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See Article— USA Today

What is the Difference Between a Truck and a SUV?

Published by Tamar Hela.

What's in this article?
  1. Understanding the Differences
  2. Size and Weight
  3. Fuel Efficiency
  4. Towing Capacity
  5. Off-Road Capabilities
  6. Passenger Comfort
  7. To Sum Up..
What is the Difference Between a Truck and a SUV?

Trucks and SUVs are popular vehicle types but have essential differences worth understanding. While trucks and SUVs can seem quite similar at first glance, how they are designed and performed varies greatly.

For consumers looking to purchase one of these vehicles, knowing what truly separates trucks from SUVs is essential to picking the option best suited to their needs and lifestyle.

This article will compare and contrast trucks and SUVs across several key categories to help clarify their differences.


Understanding the Differences

Whether you need to haul large items, tow a trailer, venture off paved roads, or transport passengers comfortably, the distinctions between trucks and SUVs are worth exploring.

With trucks offering more power and towing capacity while SUVs prioritize passenger space and fuel efficiency, identifying your priorities will make the choice clear. Getting to know the typical capabilities of each vehicle type can avoid buyer's remorse down the road.

SUVs tend to crossover between passenger and utility vehicles, but trucks are dedicated to work. Recognizing where they excel will lead buyers to the ideal match for their lifestyle.

Size and Weight

There is typically a notable difference between trucks and SUVs regarding size and weight. Full-size trucks, in particular, tend to have a longer wheelbase and overall length than large SUVs. This results in more cargo room behind the rear seats. Pickup trucks also often have a higher ground clearance thanks to their sturdier frames and suspension components designed to handle heavier loads.

The average curb weight of a full-size pickup ranges from around 5,000 to 6,500 pounds, while most 3-row SUVs come in closer to 4,500-5,500 pounds. Mid-size and compact trucks and SUVs are predictably smaller still. The extra bulk and heft of pickup trucks pay dividends in towing and hauling capacity but come at the expense of reduced fuel efficiency compared to similarly sized SUVs.

Fuel Efficiency

As a result of their design emphasis on utility over passenger comfort, trucks generally achieve worse fuel economy than SUVs. A full-size half-ton pickup will be rated around 15-19 mpg combined versus 20-25 mpg for a large SUV.

Mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger see about 1-3 MPG better ratings than full-size trucks. Compact trucks and crossover SUVs have the closest fuel economy at 20-26 mpg.

The hauling weight of a pickup impacts its EPA fuel ratings more substantially with each added passenger or hundred pounds towed.

Meanwhile, an SUV's combined MPG rating remains pretty consistent, whether empty or full. Over years of ownership, these efficiency differences can significantly affect fuel costs and environmental impact. SUV practicality and better driving dynamics make them more appealing commuter vehicles, while trucks comfortably fulfill work duties.


Towing Capacity

When hauling heavy loads, full-size pickup trucks stand above all other vehicle types. Models from the Big Three American brands routinely offer max tow ratings between 10,000 and 13,000 pounds.

That dominates even heavy-duty SUVs, which max out around 8,000 pounds for 3-row models. Mid-size trucks fall in the 6,000-9,000 pound range, dwarfing small and compact SUV tow capacities below 5,000 pounds.

The frame-on-chassis construction and larger truck engines provide stronger hauling foundations than body-on-frame SUV underpinnings. Integrated trailer brake controllers, tow/haul drive modes, and lower initial gearing help safely manage heavy loads.

Those with frequent voyage needs or who enjoy hauling watercraft, campers, or horse trailers will appreciate a truck's towing supremacy over any SUV alternative.

Off-Road Capabilities

When the pavement ends, a truck goes from thriving to surviving. Its rugged body-on-frame construction, heavy-duty drivetrains, and suspension components can confidently tackle stricter terrain than most SUVs. The pickup bed also provides functional hauling space for equipment off-road. Many trucks' ground clearance of 10-12 inches makes them capable of traversing rougher backcountry than most crossovers.

While capable all-wheel drive SUVs can serve well on occasional forest paths or dirt roads, few match a truck's breakover and departure angles for seriously scrambling over boulders. Locking differentials are also more common on trucks.

Lower and broader truck profiles produce excellent stability on slippery grades and washes. A rock crawling and dune bashing means another extreme wheeling, dune bashing, or another extreme wheeling.


Passenger Comfort

SUVs are usually more comfortable for daily duties thanks to their prioritized passenger amenities and smoother ride quality over harsher truck suspensions. Car-like unibody construction and tuned springs better insulate passengers from road imperfections. Standard features like lumbar support, heated seats, and advanced infotainment are more plentiful in luxury SUVs. Cargo space behind rear seats also tends to be more spacious.

Trucks, meanwhile, emphasize ruggedness over refinement with stiffer shocks and leaf springs. Their front bench or essential bucket seats lathe the supportive contours of premium SUV thrones.

Harsher engine sounds also permeate the cab. Many new trucks now come with pleasing interiors reflecting constant improvements. Crew cab models also provide ample room for families. Ultimately, SUVs cosset cargo and passengers, while trucks focus primarily on work.

To Sum Up...

Trucks and SUVs each have distinct strengths based on their divergent designs. Trucks lead in towing, off-road ability, and cargo-carrying due to their dedicated mechanical underpinnings, while SUVs seek better efficiency, passenger space, and comfort. Both can undoubtedly fulfill multipurpose familial duties but shine brightest when applied to their inherent jobs.

By understanding the capabilities inherent to each type, shoppers can confidently select which best aligns with their transportation and lifestyle needs today and in the long term. Choosing between a truck or SUV requires identifying priorities and what truly matters most for durability, utility, or luxury in one's daily drives and adventures.

Whether relocating across town or the country, A1 Auto Transport can help with your SUV shipping needs. As one of the top auto transport companies in the industry, we have years of experience safely transporting all types of vehicles, including SUVs of all sizes.

Our nationwide network of carriers uses enclosed auto transport trucks to protect from dirt, dust, and damage on every route. With 24/7 dispatch and GPS tracking, you can monitor your SUV's progress every step of the way.

Are you moving with an SUV? Let us take the stress out of your relocation. Get started with a free quote.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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