Pickup trucks aren't just for contractors anymore. Instead, they're family transportation, off-road and outdoors vehicles, and status symbols. That's partly why there are so many of them on the road.
And while towing capacity, engine output and bed size are all still considerations when purchasing, interiors are becoming more important — specifically cab styles. While manufacturers utilize different names of cab sizes to set themselves apart, you are most likely to encounter the choice of crew cab, extended cab, or regular cab.
There is a cab size for all, and each style offers advantages and disadvantages no matter the needs of new and used trucks. Here's an explainer on cab options and which could be right for you.
What is a Crew Cab?
Crew cab trucks are the most popular today and offer the most interior space. With size comes comfort, and most crew cab configured trucks are also among some of the highest trim levels offered by manufacturers. They offer four full doors and seating for five, much like a two-row SUV.
Full-size trucks — Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan — even offer lavish equipment that wouldn't look out of place in an $80,000 luxury SUV (which is good because they cost about the same).
Compact and midsize pickups are also available as crew cabs, like the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma. And certain models — the Ford Maverick, Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Santa Cruz — are only available as crew cabs.
Crew Cab Advantages
Crew cab configured pickup trucks are among the most common truck configurations. Finding one that suits your needs at your local dealership is made more accessible. The crew cab configuration allows for more space and upscale amenities over other cab variants. Modern trucks are functional and comfortable, offering more of a car-like feel within the cabin, offering similar comfort and amenities. The crew cab configuration provides the most legroom and headroom of all the cab choices. A large portion of its rank is due to its luxurious interior.
Accessibility is a strong suit for the crew cab configuration. The rear doors provide easy access to the rear seats. Other cab configurations only offer rear-seat access through the front door, making it cumbersome to fit into the back seat. While the crew cab offers the most interior space of the cab configurations, the rear seats are generally smaller than the front-row seats making it comfortable for children but not for adults on long journeys. Some crew cab trucks offer a functional folding rear row of seating, providing an area for cargo, groceries, or other items you do not want to place in the truck's bed.
While luxurious interiors and comfort are a significant perk for crew cab trucks, the larger cabin detracts overall length from the truck's bed. Regular cab trucks offer a truck bed as much as eight feet, while the standard bed on a crew cab typically only provides between five and six feet. Therefore, a smaller cab and larger bed might be ideal if you regularly utilize truck bed space for various items or outings.
Plush interiors offering comfort and space also have a heftier price tag than other cab configured trucks. The crew cab is a bit more pricey compared to different truck configurations. Some truck manufacturers won't offer their highest trim levels without the crew cab configuration.
None of this comes cheap, though. Crew cab models tend to command much higher prices than other styles because they come standard with many comfort and convenience features.
What is an Extended Cab?
Extended cab trucks split the difference in cab space and bed length and are considered today's entry-level pickup for most consumers.
They offer seats and space behind the front seats while still available with a longer bed than most crew cabs, making them viable work trucks. But for consumers, extended cab models are also available with a similar selection of engines and equipment as larger crew cabs.
Manufacturers name their extended cabs many things, such as the Ford F-150 Supercab, Ram 1500 Quad Cab, Toyota Tacoma Access Cab, or the Nissan Frontier King Cab. But they all essentially function the same way.
Extended cabs offer either a second-row bench seat or jump seats for the rear passengers. The comfort of these seats ranges from cramped to "just for kids." But they're meant to be occasional spots for quick trips rather than practical vehicles. And when not in use, the seats can be flipped up to offer more interior storage than a regular cab, keeping valuables safe.
Extended Cab Advantages
The extended cab pickup truck offers versatility to transport people and haul and store things. While usually tighter for people, the space behind the front seats is more than usable for holding cargo that drivers sometimes don't want in the bed.
Due to their cab size, extended cab trucks are offered with bed sizes more like a regular cab. That makes them more usable for construction workers and fleets and lifestyle activities. They also typically have greater payload capacities than crew cabs but still offer various engine options. That's a plus for those who need more towing than interior capacity.
Extended cabs are generally less expensive than crew cab trucks making them more readily available to consumers on a tighter budget. Yet they're still available with creature comforts. Those include newer models with navigation, leather upholstery, and a complete set of power amenities. On older trucks, air conditioning, alloy wheels, and other cosmetic enhancements are common, and many have four-wheel drive, unlike the regular cab work trucks.
They're typically available as four-door versions with two half-doors for rear passengers or cargo. However, older models might only have a half-door on one side or none at all, which renders the rear less usable for people. Older versions of pickups such as the Ford Ranger are set up this way, but modern versions have four doors.
Extended Cab Disadvantages
Extended cab trucks offer less cargo space than the crew cab configuration but more than the regular cab. The back windows on an extended cab are smaller than the back windows found in a crew cab truck, making it difficult for the driver to view their blind spot. The rear seats in an extended cab are cramped and not built for long drives or even the average size adult.
Consider your daily usage when debating what type of cab you want on your next truck. You want to be comfortable in any new truck you purchase and ensure it will work as hard as you need it to be.
Extended cabs are great trucks to test drive as they fall in the middle between regular cabs and crew cabs. They're not usually as luxurious as crew cabs nor as featureless and geared to work as regular cabs.
What is a Regular Cab?
The regular cab pickup truck, also known as the "standard cab," is the smallest cab size. They all have two doors and seating for no more than three people, though two is more common under modern safety standards.
Passenger space is minimal, with only one row of seating on a bench. But that's usually fine for what they're used for: work.
Manufacturers generally only offer the regular cab on lower limited trim levels. At the same time, some manufacturers have gotten rid of regular cabs altogether. But if you're searching for older models or ex-fleet vehicles, regular cabs are generally the best value if you're looking for a long bed and minimal features.
Regular Cab Advantages
Regular cabs are typically the least expensive pickups. And they're typically fitted with longer beds than trucks with larger cabs. Even though there's only room inside for a driver and passenger and small items, more space for things like plywood and machinery make them ideal work trucks.
These pickup trucks also typically offer better payload and towing capabilities because there's less weight in the cab and less potential for people.
Finally, regular cab pickups are typically equipped with fewer creature comforts than other trucks. For example, they often come standard with vinyl seats and vinyl floors in place of cloth upholstery and carpets. People who are hard on their trucks like this because it makes them easier to wipe clean and don't have to worry nearly as much about stains.
Regular Cab Disadvantages
Regular cabs, predictably, prioritize hauling space over people space. There are no rear seats of any kind, and while some offer small half doors to access space behind the rear seats, there isn't usually much space inside at all. That can relegate valuable items to the bed, where they can be seen by prying eyes.
But the most significant downside is availability. Over the last couple of decades or so, regular cab trucks have been more challenging to find, either new or used. As of 2022, only Ford and General Motors full-size pickups are available in this style, and Nissan and Toyota have long abandoned their offerings in this once-common segment.
Moreover, the popularity and better usability of extended cab and crew cab pickups have relegated them to fleets, where they're equipped with few comfort features and, therefore, have little profit margin. And private buyers seeking bargain pricing have moved up to extended or crew cabs because even base pickup trucks now have features like power windows and air conditioning.
Understanding what cab style suits you best is essential before buying a pickup truck, new or used. Determine what you're going to use it for first. A regular or extended cab will offer the best hauling and payload abilities as a work truck. However, if it's going to be a family or lifestyle vehicle, the daily livability of a crew cab is unbeatable.
The wide availability of pickups in the US helps here, though, so finding what you need and want is easier than ever before.