Home Cars 14 Best Diesel Pickup Trucks You Can Buy

14 Best Diesel Pickup Trucks You Can Buy

Vukasin Herbez September 18, 2017

For decades, gasoline engines powered American pickup trucks. Eventually, manufacturers realized the potential of diesel fuel. For years in America, diesel was the fuel of choice for the big semi-trucks, industrial machines, boats and locomotives, but not for cars or small new and used pickup trucks.

Over the years, various manufacturers have offered the diesel engine as an option for passenger cars, but despite the advantages, it never became a sales hit. Worse yet, after the recent infamous Volkswagen “Dieselgate” emission scandal, the future of diesel passenger cars on the American market is in jeopardy.

But, in the new or used pickup truck market, diesel-powered models are becoming common. In fact, it looks like this type of fuel will dominate the pickup truck market. Although all major pickup brands offer diesel-powered trucks now, this type of engine was only available in the biggest 3500 and heavy-duty trucks back in the day. Diesel also powers those large dually trucks, which come with two wheels on each side of their rear axles, too.

If you’re shopping for a pickup, keep reading to learn about the best new and used diesel trucks currently on the market. The variety of classes on the truck market provides a wide selection of new and second-hand diesel trucks. No matter your budget, you can find the perfect truck for you.

Diesel Vs. Gasoline

The advantages of diesel over gasoline engines are numerous. Diesel engines produce a lot more torque, which is important for new and used pickup trucks. More torque allows the vehicle to increase towing capacity or payload. In addition, diesel engines are more economical for trucks because they can get much more miles per gallon than a gasoline engine. Since diesel units achieve maximum power and torque at much lower revs than gasoline engines, diesel are more durable and have longer engine life, as well.

However, there are some problems with diesel engines, too. They require frequent oil changes and special procedures when towing heavy loads. Another issue is that diesel engines are sensitive to extreme cold, which can be a problem in some parts of North America. When the weather is below freezing, diesel vehicles can experience trouble starting. This happens because the cold makes diesel fuel dense, clogging the fuel lines.

You can use a fuel additive to prevent this problem, but always be aware of the extreme cold. Lastly, the maintenance costs are higher for diesel than for gasoline-powered vehicles.

1. 2006-07 Chevrolet/GMC 2500 and 3500

Despite being 10 years old, the 2006 and 2007 Chevy and GMC 2500 and 3500 diesel trucks are still a great buy if you need a large, capable work truck. Under the hood is the venerable 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8 with 350 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque.

There are three important things about this engine. First, Chevrolet produced this version before emissions gear and particle filters became mandatory, so it is more powerful than the newer versions. Second, it has a Bosch fuel injection system, which is highly reliable. Third, it is possible to tune the fuel injection system, as well as the turbocharger, ECU and fuel pump to get more power and torque.

Chevy offers a manual transmission version of this truck, but truck experts recommend using the Allison six-speed automatic, especially if you want to use your truck for hard work. There are currently several models on the market and for approximately $15,000 to $18,000. With all the choices, you can find a pickup truck with low miles, in good working order, with attractive options and lots of miles left in it.

2. 2017 Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado is the top compact truck on the market right now. Its diesel version is the most capable model in the lineup. Chevrolet offers the Colorado in a crew cab only, so there’s no single cab diesel model. Under the hood is a relatively small but potent 2.8-liter Duramax diesel four-cylinder with 181 HP and 360 lb-ft of torque.

That may not sound like much; however, the Colorado is capable of towing 7,700 pounds, which is great for a compact truck. With this towing capacity, the Colorado is perfect for a car trailer, camper or boat.

The best thing about diesel Chevrolet Colorado trucks is the fuel economy. It has an EPA-estimated rating of 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 miles per gallon on the highway, which are good fuel numbers for a pickup truck.

3. 2003-04 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty

In the early 2000’s Ram Heavy Duty pickups with diesel options were high on the list of desirably used diesel trucks. The classic styling, massive front end and lots of space inside, along with a powerful and dependable engine make this truck a good choice for anybody who needs a workhorse. The power comes from 5.9-liter straight six Cummins diesel engine with 305 HP and 555 lb-ft of torque.

The power and torque figures may not be as good as modern trucks, but this model is 15 years old. The towing capacity is decent at 12,000 pounds, which should be enough for most uses. The engine has proved itself as a tough power plant without any major issues and problems.

In fact, even those older models with a lot of miles on them still perform perfectly. The other upside of the 2003 to 2004 Ram Heavy Duty includes big and well-isolated cabins, which provide comfort for passengers. Some modern features like infotainment systems are not available, but you will get decent climate control, safety and seats.

4. Ram 1500 Eco Diesel

Ram offers the only currently available diesel truck in the light-duty class with the 1500 Eco Diesel. Ford should introduce its F-150 with an oil burner engine soon, but the Ram truck was the first. Recently, there was some talk about the emissions of Dodge diesel engines, but it seems like Ram has passed the test. Despite being built on an older chassis, the Ram is still a modern-looking and capable truck. Under the hood is the 3.0-liter diesel V6 engine with 240 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque.

With a decent fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mph on the highway, as well as a towing capacity of over 8,500 pounds, the Ram Eco Diesel is for people who need a normal truck with efficient driving dynamics and standard equipment. Although the Ram Eco Diesel is somewhat more expensive than the V6 gasoline model, for everyday use and normal driving, this is the perfect pickup. The next generation of Ram trucks will arrive soon, so you can expect they will offer the diesel option with more power and torque.

5. 2008-10 Ford F-250 and F-350

As a leader in the pickup market, Ford offers quality and durability with its heavy-duty models in the form of the F-250 and F-350 diesel trucks. They produced these models between 2008 and 2010. They feature an old body style made of steel, in contrast to the newer models built from aluminum. The heart of these pickups is the mighty Power Stroke diesel engine, which has 6.4-liters of displacement, 350 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque.

Rumors among new and used diesel pickup truck enthusiasts are this engine is capable of close to 600 HP and 1,000 lb-ft of torque with the right tune and a few aftermarket parts. But if you are not looking for a hot rod diesel truck which puffs clouds of black smoke, the stock Power Stroke will be more than enough for your needs.

Ford built the F-250 and F-350 for professional use, so the towing capacity and payload are impressive. In fact, they made every component, like the brakes and suspension parts extra tough. Since these are the biggest and most expensive trucks Ford produced in that period, you can expect a high level of comfort, lots of space and top-notch equipment, too.

6. 2017 Nissan Titan XD

The new Nissan Titan is an interesting truck because it falls between the regular light-duty Titan and the big heavy-duty models from established manufacturers like Ram, Ford and Chevy/GMC. Since this is a middle model in the pickup truck segment, Nissan has offered it in all three cab configurations: single, extended and crew. Under the hood is the new 5.0-liter Cummins turbo diesel V8 engine, which delivers impressive numbers for its size. It provides 390 HP and produces 401 lb-ft of torque, which is better than most light-duty trucks, but is still less than the full heavy-duty offerings.

However, Nissan has tweaked the chassis and suspension to deliver a world-class payload and towing capacity. With the right equipment, the Titan XD can go up to 12,640 pounds, which is quite a lot for its size. With a fuel economy in 15 mph range combined, the Titan is reasonably economical. The $37,000 base price makes it a relatively affordable truck, too. However, to fully equip the XD, the price will almost double.

7. 2012 Chevrolet Silverado HD

The relatively recent Silverado HD diesel truck features almost all the convenience options and luxury items as the 2017 model, but with a slightly older design and an affordable price. Under the hood is the venerable Duramax 6.6-liter V8 with a big turbocharger and modern technology. This combination produces 397 HP and a healthy 765 lb-ft of torque. It has one of the best pickup transmissions available – the Allison 6-speed – but it also comes with manual control, if you want to shift gears by yourself.

They have equipped the 2012 Silverado diesel with a big 36-gallon fuel tank, which allows it to travel up to 680 miles without stopping for those cross-country hauls. Instead of paying the steep price tag for a new diesel truck, the 2012 Silverado HD diesel can fulfill your every truck need for far less. It also has a comfortable interior and lots of up-to-date features.

8. 2017 Ford Super Duty

The current king of the hill, the mighty Ford Super Duty, is one of the best, most technologically advanced and most powerful diesel trucks on the market. Ford used aluminum for this pickup, which is revolutionary by itself. Aluminum saves a significant amount of weight and improves the payload and towing capacity. The 2017 Super Duty is a technological tour de force in the heavy-duty truck market for its innovative construction, as well as advanced systems and features.

Under the hood is the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 with 440 HP and an astonishing 925 lb-ft of torque. That is almost 1000 lb-ft of torque at your disposal. All that power translates to the amazing towing capacity of 32,500 pounds. This means you can tow just about anything, including heavy industrial machinery, big boats and oversize loads.

While a top-of-the-line truck like this may be expensive, for the price of a loaded Super Duty, you will get a nice interior with all the creature comforts, lots of electronic gadgets and the finest leather. Other features include a rear camera, parking assist system and other items to help drivers maneuver this behemoth of a truck.

9. 1991-93 Dodge Ram Cummins

It may seem surprising to feature a 26-year-old truck on this list, but the 1991 to 1993 Dodge Ram with the 5.9 Cummins diesel engine is one of the best oil burners in the pickup world, despite its age. The Ram is not a full-fledged classic truck, but not far from it. This generation dates to the late 1970’s, offering a diesel option during the late 1980s. Under the hood is a venerable 5.9-liter straight six diesel engine with only 160 HP but a healthy 400 lb-ft of torque.

For the 1991 model year, they revised this truck with more power and options. In fact, most diesel truck fans consider this to be the best year in the series. The power and torque figures seem low, especially considering today`s engines, but this is an old truck with old technology. However, old technology doesn’t mean that the 1991 Ram Cummins is not a capable vehicle.

With a 4×4 drivetrain, this is an extremely efficient truck. However, since it is a quarter of a century old, don’t expect the level of comfort and luxury of a modern truck. Even so, the 1991 Ram Cummins will amaze you with its drivability and usability. If you want to buy this pickup, expect to pay over $15,000 for the four-wheel drive version.

10. 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD

The biggest news for the Silverado lineup in 2017 is the introduction of a new diesel engine for HD series. The new 6.6-liter Duramax V8 oil burner delivers 445 hp and a massive 910 lb-ft of torque. Obviously, the Silverado HD is chasing Ford’s Super Duty with a similar engine and output numbers. In its 2500 HD version, the Silverado can tow up to 18,000 pounds, while 3500 HD can pull amazing 23,300 pounds.

Of course, the 2017 Silverado is packed with the latest technology, not just in driver aid systems and components but also in creature comforts and accessories. You can expect a lot of space in the interior, top-notch comfort and usability. The base price for the new Silverado HD with a diesel engine is just above $40,000.

11. 1999-2000 Ford Super Duty

The general automotive public may think older trucks are not relevant anymore. They may even believe they are slow and weaker than newer models. However, if you think they are beaten up and not capable of getting the job done like the trucks of today, think again. One of the best examples is the Ford Super Duty diesel truck from the early 2000’s. This ordinary-looking vehicle packs one of the biggest diesel engines available, the massive 7.3-liter Power Stroke with 235 HP and 500 lb-ft of torque.

The output of this engine is almost half of what modern engines produce, but don’t let that fool you. They built the Power Stroke diesel with super-tough components and internals, like a heavy-duty intercooler, forged steel connecting rods and a high-pressure oil pump. This means the 7.3-liter diesel is nearly impossible to kill. In fact, Ford produced it to do the toughest jobs you can think of and to be durable and usable in any kind of condition.

Thanks to its rock-solid construction, this 17-year-old truck will probably survive the punishment that a new truck can’t. The Ford Super Duty is perfect if you are looking for a tough work truck. It is available in two body styles and with a decent amount of equipment. Of course, you will not get satellite navigation or an infotainment system, but you will get lots of space inside, as well as climate control.

12. 2017 GMC Sierra Denali HD

With the same 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine and mechanics as in the Silverado, the GMC Sierra is similar, but with a slight little design. The Sierra is more of a comfort and luxury-oriented product than the Silverado, despite being a tough and capable heavy-duty truck. In fact, the Sierra Denali HD has a towing capacity of 23,000 pounds. It also includes a heavy-duty cooling system to keep the temperature in check in extreme conditions or under full load.

With the base price close to $70,000, the Sierra Denali is an expensive truck. However, for that price, you will get one of the best modern diesel heavy-duty pickups available. In fact, some people compare it to a luxury apartment on wheels. The inside of the Sierra Denali HD looks like an upscale living room with a big screen, an infotainment system and premium leather.

This package also includes LED headlights and intelligent Magnetic Ride Control to monitor every movement of the vehicle. It even adjusts the ride height according to road conditions. This system adds an extra level of safety when you are carrying or towing on bad roads.

13. 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 HD

The 2010 Ram HD with the diesel engine option is the perfect vehicle if you are looking for a modern, reliable work truck with a limited amount of money. With a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engine, this Ram can carry over 5,000 pounds or tow up to 17,500 pounds. Those numbers are close to modern models, which means the 2010 Ram HD can handle any task.

The power output of the 2010 Ram diesel is 350 HP and 800 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough. Since this is a relatively modern truck, you can expect it to come with modern equipment and components, such as a leather interior and high-quality audio system, as well as climate control and safety aids.

14. Ram 2500/3500 HD

Finally, after the Ford Super Duty and Chevrolet/GMC HD, the Ram HD with the diesel engine is the third competitor in the heavy-duty class. Under the hood is a 385 HP 6.7-liter Cummins engine delivering 900 lb-ft of torque. The towing capacity is a massive 31,250 pounds, making this Ram the top leader in its class. Dodge prepared the Ram HD with several trim levels, cab configurations and a long list of options, too.

You can get the Ram HD as a bare-bones workhorse truck with no options, or you can get it as a full optional luxury suite with all kinds of creature comforts, like an infotainment system. Prices for the 2017 Ram HD start at around $40,000, but if you choose the top-of-the-line model, it could go all the way up to $70,000.

The good news for pickup truck enthusiasts is the wide range of options available today. No matter what your budget or purposes, you can find a truck to suit your needs. The trucks on this list are a good place for you to start.

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