Which Truck Would You Choose?

My DH and I are back in horses again (yay!) and are looking to upgrade our truck. We currently have a Ram 1500 and a 3h BP that is well within the towing capacity of the truck. I’m completely comfortable hauling our 1 horse, but if we get another, I’m certain this truck would be overwhelmed. We haul locally (1-4 hour trips) though that will definitely change in the future. I’m reaching out to the group to solicit your experiences and advice. The market for trucks is super hot, but we’d like to narrow down what we’re looking for in case a good private sale deal comes along.

Here are some specific questions:

  • We live in the mountain west, therefore is a Diesel a “must have” or a “great if you can get it but not a big deal if you can’t”?
  • Is the 250/2500 level good enough or should we focus our search on 350/3500s?
  • Do you have a preferred brand of truck? Why?
  • What’s a “luxury” in the truck that you’re glad you have? Heated/cooled seats, bluetooth, navigation package, etc?
  • What are the maximum number of miles on a truck that you would buy? A new truck is out of the question for us, so we will be looking for used and a lot of these trucks have 150-200k miles. Is that too high?

What else should I take into consideration? I’m so grateful to have this group to bounce ideas off of!

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What’s a “luxury” in the truck that you’re glad you have?

paid for

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Do you need or want an extended or crew cab for passengers or covered transport for things you don’t want in the trailer?

Are you in a snow area to definitely need 4WD, cold weather package, block heater, etc? Do you see a need for an off road package?

Are you willing to accept a new work model truck with fewer luxury options included versus an older used more upscale truck if both are priced the same?

Three most important things to look for on a used truck are rust, rust, and rust.

If you haven’t done this already, I found it useful in my truck search to go to the big 3 truck web sites and build and price a number of new truck models to get a feel for what packages and options are out there, and their pricing, even though it sounds as though you want to go pre-owned. And with used truck prices as sky-high as they are now, you may discover a new model in the same price range.

You may find a really good deal on a new truck from a dealer on line. Would you be willing to fly somewhere to pick it up and drive it home?

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Great questions!

Do you need or want an extended or crew cab for passengers or covered transport for things you don’t want in the trailer?

Neither need or want. The dog sits in the back so it doesn’t matter how much room she has. 4 doors would be a requirement.

Are you in a snow area to definitely need 4WD, cold weather package, block heater, etc? Do you see a need for an off road package?

Yes, in a snow area and 4wd is a must, but a cold weather package is not. Neither is off road.

Are you willing to accept a new work model truck with fewer luxury options included versus an older used more upscale truck if both are priced the same?

Yes. The most important point is that it hauls horses safely and can continue to do so for at least 10 years without breaking down on me every 10k miles.

Three most important things to look for on a used truck are rust, rust, and rust.

Like real estate: location, location, location.

If you haven’t done this already, I found it useful in my truck search to go to the big 3 truck web sites and build and price a number of new truck models to get a feel for what packages and options are out there, and their pricing, even though it sounds as though you want to go pre-owned. And with used truck prices as sky-high as they are now, you may discover a new model in the same price range.

I have not done this, but have looked at our local dealerships and they’re from $70-90k for a new truck. That is above our price range. As @clanter says:

paid for

is the best luxury and our ultimate goal.

You may find a really good deal on a new truck from a dealer on line. Would you be willing to fly somewhere to pick it up and drive it home?

Yep! Or drive. We’re not too far from Salt Lake City.

If 4 doors are a must, you will need an extended cab truck. For a 3 horse BP either a 3/4 or a 1 ton (2500 or 3500 in GM-land) will work. I grew up in a GM owning family, so that’s my personal preference.

So I just went to the GMC web site and built a 2021 GMC 2500HD extended cab truck with Duramax diesel and Allison transmission, ST trim version, and it was $53,500. What you are likely to find on dealer lots are either work trucks for less, or highly optioned, higher profit more expensive models.

When I bought mine, I built my ideal Ram, Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC (which has it’s own separate web site), sent them to every dealer within 500 miles, requesting pricing. Lucky for me the GMC dealer closest to my home had the best price. I stopped in the next day, signed the order and paid a deposit within 10 minutes, they ordered my truck, and it was delivered from the factory 2 months later. No dickering, and they even mailed me a $1000 rebate check later because it went into effect between my order and their delivery.

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Some of these questions will depend on whether this is a DD for you or not. My truck is my only vehicle, so there were features I wanted that I wouldn’t have necessarily cared about if it was only used 15 times a year for hauling. As a DD, here was my list of must-have luxuries:

  • Crew cab for hauling passengers
  • Solid tri-fold tonneau cover for keeping hay dry in the bed, for having a locking space to safely store things, and for better gas mileage
  • Heated seats
  • Physical buttons for adjusting the settings I need to adjust while driving. I do not want to have to go three menus deep in a touchscreen to change the air conditioning while towing through Chicago, DODGE!
  • Android Auto, just makes everything easier while towing
  • Parking sensors and backup cameras. I’m 5 feet tall and seeing over the noses of these modern trucks is HARD!

My pinkie out luxury nice-to-haves-but-not-essential list was:

  • Remote start. There is nothing better than getting in my hot truck with the seats warmed up after a cold day at the barn in the winter.
  • Cooled seats. See above, but swap “cold” and "hot.
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Cummins diesel engine. The most reliable around, and cheaper to work on if required. This means “Dodge”. Good luck finding one!

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I would never have a gas engine for towing again. My diesels have been great to tow with and have worked well. I am also a firm believer in buying the biggest truck you can afford.

Apple CarPlay and a back up camera are my idea of luxuries. I love vinyl floors and seats so it is easy to clean the dog hair out of the truck.

I would not purchase a gas engine with over 100K on it. A diesel, yes, gas no!

For me, a diesel is a “great if you can get it” as they will last longer. But, you will also pay for that premium. And your engine may last longer, but electric/computer components are just as likely to go out on a diesel as a gas (and have more often been issues that I’ve dealt with personally).

250/2500 should be enough. Would certainly be enough in my area. YMMV in the mountains.

I grew up with Fords, so that’s what I tend toward. I wouldn’t say no to any modern truck that is lower in miles and has a good price.

Back-up camera!! Makes hooking up sooooo much easier. I’m not super into luxury things but I sure do love that camera.

We were looking at the 80K-120K mile range for our price point last year. However, we found one that had only 22K for the same price. Just gave up the crew cab for the extended. Still have plenty of room for our two dogs in the back seat area and the occasional person. Very much worth the “downgrade” in cab space for having such low miles. Take a look at some of the extended trucks, they have a lot more space in them than they used to.

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Great thoughts everyone. @CobJockey this will not be our DD, however if we want to go hiking and need 4x4 to get to the trailhead, we will use the truck.

We’ll definitely put a backup camera as a “must have” as we have one now in our 1500 and it’s dreamy. I still can’t hook up the trailer in one go, but that’s not the camera’s fault!

Based on the recommendations of @NancyM and @cutter99, we’ll focus our search on diesels.

@B-burg_Dressage I would be thrilled if we could find anything in the 80-120k mile range. What I’m finding is 140-200k miles.

How many miles are too many to start out with? I hear of Cummins engines running to 300k+ but is that a one off or a reasonable expectation?

@LCDR I used the build a truck tool last night and will keep that in mind if new truck prices come down in the next 6 months!

Depends on the year.

Any modern diesel (2007.5+) has the additional emissions equipment (DPF and EGR). The emissions equipment makes it where the truck really shouldn’t be idled for extended periods of time, because it will never make enough temp to regenerate the DPF (even with DEF). But… old habits die hard, and lots of guys still idle the bajeebus out of the trucks, which causes reliability issues.

Where do you live, and will you have to smog?

zips flame suit in preparation for the upcoming conversation

Love this and no flames from my way, though I’m interested in the discussion.

I live in Western Colorado, close to both the Wyoming and Utah borders. We will be moving out of state in the next 18 months (probably eastern Washington) and assume we will have to have the the “accepted” equipment then. Most people on the “Western Slope” do not meet emissions standards because we’re in a rural area and do not have the same requirements as, say, Denver area. A 2012 King Ranch 350 for sale in our area says “No DEF, deleted” so I can only assume that’s in reference to the emissions equipment? Why is this “bad”?

I personally wouldn’t want to start with a truck with more than 150K. Or if I did, it better be a dang good price because I wouldn’t necessarily be looking at it as a “long term” truck.

That being said, DH works construction and they do have trucks that have over 200 and 300k that still roll down the road hauling equipment every day. But he also has told me stories of issues they’ve had. I know I want the vehicle I’m using to haul my horses to be as close to 100% trustworthy as possible. To me, getting stranded with a horse is different than with equipment. I know others who wouldn’t mind that many miles–I have a friend who just bought one that had 200K and she hasn’t had any issues thus far.

It’s entirely possible I’m just paranoid.

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With the mileage you are looking at ( or finding) , the mountain type area you live in I would suggest a diesel engine. With your number of horses a 3/4 ton ( F-250/ 2500)would be more than enough.

We prefer a Ford and we don’t do luxury so as long as it has a radio and A/C I am happy.

We bought our no frills, gas engine, Ford F-250 V10 new 21 years ago and paid it off asap. It has been a great truck and being without a payment for many, many years is a real plus.

DEF is Diesel Exhaust Fluid. It has its own separate tank which must be kept filled. It is NOT added to the diesel fuel tank. It sprays into the exhaust to participate in a chemical reaction that reduces diesel pollutants. A diesel pickup can use about 10 gallons every 1,000 miles. The fluid can cost around $100 for 10 gallons. A newer pickup may have a 10 gallon DEF tank, but tank size varies. An engine will shut down if you allow the DEF tank to go dry, so it is something you probably need to keep in a jug with you on trips, just in case. It is sometimes available at the pumps at truck stops, but don’t count on finding it this way for your pickup in most standard gas stations. You will be using a funnel and jugs.

I prefer diesel, mostly because it is the only way to get the Allison transmission these days with any ease. (GM girl here) And as far as I am concerned in towing the transmission is as important as the engine
DEF is a pain, but really once you are used to it, it isn’t a problem; here in New England I can get it at Walmart, any auto supply store, Tractor Supply, etc.
Modern diesels are just as Unreliable as modern Gas vehicles. That is to say, they all puke out various computer codes about the XYZ just failed. It usually didn’t. You can usually keep driving, says the person who has been running two trucks with two different engine codes for several thousand miles. The code readers are wonderful!
‘Deleted’ diesels mean that somebody managed to get rid of the DEF system. You can do this. It doesn’t hurt the truck at all. It Does make it very illegal in many states.
2500 is just fine for what you are thinking of hauling.
If buying used…I wouldn’t buy a hangar queen (i.e. low mileage) I did, it is a wonderful truck, but it seems to have a particularly delicate computer. Buy something between 50,000 and 100,000. and No Rust.

So let’s say that I’ve found a 2011 Ram 3500 Crew Cab Long Bed Cummins manual transmission for sale. Cool! It’s got 77k miles and is in my town. Even better! Should be more than enough to meet my needs. So I do some googling for specs and find this handy chart. Great! I scroll down to the part I think is accurate (I don’t know the wheel base or 4WD) and… what?! The max trailer weight is 11k - 13.5k lbs for every manual listed. HUH? My 1500 gas engine hauls 10,500 lbs. Am I reading this chart wrong??

Information dump, get ready…

The EGR and DPF create unique problems to diesels.

The EGR (exhaust gas recirculator) takes raw exhaust gas and send it back in the intake via a butterfly valve. What they say it does: Reduces SOx and NOx emissions. What it also does: Sends sooty, disgusting air right back into the engine to contaminate your oil, gum up your valves, and mess with your injectors ($$$, let me say it again, $$$).

The DPF (diesel particulate filter) filters out soot and other exhaust contaminants. It uses fuel (old skool, they changed over in 2013 or so) or DEF to assist in “regenerating” the filter when the pressure drop across it gets to a certain value. The problem with idling and the DPF, is that the DPF needs a certain exhaust gas temperature for a certain amount of time in order to regenerate the filter, usually only achievable at highway speeds. If you idle idle idle the way a lot of diesel guys do, the engine never makes that temperature, and the filter gets really gummed up - even if it tries to regen at idle, it won’t do it properly. When it gets boogered up like that, it never regenerates properly again, and you’ll have problems with it forevermore. The temperature required for a burn off is incredible, even with DEF - in the range of 1200-1400F. That’s why the Ford exhaust tips have little flutes at the end of them - if you walk past it while it’s trying to regen in park, you will get severely burnt, so they put the flutes in to draw ambient air and cool the surface temp down.

So, what to do. If you have to smog often and aren’t interested in having to wrench on the truck constantly to put the stuff back on to pass, you’re stuck with the equipment. And for a 12K plus premium for the diesel option, added reliability concerns with the emissions equipment is not welcome - I mean, isn’t that why we’re willing to pay the price, is for a 300k+ mile engine? The emissions equipment totally negates that. Now, I don’t include hotshotters with DOT #s here, because they work the ever loving crap out of the trucks pulling RVs and cars back and forth across country - that allows the trucks to run they way they’re designed. But for us regular joes, who won’t be pulling that hard or that often, it’s a real kick in the pants.

If you don’t have to smog, you have options. Deleting the equipment and overriding the ECM/PCM with a tuner (no one sells outright deleted tuners anymore for on-road use, but there are options, PM me if you want more info) is your best bet. Note that deleting the equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be driving a smoking beast - the new engines don’t smoke unless you want them to. I’ve never seen my truck smoke, ever - but I tuned it that way. Smoke is money going out my tailpipe, and I’m not interested in that.

Sorry for the info dump. I can continue on, but will quit there because I get that not everyone is as interested in diesels as I am… :rofl:

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Notice the nice round number that makes when you add it to the base weight… hint hint (it can tow more, but they can’t list it that way).

The benefits from the diesel are the low-end grunt (particularly with the Cummins, inline 6 for the win!). That thing will pull anything - it’s getting it stopped that you need consideration for. Make sure your brakes and controller are good, that you stay below the rating of your tires (MOST IMPORTANT, in my opinion) and you’re fine.

The manual trans has a lower tow rating than the automatic. The stock automatic - the 68RFE - is a damn good transmission (with adjusted line pressure, via my tuner…). Used to be the opposite, but not-no-more!

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This is getting a bit too Diesel engine geek for me, so back to the OP and the question about luxury items as either standard or part of an options list options.

Must haves for me include 4WD, cruise control, 8 foot bed, side steps or running boards, phone charging capability, gas engine so I am not saddled with more expensive maintenance costs and worrying about DEF, decent but not ear-blasting radio with Sirius capability, large electrically adjustable and folding towing mirrors, and a back seat accessed by its own doors without having to open the front doors too.

Nice to have include push button start and keyless entry so no fumbling for a key in freezing weather, remote roll down of windows when parked in the sun for hours in summertime, remote start for heating up pre-entry in winter, heated seats, factory installed brake controller, decently lined up rear camera for trailer hookup, engine braking mode for towing down long inclines, reasonable number of tie down points in the bed, a decent center console for storage a place to charge and rest the iPad for navigation, and a horse trailer camera monitoring system with display on the nav monitor, since I don’t use that built in screen for navigation.

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