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Car Buying

Which Is Right for You: Pickup Truck or Cargo Van?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2014

If you're interested in a new work truck, you might be trying to decide between a pickup truck and a cargo van. Initially, they may seem pretty different: The truck has an open bed and off-road capabilities, while the van has an enclosed cargo area and a chassis that's primarily designed for around-town driving. The two vehicles offer similar benefits, such as excellent towing capacity and a large area for stowing your equipment. So which is best for you? We've listed the benefits of each below.

Pickup Truck: The Benefits

A pickup has several benefits over a cargo van. One is ease of use: It's a lot easier to load and unload items from an open pickup bed than it is to grab them from the inside of an enclosed cargo van. For that reason alone, many on-the-go workers prefer using a pickup for their usual work duties.

Another benefit is gas mileage. Most trucks -- especially midsize models -- achieve better fuel economy than enclosed cargo vans, which usually weigh more than pickups and use thirstier, older engines that aren't focused on fuel economy. Admittedly, that's changing with a new crop of cargo vans that focus on gas mileage, but many cargo vans are still less efficient than their pickup counterparts.

Pickups also usually offer more capacity than cargo vans, both in terms of towing capabilities and passenger room. Towing is especially better in a truck if you opt for a heavy-duty model, which can often pull thousands more pounds than a cargo van. When it comes to passenger room, most cargo vans cannot match the practicality of a crew-cab pickup, which boasts five seats and still manages to offer excellent towing and hauling capabilities.

Cargo Van: The Benefits

While a pickup may seem like the right choice, a cargo van also offers several important benefits. The biggest is that it's enclosed, and that's a big deal for two reasons. First, it offers more theft protection so you don't have to carry your tools inside at every jobsite or keep a close watch on your vehicle when you're stopping for lunch. Second, a van's enclosed cargo area keeps its load safe from bad weather, which is a big deal for drivers in some professions, who carry a lot of items that shouldn't get wet.

A van also allows you to be a lot more organized than you would be in a pickup. While you'll probably resort to just throwing tools in your pickup bed until you can get home and unload them, vans usually offer interior organizational features such as shelves or drawers that can help you stay organized as you go from jobsite to jobsite.

Finally, vans offer one other ability that pickups don't have: advertising space. Because most cargo vans have large exterior slabs in place of windows, they allow you to advertise your business a lot more easily than pickups do. If advertising is important to you, we strongly suggest that you pick a van over a truck for this reason alone.

Our Take

In the end, the type of work that you do will largely dictate the type of vehicle that you need. If you often find yourself towing, hauling heavy loads or carrying around passengers, a truck might be the best choice. If you have important cargo that you need to keep safe, dry and organized, you might prefer a van. If you're still not sure about your final decision, we suggest speaking to some other professionals in your field to see what they recommend.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Which Is Right for You: Pickup Truck or Cargo Van? - Autotrader