Should My First Car Be a Truck? (No, here’s why)


It’s a milestone to celebrate – you’re buying your first vehicle! You’re not expecting it to have a lot of bells and whistles; it just has to be dependable. That’s why you’re thinking your first car should be a truck. Is this a good idea?

Pickup trucks are well-built and dependable, but they’re not a good choice for a first car. Trucks tend to cost more, use more gas, are costlier to insure, and they’re bigger and harder to drive to. For those reasons, you might want to wait to buy a truck until you have more driving experience (and a bigger budget!).

In this article, we’ll go over the different facets of truck ownership, comparing trucks to used cars. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know whether your first car should be a truck or something else.  

Are Trucks Easier to Drive Than Cars?

Pickup by water

If you’re a 16-year-old kid who’s just obtained their driver’s license (or still has their provisional license), you’re probably new to the whole driving thing. You have only moderate experience, but owning a vehicle of your own will help you gain more.

In theory, a truck sounds like a great pick for you, as many trucks are built tough and dependable. If you have a fender-bender or–goodness forbid–a more serious accident, a truck might hold up better than a car. 

That said, driving a truck could be what makes you more accident-prone. It’s very different than being behind the wheel of a car. 

Most trucks are larger and taller so your driving vantage point is different. If yours is a pickup, then you must also account for the extra heft behind you when doing any kind of maneuvering on the road, from turning to parallel parking.

Speaking of parking, the size of your truck can also make parking tricky, to put it mildly. You can forget about squeezing into tight spots with adjacent cars on either side. You need plenty of room in any parking lot. 

Parallel parking and perpendicular parking, which are maneuvers that beginner drivers struggle with even in cars, become even harder when in a truck. 

On the other hand, learning to drive in a truck is a kind of trial-by-fire experience. You’ll gain a lot of skill quickly and become a more seasoned driver than someone who only drives cars. 

Are Used Trucks More Expensive Than Cars?

New pickup

Another factor to keep in mind when searching for your first car is the price. You might have a part-time job, so you’re likely going to rely on your parents’ financial help to buy your vehicle. The car can’t be too expensive, as your ‘rents won’t go for it.

Between a used car and a used truck, which is the costlier option? That’s usually the truck. 

As a caveat, the price of a used vehicle is based on so many variable factors. Those include the brand, make/model, year of production, condition, and the seller. 

However, if you notice when shopping around that the cost of a used truck is exponentially higher than a used car, no, it’s not just you.

Vehicle history resource Bumper produced a chart comparing the prices of the Toyota Camry LE and the Ford F-150 SuperCab over the years. The prices go back to 1990 through 2020. 

As the 30 years of data show, the Camry prices have held about the same over the decades, starting at $14,658 in 1990. By 2020, the cost to own a Camry is $24,970. That’s a difference of $10,312.

Back in 1990, owning an F-150 was cheaper than a Camry at $12,683. Yet by 2020, the price climbed to $32,830. The price difference? A cool $20,147.

Sure, these are only two vehicle models and cannot possibly accommodate for all the differences in the prices of cars and trucks. Yet the Bumper article also compares the costs of two Toyotas–the Corolla and Tacoma–over the same 30-year period. Those prices grew at nearly identical rates.  

Coincidence? Nope. As trucks encompass more luxury features and add more powerful torque and transmission, their price tags go up. Sellers are reluctant to give up their used truck for less than what they think it’s worth, especially considering that truck demand is high to this day. 

This results in far more expensive used trucks. If you find a truck that seems like a steal, proceed with extreme caution. It could be a lemon! 

Is Truck Insurance Cheaper Than Car Insurance?

Even if your first car is used, you must insure it. The added protection you get from an insurance plan gives you peace of mind when you’re on the road. 

More than likely, your parents will want to roll your car insurance into their plan, so you need reasonably-priced insurance. 

Unfortunately, like it’s costly to buy a used truck, it’s also pricy to insure one. 

Insurance quote resource The Zebra did some side-by-side comparisons of insurance plans between trucks and cars. Six-month insurance premiums for cars start as low as $683 for a vehicle like the Ford Fiesta and cost up to $772 for a Mazda 3. 

Breaking that down, your insurance costs would be between $113 and $128 per month for six months. 

Six-month insurance premiums for trucks start at $707 for a Chevy Silverado and can cost as much as $1,016 for a heavy-duty truck like the Nissan Titan. Now you’re looking at monthly insurance costs of $117 to $169 per month across six months.

That’s not a huge price climb, sure, but it’s more expensive than necessary. 

Now, there’s a lot of information The Zebra’s chart doesn’t accommodate for, such as the production year for those vehicles. The part of the country you call home also dictates insurance costs.

For instance, in California, the average car insurance price is $70 per month. That’s lower than any of the insurance costs we reviewed in this section.

Even with those factors considered though, the amount of money you pay to buy your vehicle is the main factor in the cost of your insurance. Since trucks are more expensive than cars, that means your truck insurance will almost always be costlier. 

Are Trucks More Fuel Efficient Than Cars?

Pickup at gas station

Besides the price to own the car as well as your insurance premium, as a new driver, you’ll also have to pay at the pump. A fuel-efficient first car will save you money each time you fill up your vehicle. This can put hundreds of dollars back in your wallet per year.

We’re all aware of the perception that trucks guzzle gas like a kid drinking soda at a birthday party. Part of this is rooted in reality. Trucks are bigger and have greater towing capacity, so they need more fuel to work. 

Vehicle manufacturers know this, which is why today’s trucks use fuel more reasonably and responsibly than ever. Do these trucks have a better fuel economy than most cars on the road? Perhaps not, but the divide is a lot narrower.

Still, you’re looking for a used truck, not a new one. Depending on how used you go (five years ago versus 25), your truck will either have good fuel economy or it will suck up gas so fast that your wallet cries out for mercy.  

Conclusion 

Young drivers with shiny new licenses who are looking to buy their first car are better off skipping a pickup truck for now. These vehicles are harder to drive, they’re more expensive (even used), they cost more to insure, and their fuel economy is only just catching up to the average car’s fuel efficiency. 

Once you’re a more experienced driver with a sizable budget, you can revisit the idea of buying a truck.

But before buying a used truck or any vehicle, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.

You may find these links useful also:

Is Honda Civic a good first car?

Is a Mustang a good first car?

Is a Tesla a good first car?

Classic car for the first car

Is Volkswagen a good first car?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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