What’s the Difference Between a Coupe Utility “Ute” and a Pickup Truck?

Trucks are a prevalent segment right now, but while many people are driving around trucks, some of those trucks may be a ute or a coupe utility vehicles. While utes share many similarities with trucks, they are entirely different. Here’s a look at what’s different between a ute and a pickup truck.

What is a ute, and where does the name come from?

A black back end of a Chevy El Camino that is a coupe utility ute versus a pickup truck.
Chevy El Camino | Getty Images

According to MotorTrend, the history behind utes goes back many decades, all the way to the 1930s. Like its more descriptive name might imply, a ute, or a coupe utility vehicle, is a car that is comfortable enough for passengers and has a truck bed that’ll allow it to carry a lot of stuff. The idea behind the ute came from a farmer’s wife in Australia. 

MotorTrend wrote that she sent a letter to Ford asking for a vehicle that could “carry the family to church on Sunday but could also bring pigs to market on Monday.” In 1934, Ford made a vehicle in Australia that could do just that. Ford called this car the 1934 Ford Australia Coupe Utility. But, as it became more popular, Australians called it a ute, and the name stuck.

How a ute is different from a pickup truck

The apparent similarity between a pickup truck and a ute is that both vehicles have a truck bed. Other than that, they have some significant differences. As Car Throttle wrote, the big difference between a ute and a truck is where they’re starting from. Most utes are built on a regular passenger sedan, while trucks are often built from the ground up like a truck. 

As a result, a ute will be more comfortable for daily driving and will have less interior storage space than a pickup truck. A ute built from a sedan will have another significant effect on the car. Utes are almost always smaller than even the smallest trucks, and as a result, they’ll have less cargo capacity and less towing capacity than trucks will have.

A ute will have less cargo and towing capacity, but a ute will probably have fewer seats. Once again, this is a result of where utes come from. Many utes are regular sedans with their rear seats chopped off and replaced with a truck bed. As a result, many utes will only seat about two people while many pickup trucks nowadays can seat five.

Other interesting facts about coupe utility utes

Another significant difference between the two is availability. While utes were sold in America starting in the 50s, they didn’t last forever. Nowadays, no automakers sell utes in the U.S., but utes are still prevalent in Australia and New Zealand. As a result, the only way for an American to buy a brand-new ute is to convert a car into one.

Before automakers killed off American utes, they did make a few interesting ones. The Chevy SSR, for example, was a $42,000 high-performance ute. While it was equipped with a powerful 6.0-liter engine that got 390 hp, it wasn’t too popular, so Chevy killed it off in 2006.

A Chevy ute that did sell well was the El Camino. It looked like a muscle car with a truck bed attached to it, but as MotorTrend wrote, it got a loyal following. Chevy Sold the El Camino in America between 1959 to 1960 and 1964 to 1987. However, it met its end as well.

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