I'm a car enthusiast who enjoys comparing various makes and models to find the best overall value.
Looking to buy a half-ton truck? With all of the new improvements to each of the big three truck makers—Chevy, Dodge, and Ford—how do you choose which half-ton pickup to buy? Which of the 2011 trucks is best for you? Let's break it down.
Each year, the big three truck makers sell between two and three million pickup trucks in the U.S., and the top seller, depending on which numbers you use, is always Ford. While numbers do show that Ford has a good product, it does not necessarily mean it has the best product. Most truck buyers have certain aspects they look at to decide, such as drivability, power, and comfort.
The following is a look at how each make measures up in the following areas:
For years truck owners compared their trucks based solely on who had more power. Every year truck reviews come out full of pictures of trucks loaded with massive loads, strapped to huge trailers, or even carrying other trucks. A more basic view of truck power would be to answer "Will it do what I need without stopping at every gas station?"
Each of the three major 2011 trucks have available packages with big horsepower, and along with it, hefty torque. However, to match the Chevy's decent gas mileage in its 5.3 L V8, you have to go to Ford's new EcoBoost 3.5L V6. That's right, I said V6. This new engine gets more HP than Chevy's 5.3 L V8, but I'm afraid the only thing harder than convincing truck buyers to buy a V6 for fuel efficiency would be convincing them that this new V6 will be able to produce 365 HP for more than 100,000 miles.
The Dodge trucks do offer good horsepower, but as has been their problem for years, they produce gas-guzzling hogs that cannot pass a gas station. If Dodge would like to compete in the efficiency realm, they at least need to include a 6-speed with overdrive option which the 2011 model does not have.
2011 Trucks: Power, Capability, and Price
up to 10,700 lbs
up to 22 mpg
up to 10,250 lbs
up to 20 mpg
up to 11,300 lbs
up to 21 mpg
Who wants to ride around in an uncomfortable truck? Well, to be honest, most of the trucks from the early '90s and older would be considered extremely stiff and uncomfortable compared to the trucks of today. All three have made good changes in recent years to improve on room, ride, and amenities inside the cab. For the 2011 models that I compared, crew cab XLT, LT, or SLT, there were few differences in dimensions, but a couple did stick out. The Dodge and Chevy have a couple more inches in front and rear hip room than the Ford, but Ford more than makes up for it with 4 and 5 more inches of rear legroom than the Dodge and Chevy respectively.
Read More from AxleAddict
Aside from just dimensions, there is some difference in ride. The Dodge has heavy-duty shocks instead of the gas shocks of the Chevy and Ford, which are great for rugged use and work trucks but give a much stiffer and less comfortable ride. Also, the amenities of the Chevy and Ford far surpass the Dodge, and even though Ford has the Sync system, the Bose entertainment system and available six-disc changer in the Chevy are hard to beat.
Finally, Dodge did not add side-impact airbags to their truck when they added side curtain airbags. This may be why the Dodge only had a two-star passenger and three-star driver safety rating on side impacts from NHTSA.
In the past few years, many changes have come in pickup truck design. From large grille, hood, and fender areas, to built-in tool boxes and steps, these are not your father's pickup trucks! For the most part, these design changes have been for the good, although, larger trucks do mean it is harder to get in and out. Size can be adjusted for with some great truck accessories like side steps or running boards.
Design is the one area in which I see Dodge as having made great strides. With their re-worked front end, larger cabs, and new amenities, such as the built-in toolboxes over the rear wheels, Dodge has really tried to capture the imagination of the truck buyer. Dodge has once again made their work trucks an asset to their owners. Although these changes have made Dodge a bit more competitive, they do not necessarily make up for their shortfalls in other areas.
Ford and Chevy seem to have focused their changes on the style of the front end and beefing up their frames and suspension. Ford has included their built-in tailgate step which was needed to reach into their deep bed.
I have three concerns in this area of comparison. First, although it is definitely too early to truly judge the durability of these models, there have already been several recalls involving both the Dodge Ram and F-150. Most of these are due to electrical problems that are mostly cautionary, one for the Ram is for rear axle issues for trucks with manual transmissions.
Second, the F-150 seems to be placing its future in its new EcoBoost V6 due to its need to keep up with Chevy on fuel economy. Even though this engine is focused on better gas mileage, there will certainly be some light truck tires worn out by its power. While the V6 could very well be the best new engine out of Detroit, I have serious doubts about putting long-term trust in a 3.6 L V6 to pull and carry heavy loads. Only time will tell. If you try one of these trucks out and, like many, are impressed, it may still be wise to wait for the second or third year of this package to give Ford some time to work out the quirks.
Third, the manufacturer's power train warranty makes the above distrust more profound. The Ford power train warranty of 5 yr/60,000 miles continues to lag behind those of Dodge and Chevy whose warranties are 5 yr/100,000 miles. If Ford wants buyers to feel comfortable buying their new EcoBoost V6 they should beef up their warranty to show how much they trust their handiwork.
When I compared the three trucks with LT, SLT, and XLT Crew Cab packages, the MSRP for the standard packages were all within $400 and just over $31,000. However, when I added options to make sure each truck was as close to the same as possible, the prices changed a good bit.
It seems that Chevy has many more options that come standard than the other two makes, so their bottom line price was the lowest at $32,000. Next was the Ford F-150 at $34,900 followed by the Dodge at $35,900.
While each maker has models that are close to the lowest price, you really should find out which options you would like before you look at the price comparison between makes. This will help you find out which combination of options is best for you and who has that package for the best price.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Joseph Davis