THE BIG THREE BATTLEGROUND

The Complete Full-Size Pickup Truck Buying Guide: Every Model, Explained


September 20, 2019 Cars By

Full-size trucks are the quintessential American vehicles. Americans build them; they buy them far more than any other type of car; and perhaps most importantly of all, they have the landscape to make use of them. Profits from full-size trucks provide the American automotive industry’s lifeblood. The Big Three may call themselves mobility companies committed to a zero-emissions future, but it’s selling full-size trucks that will pay to develop that future.

Much like country music, the full-size truck has redefined itself, broadened its appeal and defied entrenched stereotypes over the past couple of decades. Vital competition in this segment has made full-size trucks some of the most sophisticated, capable, practical and luxurious vehicles on the market. The Big Three can’t afford for their full-size trucks to be anything less.

Pickup Truck Terminology

AFM: Active fuel management. A technology that allows the engine to reduce the number of cylinders being used under light loads.
Crew Cab: Term used by most manufacturers for a double cab with four full-size doors.
DFM: Dynamic fuel management. A General Motors technology that allows the engine to choose from between 17 different cylinder firing combinations as needed, for greater efficiency.
Eco: Prefix that indicates some effort has been made to make this engine more efficient…or that the manufacturer wishes to market it as such.
eTorque: Mild hybrid system for Fiat Chrysler engines that adds low-end torque.
Half-ton: Another name for the full-size segment. It used to correlate to payload capacity. It no longer does.
Hemi: Chrysler engine with a hemispherical induction chamber. These are large-displacement, high-output engines used on trucks and muscle cars.
Light-Duty: Another name for the full-size truck segment. Distinguishes these trucks from the “heavy-duty” vehicles optimized for hauling and towing, such as the F-Series Super Duty and Ram 2500.
Long Bed: A truck bed with a length of around eight feet. This length appears most commonly on work trucks. Most buyers opt for a shorter bed for easier handling.
Payload: The amount of weight a vehicle can carry, including passengers and cargo.
Towing Capacity: The amount of weight a vehicle can tow.

Buying Guide

Ford F-150

Thanks to sheer volume, the Ford F-150 defines the full-size truck market. The F-Series has been America’s best-selling vehicle for more than 30 years running; in 2018, Ford sold more than 900,000 of them in the U.S. No other vehicle eclipsed 600,000.

The current (13th) generation appeared for the 2015 model year. Whether you require a basic work truck, a road-going yacht or a badass offroad rig to attempt the Baja 1000 (hi there, F-150 Raptor), Ford has you covered.

Ford made some forward-thinking changes with the last generation. They shifted the body from steel to a lighter aluminum-heavy construction (a move ridiculed by competitors at first, then imitated). Ford also favors turbocharged V6 engines over traditional V8s. These offer a higher output on paper, but many truck buyers still prefer a V8. (Ford may finally give them one on the Raptor.)

Ram and Chevy’s latest truck generations may have caught up. But Ford should move the bar forward again with its next-generation model launching next year, which may include game-changing hybrid and electric F-150s.

Body Styles:

• Regular
• Supercab
• Supercrew

Box Length:

• 5.5 feet
• 6.5 feet
• 8 feet

Trims:

• XL
• XLT
• Lariat
• King Ranch
• Platinum
• Raptor
• Limited

Engines:

• 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp, 265 lb-ft)
• Twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 (325 hp, 400 lb-ft)
• 5.0-liter V8 (395 hp, 400 lb-ft)
• Turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel (255 hp, 440 lb-ft)
• Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 (375 hp, 470 lb-ft; 450 hp, 510 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 3,230 lbs (3.5-liter EcoBoost)

Max Towing Capacity: 13,320 lbs (3.5-liter EcoBoost)

Base MSRP: $28,495

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The fourth-generation Silverado was redesigned for the 2019 model year. Chevy’s strategy for competing with Ford has been to offer plentiful customization: If a customer has a particular taste, Chevy will provide an option to meet it. The Silverado has eight different trim levels, each with a corresponding grille design. Buyers can choose from three cab sizes, three box lengths and five different engines. Then you hit a near-endless array of accessories and details.

The Silverado has largely stuck with V8 engines. Tempting outside-the-box buyers with the “2.7-liter engine” which is a (gasp!) four-cylinder has not gone well. The fuel-efficient inline-six diesel engine may do better.

Where the Silverado has struggled is distinguishing itself from competitors. GM’s higher-end luxury options and more innovative technologies largely went to the now-higher-end Sierra. Which is great — for the Sierra.

Body Style:

• Regular Cab
• Double Cab
• Crew Cab

Box Length:

• Short (5 feet 10 inches)
• Standard (6 feet 7 inches)
• Long (8 feet 2 inches)

Models:

• WT
• Custom
• Custom Trail Boss (4WD only)
• LT
• LT Trail Boss (4WD only)
• RST
• LTZ
• High Country

Engines:

• 4.3-liter V6 (285 hp, 305 lb-ft)
• Turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four (310 hp, 348 lb-ft)
• Turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six diesel (277 hp, 460 lb-ft)
• 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft)
• 6.2-liter V8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 2,250 lbs (4.3-liter V6)

Max Towing Capacity: 13,400 lbs (6.2-liter V8)

Base MSRP: $28,300

GMC Sierra 1500

The GMC Sierra has had trouble differentiating itself from the Silverado over the years, mostly because it has been mechanically identical. GM has sought to change this with the new generation, redefining the Sierra as the higher-end rig and giving it the features to back that up.

If the Silverado and Sierra are still corporate twins, the Sierra is the better-looking, more interesting one. It gets the super-lux “Denali” trim and the premium off-road Raptor-rival AT4 trim. The Sierra also gets the first crack at innovative features like the MultiPro six-function tailgate and the CarbonPro carbon fiber bed.

Body Style:

• Regular Cab
• Double Cab
• Crew Cab

Box Length:

• Short (5 feet 10 inches)
• Standard (6 feet 7 inches)
• Long (8 feet 2 inches)

Models:

• Sierra (base)
• SLE
• Elevation
• SLT
• AT4
• Denali

Engines:

• 4.3-liter V6 (285 hp, 305 lb-ft)
• Turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four (310 hp, 348 lb-ft)
• 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp, 383 lb-ft)
• 6.2-liter V8 (420 hp, 460 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 2,240 lbs (Regular Cab)

Max Towing Capacity: 12,500 lbs (6.2-liter V8)

Base MSRP: $38,395

Ram 1500

Ram became an independent brand apart from Dodge for the 2010 model year, following the Fiat-Chrysler merger. Ram debuted the fifth-generation 1500 pickup for the 2019 model year. Ram focused on offering a premium experience, whether that is ride quality, interior styling and materials, or technology such as a massive 12-inch touchscreen. That focus has earned the Ram 1500 rave reviews, and the pickup won multiple “truck of the year” awards.

The Ram 1500 has a simplified engine lineup compared to competitors. Ram dispensed with both the two-door cab and the long box, leaving those variants to the “Ram Classic.” If you’re into multifunction tailgates, the Ram 1500 has one that splits 60-40.

Body Styles:

• Quad Cab
• Crew Cab

Box Length:

• 5 feet 7 inches
• 6 feet 4 inches

Models:

• Tradesman
• Tradesman HFE
• Big Horn/Lone Star
• Laramie
• Rebel
• Laramie Longhorn
• Limited

Engines:

• 3.6-liter V6 w/eTorque (305 hp, 269 lb-ft)
• 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (395 hp, 410 lb-ft)
• 5.7-liter HEMI V8 w/eTorque (395 hp, 410 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 2,100lbs (3.6-liter V6)

Max Towing Capacity: 12,750 lbs (5.7-liter V8)

Base MSRP: $33,440

Ram 1500 Classic

Ram kept the fourth-generation 1500 in production after the fifth-generation debuted. The older truck is now a budget model with a pared-down trim lineup. With the base-level Tradesman starting at $27,645, it undercuts the rest of the full-size pickup market. The strategy has been so successful, Ram passed the Silverado for number-two best-seller overall. Ram plans to keep the previous model in production, and even update it.

Body Styles:

• Regular Cab
• Quad Cab
• Crew Cab

Box Length:

5 feet 7 inches
• 6 feet 4 inches
• 8 feet

Models:

• Tradesman
• Express
• Warlock
• Big Horn

Engines:

• 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 (240 hp, 420 lb-ft)
• 3.6-liter V6 (305 hp, 269 lb-ft)
• 5.7-liter V8 (395 hp, 410 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 1,880 lbs (3.6-liter V6)

Max Towing Capacity: 10,470 lbs (5.7-liter V8)

Base MSRP: $27,645

Toyota Tundra

Toyota launched the first Tundra for the 2000 model year. It was the first Japanese full-size pickup for the American market. It’s more akin to the rest of Toyota’s SUV/truck lineup than its American segment competitors. Updates are rare: The second generation debuted way back in 2007, and was last facelifted in 2014.

The Tundra is the full-sized truck for Toyota fans. It offers the brand’s notable strengths: impressive build quality, formidable off-road chops and unbelievable resale value. Attempts have been made to add luxury (i.e. the 1794 Edition) and off-road cred (the TRD Pro). But the Tundra is a generation behind its American competitors, particularly when it comes to fuel economy; it earns just 15 mpg combined.

Body Style:

• Double Cab
• Crewmax

Box Length:

• Short (5 feet 7 inches)
• Standard (6 feet 7 inches)
• Long (8 feet 2 inches)

Models:

• SR
• SR5
• Limited
• Platinum
• 1794 Edition
• TRD Pro

Engines:

• 5.7-liter V8

Max Payload: 1,730 lbs

Max Towing Capacity: 10,200 lbs

Base MSRP: $33,425

Nissan Titan

Nissan launched the Titan full-size pickup in 2004. The second generation debuted in 2016. It offers a simple lineup, with one engine option (a 5.6-liter V8) and no ability to mix and match cargo boxes. While the Titan is newer than the Tundra, it does not match up with the Big Three competitors in capability, particularly in towing.

What the Titan can offer, compared to competitors, is a value proposition. A buyer who wants a single-cab, long-box work truck and a V8 with reasonable options (power doors and windows, carpet) can it there at a lower price point with the Titan than itscompetitors.

Body Style:

• Single Cab (8-foot box)
• King Cab (6.5-foot box)
• Crew Cab (5.5-ffot box)

Models:

• S
• SV
• SV Midnight Edition
• PRO-4X
• SL
• SL Midnight Edition
• Platinum Reserve

Engines:

• 5.6-liter V8 (390 hp, 394 lb-ft)

Max Payload: 1,930 lbs (Single Cab 4×4)

Max Towing Capacity: 9,660 (Single Cab 4×2)

Base MSRP:$30,690

The Complete Jeep Buying Guide

grey_placeholder

A breakdown of all the vehicles Jeep sells in America today. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Newsletter Sign-Up
Get the best new products, deals,
and stories in your inbox daily.

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy to receive email correspondence from us.