The Great Truck Debate

Okay – so this is a bit of a new thing for me, I am not exactly what one would call a stellar writer, but since we are going to launch this site and try to write engaging content I figure I am now officially on the hook. So, for a first stab I figured I would shed some light on what I will forever refer to as the “Great Truck Debate”

As you can see here, we just finished the long and drawn out process of buying a new truck. I have spent a ton of time on the internet weighing pros and cons, so I though I would share some of the insight I gained if you are out there looking to get yourself a truck.

1. Figure out what you are going to haul
This should seem obvious but it is an important a starting point, since you don’t want to get a truck that can’t pull your load (that’s what he said). For us, the discussion is pretty simple since we are 100% settled on what we are hauling- this little guy right here. We opted to go with the 30′ version since we are going to be living in it and running our business out of it as well. That means we will be towing some pretty serious weight.  

While the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) for the trailer is 8,800 lbs (not monstrous), it does have a relatively high hitch weight at a perfect 10% (880 Lbs). This means that it may be manageable by a smaller truck with the right weight distributing hitch, like the Toyota Tundra, F-150, GMC/Chevy 1500, Dodge.. er, I mean Ram 1500, but this set up would be approaching or exceeding the upper limits of those trucks. The Toyota, GMC/Chevy, and the ex-Dodge 1500’s or equivalent just won’t cut it because the GVWR is just too low. Now I know that those ratings have certain debatable points, but in this situation I’ll pretend it is strictly a numbers game.

So to add confusion to the primary elimination of the F-150, Ford takes the GVWR and throws it out of the window when it comes to advertising. Ford states that the F-150 (when properly equipped) can tow 12,200 lbs- more than enough for what we are talking about here. However, after some Google-Fu, you are lead to a page that lists the various GVWR’s and while near the required 8,800 lbs, it’s close but no cigar.   

This then leads us to the wide world of 2.5-3.5 trucks. Since Ford, GM/Chevy, and DoRam choose to use arbitrary numbers but use the same starting two digits I figure to make it easier from here on out I’ll start using decimals. Since the main difference between 2.5 and 3.5 trucks are springs, not engines for the purpose of this post I’ll call it a distinction with no difference.  Both 2.5 and 3.5 trucks are more than capable of pulling what we are looking at here. So which one to choose?

2. Fuel
This may not be everyone’s next logical step, but to me it certainly was and here is why- gas is everywhere, relatively cheap, well-established, predictable, and familiar to most people.  Diesel is not necessarily any of the above.  Now that is not 100% true of course, diesel is pretty widely available and most people are aware of it, it does not suddenly combust just because it is left alone in a dark corner, and is priced competitively most of the time; but it is necessary to bring this up because diesel used to be all of those things, except explosive, and this was my parent’s first reaction to the thought of getting a diesel car.  Back in “the day” my parents had a diesel car and apparently had a bad experience. Their opinion of diesel is that the cars are smelly, loud, and difficult.  So if you are shying away from diesel side because of the old ways, no need.

So, choosing to ignore the irrational prejudice, I decided to go diesel and, here is why: diesel is more energetic than gas. In fact, one gallon of diesel contains 12.3% more energy in BTU’s than one gallon of gas – which is awesome. Diesel can also be made from used vegetable oil, fry oil, and B20, a biodiesel blend, and that is just cool. Add to that the fact that diesel engines combust fuel through compression, not spark ignition, and you get engines that are made of sterner stuff. Why do you think that Freightliner, Peterbuilt, Caterpillar, and Mac don’t typically show up in gas?  

3. Company
This is the section of the blog where I will upset at least 2/3 of the readership here (so like one whole person). There are literally hundreds of the Dodge 2500 v. GMC 2500 v. Ford F-250 type comparisons out there.  Like this onethis one, this onethis one, and my favorite- this one.

I asked a few people that know and work with trucks in their professional lives about this stuff. The first was my college roommate and buddy, Tom, the Operations Manager at S.M. Lorusso & Sons Inc. in Boston, Mass. S.M. Lorusso is a gravel and sand business that runs four gravel pits, moves product around the greater Boston area, and has quite a fleet of trucks. Tom comes from a family that has a lot of truck time too, his uncles have run trucks for city governments, major construction companies, and large scale snow removal contracts. I asked Tom what I should get and I got a short precise answer: GMC Duramax with the Allison transmission. No negative feedback on any particularly truck, just a short and sweet pitch for the GMC.

The second “expert” that I consulted was Robin, the GM of Brownland Farms in Franklin, Tennessee.  Brownland is one of the preeminent horse show venues in the United States, with one of the strongest ridding programs available.  Robin, on the farm side of things loves Ford for the value of the truck, how many he sees pulling big horse rigs, and what he would like to be driving next.  On the negative side, Robin didn’t like the Dodge, thought he didn’t elaborate as to why.

Despite those endorsements and cautions from both Tom and Robin, it is worth noting that Tom drives a Ford F-150 and Robin drives a Chevy. Not to sure what to make of that since both suggested something different. I guess the grass is always greener?   

Weighing all of the reliability research, advice, torque and HP numbers, and every other imaginable metric left me lost, a lot lost.  How did we fix this? Test drives.  At this point it becomes pretty personal. For me the GMC seemed to bob into corners especially at highway speeds, while the Ford had a much better ride on the highway. However, nothing sold it like the interior- I realize that this is entirely personal preference, but I will say that the interior of the Ford outshines all of the others. Dodge does a nice job on the interior, the GMC Sierra Denali is really nice, but the Ford is just amazing.