New Pickup Trucks Get The Same Gas Mileage They Did In The '80s

Illustration for article titled New Pickup Trucks Get The Same Gas Mileage They Did In The '80s
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

Today’s pickups are vast, hulking bison, striding across the automotive plain. They make the tiny trucks of the ‘80s look like tiny little rattle cans. And yet, according to a new EPA report, both get just about the same mileage.


The EPA just published their trends report through 2016, with interesting points about how we’re a more truck-dominated market than ever before, though one that is cleaner and more fuel-efficient as well. (At least according to EPA testing. Don’t get me started on how carmakers teach to the test, so to speak.)

There’s also this interesting line:

Pickup trucks had the largest increase in fuel economy of any vehicle type in MY 2015, increasing by 0.8 mpg. Pickup trucks are now at their second highest recorded fuel economy, only slightly behind MY 1986 (when trucks were much smaller and on average weighed one third less than new trucks today).

How efficient is that? Actual truck-based trucks get about 22 mpg on average across all the trucks we buy nowadays:

Truck SUVs had the largest production share increase of any vehicle type in MY 2015, up 4 percentage points to a record 28% of all production. Car SUVs achieved a record market share of 10%, resulting in a record 38% market share for combined SUVs in MY 2015. Both car SUVs and truck SUVs achieved record high fuel economy and record low CO2 emissions with car SUVs reaching 25.3 mpg and truck SUVs reaching 22.0 mpg.

Basically, modern trucks are far more efficient than before, but thanks to their bigger size and weight gains, it’s almost a wash.

The trick here is that we’re talking about numbers pulled from the total figures of trucks we’re buying. On an individual level, if you were facing an imminent nuclear explosion, and in front of you was a 2016 Toyota Tundra and a 1986 Toyota Truck each with a gallon of gas in the tank, you would probably get farther in the oldie. But even in the worst truck-to-truck comparison, they’re not off.


Poke around on the numbers and you’ll find that truck mileage is not too far off even with today’s full-sizers compared to the trucks of thirty years ago weighing a third less.

As for which one I’d want to be in if I was in a crash, the progress there is much more pronounced.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


I’d still rather have a small or medium-sized truck without a huge cabin, that weighs in at about 3300 lbs, and uses all this new tech to eke out 28-30 mpg average (no, not diesel). Sure, it’s a pipe dream, but I don’t want nor need something the size of a tow truck and has the towing capacity to tow a semi.