Fordodgechevy Diesel trucks

My wife and I are thinking about getting a newer truck since both of our existing veh. are paid off.

I am a Ford man, both veh. are Fords. I will admit, however, I’m still very new to the diesel genre.

I know Ford has the “Powerstroke” Diesel, Chevy has the “Duramax”, and Dodge has the “Cummins”. Honestly, we don’t really need diesel. We don’t live on a farm, we don’t have horses(yet!), and we don’t have a 5th wheel gooseneck camper yet. What I do like is that you get decent fuel mileage out of a diesel, or is that a hype? I also heard that diesels tend to run (as in long life) for a long time.

Basically, I’m just doing homework. How do these brands of truck diesels stack? Other than personal opinions please. I want to know facts, statistics, and possibly pros/cons of certain diesel truck brands.

From what I hear, Cummins seem to be a great engine. On a TV truck show, these guys took a cab and bed off a '77 Ford and put it on a frame of a '97 Dodge Cummins. A fellow veteran mechanic has a nice '98(?) Dodge and he swears by the cummins.

I’ve never been around powerstrokes enough to hear anything about them, likewise with the duramax/allison combo.

We basically want a truck, tired of borrowing trucks. My first choice is Ford of course, but if math/logic, etc. points towards Dodge or Chevy, fine. We would be fine with a Triton V8 F-250, same motor as her Expedition.

Didn’t Cummins build tractors or something? I’ve heard that name before but I don’t remember where.

Does powerstrokes have any weak points? If you maintain properly, and treat easy, do diesels reciprocate? Looking on internet, some of these fords have 250,000+ miles! One was in the 300,000. What is typical life expectancy of a diesel? Is is worth it to go ahead and start with a new diesel motor, rebuilt or crate?

Let me know of your knowledge of diesels, I’m very eager to learn. The only thing I know is it doesn’t really work the same as a gasoline combustion, it’s basically compression. (right?) What gives diesels their unique sound characteristic? (dumb question?)

Thank you all in advance. Sorry for lengthy reading material!


In a gasoline engine the compression ratio is limited because if its too high the fuel will spontaneously combust before the spark plug can ignite it. A diesel engine takes advantage of spontaneous combustion due to heat and pressure and controls the combustion by controlling when the fuel is injected. As a result they run much higher compression ratios, which results in more torque which is the rotational force the engine exerts and so diesel engines are able to harness more power from the same amount of fuel.

Now, this means you can use a somewhat lower HP-rated engine to propel a vehicle than an equivalent gasoline engine, which is how you get the ultra-efficient diesel cars (and small trucks offered elsewhere), but that’s not what they use diesels for in big trucks. Because the diesel engine are usually somewhat larger than the normal gas engine in domestic pickups, the mileage usually ends up being about the same while unloaded. But the diesels are much much better at towing and so while your gas mileage will plummet when towing with the gas engine, the diesel will probably get about the same as it always does.

As for reliability, because diesel fuel is itself a lubricant, it is much easier on an engine and so if properly maintained they will essentially run indefinitely. However, maintenance is usually somewhat more expensive and there are a couple of very big-ticket items that can potentially go bad. Plus, realistically, if you’re somewhat diligent maintaining a gas engine it will probably last a lot longer than you’re going to own the truck.

If you don’t tow much, there’s really not much of an advantage to having a diesel and it will likely cost you more than it saves you. Of course, the other huge advantage diesels used to have was that the fuel was significantly cheaper, but the trend more recently has been that diesel has been more expensive and I doubt it’s ever going to return to being much cheaper than gas.

As for brands, the powerstrokes had some problems a few years back, but I believe they’ve sorted them out. The Cummins and the Duramax (which is really an Isuzu) are both very solid engines. Among with producing various other industrial engines, Cummins is one of the biggest producers of semi-truck engines, which is probably where you’ve heard of them from. I don’t know how much this pedigree really applies to the Dodge truck engines-- if nothing else its been good marketing for them.

These days unless you tow something heavy and tow it often, there’s very little reason to get a diesel. Diesel trucks always command a high cost premium up front, usually to the tune of $6000-$8000 vs. the standard gas engine. It used to be that you could count on diesel fuel being cheaper than gas. This is no longer the case as diesel fuel prices have been fluctuating wildly over the past 8 years or so. Sometimes it’s about the same price as regular gas, sometimes it’s 50 cents more a gallon than high test gas. Fuel mileage for diesels has been getting worse lately, partly due to the ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel that is obligatory now, and partly because the manufactures are ramping up the power in a game of one-upsmanship. Right now if you went to buy say a new F-350. You could get a decent V10 gas model for around $38k-$40k, probably less. The same truck with the Powerstroke will command $47k-$48k. For fuel mileage the gas truck will get around 9-11 MPG. The diesel, about 10-13 MPG. When you factor in the added cost for fuel and the significant upfront costs. It doesn’t make much sense to get a diesel right now.

Based on your description, it seems that the truck is mainly going to be used for just driving around and some light towing. If that is the case, then a gas engine sounds like it’s best option for you. It’s also questionable if you even need a 3/4-1 ton truck in the first place. A regular half-ton (F-150/Silverdao/Ram, etc.) sounds like it would more than sufficient for what you are doing with it.

Drive one for an hour before you make a decision to buy one… They are all noisy stink-wagons. If you are looking for fuel mileage, only the Dodge (Cummins) excels there. It has a much higher compression ratio than the other two. But it’s like driving a tank…

The 2008 and newer diesels (at least the Powerstroke) are much quieter than the box of rattling chains of the past. I own a 2008 F-250 Powerstroke.

All of the 2008+ models (including Dodge) took a big hit on fuel economy with the latest tier of EPA regulations. A DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) in the exhaust adds restriction which kills diesel economy, but no longer blows any kind of smoke. The exhaust tips stay perfectly clean, no soot.

As for economy, around town you lose. The 6.4L Powerstroke has 15 quarts of oil and 7 gallons of coolant. Takes a lot of heat to warm that mass.

What these trucks do well is roll down the road in comfort. Typically my shortest trip is 75 miles each way. The truck is very comfortable, often with 4 large adults, bed full of food and riding gear, and trailer with 4 dirtbikes. Or for longer trips a toy hauler full of dirtbikes.

One thing to consider is who is going to work on it. In warranty the dealer will. what dealer has the best rep in your area for repairs? Are they good at deisels? You are going to keep this truck for a while, eh? How about independent shops, any in diesels?

If you check some of the truck forums, the Gas vs Diesel debate is well…um, been covered.

My personal experiences;

I looked at 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton pick-ups for daily driving and towing 5000lbs. The 1/2 tons at the time did not trip my trigger. I went with a 5.4v8 F250. Never happy with it as it was a slug. Within a few years I traded for an 04 F250 V10. Nice truck except for the front end (ball joints). I looked a diesel but the purchase price did not add up for me. Diesel fuel costs more, diesels have higher maintenance costs, and most important, the cost of the diesel/automatic option was about $5500 more. I would have to do a lot of driving and towing to offset that cost.

I am also glad I did not end up with a 6.0l diesel…what a dog that turned out to be.