I learned how to buy the right truck by; you guessed it, by buying the wrong one a few times! Since my first trucks were used, I mean previously enjoyed, I had no idea of what the manufacture's gross vehicle weight rating or warranty requirements where all about. I hauled 3000 pounds in my ½ ton, 5000 pounds in my ¾ ton, and 10,000 pounds in my one ton. OOPs, that was probably a little too much. That could explain why so many replacement u-joints, clutches and brakes.
It's hard to recommend which truck without knowing what you are going to use it for. Half tons are generally used for the light work, loaded occasionally. Heavy duty three quarter tons and one tons can be loaded all the time just like their cousins the 18-wheeler. The heavy-duty ¾ and 1 tons use to only ride nice when they were loaded. They have come a long way, baby! Now they all ride like cars. In the big cites people use them as cars. When I first came to Denver I was amazed to see 5-year-old pickups with no scratches in the beds. My pickups didn't last the first day without a scratch. After you drop the first salt block and the first big round bale, the bed just doesn't look the same, the tailgate smiles.
Two-ton trucks were like tractors. They lasted forever. When I was a kid driving a grain truck during harvest, we used to race to town to get a good place in line at the elevator, so we could get back to the combines before the other truck was full of wheat. Now that I'm mature , I think back to flying down the road with 300 bushels of wheat at 70 miles an hour in trucks that were usually 20 to 30 years old, being used only a couple of weeks out of the year. I know we checked to see if the lights worked before harvest, but I don t remember checking the brake pads. Oh well the combines lasted another year and so did I. When I started pulling large gooseneck trailers with the two-ton trucks instead of ¾ and 1-ton pickups, I spent less time in the parts store and more time hauling hay.
Bragging rights, I say Competition, created American Free Enterprise.
For 3 of the 10 years I've sold trucks, I was an auto broker. Most of the time working for AAA Auto Club, buying vehicles for their membership. I've sold, owned and pulled with all the major makes and models. Most people become loyal to one brand. But it is good to compare. Competition is what improves things. The Japanese taught us valuable lessons in the 80's on how to build cars that lasted and were economical. As much as we complained about Japanese auto makers taking over our markets, American pickup trucks in the early eighties needed major improvements. Do you remember the wholly frames on the Fords in 1980 and 1981, where Ford wanted to save weight on the trucks by punching extra holes in the frames. (I've actually seen some of those trucks with the end of the frames broke off were the extra holes were too close to the rear bumper mounting holes.) How about the saddle gas tanks on Chevys and GMC s in the eighties, that caused a class action lawsuit for side impact collision fires, and did anybody else have to weld their eighties Dodge truck bed seams a few times to keep the sides from flapping in the wind when the tailgate was down.
We as humans are such emotional buyers. We become brand loyal. And we seldom do what's best for us. And of course marketing rules the earth. That's why the best diet in the world is shutting off the TV! I know how much I've gained watching pizza commercials. Back to trucks, competition helps us in so many ways. The top brands usually alternate leadership with each new model. But there are differences in areas like diesels and transmissions. I continually compare models to see what s new. I don't believe in buying any vehicle the first year it comes out. I know it's exciting and all, but no matter how hard manufactures try, there are a few recalls that pop up after a few thousand vehicles are actually on the road.
I remember my dad having a Massey Ferguson model 92 combine. He thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and of course so did I. Then one summer I ran my uncle's model 95 John Deere. I couldn't believe it! The engine wasn't buried in the middle of the combine. It was on top where you could actually check the oil and change spark plugs. And another thing, the main belts weren't buried in the middle either; they were on the outside of the combine, so you could actually change them without learning the latest cuss words! I saw combines evolve for the better and I've seen trucks evolve. Driving an empty 4x4 three-quarter ton in the 70's meant seeing the local chiropractor and dentist after being bounced in the cab like a basketball!
My first driving experience was in dad's 56 Ford. I became very good at "jackrabbit starts.” That lesson came in handy later when I drove our '47 two ton Chevy hauling hay. The jackrabbit starts gave my brother, Steve, a few tumbles off the back of the hay truck. I finally mastered easing the clutch. I'm certainly glad that I learned to drive in the country. I would hate to learn on I-25 in Denver!
'72 was the last year Ford or GM made a bed that was thick enough for me. Back then you didn't need a bed liner. Competition in pickups is fiercer than sport cars. I like to see the major improvements. Even if you stay with one brand and buy every 5 years you will see dramatic differences in ride, power and lack of noise.
Pickup trucks are one of the most complicated consumer products you can buy. And the most inexperienced salespeople usually sell them. I m always amazed at the people I see, who think the salesperson who is selling them a truck,( last week this salesperson was selling furniture,) is giving them good advice about which truck they really need and the truck that will pull their trailer up the mountain and stop them going down the mountain. I hear the horror stories latter when this same folks come to me with their 6-month-old truck that they spent $40,000 for to pull their $70,000 fifth wheel trailer. Now this new truck overheats pulling their trailer in the mountains. They were lied to about, which rear axle ratio the truck had, and if the truck had an external tranny cooler. The Internet is the great equalizer for knowledge. Buying the right truck at the right price has never been easier. Now you just have to sort through all this new information. Trucks have never been this close on quality and dependability; it's hard to make a bad choice. Dodge trucks have come a long way. The only ¾ and 1 ton with a factory exhaust brake. And the price makes it a value. Generally I see Dodge diesels $5000 cheaper to a comparable GM model. I think in another year Dodge will finally see a full size crew cab and eight foot bed on a 2500/3500.
Author H. Kent Sundling writes for AgWeb.com via a special agreement with MrTruck.com.