How to Choose a Truck

By Karl Fredrickson

Towing a race car means you need a truck. And trucks are cool. But getting the right one requires consideration.

New or Used?

Time was a two-year-old vehicle provided the best balance between the just-drove-it-off the lot value plummet of new compared to the relatively-inexpensive eight-year-old truck that needs shocks, rotors, a transmission, and has holes in the cab corners (revealed moments after signing the paperwork). New trucks have pricing incentives and creative financing that make them more affordable while used gas-engined ones are routinely performing exceptionally well at 150,000 miles and more (diesels are barely broken in at that mileage). So either can be a great choice.

If you go for a new vehicle, find a dealer where you feel comfortable doing business especially if you’re likely to return there for shop work. Driving 30 miles past your local dealer to save $50 off the sticker won’t do you any favors when you call on them for service. Warranty rules vary, but your local dealer may not be required to work on your vehicle and will certainly put you at the end of the line if the selling dealer is his competitor.

Cab Choices

Cab design is simple: once you’ve had an extended cab, you’re not likely to ever have a regular cab again. And, once you’ve gone four-door, you’ll probably not tolerate an extended cab.


An 8’ bed and the longer wheelbase that results typically provides more stable towing than a shorter bed. However, wheelbase is a relatively non-issue with gooseneck or fifth-wheel towing.

Size Matters

You ought to have a good handle on what you need if you’re looking for a heavier-duty truck, like a dually; it’s the fractionals that can be confusing. A full-size half-ton pickup is often considered a minimum for towing a weekly type stock car with limited tools and a small crew. You should know that some ½-ton trucks are capable of towing more than a light-duty ¾-tons (identified by five lug nuts instead of eight on a heavier duty ¾). The suspension required to support more in the bed weighs more and that’s added to the vehicle’s overall weight, so the amount it can pull is reduced. Some new ½-ton trucks are capable of pulling more than any Saturday night racer needs at the track (as much as 10,000 pounds), so don’t automatically discredit a ½-ton or accept a ¾-ton.

Gears and Gear

Final drive gear ratio should be chosen based on the balance between towing capability and fuel economy as a daily driver. Many of today’s trucks have a towing package available that provides a good final drive ratio for both and hauling-specific necessities such as an engine oil cooler, transmission oil cooler, and tow/haul mode for the transmission. Adding some of these to a used truck can push it past the price of new.

Choose Today for Tomorrow

You’re way better off to buy more truck for the weekly effort that you’re running now if you have aspirations of traveling. It’s going to be expensive enough to invest in traveling-type equipment and you don’t want to compound the expense of getting on the road by needing a new truck too.

If you misidentify your needs, remember there are wide arrange of helper bars, anti-sway equipment, springs, shocks, hitches, air bags, and more that can make the wrong truck turn into just the right one (except probably for the cab size, but hey we told you, so enjoy the ride squeezed among the guys inhaling bean burritos).