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 Fords 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.
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 6 disc changer in the Chevy is 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 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 the 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 being 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
Tom N. on April 27, 2015:
I had a Ford F150. It had the looks and the tight feel of a well but truck. Steering and road control was superior. Dodge is just tinny and ugly. My Silverado has the 6.2. It is definitely the most powerful gas powered truck I,ve ever driven including my Ford 460. The 5.4 Ford had a towing of 6700 with the Towing package. Chevrolet 10,500. Ford looks the best until the light turns green. Oh and I had my 4x4 actuator replaced twice before 100000 miles. Make a Ford 150 with chevy power I'll go back. And not a raptor. I need s truck not an expensive toy
coyote on May 18, 2012:
there are only two types of people who buy pick-up trucks, the people that buy fords and the people that don't know any better
John on May 12, 2012:
The Ford F-150 ext cab Ecoboost has almost double the maximum available payload compared to the Chevy 1500. The reason to get a 3/4 ton is how much it can carry, not how much it can pull. Is the Ford F-150 really that much better or is this another case of false advertising or different spec criteria?
wayne on April 11, 2012:
I have a 2010 4.6 2v and it gets as good as any on gas. Once it is rolling it has good power. No monster but good. I saw a 2010 on youtube with 170,000 miles and still running stron so i know this model is durable.
Mark on April 05, 2012:
Well I did like the Bose system, but you need to listen to the New sony system with bigger speakers and sync in the Ford trucks. Also lets be honest here, if you have a good battery and low vescosity oil any vehicle will do fine in cold weather. My repair bills were the highest on my GMC's. I honestly find ford out does the pickup market these last 2 years. 1000 Km on my 2012 F150 5.0 L, no complaints.
Herb on March 30, 2012:
I live up north almost on the Alaska,Yukon and BC. Borders .The roads are being paved now and some have been paved in the last ten yrs. We get around 1200 inches of snow and tempatures drop down to ~60° average is ~35 °and stays there for several months.We work on the road and will drive our trucks with 130 gallon fuel tank and spare grader blades and tools and such. We take the trucks drive out to where our graders and snowblowers and loaders and dozers. There they sit for 8 to 12 hrs.and when you shut your machine down you hope like hell that your truck is going to start. All three brands do fairly well down to -25°but below that its hit and miss with the Dodge and Ford and the only brand that you can rely on to start every time even when its pushing-50°is the Chevy/GMC but there are exceptions but not often.We also have found pounding over rough roads all the time that the Dodge has problems keeping the box and cab from coming loose or breaking the mounts.Also had problems with electrical,mainly connections and grounding issues and they seem to wear out rubber bushings fairly quickly resulting in more maintenance of tie rods and front end bushings.The Ram had good power but was quite thirsty.The Fords performed pretty good overall but had electrical problems and were the hardest to start in real cold weather and had to be rescued numerous times and depending on what brand of tires you used would get stuck on a flat road as the winter roads were compact ice and snow from late October,early November til late April /middle of May.This was funny having to shift into four wheel drive to get going but after only moving a couple of feet you could shift back to two wheel drive and you carried on.The ecoboost seemed to perform well but unless you had your foot into it or at higher speeds lacked power until the turbos kicked in.The truck was comfortable but you had to add to many options which added to the price where as the Chevy had a lot more equipment that came standard and the Chevy has the Bose stereo that is so sweet and hard to beat its better sound than most people have at home. We found that overall the Chevy/GMC faired about the best they had the best fuel economy,extreme cold weather didn't stop them from starting and overall they had the best ride.Power wise they were all fairly close but one is going to have to waite a few years to see how the eco boost will do,I feel that it being a smaller engine putting out the power it does that it is going to wear itself out faster than Dodge or Chevy as it is going to be working a lot harder trying to move the same loads as the other two as it doesn't get its power until the Turbo kicks in more towards the top end.,where as the other two will be idling compared to the Ford .Now there are exceptions to any rule or how a truck will perform and what kind of luck you have had in the past with each one.But after operating all three in hostile conditions for any vehicle for about thirty years and its obvious that in that time they have made great strides in reliability,performance and looks and luxery and the new trucks are the best they have ever made,but I must say for reasons found in the above comparasins that I prefer the Chevy/GMC over the other two,but each to their own.
Mark on March 26, 2012:
Received my 2012 F150 5.0 L lariet last week and breaking in time already gives me better mileage than my 2007 Chevy. Interior is incredible and love all the accessories and the Ride. Don't believe all you here about GM/ Chevy and see for your self, I have owned both and find fords tall appearance and interior by far excedes GM for comfort, and after 20 visits to the dealership with waranty isues on my chevy I'm sure I'm glad to be back with a Ford product.
Dford on March 26, 2012:
Ford has more sales because the owners have to keep replacing them. All smart Fords drive Chevys.
Fisherman on March 01, 2012:
I own a 2011 Silverado Z71 extended cab w/5.3L. My dad owns a 2010 F150w/5.4L. We recently went on our fishing trip up north as we do every year. I pulled my 18ft princecraft w/135hp merc with my ATV in the box. Dad pulled his friends 16ft Lund w/90hp merc. Filled up at the same gas station when we left, filled up on the road at the same station. I added $66.00 worth and he added $74.00. I like driving both trucks about the same and they have similar options. Don't know about dodge. I guess my only point is the fuel consumption. PS... government buyout coments have no place on here as far as I can see.
firestrtr on February 25, 2012:
I was comparing the 2011 Ford 5.0 to the 2011 Chevy 5.3. The Ford 5.0 puts out 58 more HP and 75 more ft lbs of torque, according to their own websites. And the ecoboost (3.5l) does even more and will out pull a hemi...more torque. Displacement is the engine size...5.0 is SMALLER than 5.3 but essentially an apples-to-apples comparison. So that's not what I was doing, but if you'd like we can compare Fords largest truck V8 to Chevy's or Dodge's we can do that too. Also, F150 has highest payload in it's class and the only fully boxed frame.
Brady on February 24, 2012:
I like the 2011 Dodge. It does ride a little stiff but besides that it is powerful and feels comfy inside. Also check out http://dodgerims.com if you need replacement rims specifically for this model.
Dave on February 16, 2012:
Your pulling your 12000 pound trailer on vacation with your family in your new ford ecoboost. All of a sudden your turbos break down (common problem with turbos) and what happens......you're stuck pulling a 12000 pound traier with a V6 engine with approximately 200 hp. I don't think you will get very far unless ford developed a new technology to overcome turbo wear. Research...that is all I can say.
JM on February 14, 2012:
Selling My 2007 GM seirra and just ordered a 2012 ford f150 5.0l. I can't begin to start why I'm going back to ford, reliabilty, does not burn oil, 4x4 actuators do not burn out, ect. I almost bought a Ram, really was a difficult decision there with all the options they offered by I still prefer leaf springs over coils for pulling. Good luck with your new GMC, by the way there most likely going to run into debt problems again when US decides to take out their share in the company.
CJ on January 02, 2012:
I just got rid of a 2010 F-150 Platinum for a 2011 Chevy Crew Cab Z71. Now Ford does build a nice truck, and the interior was very roomy, I had it back to the dealer for 14 warranty issues in 28,000 miles. Some went back for the same thing 2 or 3 times. I gave up a lot of options in going to a new Chevy, but it was worth it. I do miss some of the creature comforts like power running boards, but I can always have them installed. One thing I have noticed is the fuel mileage. It is much better in the Chevy. Time will tell. The Ford was a bit more comfortable in the seats and leg room. One downfall for Chevy is the "Lint & Dog Hair Magnet" cloth seats. These seats will attract more dog hair and lint than I would ever have imagined. I have to use duct tape once a week to keep them clean. I also want to mention that my office just bought me a new 2011 F-150 ecoboost V6. It runs very well and can compete with the 5.3L V8 in power, but pulling my travel trailer the Chevy wins hands down. Great write up.
Have owned them all on December 22, 2011:
I've owned several trucks from each of the US manufacturers. Over the years I've found all of them to be great work horses. My most recent purchase came after selling my still fantastic 2002 Chevy Silverado 178K miles to my son, I bought a 2011 Ram Larime 1/2 ton. I love this truck the best of all of the trucks I'e owned. It's the best one so far and I think that's my point. They all get better and better every year. I think in 2009 if I had bought a new one, I would have bought the F150, cause I loved the look and the interior. But in 2011, I love the interior, ride and drive of the Ram HEMI. The 392 horse 1/2 ton is a blast to drive everyday and the Alpine hands free Stero is a hoot too! I love em all, Chevy, Dodge and Ford! Union built in the USA! That's the most important part to me.
jrod on November 29, 2011:
I have to say I really enjoyed the article ... I recently test drove all three trucks and did extensive research. I Found Exactly what was stated to be true! I was a Dodge owner, now I'm a proud new Chevy owner. I love it the 6.2 has power and I got all the options I wanted for far less than the compition. I'm glad others have done actual research and made their knowledge public.
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on November 07, 2011:
Lol. Nice. Getting money from chevy and paying ford. I'm about 60/40 Chevy over ford Thanks for the comment!
Mike Wood on November 07, 2011:
This may be a bad thing but I work for Smith Chevrolet in Kamloops BC and I drive a Ford F150. I shopped every different truck and found that no truck could compare. My f150 has 411 Horsepower and i couldn't find a truck that would even come close to the power. I paid a bit more but the overall quality was definitely worth it. Nothing like a ford interior.
Kevin79 on November 02, 2011:
Just wanted to let everyone no the truth. I just bought a 2012 Sierra after researching every halfton pickup on the market. GM offers the most, features, power, economy, reliability, towing and looks overall. I'm not partial to any brand. I say let the best truck win. If you take time to research before you buy and drive all equally equipped models the choice clear. Overall they are all great pickups.
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on October 23, 2011:
No I didn't, because if you want to simply trash one make I'm not going to acknowledge you. If you want the 5.3 does not have chevy's largest hp or torque, so why compare it to Ford's largest gas engine? That is dishonest. Get off your hypocritical high horse genius.
firestrtr on October 22, 2011:
I see you didn't post my last comment. YOU obviously didn't compare the specs on the website because the 2011 F150 has almost 60 more hp than the 5.3 chevy and much more torque.
You should get informed before writing a "comparison". I just had the displeasure of driving a brand new rental Tahoe while on vacation. That turd had no low end torque and couldn't get out of it's own way. Chevy owners don't know what they're missing.
ev_is_in on September 20, 2011:
Ok admittedly it is a Ford commercial but it might clear up some questions on reliability it is a 6 part video you might find interesting I know I did
ev_is_in on September 20, 2011:
Go to YouTube and look up the ecoboost on fords YouTube site
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on September 16, 2011:
Turns out you may need to do the comparing on their website. I already have. Ford does not have a v8 that beats Chevy by 60 hp. Yes, Ford has great towing and load capacity, but no, they do not beat Chevrolet's fuel economy. Do I think chevy or dodge should have received government money? No, but politics can be discussed on a political hub, not here. Oh, and was that an E250? Isn't that the Ford van?
firestrtr on September 16, 2011:
Chevy "More stylish and reliable" lol. You're joking right? Generic Motor Company? I guess that's why they and Dodge needed a government bail out...I consider their owners to be welfare recipients. There lucky to still be able to try and compete. Fords are the only truck worth buying. The ecoboost turbo smokes all of their base v8s and if you're not into a v6 Ford's 5.0 will do the same too..by 60hp and higher torque. Additionally, Ford has the highest payload and towing capability of any and the strongest fully boxed frame. And it is arguably the best looking truck for 2011. Chevy get's their okay gas mileage, which is not as good as the Ford, with the use of high rear end gears while Ford does it with superior engineering, not compromising performance. Simply go to all of their websites and do a side-by-side comparison of their specifications. Ford smokes the competition in all categories. Chevy does offer a better warranty...they had to do something better I guess. I have an E250 still providing reliable service after 250,000 hard miles and would put it up against any Chevy or Dodge. The F150 is 35% of all truck sales if you need more testimony. I may be biased but the stats speak for themselves.
fashion on July 23, 2011:
Great article.I really liked it.
yrusosmall on June 22, 2011:
I have test driven all three and I believe this article is very accurate. I noticed that at about the same price the Chevy and Ford came with more accessories. I liked the ride of the Chevy and Dodge over the Ford, the eco-boost had decent power but it wasn't until the turbos kicked in that you could really accelerate, whereas the other two had power from the beginning. Inside they all had space. Im about 6'5" at 320. But I think overall the Chevy takes it. And as a disclaimer this is just my opinion and I have never been partial to any of the three.
Undecided on June 16, 2011:
I thought this was a great article - have been wondering about long-term ecoboost reliability myself. While the ecoboost and v8 5.7l Chev both get similar mileage, do you think there will be a realistic difference between the v6+turbos and the v8 + cylinder disable?
Mico on June 03, 2011:
I like Chevy over Ford because it is more stylish and reliable. http://www.micocrane.com/
Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on May 05, 2011:
I am biased towards Chevy? Yet your name is "ram"? Which are you, the pot or the kettle? I pointed out weaknesses in each of the makes, if you didn't appreciate the comparison I hope you find the info you are looking for in a Dodge forum somewhere...
ram on May 05, 2011:
who ever wrote this is bias towards chevy and dislikes ram. this review is not helpful at all.