GMC recently flew me out to beautiful Southern Utah and put me behind the wheel of a 2018 GMC Sierra Denali. This was an experience I was looking forward to — largely because, through my whole driving life, I never fully understood why people love pickup trucks so much. I grew up in rural Wisconsin, where you either drove a truck or a body-on-frame SUV. If I ever saw a car in the town I grew up in that wasn’t from an American brand, I figured they must not be from around here.
For a lot of those folks, pickup trucks and big SUVs made sense, because they were farmers or construction workers or had some other job that required a truck. But for many others, and for most city slickers, people drive trucks because they just like trucks. I’m not one of those "why do you need that?" critics, but I’ve always wondered what it is about pickup trucks that captures the hearts and wallets of so many drivers.
Now that I’ve driven a well-appointed 2018 GMC Sierra Denali with a price tag of about $60,000 … I still don’t get it. I certainly get it if a truck is something you need for work, or something you will often use for recreational purposes, like towing boats or ATVs, in which case it’s the right tool for the job. But for the many people who buy a truck and only use the bed or the trailer hitch once or twice a year, I don’t understand why they’d want to spend so much money to own a truck. You know you can rent an F-150 from U-Haul for like twenty bucks, right?
The interior of the Sierra Denali was super nice. It legitimately had luxury sedan levels of comfort and refinement. But if that’s what you want, why not get, oh, I don’t know, a luxury sedan? There was nothing I found particularly special about the driving experience that would make me want a pickup truck over a normal car. A big plus of a luxury sedan is that it’s the fastest depreciating car segment, while pickup trucks make up the slowest depreciating segment. Go ahead and compare the prices of a 3-year-old Sierra Denali against a 3-year-old Cadillac CTS on the used market.
It’s easy to understand why someone would want a luxury vehicle, but I fail to understand why someone would want that packaged as a pickup truck. If I was a well-off contractor or something, then sure — why not have heated and cooled leather seats and wood interior trim in my work vehicle? But being a regular guy who would almost never use a truck as a truck, I just don’t get it.
This makes non-luxury pickups even harder for me to understand. Pickup trucks are big, they’re expensive, they’re not great on gas (although they’ve been improving), they’re lane-hoggers, and I just don’t think they look that cool. Is the stereotype true of guys driving trucks just because it’s macho? If so, I don’t get what’s so rugged and manly about owning a piece of equipment you don’t need.
It’s hard for me to think of trucks as everyday vehicles rather than purpose-built tools. When I see a pickup truck, I see farm equipment. To me, a pickup isn’t that different from a tractor — and we don’t see a lot of non-farmers spending a bunch of money on big, fancy tractors just to cruise into town. Trucks make perfect sense for people who need them and use their unique capabilities often — but, to me, they don’t make any sense as commuters or family cars.
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