Diesels from the mid 2000’s were noisy, they had obnoxious exhaust emissions, they vibrated and cost more money to build than a gas burning truck. Clearly they are made better today, but are they actually better than a gasoline engine? Each has their own good and bad points, and once again you will have to determine how and what you most use your truck for. Dodge Ram 1500 came out with the first ½ ton pickup in the US market with a diesel power option in 2013. Now we have the Chevy Colorado Canyon with a Duramax Diesel, and the Cummins powered 2016 Nissan Titan XD. It is rumored that Ford is testing a Lion V-6 powered F150 as an addition to their diesel lineup. So, you do have some options for a ½ ton, but I am going to focus on full size trucks for this information. The diesel engine is a more suitable choice if towing capacity is critical to your trucks’ operation due to the torque advantage.
Diesel fuel has a higher energy density than gasoline, which means less fuel is needed to generate the same power as gas, therefore offering the potential for a 30-35% fuel savings compared to gasoline engines. It should be noted that over the past decade, diesel has consistently averaged 14% more per gallon than unleaded gas. Over time, the maintenance of a diesel engine will end up costing more than a gas engine, partially due to the engine components that may require servicing more often or are not found on a gasoline engine. Diesel engines have a larger oil reservoir plus the water separator and fuel filters will require replacement more often than its gasoline counterpart.
Gas engines are known to make more horsepower, while diesels produce more torque. This is where the “how” of using your truck comes into play. Do you need more acceleration from your unloaded truck while driving around town, where quick starts may be important to you. If you don’t haul any cargo or tow a trailer very often, a gas engine is probably best for you. Simply by design, a gas engine will rev faster and can reach higher RPM peaks than a diesel engine. This feature allows them to reach greater horsepower more rapidly in zero to 60 mph time frames. Gasoline is typically more readily available than diesel since some gas stations do not have diesel pumps. These engines also have longer service intervals for engine oil, spark plugs, and engine coolant.
One other consideration may be retail value. The truck market perceives that a diesel-powered engine with 150,000 miles on it has more remaining productive life than a gas-powered truck with comparable mileage. Small companies with lower budgets that need towing or hauling fleets may turn to used vehicles instead of new which makes a used diesel more in demand than gas engine trucks.
It really boils down to using the right tool for the job. You wouldn’t use a rake to shovel heavy wet snow. Using a gasoline truck for heavy towing in most cases would result in significantly reduced engine life and increased gasoline consumption. Using a diesel truck for a light-duty truck would make equally as little sense if you don’t need to tow anything or haul heavy cargo. Consider how long you may use your truck before trading up, and the value of a diesel engine compared to gas over time.