back” seat sufficient for children or even adults (for short trips). Extended are also great for keeping tools and such out of the rain (unless you have a cargo box in the bed). The bed length is normally the same as a Regular Cab.
Crew Cabs have comfortable seating for up to 6 adults, huge children, extra cargo, or all three. The bed size is often smaller, though longer-bed crew cabs are easy to find.
The offset to increased cab size is that it usually comes at a higher cost, but at least the family can be together without lashing the kids to the hood of the truck.
Just remember the golden rule of owning a truck: “we can make it fit.” This is not limited to cargo.
Engine Size/How much can it tow and carry?
Some people want to go over the mountain, others want to bring the mountain home with them. Deciding what kind of engine you need can be heavily influenced by how much you intend to haul from point A to point B.
Diesels are towing/torque monsters (with some Heavy-duty diesels towing up to 31,000 lbs) that still maintain decent gas mileage, but can come at a substantial premium. If you are towing 10,000+ lbs, or consistently towing 5,000+ lbs (like a utility trailer for work), then a diesel is the way to go, but if you don’t have those needs, it’s probably not worth the additional expense.
V8s (aspirated) can usually tow up to 10,000 lbs, which is more than enough for most boats/trailers. While gas V8s are less efficient than diesels, these trucks normally don’t have the added weight of diesels (which are built to tow), so you’ll see better gas mileage.
Turbo-charged V6s, like Ford’s Ecoboost, are exceptional engines that provide more horsepower, torque, and towing capacity than a V8, all while achieving better gas mileage. You don’t get the satisfying roar of a V8, but they truly are remarkable engines (though you will pay a premium for them).
Ask yourself this question, do I live in Utah? If the answer is yes, then 4-wheel drive is pretty much a must. The rear-wheel drive nature of trucks makes them especially vulnerable on icy/snowy roads, for which Utah is notorious. Also, if you ever intend to travel off the beaten path, 4-wheel drive can get you out of a lot of sticky/muddy situations (but can also give you a false sense of confidence!).
However, if you live in southern California, where the worst you get is a bit of rain during the winter, it might be best to forgo this option and save yourself some money. As an alternative, you can always carry chains and/or extra weight for added traction.
Just because a vehicle is rugged on the outside, doesn’t mean that it needs to feel rugged on the inside. Being comfortable isn't something that people typically associate with a truck, but the truth is, a truck can be one of the most pleasant driving experiences around. You're higher up (giving you a clearer view of the road than most cars), you typically have more room, and road noise is often reduced.
Trucks these days come in a variety of trim levels which give you different degrees of comfort/quality with upgrades such as premium sound systems, leather, navigation, heated/cooled seats, etc. For you, some of these items might be worth the additional cost.
Have Fun and Take Your Time
With a few exceptions, trucks these days are built well. It all comes down to figuring out what you need and what is really important to you. Test drive them all; Fords, Chevys, RAMs, Toyotas, etc. At the end of the day, looking for a truck should be a fun and positive experience, especially when you find what you are looking for, at the right price.