What to know when buying a truck for both work and family use

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Balancing work and family life is tough. Business owners know this better than most, as the demands of work rarely fade away completely. Instead, work and family life are often intertwined — having to take a work call during dinner or getting called away from a job site for a teacher conference. And if you work out of a home office or with family members, work and family life will be even more intertwined.

Your truck will need to perform both work and family duties, too. Here’s a list of what to know when buying a truck to serve both purposes. Before you start your research, decide what you expect from a pickup and how it will best serve you. Doing this ensures that you’ll make a choice that will prove wise well into the future.

Light-duty versus heavy-duty

Even today’s “light-duty” trucks are extremely capable. But if you’re regularly towing a 15,000 lb trailer as part of your work duties, choose a heavy-duty pickup that’s rated for the job. It may not be as efficient as a lighter pickup for everyday errands, but business comes first. It’s your livelihood, and the tools to get the job done right are the highest priority.

Regular, extended and crew cabs

If you seldom carry a work crew or use your trucks to haul the whole family, a regular-cab or extended-cab pickup may be sufficient. But if you depend on your truck to handle the carpool to baseball practice, get a four-door crew cab with a full-sized rear seat.

Likewise, crew cabs are ideal for the work truck that doubles as a family road-trip vehicle. When you pile on the miles, you’ll appreciate the extra space.

Bed length choices

Several factors come into play when choosing the right bed (or cargo box) length for your needs. First, determine how much cargo space you need. If you need to lay a full sheet of plywood flat, be sure to choose an eight-foot bed.

Also consider your cab choice, since not all bed lengths are available with each cab configuration. The environment you drive in can be a factor, too. If you need to maneuver or park in tight spots, you may want a truck with a more compact bed and, therefore, shorter overall length.

Engines and drive types

Most pickups are available with a variety of engine and drive choices. Except for the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, engine choices for light pickups are limited to gasoline-powered motors. Choosing the right one depends on meeting your work needs while delivering efficiency in everyday use.

The towing and hauling needs of your business are the main factor in choosing the best engine. Heavy-duty users should choose a powerful motor to get the job done with ease. Those with lighter business needs will likely find that smaller, more efficient engines are capable of meeting their needs.

Choosing the right drive type is important for drivers who work in severe conditions or climates. If your work duties include driving on rugged job sites or venturing out in harsh winter weather, go for four-wheel drive.

Trim and options

Once you determine the specifications you need, you can select the features and options you want. While luxurious appointments like leather seats may be appealing, think about which features are helpful and practical for both work and family life. Cargo hooks in the bed, for example, are as useful for tying down bicycles as for securing a load of materials. An AC power outlet in the cab is another example, perfect for plugging in a laptop during the workday or a DVD player on a family road trip.

Of course, comfort features can be a good value, too. Heated seats warm cold bodies regardless of whether they’ve been working in the snow or playing in it. And a navigation system is helpful for both business and pleasure trips.

Owner-operators face a staggering range of options in choosing the right vehicle that serves them well in both work and family roles. These five considerations cover the basics of what to know when buying a truck. Determine the needs of your particular business alongside your expectations of how you’ll use your truck for your family life. Then you can narrow down your list, and soon you’ll find the truck that gets both jobs done with a balance of practicality, comfort and efficiency.