Cars are designed mainly to carry people - while trucks are designed primarily for hauling (or pulling) things.

But what if you need both attributes - and don't want or need two vehicles?

Years ago, hybrid car-trucks (or truck-cars) like Chevy's El Camino, Ford's Ranchero and the Subaru Brat combined elements of both into a single package. The El Camino, for example, was basically a car with a pick-up bed - while the higher-riding Subaru Brat was more like a compact pick-up that could also be used to carry people - including two passengers in the bed-mounted, rear-facing jump seats that were this vehicle's signature feature.

Similar vehicles also exist today - and may be just what you're looking for. Here's a survey of what's available right now in the way of truck-like cars - and car-like trucks:

* 2008 Honda Ridgeline (Base MSRP $28,000)

The Ridgeline looks trucky but is actually based on a passenger car chassis shared with the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX crossover wagons. It offers a roomy and comfortable five-passenger cab with four full-size doors and a clever five-foot-by four-foot cargo bed with flush mounted lights, multiple tie-downs, a composite liner and an additional 8.5 cubic foot lockable storage area tucked into the floor of the bed. This little cubby has a drain plug, too - so you can fill it up with ice and a 12 pack of your favorite beverage. Or use it to stow live bait - and carry home your catch. It's also a great place to stash expensive tools, etc.

The Ridgeline also features standard AWD, decent ground clearance (9 inches) and can even tow up to 5,000-lbs. when properly equipped. That's better than most large sedans, crossover wagons and minivans - although it's still considerably less than the 7,000-9,000 lb. ratings typical of most medium and full-size conventional trucks.

Versatile features include several 12V power points in the cab, about a dozen storage bins and an expandable, "deep dish" center console. A smart two-way tailgate can be opened swinging door style - or laid down flat, just like a regular pick-up's. With the tailgate down, the Ridgeline can cart a 4x8 sheet of plywood - or a load of of 2x4x8s.

Some "truck guys" mock Honda for not offering a V-8 in the Ridgeline - but its standard 247 horsepower 3.5 liter V-6 actually offers more power than the standard V-6 in the Ford F-150 pick-up (4.2 liters, 202 horsepower) and is not far off the pace of several of the smaller V-8s available in comparable-size pick-ups and SUVs. Its EPA rated fuel efficiency - 15/city/20 highway - isn't spectacular, but it is a couple MPGs better than the typical V-8 powered truck's mileage.

For buyers who need a vehicle that can serve as a light-duty truck when needed, but which behaves more like a car the rest of the time, the Ridgeline could fill the bill nicely.

* 2008 Chevy Avalanche (Base MSRP $32,710)

The Avalanche is equally adept at carrying people - or cargo - depending on the configuration you select. This model features a removable center divider called a "midgate" that either expands the 5.3 foot bed - or closes off the passenger cabin.

The bed area is covered with a tough rubberized surfaces that can take abuse and cleans up easily. Just hose it down and wipe it off. And unlike a conventional pick-up's bed, the Avalanche has an available multi-section weather-insulated tonneau cover that can removed entirely or a piece at a time, depending on how much you want to cover up. Each section slides into place like tongue-in-groove siding and is latched into place with a pair of snap levers. When all the cover sections are removed, the Avalanche can easily handle a pair of dirt bikes. With the lids on, you've got weather-proof (and secure) storage for your gear. And with the second row seats folded flat and the midgate section removed, you can cart home 8-foot boards (or 4x8 sheets of plywood) thanks to an extra two inches of available space. The handy storage compartments built into the bed even have drain plugs in the bottom and can be filled up with ice to keep s six pack of Cokes nicely chilled.

A 5.3 liter, 320 horsepower V-8 is standard; if that's not enough go-power, a 6.0 liter V-8 is available optionally. Both V-8s offer E/85, "flex-fuel" capability at no extra charge. Properly equipped, an Avalanche can tow up to 8,200 lbs.

* 2008 Ford Explorer Sport-Trac (Base MSRP $24,390 )

The Explorer-based Sport Trac is a clever fusion of pick-up truck and SUV. Its four-door crew cab has room enough for up to five people - and its 4.5 foot bed can carry a load of mulch or unwieldy objects that would never fit in the enclosed trunk of a car, such as a refrigerator or sofa.

An available tubular bed extender adds about a foot of usable cargo-carrying capacity - making the Sport Trac even more versatile.

Two engines are available; a 4.0 liter, 210 horsepower V-6 or a 292 horsepower 4.6 liter V-8. Class III and IV towing packages can be ordered; with the V-8 a Sport Trac can pull up to 6,800 lbs.

Interesting, however, both engines use about the same amount of fuel - 15 city/20 highway for the V-6 vs. 14-15 city/20 highway for the V-8. Ford says the V-8's new three-valve cylinder heads and other efficiency improvements (including a six-speed automatic transmission) are responsible for closing the gap. It maybe the first time there's no gas mileage penalty to speak of when choosing the extra cylinders - and getting substantially more power to play with.

Truck-style four-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case is available in the Sport Trac - unlike the light-duty all-wheel-drive system used in the Honda Ridgeline. The Ford's Control-Trac system has three modes - Auto, High and Low. In 4x4 Auto, engine power is sent to the rear wheels until there's slippage, at which point some is routed automatically to the front wheels to regain traction. This is the default setting for normal "on-road" driving. For rougher going, there's 4x4 High - which locks the system into a 50-50 power split, front to rear. And for deep mud/sand or heavy snow , there's 4x4 Low range - which, like the Sport-Trac's optional V-8 engine, is a feature unavailable in the lighter duty, more street-oriented Honda Ridgeline.