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Believe it or not, there was once a time when daily driving a pickup truck was only done by farmers, construction workers, and other kinds of labor workers. As you may have noticed, that is no longer the case. Trucks have become daily drivers for all kinds of people. From the country to the city, people drive trucks and never even use them to haul or work. Given the hard shift in trucks over the years, it’s time we figure out what is the best pickup truck for daily driving. 

How to pick the best truck for daily driving in 2023? 

A black 2023 Ram 1500 parked at dusk
2023 Ram 1500 | Stellantis

There are so many options for great trucks today. Considering the shift in pickup trucks over the past few decades, there are more good daily drivers than not. Picking the best truck is the same as picking the best car, refrigerator, mailbox, or anything else. The key is figuring out the specs and features that suit your life and needs the best and then picking the truck that meets as many as possible while remaining within your budget. 

Common needs for daily driver trucks are fuel economy, driving profile, toughness, and comfort. You might have noticed that towing and hauling power were left out of the list. This is because most people aren’t using their daily driver to haul and tow daily. If you find yourself in that category, then you will likely have a very different set of criteria. 

Let’s look at what each criterion looks like in various pickup truck models. 

What size pickup truck is best for daily driving?

The 2023 Ford F-150 is one of the best pickup trucks for daily driving
2023 Ford F-150 | Ford

One of the first things to decide is what size truck you want to drive every day. If you need a lot of interior room, power, and a big bed, you should narrow your search for the best pickup truck for daily driving to a full-size model like a Toyota Tundra, Ram 1500, or Ford F-150. These are some of the finest of the full-size pickup trucks. You will sacrifice fuel economy and driving profile with these bruisers. 

Full-size pickups are the most expensive category of trucks. Most start somewhere north of $35k in today’s market. Also, most full-size pickup trucks offer a trim with a giant motor that can haul larger loads. These trucks will also have an option for a more luxurious cabin. The Ram 1500 is one of the nicest pickup trucks on the market and one of the largest. The most popular of the larger trucks is the Ford F-150. Lastly, the Toyota Tundra is powerful, large, and as reliable a truck as you could want. Now with the all-new 2024 Tundra, a hybrid powertrain not only give the truck more power but better fuel economy. These are three different trucks even within the same category. 

If you don’t need as much room, midsize pickups are a smart category to consider. Smaller trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, and Honda Ridgeline are all excellent options for folks looking for a smaller truck. 

Midsize trucks are growing in popularity. These trucks are often cheaper than the big boys and get better gas mileage. For instance, the least expensive 2023 Toyota Tacoma model starts at ​​$27,250, whereas the least expensive 2023 Toyota Tundra starts at $35,415. Midsize pickups, given their smaller size, are often a bit friendlier to drive than their full-size counterparts. Lastly, on average, midsize trucks tend to get between 5-7 mpg better than bigger trucks. 

The last sub-category of trucks is compact trucks. For now, the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the Ford Maverick are the only two American trucks in this category. These trucks are built more like SUVs or sedans than they are like trucks. These make up the cheapest pickup trucks as well. Because of their size and chassis design, many people feel very comfortable driving these trucks. However, because they are the cheapest pickups, you might not enjoy the same level of ride comfort or interior quality as some of the bigger trucks. 

What trucks have the best and worst fuel economy? 

2023 Ford Maverick Hybrid towing a boat
2023 Ford Maverick Hybrid | Ford

Fuel economy is a major issue today. From climate change worries to just good old gas prices, we care more about the fuel economy of our cars than ever before. Until now, truck shoppers have never had the luxury of shopping around based on fuel economy. It used to be you either get 10 mpg or 13 mpg. These days, with hybrid and electric technology advancing so quickly, we have trucks that get better gas mileage than some cars. 

The Ford Maverick Hybrid is the best pickup truck for fuel economy. The Maverick Hybrid is said to get 23 mpg in town and a massive 30 mpg on the highway. The Hyundai Santa Cruz is similar at 21 mpg in town and 25 mpg on the highway. Price and fuel economy are the main reasons to buy one of these trucks. They aren’t particularly strong or luxurious, though the Hyundai is the more upscale truck between the two. 

The truck with the worst gas mileage is barely worth mentioning, but just for comparison’s sake, the Ram 1500 TRX gets a screaming 12 mpg. This truck employs a supercharged 6.2 Hemi. It’s not exactly a comparable truck to much else other than the Ford Raptor. For a certain crowd, these make excellent daily driver pickup trucks. For others, however, they may be a bit much.

The best truck for daily driving

The 2023 Honda Ridgeline off-roading in sand
2023 Honda Ridgeline | Honda

Most buyers in today’s market are opting for midsize and compact pickup trucks. According to J.D. Power, Toyota has sold over twice the amount of Tacomas (45,754) as Tundras (20,386). The recent explosion in the popularity of smaller trucks hinges on three main factors: price, availability, and fuel efficiency. 

New models like the Ford Maverick are so in demand that ordering books have been closed so much that buying one feels impossible. Ford literally can’t keep up with the amount of people who want the truck. The Maverick is so popular, in fact, that Ford even raised the price to slow down the orders. 

The reality is these smaller trucks, while maybe not as fancy or powerful, are likely the best for most people’s daily driving. Serious buyers should look at the Honda Ridgeline, Ford Ranger, Hyundai Santa Cruz, Toyota Tacoma, or Ford Maverick (if you can find one). The truck world is strange and only getting stranger. The only way forward is to accept it’s changing and figure out how you want to navigate it. While one day daily driving a pickup truck was a rarity, the best pickup truck for daily driving actually matters now.