The age old diesel engine vs gas engine debate. The “diesel truck people” -- Ford Super Duty Powerstroke, Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Duramax, Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins -- don’t think there’s a debate, but this decision is nuanced. In this post, we discuss the main considerations when buying a used heavy duty pickup truck for towing and hauling and give you the factors to guide your decision.
Diesels engines are VERY expensive if you are not hauling or towing.
If you don’t need to tow or haul, diesel trucks are needlessly expensive. Used diesel trucks have many additional, expensive parts not typically found on their gas truck counterparts. While the “diesels run forever” mantra has some merit for the diesel engine itself, the associated parts do not.
For example, high pressure injectors and fuel pumps, high pressure oil pumps, turbo chargers (and associated parts like intercoolers, variable switching valves, wastegates), radiators, oil coolers, etc all require costly repairs as the truck ages. Installed diesel injector sets could set you back more money than an entire gasoline engine — diesel engines aren’t for the faint of heart.
And diesel engines have additional, extremely expensive emissions equipment not found in gas engines. New diesel trucks incorporate diesel particulate filters and DEF fluid injection along with associated pumps, heaters, and limp mode if you run out of fluid.
Diesels engines tow more than gas... but not that much more.
“Diesels tow a lot more than gas” is the groupthink. And it’s true, but not to the degree most buyers believe. First, many buyers compare half ton (1500) gas trucks to three quarter and full ton diesels. However, the apt comparison is a full ton gas truck vs full ton diesel truck For instance, a modern Ford F350 gas engine can tow a 16,700 lb trailer. Diesel tows 4300 pounds more. There aren’t many applications that need to tow over 16,700 lbs.
Diesel engine trucks are a lot more fun
Diesel trucks are typically more fun to drive. The sound and turbo charged, torquey acceleration can make a 60 year old drill sergeant giggle. (Though TRD Supercharged Toyota Tundra owners may disagree!)
There’s nothing quite like towing 15,000 lbs up a hill, easing into the throttle, and being pushed back into your seat while you pass passenger cars on your right. This single factor clouds most other critical thinking — owners love this aspect so much that they’ll never consider gas. That ~600-1000 ft-lbs is intoxicating.
But that isn’t to say a gas motor cannot tow or haul, it just takes a lot more RPM to do it. That same pass with a 6.2L diesel truck will likely take 3/4 throttle and 1-2 downshifts. Gas trucks do a lot more shifting, particularly with hills, so transmission temps can sometimes be a concern.
The additional RPM hurts gas mileage. A lot. Most gas trucks struggle to 10MPG while diesels can be 5-10 MPG higher.
Diesel engines get better MPG towing, but diesel gas is more expensive.
Diesels get better MPG, especially towing. However, that is somewhat offset by the higher price of diesel gas. This factor depends on how much towing you’ll do and the size of your trailer.
What you should buy
Diesels only win the practical argument if you’re doing a lot of towing or towing more than 8 tons (literally). But most people won’t fit into either category. If that's you, then it becomes a cost / benefit analysis.
On one hand you have money and fun on the other. However, you only live once (allegedly), and if you have the extra cash, it’s hard to ignore the ear-to-ear grin you’ll get from the modern diesel torque.
We have both for sale and can help you figure out what's best for you. Please see below for our current, up to date selection. And for the best shopping experience, let us know your specific needs, questions, and options like leather seats, backup camera, satellite radio, or four wheel drive!