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When shopping for a new car, you’ll notice different sizes and shapes fall into various segments. Pickup trucks follow the same pattern with four primary segments: compact, midsize, full-size, and heavy-duty. Because each truck class has a distinct set of pros and cons, one can’t fit every need. Let’s explore the four pickup truck segments. 

Compact trucks

The 2024 Ford Maverick Family
Ford Maverick trucks | Ford Motor Company

Small pickups are typically built on platforms shared with cars. The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are the only compact trucks in production. However, rumors abound about future small pickups entering the segment, such as:

  • Alpha Wolf
  • Canoo Pickup
  • Chevy Montana
  • Kia Compact Truck
  • Nissan Surf Out
  • Ram Rampage
  • Subaru Baja
  • Toyota Stout

With these additions, the compact truck segment will offer powertrain options ranging from gas-only, hybrid, and fully electric. Compact pickups generally provide seating for five and relatively small beds capable of hauling around 1,500 pounds. Their maximum towing capacity ranges from 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.

The most significant advantage to owning a compact truck lies in its car-like ride, driving manners, and fuel efficiency. Downsides include their relatively cramped truck bed and cab. Of course, they don’t have the payload or towing capacity of larger trucks, but that’s expected. 

Midsize truck segment

These Toyota Tacoma trucks have low depreciation
Toyota Tacoma trucks | Toyota

Midsize trucks typically feature a cab-on-frame design found on larger pickups, with one notable exception. The Honda Ridgeline leads the midsize truck segment thanks to its comfortable yet capable unibody construction. Other entrants include:

  • Chevy Colorado
  • Ford Ranger
  • GMC Canyon
  • Jeep Gladiator
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Toyota Tacoma

Midsize pickups have more payload and towing capacity (5,000 to nearly 8,000 pounds) than compact trucks while allowing easier parking in tight spaces than full-size models. However, there’s often no significant benefit to choosing a midsize over a full-size truck regarding price and fuel economy. 

Full-size truck segment

2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 High Country (left), ZR2, and LT
2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 High Country (left), ZR2, and LT | Chevrolet

Full-size trucks provide more interior and cargo space than their smaller counterparts. Larger cabs featuring four full-size doors allow easy loading and unloading of passengers, child car seats, and groceries. In addition, modern turbocharged and hybrid powertrains provide plenty of might for towing and deliver exceptional fuel economy. 

The most notable contenders in the full-size truck segment include:

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • Ford F-150
  • GMC Sierra 1500
  • Nissan Titan
  • Ram 1500
  • Toyota Tundra

Parking in tight urban parking spaces and fitting into a garage are among the most significant downsides to full-size pickups. However, bigger is better for hauling or towing heavy loads. These half-ton trucks can typically trailer about 13,000 pounds.

Heavy-duty truck segment

Heavy-duty trucks like the Ford F-250, Ram 2500, Chevy Silverado 2500HD, GMC Sierra 2500HD, and Nissan Titan XD are about the same size as their full-size counterparts. However, the heavy-duty (HD) versions get more robust suspension and drivetrain components, allowing heavier payload and tow ratings.

Most of these entrants also offer “350/450” or “3500/4500” versions for even greater payload and towing capacities. For instance, the 2024 Ford F-350 Super Duty touts a class-leading 8,000-pound payload capacity. Ford also claims a properly equipped F-450 can tow a best-in-class 40,000 pounds.

Heavy-duty truck advantages include the increased hauling and towing from the same footprint as a full-size truck. The drawbacks of a more substantial suspension and drivetrain include a rougher ride and decreased fuel economy. 

Deciding which truck segment suits your needs typically depends on how much weight you want to haul or tow. However, be forewarned that owning a pickup, even a compact truck, will make you a popular friend to anyone needing to move. But helping a friend is always good, especially if they buy pizza afterward.