Choosing the right pickup can be a challenging task, especially for someone who’s never bought a truck before. Yes, pickups today are available in just two light-duty segments (midsize and full-size) and are sold by only seven brands (Ford, Chevrolet, Ram, GMC, Toyota, Nissan and Honda). Yet each individual model can offer literally millions of build combinations. According to a Consumer Guide study, for example, the 2016 Ford F-150 was available in more than 1 billion possible build configurations. And since that time, Ford’s added a fifth engine to the F-150 lineup, expanding options even further.
Some decisions, such as choosing between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, can be pretty straightforward. With the former, only the rear wheels get power to drive the truck, and in the latter, all four wheels are powered, which makes this feature a useful asset when traveling off-road or in rough weather. But the terms can be a lot less obvious when it comes to things like cab sizes. Although there are really just four basic setups, you can hear about not just regular cabs, extended cabs, double cabs and crew cabs, but also Access Cabs, Quad Cabs, SuperCrew Cabs, CrewMax Cabs and more.
All this means that if you’re shopping for a pickup, you may want to read about the differences below.
Most automakers make it a little easier on customers by agreeing on what a regular-cab pickup is; the exception is Nissan, which markets this body style as a Single Cab with its 2017 Titan. These full-size-only models are configured with two traditional doors and one row of seats, and they are, of course, less expensive than trucks with larger cabins. This is a particularly important point for customers, who need to remember that when automakers advertise the starting price of a full-size pickup, they’re generally referring to a regular-cab trim. A second row of seats in the exact same trim can set you back an extra $4,000. Further, the one row of seats offered by base regular-cab trucks is typically a 40/20/40-split bench.
On the other hand, a regular cab can often be upgraded with bucket seats, leather appointments, 10-way power adjustability and even heating. They also offer plenty of room, with a regular-cab truck like the current Chevrolet Silverado providing 42.4 inches of headroom and 45.3 inches of legroom. For comparison’s sake, a full-size flagship luxury sedan such as a 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is listed with 39.7 inches of front headroom and 41.4 inches of front-seat legroom.
Here’s where things start to get complicated. Most of the midsize trucks can be ordered in what’s known generically as an extended-cab body style, but Toyota calls it an Access Cab in the 2017 Tacoma. In the 2017 Nissan Frontier, it’s a King Cab. The Titan and F-150 stand out as the only current full-size trucks in this configuration, yet the Titan extended-cab model shares the King Cab designation with the Frontier, and the F-150 version is the SuperCab.
Regardless, these pickups (and the current Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon) pair traditionally sized front doors and front bucket seats with smaller, rear-hinged back doors and two or three small rear seats. The setup allows for impressively wide access with both doors open, and the back seats enable a boost in versatility, since they often have underseat storage and can be flipped up for more room, too. Alternatively, the rear seats can be deleted entirely, for maximum in-cabin cargo space.
Yet be warned that there’s noticeably less rear-seat headroom and legroom in extended-cab midsize pickups than in mainstream subcompact cars. Look to full-size extended-cab trucks for a more usable second row.
Things get simpler again with double cabs. The midsize Tacoma and a number of full-size trucks provide body styles that are sold under the double-cab moniker. The Ram 1500 is the oddball this time, with a double cab that goes by the name of Quad Cab.
For our purposes, we’re again talking about pickups with regular front doors and smaller rear ones. But in double-cab trucks, the back doors are hinged at the front, for a more conventional user experience, and they can be matched with either five- or six-passenger interior layouts. There’s a clear advantage in space for rear-seat passengers, as accommodations in a full-size double cab are nearly as roomy as in a mainstream compact car (and significantly larger than in a full-size extended cab). Owners additionally enjoy more interior flexibility with the larger cab styles, which are typically available with folding rear bench seats.
The crew-cab pickups go all-in with four conventionally sized doors and the maximum rear-seat dimensions in their segments. In the full-size entries, rear-seat dimensions actually exceed those in full-size sedans. For instance, the F-150 crew cab supplies 40.4 inches of headroom and 43.6 inches of legroom for passengers in the back row. In comparison, the Ford Taurus, checks in with 37.8 and 38.1 inches. Comparing crew and extended cabs in the F-150, the larger cabin has an extra 10.1 inches of back-seat legroom. The crew cab also has a minor .1-inch advantage in rear headroom.
If you want to compare the Ford with its rivals, though, you should know that the crew cabs for Ford and Toyota are called SuperCrew and CrewMax instead.
Meanwhile, the Colorado and Canyon are the two midsize crew-cab trucks, and by supplying 35.8 inches of legroom in the back, they provide 3.2 more inches than the Tacoma midsize double-cab truck.
Then we come to the midsize Honda Ridgeline. The Ridgeline is an outlier among the rest of the pickups, thanks primarily to its car-like, unibody construction. All other trucks currently rely on the traditional body-on-frame method. So maybe it’s also unsurprising that the Ridgeline takes a unique approach to cab configurations, offering a single choice that we’ll call a crew cab. After all, it comes with four conventional doors, and the Ridgeline’s measures for second-row headroom and legroom exceed what’s available in the double-cab and other crew-cab midsize pickups.