understanding truck classification sizes

Pickup trucks are the most versatile vehicles on the planet. Whether they’re transporting people, hauling cargo, or towing monstrous payloads, trucks do what other vehicles can’t. Different trucks were built with different jobs in mind. Some have the power for construction work while others help keep your family safe on the road. When you’re looking to outfit your current truck or buy a new one, it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every class of truck on the market.

Compact Trucks

The most popular truck in the world, compacts have a lot to recommend them. While they typically lack the ability to carry many thousands of pounds, their beds can still carry larger and heavier loads than a car. Their L4, L5, L6, or V6 engines are much more fuel-efficient than full-size or even mid-size trucks. Because of this, it is not unusual for owners to use them as an everyday vehicle or even as a commuter.

Popular Compact Pickups:

  • Chevy S10
  • GMC Sonoma
  • Mazda B Series
  • Ford Ranger

Mid-Size Trucks


Prior to the introduction of the mid-size truck in the late 1980s, there was a huge hole in the pickup market. Compact trucks lack the ability to carry much in the way of cargo or passengers but full-size trucks burn a lot of fuel when driven daily. The mid-size truck fulfilled the Goldilocks principle of being just the right size for many drivers.


Mid-Size pickups typically have a 4-cylinder or V6 engine, with some models even boasting a V8. In addition to a single, they can be configured for an extended or crew cab. They also feature superior safety ratings to compact trucks, allowing owners to use their trucks as family vehicles.

Popular mid-size trucks:

  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • GMC Canyon
  • Dodge Dakota
  • Nissan Frontier
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Ford Explorer SportTrac

Full-Size Trucks


These heavy-duty pickup trucks are the big brothers of the truck industry. They are popular as working vehicles but also provide significant cargo and towing capability for weekend warriors.


It would be difficult to call anything with less than 1,000 lbs of payload capacity a full-size pickup. Most models can carry at least 1,500-2,000 lbs in their beds, with a few examples that are able to transport 7,000 lbs or more. To move these massive amounts, these trucks pack real muscle under their hoods. I6 and V6 engines are common enough, but many full-size pickups feature V8, V10, or diesel engines.

Even the support structure is beefy, with rear-wheel drive being standard and 4-wheel drive a common option. Many of these trucks even have four wheels on the back axle (two on each side) to provide greater traction and drive when towing large objects. These dual-wheeled trucks are affectionately called “duallies” by those that drive them.


Popular full-size trucks:

  • Dodge Ram
  • Chevrolet Silverado
  • GMC Sierra
  • Ford F-Series
  • Nissan Titan
  • Toyota Tundra

A Truck for Every Job


The three sizes of pickup trucks cover a whole variety of needs. Whether you prize fuel efficiency, pure power, or a combination of the two, there’s a hard-working truck that’s perfect for you. Now that you understand each size you can customize your truck to emphasize its advantages and minimize its disadvantages.