An Unlikely Family Hauler: The Pickup Truck

March 25, 2009
 Think about some of the tasks you assign to your family vehicle. Especially this  time of the year. Many families have a home, and now with Spring hot on our heels, my family usually stares down some yard work. Sure, it's time to rake the leaves and other ugly stuff, but we also make our annual trip to the garden center to replenish the plants that didn't make it through the winter.

And then there's the fence to repair.

And the lawn mower needs to go to the shop.

And the slide needs to be replaced after all that freezing and thawing all winter. Darned plastic stuff.

Sometimes a family vehicle needs to haul stuff. Big stuff. We've managed to fit my plants from the yearly trip to Eastern Market's Flower Day in the back of my Pontiac Vibe, but just barely. The lawn mower just doesn't do it very nicely, however. So, it's about this time of the year we think about making an extended cab pickup one of our "family vehicles." Not to mention the camping trip we keep trying to plan.

Unfortunately, there's a ton of options when it comes to pickups. The very first bit of guidance I got from The Car Connection is to focus on trucks offered by American companies. The quality ratings are much better, and they're built to put up with much more abuse than I could ever think of inflicting.

Next, I picked three that appealed to me. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a "top 3." I'll actually claim a female trait here and reserve the right to change my mind next week.

First, the 2009 Dodge Dakota. Although The Car Connection only scored the Dakota at 6.8, I still like this one because of its price: $21-31k. Sure, you can go crazy on options, but really only if you're crazy about a honkin' stereo. Beware, however, that the IIHS tests didn't validate the five-star rating that the Dakota scored in government testing. Ouch.

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 series does better on safety, worse on price. The Car Connection scores it at 7.6. The Silverado's features are pretty equal, and TCC says the cruising range is about 500 miles. And on to the hefty jump in price: included in the $38-47k range is a hybrid model. Drool. Smart hybrid, it will donate some of its electricity to boost the V-8 for passing, climbing and towing.

Towing. Yet another reason a pickup would be a fabulous family vehicle.

2009 Ford F-150. The price range spans that of both the Dakota and Silverado, ranging from $21k to $44k. This is the pickup that dominates. The Car Connection gives it an overall score of 8 of 10. The improvements are seen in Safety, Comfort & Quality, and Features. TCC points out that the improved box frame makes the F-150 much more stable than most pickups. This means it's not only safer in a crash, but it also handles towing much better than most as well.So, how do you fit the kids in a pickup? Well, that's the trick. First, it helps if you have two kids or less. Depending on the age and agility of your children, the Dakota's rear jump seats may be enough to get you around town, back and forth to school stuff, and keep them comfy enough for a trip up north. The Silverado and F-150 have better options to fit three not-quite adult-sized people in back, or two very comfortably.

With the recent improvements in door swing and seat construction, pickups have definitely grown to accommodate people for longer trips. And maybe a pickup fits your family best.

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