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Types of Trucks: A Complete Guide to Body Styles

When people think of vehicles, they usually group them into two separate categories: cars and trucks. Some just refer to any vehicle as a car, but most differentiate cars and trucks by size, historical perception, and purpose.

Trucks are generally thought of as pickup trucks. Occasionally, vans are thrown into the mix, but they are not often thought of as cars or trucks.

Additionally, commercial vehicles and other trucks that generally require more specialized licenses to operate will be excluded. 

Types of Trucks

types of trucks
Family Friend's Classic Show Truck

To start, we will look at a few categories in which the general population places trucks and vans.

Pickup Trucks

pickup trucks

Pickup trucks are generally considered as larger vehicles with beds. Small pickup trucks used to be more popular than they are now, and they have grown bigger and more popular in recent years. They have also evolved to include more styles, more luxury, and more manufacturers have tried to break into the current market.

The Ford F-150 is not only the most popular pickup truck, it is also one of the best-selling vehicles of all time.

Off-Road SUVs/Pickup Trucks

Off-road SUVs and Trucks have not always been differentiated as much from regular SUVs and pickup trucks as they have been in recent years. Because of the evolution from what traditional SUVs and pickup trucks have been to what they are today, the gap between what makes a typical modern family SUV or truck and what makes an off-road version of each has become wider.

The difference usually comes down to tradition and perception. Because truck and SUV modifications are still so popular, many people see a pickup truck with huge tires and a lift kit as a more off-road focused vehicle just because it looks the part.

Likewise, an SUV like a Jeep Wrangler that has a rich tradition and history as a stereotypical off-road SUV is often considered a little bit different than a typical family SUV like a Honda CR-V.

Classic Trucks

Classic trucks are like classic cars in that the definition of “classic” varies depending on the age and consideration of the individual. Typically, the older the truck is, regardless of what type it is, it will be more widely considered as a classic truck. 

Types of Trucks: Body Styles

Body styles are a way to identify a type of car or truck based on their shape. This allows a more consistent and well-defined categorization of different vehicle types.

Truck body styles are much different than car body styles. Not only are there fewer body styles overall, but they are also fairly distinguishable from one another and there is less overlap between each. Three main body styles fall under the truck umbrella.  

Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road since they have a bed for hauling. They technically fall under the three-box-design as they have a separate engine compartment, passenger area, and cargo area, though the cargo area is typically open.

They have evolved from stripped-down work vehicles to utilitarian, alternative family vehicles. Some even breach the luxury vehicle plane with just as many features as traditional high-end manufacturers offer on their luxury cars.

Regardless of their purpose, they are still a staple of the market and makeup three of the top five best-selling vehicles in the U.S. market with more filling several spots within the top ten. Like sedans, pickup trucks are classified mainly by their size.

Mini Trucks/Compact

mini truck

Mini trucks are so-called because they are miniature versions of larger pickup trucks. Similar to mini cars or city cars, mini trucks are much more popular in overseas markets than they are in North America.

North American mini trucks came about mainly to skirt both emissions and safety regulations through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. They were considered light trucks rather than cars which came with more stringent regulations.

Today, mini trucks are nonexistent in the United States as consumer interest has changed and nearly every road-going vehicle has increased in size due to safety regulations and various factors.

Rarely larger than the average sedan today, mini trucks also rarely sat only two or three passengers and could haul less than the smallest pickup trucks in the U.S. for sale currently. They can be found used but are becoming scarcer as they age.

Occasionally, various automotive publications will classify midsize pickup trucks as small or compact pickup trucks due to the gradual increase in truck size over the past several years, but nearly all of the smallest pickup trucks on the market today are available with four doors and the ability to carry five passengers.

Examples of mini trucks and true compact pickup trucks include the Mazda B-Series, Nissan Hardbody, and Izuzu Hombre. Even more modern examples of these trucks like the Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger, and Chevrolet S-10, some of which are still in production today, used to be much smaller and could be considered compact pickup trucks in the past.

Midsize

pickup truck

Midsize trucks are the smallest pickups available on the market today. Many people classify these as small or compact trucks but there is a large amount of overlap in the classification between sources, and even at their current size, they are much bigger than the smallest pickup trucks available several years ago.

A more formal way of measurement is the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating. This is a more in-depth classification of pickup trucks when it comes to size. The current crop of midsize trucks fall into the Class 1 segment and can weigh up to six thousand pounds.

Examples include the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, and Nissan Frontier. 

Full-Size

Full-size pickup trucks are those that weigh over 6000 pounds and can be used as passenger vehicles. They traverse several classes of gross vehicle weight rather than just one as with the midsize trucks. This is because full-size pickup trucks can include heavy-duty pickup trucks with diesel engines which are heavier and more powerful than those without diesel engines.

The smallest full-size pickup trucks include common examples like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan XD, and Ram 1500. Larger examples can include the Ford F-250 and F-350, RAM 2500 and 3500, and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 3500.

Chassis Trucks

Chassis trucks are pickup trucks that lack a bed. More accurately, they are generally full-size, heavy-duty trucks that be custom built with any number of rear-mounted utility tools.

These include enclosed cargo boxes, flatbeds, dumpers, service attachments with various cargo and tool drawers, specialized fire apparatus attachments, and even large pickup truck beds. These types of trucks are usually considered to be work trucks by most and are only seen with the bare chassis when sold new. Attachments are usually added per the customer’s order. 

Types of Trucks: Substyles

Further defining trucks by more than just the shape of their body is important, because it allows consumers to focus on more familiar definitions of various vehicles. It also further narrows down different types of trucks by dissecting body styles into substyles.

Pickup Trucks

There are more detailed ways to classify pickup trucks than just their body style and size. All of the following classifications can fall within one or several of the main pickup truck sizes and body styles which is why they are not considered separate body styles themselves.

Single Cab

single cab pickup truck

Single cab pickup trucks have the smallest cab size of any other pickup trucks. They are not as common as they used to be but are still commonly available in base trim full-size pickups.

Even midsize pickup trucks usually offer an optional single cab layout. They are generally associated with work trucks that serve mainly for construction, basic transportation, and fleet service needs.

Many mini trucks from years ago were only offered in a single cab since they were so small. Single cab trucks only have a single bench seat which can carry two or three passengers. These are also the most common trucks to still offer the option of a manual transmission if one is available at all.

Pickup trucks available in a single cab layout include the Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, and Ford F-150.

Extended Cab

Extended cab pickup trucks are extended single cab pickup trucks with either some extra space behind the front seat, small folding rear seats, or a half bench seat behind the front seats.

They often come with either two doors, two doors with one side door, or two main doors and two rear-hinged half doors. Manufacturers have tried to market extended cab pickup trucks by using several different in-house names including king cab, access cab, and super cab to denote the added size advantage.

Nearly every pickup truck currently available on the market offers some form of extended cab layout.

Crew Cab

craw cab pickup

Crew cab pickup trucks are those with four full-size doors and rear seats. Like extended cab pickup trucks, crew cab trucks are under several different names depending on the manufacturer.

They have also become increasingly popular as pickup trucks have evolved into comfortable, practical family vehicles. Nearly every pickup truck currently on the market offers a crew cab configuration.

Stepside/Flareside/Dually

Cab sizes are not the only thing used to identify types of pickup trucks. Bed styles can also be used. Stepside and flareside pickup trucks are the same. Both refer to a pickup truck with a bed contained within the rear fenders.

This means that the cab and rear fenders extend farther than the pickup truck bed. Pickup trucks with dual rear wheels, or “dually” as some call them, are similar but the space in the bed is not sacrificed. Rather, the rear fenders flare out from the bed to cover the extra wheel mounted in the rear.

Stepside and flareside pickup trucks have fallen out of style and have disappeared from the current crop of new pickup trucks. Duallies are most common in the largest pickup trucks such as the Ram 3500, Ford F-350, and Chevrolet Silverado 3500.

Light Duty

Light duty is a term to describe a type of pickup truck by its working capacity rather than by specific body shape. As the name implies, light-duty pickup trucks are mainly used for average hauling and towing duties, and they include the most popular pickup trucks currently available. 

Half-Ton

Half-ton pickup trucks are the lowest classification of a pickup truck by payload capability. Even though one-half ton equals one thousand pounds, half-ton pickup trucks can haul much more than that – usually up to fifteen hundred pounds. Examples of half-ton trucks include the Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Ford F-150.

Heavy Duty

heavy duty truck

Heavy duty is the second main classification of pickup trucks that have to do with payload as a whole. Like the light-duty pickup trucks, heavy-duty trucks can usually haul more than their respective names would imply. There are two main types of heavy-duty pickup trucks. 

  1. Three-Quarters-Ton: Three-quarters ton pickup trucks are like the midsize vehicle class, sitting between the lightest and heaviest versions of the pickup truck class. Most have both gasoline and diesel engine options and can carry payloads of up to three thousand pounds. Examples include the Ford F-250, Ram 2500, and Chevrolet Silverado 2500.
  1. One-Ton: One-ton pickup trucks are the largest pickup trucks and can carry payloads of two tons or more. They are sold with both gasoline and diesel engines and are the most common trucks to feature dual rear wheel setups. The Ford F-350, Chevrolet Silverado 3500, and Ram 3500 are one-ton pickup trucks. 

Work Trucks

Work trucks generally fall under two categories. The most basic work truck is usually a base model pickup truck with few amenities and is just used for getting from place to place and hauling a few basic needs for whatever job the customer works.

These are nothing more than pickup trucks used for a specific job at a company. The second category of work truck is usually a full-size chassis truck that can be customized with a chassis attachment for a specific purpose.

Box trucks, service trucks, small fire apparatus, drop-side haulers, and even small campers usually start as a chassis truck that was ordered and made for a specific purpose.

Depending on the size of the attachment and the job for which it is built will determine the initial size of the chassis truck. Nearly all chassis trucks start at the bottom of the full-size pickup truck range and can feature single, extended, or crew cab layouts.

Luxury Pickup Trucks

What differentiates a luxury pickup truck from a non-luxury pickup truck is not clearly defined, nor is there a specific price at which a pickup truck becomes a luxury pickup truck.

SUVs and cars are easier to define because they have a more traditional path to follow in terms of what has been considered luxury for years. Pickup trucks have slowly become so universal that the consumer to which they cater has also expanded.

A good example of this is the Ford F-150. In its base form, it starts under $30,000. Fully loaded, an F-150 Limited can soar to above $75,000 and includes features such as massaging seats, remote start, and LED headlights.

Most people do not consider the F-150 to be a luxury vehicle, but the top trim levels on this and other pickup trucks like the Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, and Nissan Titan make a good case that a luxury pickup truck exists.

Off-Road Pickup Trucks

Off-road pickup trucks have never existed until recently, mainly because most pickup trucks have some ability to handle tough terrain and mud. The Ford Raptor was responsible for kicking off this segment with its debut in 2010. With the market becoming so enamored with pickup trucks, Ford capitalized on a new market dedicated to selling pickup trucks with specifically upgraded off-road components.

These trucks are essentially built and sold ready to do anything a custom-built off-road truck would be able to do. Even though the new Jeep Gladiator is seen as an off-road truck because of its Jeep Wrangler similarities, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is the most direct competitor to the Raptor.

The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Nissan Frontier Pro 4X are both in the mix as well and offer a good middle ground between the hardcore Raptor and a regular pickup truck.

Final Thoughts

With the growing popularity of pickup trucks, it is easy to get lost within all the different types available on the market. People often forget that trucks encompass more than just pickup trucks.

Even though there are only four or five body styles between these three types of vehicles, they each have their own substyles.

Shawn Furman
I have been a vehicle hobbyist for as long as I can remember as well as a freelance writer for the past three and a half years. My clients have included Vehicle Scene, Autolist, CarGurus, and now The Vehicle Lab. In addition to my current clients, I also maintain my own blog where I am able to share my knowledge and experience through vehicle reviews, car-buying guides, how-to guides, and list articles.
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