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I love classic trucks, and have often found myself thinking, “They don’t make them like they used to.” But the hard truth is, they make them better. Modern trucks outperform classic trucks, last longer, and offer many more features.

Trucks are more capable than they once were

Ford Super Duty pickup truck towing a tractor on a trailer across a farm field.
2021 F-Series Super Duty | Ford Motor Company

When it comes to pure, truckly duties, modern trucks outperform classic trucks. There was a time when a full-size, light-duty pickup truck could only carry 1,000 pounds of cargo–that’s why they are still called “half-ton trucks.” But today, most light-duty full-size trucks can carry twice that.

While pickup trucks’ payload capacities have doubled, their tow ratings have multiplied. The 2022 Ram 3500 equipped with a high output Cummins turbo diesel engine boasts a max towing capacity of 37,090 pounds. Back in the day, this sort of towing was tractor-trailer territory.

Even base-model trucks offer more features

The leather interior of a top-trim Ford F-150 pickup truck.
2021 F-150 King Ranch | Ford Motor Company

Modern pickup trucks also excel at performance metrics the engineers of classic trucks never considered: Modern pickup trucks can keep up with highway traffic and won’t scare you in the twisties. Many modern trucks offer exceptional gas mileage considering their capabilities. Few classic trucks offered the same performance.

It’s easy to complain about “feature creep” driving up the cost of new vehicles. But the long and short of it is that even the cheapest new pickup truck offers a backup camera and driver-assistance technology such as automatic braking and lane keep assist, which can save lives.

If you buy a new truck you will also enjoy features the original buyers of classic trucks never imagined: Cellphone connectivity, proximity warnings, tire pressure monitoring systems, and auto load leveling. Many classic trucks, on the other hand, didn’t have cupholders. It really is a brave new world.

Andre Smirnov at The Fast Lane Truck put it well: “Trucks are getting a little bit more expensive, but they’re getting more advanced, more efficient and better in basically every way.”

Trucks last longer than they used to

A mechanic's hands spinning a wrench, an engine bay's firewall visible behind.
Repairing a classic | Christian Buehner via Unsplash

One way modern engineering and machining have significantly improved modern trucks is the build quality of their components. Here’s an example: the average modern V8 engine will probably run longer before needing a rebuild than the average classic V8. They are simply built better and thus more reliable than ever.

The result of long-lasting new components is long-lasting trucks. Consumer Reports predicts, “Modern pickup trucks, if soundly maintained, can stay on the road for 200,000 miles or longer.”

What’s the result of longer-lasting modern trucks? A better return on your investment. It doesn’t matter whether you plan to run that new truck into the ground or enjoy the durable vehicle’s higher resale value, the fact that it will last for a long time will benefit you.

Classic trucks have a time and place

Vintage pickup trucks are charming classics that can make most anyone smile. They are fantastic vehicles to restore and enjoy. But engineering and manufacturing have come a long way. So next time someone says, “They don’t make them like they used to,” you can say, “No, they make them better.”


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