A big thrill of car shopping is finding the one that exactly meets your wants and needs. Nobody knows that fact like pickup truck shoppers, because nobody else has so many potential options — interior and exterior, cab size, bed size, and that's just scratching the surface. But one thing is constant: pickup truck owners have work to do. And trucks come in many different shapes and sizes, just like the jobs themselves.

For a first-time truck shopper, however, all those choices can be daunting. So here's a simpler look at truck buying, starting with a breakdown of the most common truck bed options on the market.

Bed Length
This one is self-explanatory, and also the most important characteristic of a truck bed. Trucks are most often divided into "short" and "long" beds, though actual lengths vary based on several factors including manufacturer, model and cab size.

Unless your truck is going to be explicitly for commercial use, you're probably looking for a short bed. For compact and mid-size trucks, short beds often fall in the 5-6 ft. range. On full-size trucks, a short bed is most often about 6.5 ft. Short beds are sufficient for the majority of pickup drivers, because they still pack the cargo room for most jobs without being too cumbersome for the average driver to maneuver in everyday situations.

Long beds also vary in length based on the same criteria. Even in smaller truck models, however, a long bed will measure out to at least 7 feet. On full-size models, 8 ft. is more common for long beds. This is ideal for professionals who need to carry long cargo, like sheets of drywall for example.

Side Style
The other major distinction between truck beds is the styling on the sides. Though manufacturers use several different terms for marketing purposes, there are two main types of side style.

Today, most trucks have side panels that are parallel with one another from front to back. Sometimes referred to as "Styleside," this style's popularity can be attributed to slightly more cargo room than the alternative, and also a small fuel mileage advantage due to better aerodynamics.

The other major type of side style has been given several names including step-side, flareside and sportside. Here, the truck's side panels curve around the wheel wells, creating "steps" on one or both sides of the rear wheels. In spite of this style's small disadvantages, step-side truck beds are often sought after by more style-conscious shoppers.

Now that you've selected your bed style, it's time to solve another dilemma. When you're selecting a bed liner, should you drop in or spray on? There are also plenty of other accessories out there to make your truck work even harder for you. Check out this list of pickup truck utility boosters before you tackle your next DIY project.



© 2008 AutoTrader.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Andrew Golaszewski is a staff writer for AutoTrader.com.


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