Car Buying

Midsize Trucks vs. Full-Size Trucks: How Different Are They?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're interested in a new pickup, you might be wondering whether you need to spend the money for a full-size truck -- especially if you're not sure you want such a large vehicle. After all, just how much different are midsize trucks from full-size models, and is there anything a full-size truck can do that a midsize model can't? We have the answers.

Let's Talk Power

If you're comparing a midsize truck to a full-size model, you probably want to know about power. This is often seen as the largest deficit that midsize trucks face -- not enough power to keep up with their full-size counterparts.

And indeed, midsize trucks don't have as much power as full-size models. The midsize Toyota Tacoma, for instance, maxes out at 236 horsepower, while the larger Tundra boasts up to 381 horses. The midsize Chevrolet Colorado offers as much as 305 hp, but it's still beaten out by its larger stablemate, the Chevy Silverado 1500, which tops out at 420 horses.

But it's important to understand that power isn't everything: The Tacoma's acceleration numbers are roughly the same as the Tundra's, and the same can be said for the Colorado and the Silverado. But what about capacities?

Towing and Payload

Interestingly, despite the power and size differences between midsize and full-size trucks, towing capacities aren't as different as you might think. V6-powered Chevrolet Colorado models can tow as much as 7,000 pounds when properly configured, an increase of more than 1,500 pounds over base-level V6-powered Silverado models. And while some Silverado 1500 models can tow well over 11,000 pounds, we have to wonder: How often do you plan to do that much towing? If the answer is frequently, you probably won't want a Colorado. If you never tow anything heavier than 7,000 pounds, you may not require a full-size pickup.

It's the same story over at Toyota, where Tacoma models can tow a maximum of 6,500 pounds when properly equipped. Although tow-ready Tundra models can pull more than 10,000 pounds, a base-level truck with the standard 4.7-liter V8 is limited to less than 7,000 pounds -- about the same figure as the Tacoma.

Payload capacity leads to the same results: While base-level Tacoma models can only carry 1,500 pounds, base-level Tundras can only carry about 1,600. It's only fully equipped Tundra models with the 5.7-liter V8 that can haul more than 2,000 pounds of stuff. Likewise, the Colorado offers 1,590 pounds of payload capacity to a base-level Silverado's 1,710 pounds -- not much difference. Upgrade to the Silverado's 6.2-liter V8, however, and you can easily break the 2,000-lb barrier.

Our Take

We think the majority of full-size-truck buyers could probably do just fine with a midsize truck. Unless you're often towing more than 6,500 pounds or you need to haul around 2,000 pounds of goods, a midsize truck should be adequate for most jobs. You'll also see better gas mileage, you'll pay a lower sticker price and you'll get dimensions that are better around town. It's a win-win -- until the talk turns to trucks at dinner and you find out you're the only one without a full-size pickup. We suspect that's the reason a lot of buyers stick with full-size models over their midsize counterparts.

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.
Midsize Trucks vs. Full-Size Trucks: How Different Are They? - Autotrader