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What Is A Pickup Truck? Key Features, Evolution, History

What Is A Pickup Truck?

Few vehicles can rival the pickup truck when it comes to versatility. This van can seamlessly go from carrying heavy loads on farm sites to cruising the road on an adventure. If you’re unfamiliar with this vehicle, you’re probably wondering, ‘What is a pickup truck and what makes this van so special?’ Before hiring this vehicle, join us as we go beyond its rugged design to examine what makes the pickup van a favourite among many truck lovers.

What Is A Pickup Truck?

Side View Of A Pickup Truck In Motion

A pickup truck is a light-duty truck known for its open cargo area at the rear, which is separated from its passenger cabin. Also known as a pickup van or just a pickup, this vehicle features a chassis with body-on-frame construction, so it can easily carry heavy loads and tow trailers.

This truck is known for its versatility, with modern versions being used for everything from cargo transportation to daily commuting. These vans also often feature a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive system, making them great for off-roading. Some popular examples of pickups include the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Isuzu D-Max and Volkswagen Amarok.

Key Features Of Pickup Trucks

Pickups come with a range of key features that make them popular in this current age. Some of them include:

Cargo Bed

One of the most distinct features of a pickup is the open bed. These vans have an open area at the back of the truck designed for carrying goods, equipment and other items. The cargo bed is usually made of steel or aluminium and comes in various lengths, ranging from a short bed to a standard bed to a long bed. The open cargo bed makes the pickup great for transporting irregular-shaped items that won’t fit in a standard van’s boot.

Towing Capacity

The towing capacity refers to how much the vehicle can safely tow behind it. Many modern pickups can tow weights of up to 3,500 kg (3.5 tonnes) due to their powerful engines, suspensions and frame strength. This truck’s impressive towing ability makes it suitable for hauling trailers, campers and heavy loads. Subtract the gross vehicle weight from the gross train weight to determine the towing capacity of your pickup truck.

Off-Road Capability

White Pickup On Unpaved Road

Pick-ups are also known for their off-roading abilities. These vehicles are designed with high ground clearance, which allows them to tackle uneven roads with ease. They also tend to come with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive systems for improved traction on slippery roads.

Cab Style

The cab style is basically the configuration of the passenger cabin in pickups. These vans have two main cabin styles – single and double cab. A single-cab pickup truck has only one row of seating, providing space for the driver and one or two other passengers. A double cab pickup, on the other hand, has an extended passenger compartment with two rows of seating. These vans usually seat the driver and three or four passengers.

Payload Capacity

The payload capacity is the maximum weight a pickup can carry in its cargo bed and cab combined. It includes the weight of both passengers, accessories and other modifications in the vehicle. Pickups generally have a payload capacity between 1,000 kg (1 tonne) and 1,200 kg (1.2 tonnes), depending on the model.


Like most modern vehicles, pickups are equipped with a range of safety features to ensure driver and passenger protection. For starters, they have airbags that pop out to prevent injuries during collisions. There are also features like automatic emergency braking, collision warning, and anti-lock brakes, depending on the trim level of the truck.

Interior Features

Pickup vans aren’t exactly built for comfort, but they still offer a couple of features to enhance convenience and functionality for occupants. Features like infotainment systems, adjustable seating and navigation systems can make your ride more enjoyable.


The engine of a vehicle plays a crucial role in its performance and the same is true for a pickup truck. These vans offer a range of engine options, including gasoline and diesel. You’ll also find modern electric trucks, which align with the demand for sustainability. Engines also vary in terms of output, with V6, V8 and turbocharged engines available.

Is A Pickup Truck A Truck Or A Van?

A pickup is both a truck and a van in the sense that it can be called either a pickup truck or a pickup van. It is often termed a van because it fits into the light commercial vehicle category along with many other van types. This category features vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of no more than 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kg).

Pickups, however, have a body-on-frame construction, which is common among trucks. This design ensures ​​durability, stability and high load-carrying capacity. Generally, you’re not wrong to call it a van or a truck.

See here for a guide to van sizes, where you can learn about the capacity of various types of vans.

The History And Evolution Of Pickup Trucks

White Pickup Truck In The Forest

The history of the pickup truck dates back well over a century. German engineer Gottlieb Daimler invented the first pickup truck, which he marketed as a crude vehicle that could carry up to 3,300 pounds (1,497 kg).

The first popular model was launched in 1925 as Ford’s Model T Roundabout. These vans were characterised by their open backs for hauling, which made them popular as versatile workhouses for cargo transportation. Over decades, the pickup van evolved in design and capability, offering higher payload and towing capacities.

The 1940s saw a surge in post-war production, with manufacturers like Dodge, Chevrolet, and Ford launching updated lines featuring new cabin and bed designs, such as the step-side bed. Recently, Tesla has also entered the pickup industry with its electric trucks known as Cybertrucks.

Who Should Hire Or Buy A Pickup Truck?

Anyone who needs a powerful cargo vehicle with off-roading and towing capabilities should hire or buy a pickup truck. Some businesses and individuals that could do with the help of the pickup include:

  • Farmers: Farmers and ranchers can rely on the pickup for agricultural tasks such as cargo and equipment hauling.
  • Construction workers: Pickups are also really great for construction workers and contractors due to their ability to transport tools, equipment and supplies to and from job sites.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts: These vans could also be valuable allies to outdoor enthusiasts such as campers and off-roaders. The open bed of the vehicle allows it to transport irregular-shaped items, while you navigate difficult roads with ease thanks to the four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive system.

Reach out to SDVH when you need to hire a pickup in the UK. We offer Toyota Hilux hire and various other amazing van rental deals.

Frequently Asked Questions

A pickup truck is called a pickup truck or van in the UK. This name is widely recognised for the vehicle across Europe and North America. However, in Australia and New Zealand, both pickups and coupé utilities are called utes, short for utility vehicles. South Africans, on the other hand, use the term bakkie.

The most popular pickup truck models are the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra, Isuzu D-Max and Volkswagen Amarok. These are just a few of the many pickup options on the market. The vehicles differ based on their features and capabilities, so it’s left to you to determine which is best for you.

Yes, a pickup truck can tow a car. In fact, pickups are commonly used to tow various types of vehicles, such as cars, trailers and boats. They generally have high towing capacities and a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive system, which can come in handy when towing in bad weather. To tow a car safely, ensure the towing capacity of the van exceeds the weight limit of the car.

You need a standard category B licence to drive a pickup truck. The pickup falls under the light commercial vehicles category, which includes commercial vehicles under 3,500 kg (3.5 tonnes). The standard licence allows you to drive any 3.5-tonne vehicle without restrictions. Keep in mind that you may need additional licences and qualifications to tow large trailers or cargo with your pickup.

Yes, there are electric pickup trucks. A popular example is the Tesla Cybertruck, which features a futuristic design and impressive performance specifications. The Cybertruck is built with specifications that challenge top-selling pickups while remaining environmentally sustainable. Furthermore, the Ford F-150 Lightning was recently launched. This powerful all-electric truck is available in four trim levels.


So what is a pickup truck? This vehicle is not just your everyday van. Its versatility and sheer power make it an icon in the automotive world, cherished by both outdoor enthusiasts and professionals. Whether you need a vehicle for adventure or one with impressive cargo and towing capacity, one thing’s certain – you can’t go wrong with hiring a pickup.

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