What Is A Pick-up Truck or Ute & What are its benefits?

Pick-up Ute

What is a Pick-Up or Ute?

The term pick-up stands for a pick-up truck. In some countries, manufacturers refer to it with different names. E.g., in Australia & New Zealand, the name is Ute – a short-form or local slang for ‘Utility Vehicle”. However, in South Africa, they call it “bakkie,” a minuscule version of “bak” – an Afrikaans slang for “bowl” or “container.” In some countries, manufacturers also term it as “crew cab”; especially in the building/construction industry. The pick-up truck could have a single/double cab body design as per the need.

Ford Pick-up Truck (Courtesy San Diego Fire Dept. / Facebook)
Ford Pick-up Truck (Courtesy San Diego Fire Dept. / Facebook)

In the beginning, people used it mainly as a work or farming vehicle as it did not have many comforts. By the 1950s, customers started using pick-ups routinely. By the 1990s, people used it for work. In America, people mostly use it as a passenger vehicle. Thus, it makes up about 18% of total vehicles sold in the United States. These vehicles come with a high price tag as well as have a high-profit margin. A pick-up vehicle generally has four wheels or sometimes even six. As the name indicates, a Ute/pick-up truck is designed to handle a variable type of load than regular cars. Therefore, the term “pick-up” could have originated from picking up the cargo or people en route to the destination.


A regular Ute/Pick-up consists of three (3) main compartments:

  1. The front section of the car consists of the bonnet or hood and the engine compartment.
  1. The middle section consists of passenger area with two doors and one row of seats capable of housing 2-3 average sized passengers including the driver.
  1. The crew cab or double cab has extended passenger area with four doors (two on each side) and two rows of seats capable of housing 5-6 average sized passengers including the driver.
  1. The rear section consists of the boot or cargo compartment.
  1. The Ute has a short roofline that ends at the front compartment.
Pick-up Ute diagram
Pick-up Ute diagram

A regular pick-up has a single cab with a single row of seats and a single set of doors, one on each side. However, extended pickups have a double cab with extra space behind the main seat, usually smaller seats or a single bench seat. An extended pick-up truck is also called the club cab. A double cab, or crew cab, has four full-size, front-hinged doors with five or six seating capacity. Most pick-ups have fixed side walls and a hinged tailgate design.

Toyota Dyna Cab Over Engine (Courtesy: Toyota)
Toyota Dyna Cab Over Engine (Courtesy: Toyota)

In cab-forward or cab-over designs, the cab sits above the front axle. This design allows a longer cargo area for the same overall length. The design was more popular in North America in the 1950s and ’60s. Chevrolet Corvair Rampside and Loadside, Dodge A-100 and A-108, Ford Econoline, and Jeep FC-150 and FC-170 are examples. In addition, manufacturers offer variable sizes of cargo beds depending on whether they want it as a cargo or passenger vehicle.

USPS-Tow-truck (Courtesy - USPS / Facebook)
USPS Tow truck (Courtesy – United States Postal Service / Facebook)

Features of Pick-up Truck:

Normally, manufacturers offer cargo beds in two styles: step-side or fleet-side. A step-side bed has fenders that extend on the outside of the cargo area. A fleet-side bed has wheel-wells carved within the bed. Early pick-up trucks had wood-plank beds. By the 1960s, they were replaced by steel. Some European-style trucks use a drop-sided bed with a flat tray with hinged panels rising up on the sides and the rear.

Furthermore, in North America, manufacturers refer a pick-up with four rear wheels instead of two as a “dually.” This is because it can carry more weight over the rear axle. The car-based pickup is known as “coupé utility,” while a larger sport utility vehicle (SUV) based pickup is called the “sport utility truck (SUT).” Regarding maximum cargo capacity by weight, the manufacturers refer the pick-ups as half-ton and three-quarter-ton variants.

Ford RV (Courtesy: Ford)
Ford RV (Courtesy: Ford)


In the American region, pickups are used mainly for passenger transport. Manufacturers often market and use them for their hauling (utilizing cargo bed) and towing (utilizing body-on-frame design and long wheelbase) capabilities. Some people customize the pick-ups by installing camper shells on them. Thus, it provides a small living space for camping as it transforms the vehicle into a campervan. Slide-in truck campers provide the amenities of a small motorhome to a Ute or pick-up truck. However, the operator can still remove it and use it independently as a regular vehicle.

Besides, pick-up trucks are very versatile. They also used to carry passengers in some places of Africa and Southeast Asia. People use most converted pickup trucks and flatbed trucks as songthaews in Thailand, and Haiti respectively. In some cases, pick-ups are suitable as ambulances and funeral transportation, police/fire/rescue truck, forest ranger vehicle and postal/courier/delivery vehicles, and even tow-truck. Some other uses of these modified pickups are the improvised, unarmoured combat vehicles. High-end pick-ups come with modern features such as an automatic transmission, power steering, four-wheel drive, ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), ESP® Electronic Stability Programme, Cruise control, and alloy wheels.

Pick-up as an ambulance-(Courtesy- RMA)
Pick-up as an ambulance-(Courtesy- RMA)

Most of the truck and some car manufacturers offer a pick-up variant to their customers. Ford, GM, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz are some of the manufacturers that have a pick-up or ute in their product line-up. RMA Special Vehicles develops various custom pick-up vehicles depending upon their application in partnership with leading OEMs, and delivers to diverse customers globally.

Armored Patrol Vehicle (Courtesy: RMA)
Armored Patrol Vehicle (Courtesy: RMA)

Watch a Mercedes Pick-up or Ute in action here:

Read more: What is a Van or Minivan?>>

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