What do shoppers of mid-size pickup trucks want from their trucks? How do shoppers of mid-size trucks differ from shoppers of full-size trucks? These are significant questions given the double-digit growth that the U.S. mid-size pickup truck market has been experiencing in 2018. Cars.com surveyed our own consumer panel to find out. Our main take-away: shoppers of mid-size trucks may love owning a pickup, but they want their pickup to perform more like a car.

From February 28 to March 22, we surveyed our Cars.com consumer panel to ask them about why they bought a mid-size pickup. We wanted to understand how their preferences differ from people who buy full-size trucks. They told us they seek mid-size trucks for these for reasons[i]:

  • Maneuverability: their smaller size makes them easier to maneuver. Typical shoppers’ input included “easier to park” and “utility and easy driving.”
  • Comfort: shoppers prefer support and comfort that mid-size trucks provide.
  • Fuel economy: shoppers told us they chose mid-size trucks over full-size trucks because their fuel economy is easier on shoppers’ pocketbooks.
  • Use and practicality: shoppers value the utility that mid-size trucks provide. But an important nuance is worth noting: people want mid-size pickups to help them with light tasks such as storing groceries as opposed to heavy-duty operations such as hauling gravel.

At the same time, some attributes of full-size trucks, such as the larger space of a crew crab, and 4×4 capability, appeal to mid-size pickup truck shoppers. Most told us they prefer a crew cab over extended and regular cabs as well as 4×4 drive over 4×2 drive.

We also found:

  • Mid-size truck shoppers are less loyal than full-size truck shoppers. When asked how likely or unlikely they were to buy the same brand of truck, far fewer shoppers of mid-size trucks said they were extremely likely to do so than were shoppers of full-size trucks.
  • Mid-size truck shoppers frequently cross-shop SUVs, crossovers, and sedans, with one in four shoppers looking at each category. The crossover and SUV cross-shopping underscores the importance of storage capacity to shoppers of mid-size trucks.
  • Improving fuel economy and price/value are the two largest opportunities in the mid-size pickup truck category. When we asked shoppers of mid-size trucks to identify the attributes with which they were extremely satisfied, price and fuel economy ranked lowest.

Mark Williams, editor of PickupTrucks.com, said, “I’m not surprised that midsize buyers are cross-shopping crossovers and other sedans; these buyers know what they want, and their lifestyles are pretty flexible. They do different activities and have different needs than the typical, more functional buyer. They want value, and they want a versatile package.”

The findings tell us that shoppers’ motivations for buying mid-size trucks may be more nuanced than their motivations for seeking full-size trucks. Shoppers of mid-size trucks appear to like the idea of driving around in a pick-up while enjoying the value that a car provides. Dealerships may actually find that shoppers of mid-size pickups are looking for an SUV. Keep your options open.


[i] Cars.com consumer panel survey, February/March 2018.