The age old diesel engine vs gas engine debate. The diesel truck people -- Ford Super Duty Powerstroke, Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Duramax, and Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins owners of the world -- don’t think there’s a debate. "Diesel for life!"
But this decision is sneaky and nuanced. In this post, I 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.
Diesel vs gas for daily driving. Gas Wins.
If you don’t need to tow or haul, diesel engines are needlessly expensive.
For instance, diesel engines require many additional and expensive parts not typically found on their gas counterparts. While the “diesels run forever” mantra has some merit for the diesel engine itself, the associated parts do not run forever.
High pressure injectors, fuel pumps, high pressure oil pumps, turbo chargers (and associated parts like intercoolers, variable switching valves, wastegates), radiators, oil coolers, and others all require costly repairs as the truck ages. Diesel injectors alone 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 on 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.
Diesel vs gas trucks towing. Probably diesel, but not always.
“Diesels trucks 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 vs gas engine for fun. Diesel, duh.
Diesel trucks are more fun to drive. The rumbling sound, turbo charged whistle, and torquey acceleration can make the most jaded giggle. (Though TRD Supercharged Toyota Tundra owners may disagree... because they're dumb. 🤣)
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 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 can. 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 vs gas mpg. Diesel trucks 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.
Diesel vs Gas, 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.
It's fun vs money. 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 gas and diesels 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!
If you're on the hunt, please check out our current inventory.
Want to keep up with Dennis's work? Follow Dennis on Twitter →