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Drive on nearly any road in America, through any town or city, and you are likely to see one. The iconic pickup truck that a seemingly large portion of the population is in love with. Although trucks have become increasingly expensive and increasingly complicated over the years, they remain one of the most popular segments here in the States. So, long after the Joads from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wraith drove a homemade truck westward out of necessity, why do these vehicles remain a core part of American life?

I could likely write an entire book on why pickup trucks are so popular in the United States, and some have. But for the purpose of keeping things sweet and simple, let’s boil it down to two points: utility and freedom. 

Even though modern trucks now have heated seats and Bluetooth, the core principle remains the same. A truck is essentially a drivable wheelbarrow. You can tow and haul to your heart’s content, but in the 21st century, most truck owners aren’t actually doing that. 

More importantly, today’s trucks make you feel like you can go just about anywhere.

Truck owners might not be doing truck stuff

According to a study conducted by Strategic Vision, 75% of truck owners use their pickup for towing once a year or less. And the stats for hauling are even worse. 

A 2022 Chevy Colorado is one of the pickup trucks that American's seem to love.
2022 Chevy Colorado | Chevy

In the past, most folks who drove a truck drove it because they needed it. These early trucks were a far cry from something like the 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone that I tested. And it really wasn’t until the early 2000s that manufacturers started to toy with the idea of a family or luxury truck. 

Ford F-150 Lightning Towing a Trailer
Ford F-150 Lightning Towing a Trailer | Ford

Despite all of the bells and whistles that even work trucks now have, the pickup truck still remains a vehicle of utility. They can tow and haul more than ever. And that gives us the sense, even how infrequently it actually happens, that our truck can get the job done. When you drive a truck, it feels like it is an extension of you. My truck is utilitarian; therefore, I am utilitarian. 

These vehicles represent freedom

Long before the first pickup truck was born, Americans have loved freedom. And a truck is a pretty great representation of that. Sure, you might not be towing and hauling on a daily basis, but if you have the budget, you can purchase a vehicle built for those tasks. 

Additionally, the truck is known for its capability. Tackling an off-road terrain or a snowstorm? With a properly-equipped pickup, things like that are no problem. 

If you’re wondering why Americans love trucks, that might be the best answer. It’s because we can. They might be huge, expensive, and sometimes pretty inefficient, but if you want a truck, you have that choice as a consumer. 

The front-end of the 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone.
2022 Toyota Tundra | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

And trucks aren’t the first type of vehicle that might be oversized or expensive. Back when the Interstate Highway System was being built, the land yacht was coming onto the scene. These large coupes and sedans could eat up a newly-connected America with ease. 

A black Lincoln Continental, an iconic land yacht before we had big trucks.
Lincoln Continental | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

Before the truck became a status symbol, from the 1950s until the early 1970s, a land yacht was how you told the world, “I’ve made it in America.” You no longer needed to get dirt under your fingernails or take the train to where you needed to be. 

Somewhere along the way, we decided we wanted the perceived look of getting our hands dirty. And according to Autolist, with the average transaction price of a new truck being $60k, we’re willing to pay for it. 

Related What Company Invented the Pickup Truck?

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