Pickup truck sales would be the hottest they've been in a short time, and it's no wonder: Running one is no more a tough, jarring experience you need to endure.

Truck makers today are building pickups with broader appeal, using a quieter ride and more safety, convenience, and comfort characteristics.

Because of this, pickups are currently attracting more buyers, such as individuals who enjoy the addition of backseats and more cab space and don't appear to mind sacrificing some truck bed length for the extra room inside.

Although the pickup market remains overwhelmingly dominated by male buyers, the number of women who registered full-sized pickups increased 67 percent from 2008 to 2016 (reaching over 470,000 trucks at 2016), based on data from IHS Markit. "Family trucks are 40 to 50 percent of the mixture," states David Elshoff, Ram brand spokesman. In the business, a family truck is one with four full-sized doors at a midlevel or higher trimming.

Added chairs have been a tendency over the last 10 years, and those bigger cabs mean more room for adults as well as kids, says Jen Stockburger, manager of operations at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in Connecticut. "In our evaluations, crew-cab pickups typically offer generous rear-seat space to put in child seats," she says.

For all those seats means a trade-off in the size of the pickup beds, but the distance required. Twenty decades before, that the Ford F-150's hottest combination proved to be a regular cab with an 8-foot bed, based on Mel Yu, CR's automotive analyst. Now the cabs are a whole lot bigger and the beds are smaller.

Family-Friendly Changes
Shoppers who opt for a pickup for a household bring different needs into the segment than traditional buyers, says GM spokesman Nick Richards. Core truck capabilities, such as hauling, towing, and off-road ability, are still priorities, he says, but"exterior appearance, safety, and technology are now more important than ever before" Additionally, it doesn't hurt that pickups sit fairly high off the ground, with acres of glass, giving drivers a fantastic view of the world outside, even though the tall and long hoods could make parking scenarios a challenge.

Ford has been evolving its F-150 for decades, offering larger cab alternatives, a quiet inside, and more luxury features. "Given the flexibility of the modern trucks, more are being used as a primary family vehicle," says Dawn McKenzie, a Ford spokeswoman.

Authentic luxury pickups are a thing, too. Hop up into a high-end truck these days and you'll discover leather seats, power-adjustable pedals, soft-closing tailgates, strong infotainment systems, and multizone climate controller. Ram says demand for its high-end trims has skyrocketed because of 2009, to 20% of the mix.

"Among vehicles that cost more than $50,000, full-sized pickups are a few of the most popular," says Gabe Shenhar, associate director of the automobile test program at CR. "All these are $60,000-plus vehicles with amenities and swagger."

Despite the embrace by more households, the pickup truck segment hasn't been as quick as cars and SUVs to adopt advanced security systems. Toyota leads the pack by placing standard automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward-collision warning (FCW), and lane-departure warning (LDW) on its own 2018 Tundra full-sized and Tacoma compact pickups. AEB and FCW are not standard on the 2018 Ford F-150, but they are available, together with blind-spot caution (BSW), back cross-traffic caution (RCTW), LDW, along with lane-keeping assist (LKA).

The 2018 Ram 1500 lags the many in this area, lacking some advanced safety features. That'll change with Ram's 2019 redesign, which makes all of those features available, together with a 360-degree camera.

Even though pickups may be gas guzzlers, automakers have improved truck mpg by using more efficient engines and transmissions, and by reducing weight. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is now the very fuel-efficient noodle pick-up, handling 20 mpg overall in CR's testing. The F-150's gas 2.7-liter V6 turbo gets an impressive 19 mpg in general.

Ford's F-150 fell 700 pounds as it switched into an all-aluminum body, and Ford is still adding a diesel version later in 2018 the company says could reach 30 highway mpg.

Pickup trucks are becoming more civilized, but make no mistake--they still do not ride or handle as well as cars or SUVs.

Most have greater step-in and are more challenging to park. So unless you really need an open bed, a truck might not be for you personally, particularly in an urban living situation.

If you are buying a pickup for the first time, be careful not to get more truck than you require. The brawnier the truck, the more it may cost you in fuel. Even the burlier ones also often have the highest step-ups, and also the ride comfort will suffer.

As an example, if you're not likely to regularly carry heavy loads or pull on a huge trailer, you most likely don't require a heavy-duty truck (3/4-lot or longer )--stick with a light-duty model (1/2-ton/1500-size).

If you seldom haul filthy cargo, large appliances, or motorcycles, then a minivan or an SUV may be the better choice. If you genuinely require a pickup only once in a while for a particular job, then you may be better off renting on those occasions.