Who has the best cheap truck?
Let’s say you need a new full-sized truck, but the economy has you worried. Where do you go? We looked at the Ram, Ford, and Chevy offerings so you won’t have to!
You may wonder why Nissan and Toyota were not included, and the reasons are that Nissan starts at a higher level, while Toyota’s Tundra is a bit of an antique, soon to be superceded by something less than a decade old. Speaking of old, Ram sells two 1500 series pickups, dubbed DS and DT—though neither actually bears the letters anywhere. We’re looking at the prior-generation model, still made and sold, with no end in sight; cheaper to make, but still highly competitive, it’s the DS. The newer DT setup is used for the pricier trimlines, and has many major advantages, but that doesn’t mean the DS is not as good as a new Chevy Silverado 1500.
All these pickups have halogen headlamps at this price point, lots of black plastic inside and out, federally mandated backup cameras (though the Ram web site hasn’t been updated yet), and six airbags. Beyond that, don’t expect a lot of luxury features like power locks.
You can see some reasons for the different prices. The Ram has a highly efficient eight-speed transmission; the others have six-speeds, but Ford has an aluminum body which helps with mileage and payload. The Chevy is cheap but you’ll pay for that in fuel eventually. The engines are all more powerful than V8s from just a few years back. My favorite item from the specs lists: Chevrolet lists Taillamps as a standard feature. I wonder if the other trucks have tail lamps?
And now… for the chart! Remember, we’re looking at base models only, and we’re largely ignoring options.
|Chevy Silverado WT||Ford F-150 XL||Ram 1500 Classic|
|Body style||Regular cab, 98” bed||Regular cab, 6.5’ bed||Quad cab, 76” bed|
|Economy||16 / 21 mpg||19 / 25 mpg||17 / 25 mpg|
285 hp / 305 lb-ft
290 hp / 265 lb-ft
305 hp / 269 lb-ft
|Max tow||7,900 lb||5,020 lb|
|Payload||2,250||1,990 lb||1,500 lb|
|Engine options||5.3 V8||2.7 turbo, 5.0 V8, 10-spd auto||5.7 V8|
|Trip computer||4.2” color||2.3” B&W||None|
|Radio screen (std)||7”||4.2”||3” B&W (text)|
|Neat||Cornerstep rear bumper, tie-downs, Teen Driver feature||Aluminum body||Backup camera is in the rear-view mirror|
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, and lives in Farmingdale, New York.
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