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Ford F-150 vs. Chevy Silverado vs. RAM 1500: Which Truck Is Best?

Susan J

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When it comes to half-ton pickups, three models dominate the market. In 2017, the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge RAM 1500 accounted for 81% of the total light duty trucks sold in the US. The topic we’re about to dive into has been dividing truck enthusiasts for generations. The preference for one manufacturer over another often runs in families. If dad and granddad both own a particular make and model truck, showing up at a family gathering driving a competitor’s offering comes with significant level of peril.

Don’t worry — we won’t attempt to give a final verdict on this long-running debate here. What we will do is take an objective look at each of the Big Three truck models and examine the pros and cons of each. Aside from your family heritage and personal preference for one manufacturer over another, identifying the most important features in a truck makes it easier to pick the one best suited to your needs and desires. We’ll be examining important factors like sticker price, engine size, fuel efficiency, and towing and hauling capacity. Lastly, we’ll take a look into the past to see which models are most likely to stand the test of time. For the sake of consistency, we’ll be comparing the 2018 models for each model.

Ford F-150

Pros and Cons of the Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 has been a leader in the American truck scene since 1975. Ford’s starting sticker price of $34,265 makes it the mid-range option for this trio. The top-of-the-line F-150 tops out at $71,185, so price-sensitive buyers may have to hold off on pulling the trigger on some of the more expensive options packages.

Now let’s talk about horses. The base model engine packs 290 hp into a 3.3 liter V6. It has the smallest engine in our bunch. As a result and not surprisingly, it also delivers by far the best gas mileage, bagging 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. If you’re looking for a daily driver, this may be it. All of those ponies are controlled by a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

Most truck owners want to put their pickup to work hauling and towing. In that department, the Ford F-150 comes in as the lightweight. Its payload rating falls between 1,485 to 2,311 lbs. It can safely pull loads between 5,000-8,000 lbs. With a smaller, more fuel efficient engine, these results also aren’t surprising.

For reliability data, we’re turning to JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Survey. This survey uses information gathered from thousands of vehicle owners who’ve owned a 3-year-old model since it was new. Participants highlight repair and reliability issues they’ve experienced since they’ve had the car or truck. The JD Power Circle Rating system allows vehicles to earn anywhere from a one to five circle rating, with a five circle rating being tops. The F-150 was just above middle-of-the-road when it comes to reliability, bagging a four-circle rating.

Chevrolet Silverado

Pros and Cons of the Chevy Silverado

Sharing the same birth year with its Ford counterpart, the Chevy Silverado has been hauling and towing since 1975. The Silverado is the spendiest of the threesome with a starting price of $34,600. The Silverado is the mid-range option when it comes to powertrain, boasting a hefty 285 hp 4.3 liter V6 engine. The Chevy is lacking in the fuel efficiency department, delivering 17 mpg during city driving and only 22 mpg out on the open road. As with the F-150, the Silverado’s engine shifts on a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

The Chevy ranks as solidly average when it comes to hauling loads and pulling things behind it. When it comes to payloads, the Silverado is rated to tote around cargo weights between 1,739 to 1,918 lbs. It’s towing capacity ranges from 5,500 to 9,000 lbs.

Coming out on top when it comes to dependability, the Silverado was the only domestic truck to earn a coveted five-circle rating from JD Power. Current owners reported the fewest repair problems of any truck on our list, proving that, statistically speaking, Chevy is producing the pickup that’s least likely to leave you stranded.

Dodge RAM 1500

Pros and Cons of the RAM 1500

The new kid on the block, the Dodge RAM joined the full-size pickup truck market in 1981. By far the most affordable of the bunch, the RAM 1500 rings up at $27,295 for the base model. As always, the sky’s the limit when you start adding extras, but the more modest starting price may appeal to more budget-conscious shoppers. The title of most muscle-bound truck goes to the Dodge RAM. This 3.6 liter V6 engine has 305 horses at its command. That’s 15 more than the runner-up, the F-150. Delivering 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, this truck’s fuel economy stats place it squarely in the middle of the pack. The RAM 1500 offers two more gear choices than the others, with an 8-speed automatic transmission with overdrive as the standard.

The RAM’s higher horsepower engine shines when it comes to hauling and towing. This hard-working truck can handle some serious loads. It’s comfortable with payloads ranging from 1,466 to 3,497 lbs. The towing capacity is similarly impressive with the Hemi engine’s ability to pull loads ranging from 4,200 to 10,150 lbs. If you’re towing a large boat or RV, the RAM may be your truck of choice.

Coming in at the bottom of the heap in JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Survey, the Dodge RAM 1500 earned a measly two-circle rating. With five possible stars on the table, bagging just a couple makes this truck the most likely to cause repair headaches down the road.

The F-150, Silverado, and RAM 1500 lead the half-ton pickup pack for a reason. Each has a lot to offer. But ultimately, how you’ll be using the truck will be the deciding factor in which you choose.

No matter which truck you decide to buy, you’ll want to keep the seats protected from wear and tear with quality seat covers. From mud on the jobsite to coffee spills while you’re fueling up on the drive, dirty seats in a new truck won’t help maintain the value of your vehicle. Also explore our truck covers to protect your truck from UV rays that damage your car’s clear coat and paint.

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