We’re taking a deeper dive into all of the pickup truck myths you’ve heard and busting out the ones that don’t meet the facts.

Busting Common Myths about Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are unlike vehicles from any other segment on the market and as such, they have a number of common misconceptions associated with them. Today, we’re going to break down the facts and the fiction. We’ll find out what they’re great at and what tips and tricks about pickups are not all that helpful after all.

Myth 1:

It’s More Aerodynamic to Drive With the Tailgate Down

2023 Silverado with tailgate down - chevrolet.com
2023 Silverado with tailgate down - chevrolet.com

What it is…
Some have argued that the tailgate of a truck adds one more wall for air to hit as it passes over the truck. In turn, lowering the bed can increase fuel economy since that wall is removed.

The truth…
This is one myth that has been extensively tested in lab conditions as well as real-world scenarios. Every study that we can find says the same basic thing. Lowering your tailgate will result in worse fuel economy. The reason that this happens is that the tailgate actually helps to create a little air pocket in the bed. The air that flows down toward the bed is smoothed out by that air pocket and drag is reduced.

Tonneau cover on a Ford F-150 - ford.com
Tonneau cover on a Ford F-150 - ford.com

This is also the reason that other methods of drag reduction regarding the bed have varying results. A tonneau cover for instance can very slightly increase fuel economy whereas a cargo net will actually decrease fuel efficiency. One illustration put it this way, if you were to drag a net through a body of water at speed it would be harder than if you had a smooth flat solid object. A cargo net likewise causes more drag on surrounding air and decreases fuel economy.

Myth 2:

Bigger is Better

Rivian R1T - rivian.com
Rivian R1T - rivian.com

What it is…
A full-sized truck is more capable than a smaller one.

The truth…
So long as a truck has the physical space it needs to contain a tough and powerful drivetrain, it can be among the most capable in the world. Take for example the Rivian R1T. It’s about the same size as a midsize truck but it packs full-size truck capability into a smaller package. Not only can it tow up to 11,000 pounds, which is within 3,000 pounds of a decked-out Ford F-150, but it also packs 850 horsepower, space for five, and the ability to off-road with the best factory trucks out there.

2022 RAM 3500 - ramtrucks.com
2022 RAM 3500 - ramtrucks.com

It’s true that heavy-duty trucks, like the RAM 3500, the Ford F-350, and the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD all perform better when it comes to towing and many other work-related tasks. Of course, those skills have a lot more to do with the modern drivetrain components that they utilize as opposed to their associated size.

Myth 3:

All Trucks Can Tow Anything

2023 Ford Maverick - ford.com
2023 Ford Maverick - ford.com

What it is…
If it has a bed, it can tow better than vehicles that don’t.

The truth…
This myth gets its legs from the abovementioned heavy-duty pickups that can indeed tow a lot. The truth is though that not every truck can tow a large load. It might be easy to point out small trucks like the Hyundai Santa Cruz or the Ford Maverick here but they can tow up to 5,000 and 4,000 pounds respectively. What’s more shocking is that until very recently, some midsize couldn’t even tow that much.

2022 Nissan Armada - netcarshow.com
2022 Nissan Armada - netcarshow.com

The new Ford F-150 is available in a configuration that can only tow up to 5,000 pounds. On top of that, there are a number of SUVs that can tow more than 8,000 pounds. For example, the Nissan Armada can pull 8,500 pounds, the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat can tow 8,700 pounds, and the Ford Expedition Max can pull 9,300 pounds.

Myth 4:

Trucks Ride Rough

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz - netcarshow.com
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz - netcarshow.com

What it is…
If it’s a truck, it’s gotta be rough riding.

The truth…
Honestly, most modern-day pickups are far more comfortable than you might expect. Examples like the Santa Cruz and Maverick mentioned above are exceptional drivers but that behavior isn’t limited to smaller pickups. The RAM 1500 is incredibly comfortable thanks to independent rear suspension components. Chevrolet and Ford aren’t far behind either.

Myth 5:

They’re Never Fuel Efficient

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 - gmc.com
2023 GMC Sierra 1500 - gmc.com

What it is…
That trucks can’t be fuel efficient compared to the rest of the market.

The Truth…
Ok, so this one is mostly true. The absolute best you can hope to do in a full-size truck is about 26 mpg combined. That’s the rating that the EPA gave to the 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 diesel with rear-wheel drive. That’s pretty sad but there are a few exceptions to this rule and they come in unconventional forms.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning - ford.com
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning - ford.com

Firstly, the Maverick, which we’ve now mentioned three times, can get up to 37 mpg combined. That’s fabulous and quite frankly, it’s all the truck that most truck buyers will ever need. Above that are electric trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning which gets up to 66 MPGe. The Rivian R1T gets 70 MPGe combined.

Myth 6:

Trucks Can Get Out of Any Jam and Go Over Anything

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD - media.chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD - media.chevrolet.com

What it is…
Trucks, being work vehicles and taller than most are completely capable when the road runs out.

The truth…
Sadly, owning a truck won’t make you impervious to all surfaces. Many conditions like deep mud, undulating terrain, and wet sand can be big problems for any vehicle and that includes trucks. Importantly, trucks with additional ground clearance and four-wheel drive do have a better time in most off-road situations and that’s where the myth ultimately hails from. It can also make them great at work-related tasks like clearing snow or surveying land.

2023 Toyota RAV4 - toyota.com
2023 Toyota RAV4 - toyota.com

What most people won’t tell you though is that SUVs and even some cars can tackle off-road conditions as well as a truck so don’t feel like you need a truck just to go off-road. If your heart is set on a truck, here are some of the best used off-road trucks we could find.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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