If you pay even occasional attention to the pickup truck market, you've probably been exposed to a common complaint about the modern half-ton: It's expensive. The cheapest 2021 Ford F-150 rings the till at just over $30,000, and for that, you're getting a 6.5-foot bed, single-cab work truck with steel wheels and a 3.3-liter, naturally aspirated V6. To somebody who merely needs a utility vehicle, that might check all of the necessary boxes, but $30,000 is a lot to spend on a mundane truck that you intend to beat the crap out of. Or is it?
In the context of the average new-car transaction price, $30,000 isn't so bad, and there's even the $26,000 (ish) Ford Ranger if you want to spend even less on a brand-new truck, but value-for-money isn't the name of the game in the pickup market anymore. Sure, truck builders want to keep in line with their competitors (and the competition is very good right now), but the upper end of America's bread-and-butter half-ton truck segment is being defined less and less by capability, and more and more by prestige and exclusivity.
This all came to a head a couple weeks back when I was driving a 2021 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew Platinum, which retails for more than $60,000 before options (including all of the cool features I previously highlighted) and destination, and while each of those options was only a few hundred bucks apiece, that all adds up quickly. All-in, our tester would have graced a showroom with a $68,420 price tag.
To those of us who don't buy trucks, that may seem incomprehensible, but from a high enough altitude, it starts to make sense. Consider for a moment that Ford is working on a solution for customers who want to apply magnetic decals to their aluminum-bodied trucks, from which we can infer that Ford has a critical mass of customers who need that sort of flexibility. There could be any number of reasons why somebody would need that functionality, but the most obvious one is that customers are looking for a one-size-fits-all vehicle: something with the practical utility of a truck that still cleans up nicely enough for an evening out.
And why not? Trucks aren't the only things that are getting more expensive, and a premium-spec pickup truck will still probably set you back less than a cheap one and a nice sedan or SUV to complement it. Plus, one vehicle is often cheaper to own than two. Plus, it's not like Ford is the only culprit here. Take a look at how much Jeep is charging for a loaded-up (and merely midsize) Gladiator.
So if the question is, "Are pickups too expensive?" then I'll answer yours with another: "Compared to what?" Having driven some of the new truck-based SUVs on the market, I'd have a hard time coming up with a convincing argument that the half-tons on which they are based aren't deserving of their price tags — price tags which actual, cash-in-hand (Though I'll admit, with today's financing plans, that's pushing it) pickup customers seem willing, even eager, to embrace.