• Top 5 Pros & Cons of Getting a Diesel vs. Gas Pickup Truck

    What are all of the considerations when selecting a diesel vs. gas pickup truck? What are the pros & cons of each? Kent “MrTruck” Sundling, Nathan Adlen, and Andre Smirnov discuss the top 5 topics that have to do with this decision. This and many other complicated pickup truck topics are in our new book “Truck Nuts: TFLtruck’s Guide to Pickups”.

    The Gas vs. Diesel topics is covered in Chapter 7 of the book. The book is already available for pre-order, and it will launch on Sep 27th, 2016.

    Check out the cover below.

    You can pre-order the Truck Nuts Book here:

    Here are Top 5 topics to consider when choosing between a gas or diesel pickup.

    5. Initial Price

    Turbo-diesel powertrains are more expensive to begin with. The engine block is heavier to handle higher combustion pressures, the turbocharger is included, the transmission is beefed up to handle the high torque output, and then there is all of the emissions control equipment. The turbo-diesel price premium can range from around $3,900 in a Chevy Colorado, all the way to $11,000+ in a Ram HD with the high output Cummins. Diesels are still better than gas engines on fuel economy, but it may take around 150,000 miles before the fuel cost benefit makes up for the initial price premium. Diesel trucks make sense if you plan to tow a lot, put a lot of miles on your truck, or keep it for many years.

    4. Fuel Efficiency

    TFLtruck has tested dozens of truck on our 100-mile highway MPG test loop. Turbo-diesel pickups are still better than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but the gap is getting more and more narrow.

    3. Emissions

    This factor may not be a big part of the decision process for many consumers, but it needs to be discussed. Government emissions regulations are tough on both the gas and diesel engines. However, the emissions control systems are more intrusive on the owner of a diesel pickup. There is the need to refill the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) on a regular basis in order to avoid the truck either going into limp mode or shutting down. The “regen mode” is another inconvenience. Diesel trucks periodically clean the particulate filters by overfueling for a short period of time to raise the temperature of the exhaust system. The driver of the truck may not even know the truck is in the “regen mode”, but this has a slight negative effect of fuel economy and power delivery.

    2. Maintenance Costs

    Diesel truck maintenance is more costly than that of a gasser. The oil changes and fuel filter draining or replacement add up to a higher cost. There are further potentials repairs down the line that will test your check book. All of the components that make diesels powerful towing monsters are expensive. Turbo, injector replacements or transmission repairs can add up to many thousands of dollars each. Of course, major component replacement on gas engines is also high. Still, regular maintenance of a diesel powertrain is higher.

    1. Towing and Payload Capability

    Diesel pickup truck are heavier than gassers, as such gas-powered trucks are rated higher for payload capacity. However, maximum towing capacity and capability is the realm of a diesel pickup. Towing trailers across town can be done with a gas truck, but if you plan on towing long distance and crossing mountain ranges – then diesels come into their own. Not only do they have more torque, but they also have exhaust brakes, fuel economy and longevity to help get the long hauling job done.

    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov is an Automotive Enthusiast, Producer, Reviewer, Videographer, Writer, Software Engineer, Husband, Father, and Friend.

    19 thoughts on “Top 5 Pros & Cons of Getting a Diesel vs. Gas Pickup Truck

    1. For my requirement and needs (cost/analysis/benefits) a simple V8 gasser. But for those who tow, for sure diesel. I’m looking forward to drive these trucks, the 17 F250 6.7 and 6.2, and the 17 regular Nissan Titan 5.6 and the F150 3.5EB. I’m like an anxious little kid!!! Friends, we are living in very good times (and don’t crap about that they are no more manuals! LOL)

    2. To add to some of these points.

      1. Initial cost – You stated that the money recouped in fuel savings. This is mostly false. Most of the initial up front cost of a diesel is recouped in resale/trade-in. Just as with any option that cost more when you purchase a vehicle, it also makes the vehicle have a higher value when you sale it or trade it in.

      2. Maintenance cost – One thing you didn’t mention is that diesel’s generally have a longer maintenance interval so while one PM may cost more, it is strung out over a longer period. For example, my 6.7L Cummins has a 15k mile maintenance interval while the gas version of my truck has an 8k mile maintenance interval. At 100k miles the gas version of my truck will have twelve PMs to my six. My PMs do have a higher cost for one, but over time the gas engine having more PMs will negate that higher cost.

      Lastly, you neglected to mention towing performance. I don’t understand why this was not mentioned especially since that is one of the main reasons why diesel owners buy them. In the case of the HD/SD trucks, the diesels have much greater towing performance than their gas counterparts. Not only is the power/torque greater, but it is also usable in just about every gear and at normal driving speeds.

      The peak power and torque of the gasoline version of my truck is pretty much unusable after 3rd gear because you would need to be going past 90 mph to reach them. For example, with a 4.10 rear gear in 1st you would have to be going 31 mph to reach peak torque, 52 mph in 2nd gear, 69 mph in 3rd, 97 mph in 4th, and you will hit the governor before you get to the peak in 5th. Not only that, but you would have to revving pretty high to reach them too. I don’t know about you, but hearing an engine rev a 4k up a 10 mile mountain road is unnerving and makes you exhausted by the time you get your destination.

      In contrast, the peak power of my diesel is usable in every gear while going normal speeds. My diesel will hit peak torque in 15 mph in 1st, 26 mph in 2nd, 33 mph in 3rd, 47 mph in 4th, 57 mph in 5th, and 74 mph in 6th. All of those are normal speeds when towing which means the peak torque and horsepower can be utilized in every gear instead of just 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear of gas version.

      1. The amount of value lost on Gas vs Diesel is true as posted. You get roughly half the cost of diesel back on trade. A normal Gas break even point is 250,000-300,000 off purchase. Vs trade is 150,000 miles. Andre is correct on this one.

    3. Forget all the overthinking. It’s like a metro disease or something.

      If you tow anything above about 9,000 pounds very often or if you run 40k+ miles/year even unloaded you want diesel. Less than that a gasoline truck may make sense.

      1. I have towed trailers over 9000 pounds with a gas engine for the last 14 years. My two pickups had 684,000 and 374,000 miles on them. Using a gas engine saved me a considerable amount of money. I have owned one diesel and now with the new diesel engines out, I will never another one.

        1. That’s great and I owned gas trucks for 25 years before going diesel. I would never go back to gas for a tow vehicle. I don’t know how you magically saved money towing with gas at the amount of miles you claim but I don’t buy it. Diesel get 10 mpg or less where same load gas engine gets 7 or less. Been that way for every truck I’ve ever driven towing around 10k or more. My 3/4 ton diesels get the same mpg unloaded as my gas 1/2 tons did. My 26′ boat was 6-7 mpg pulled behind 1/2 ton gas, three different brand trucks. All near identical mpg. Same boat 9-10 mpg behind 3/4 ton diesel, two different brands. Light trailers or bopping around gas is great. Tow heavy and it’s diesel all the way.

    4. The break even point is definitely 150, 000 miles or more. And your warranty expired at 100, 000 miles. You will need a lot of luck during the time frame between the end of warranty and breaking even. Chances are you will never break even. Dealers I have talked to are saying it becoming hard to sell a used diesel pickup with over 100, 000 miles because of the expired warranty and the possible high repair expense that the new owner may face.

      1. Sorry for not believing you, especially after the comment above about the mileage, but do you have any factual evidence you can link to support what you are saying here? I would love to see it.

    5. Here is a study done by the University of Michigan on the total cost of ownership of a gas vehicle and their diesel counterpart. The study was paid for and requested by Bosch. Now before any ignorant comments are made that Bosch is bias towards diesels because they make diesel parts, know that Bosch makes more gasoline engine parts than diesel. Also, the very same study done by UM a few years prior showed that pre-SCR/DEF diesels in that time period costing more than their gasoline counterparts.


      With the addition of SCR/DEF to the new diesels, fuel mileage has increased and the EGR is no longer the only way to remove NOx meaning less black soot clogging the DPF and EGR coolers.

      Where is your study backing up your claim that diesel is more expensive when you count total cost of ownership? I would love to see it.

      If you don’t want to pay for a diesel then don’t buy one, no need to justify it. Just like those who pay more for a V8 sports car over a V6 knowing they won’t recoup their money in fuel savings and do it for the performance aspects, so do diesel owners gladly paying for better towing performance. If wanting to recoup money is your sole reason for a diesel then you shouldn’t even be looking at getting one, period.

    6. Unless you’re towing daily or start your truck in the morning and don’t shut it off until night….GAS

    7. For my needs gas and the reliability of gm ls motors makes it even better. These new gas engines can last as long as diesels now. then have a custom tune done and you will be amazed at the power that was hidden. Now if i towed heavy loads more offen i would look into a diesel

    8. El diesel remolca mas relajado… el gas tambine lo hace pero mas agitado…
      Y el rendimiento de los nuevos gas es mayor que los anteriores, entonces ya hay poca diferencia entre diesel y gas ( si es que la hay).
      Por otro caso estan.las versiones manuales, las legendarias, mas seguras..

    9. Thanks for this… I’ve always wanted to know these thoughts. TFL people seem to really want diesel (esp nathan) and so I had to wonder what I’m missing out.

    10. Will you guys be selling the book somewhere on your site autographed for ppl that can’t make the show to meet you guys in person?

    11. My wife and I have recently purchased a new boat. We need something to tow it with, so we’ve been talking about getting a new truck. I didn’t realize that diesel engines we’re more powerful and more economical than gas engines. That’s something we’ll keep in mind while shopping for our truck.

    12. The biggest reason 90% of diesel owners have them is so they can feel like a super trucker. Ill stick too gas, sometimes i need my truck when its below 20*

    13. 10 years and more ago, diesel was very compelling for the light truck. Additional up front cost for diesel, skyrocketing service costs, complicated systems, increased emission systems and advances made in gas have swung things back. It’s hard to make a financial case against a gas truck. It’s more of a luxury nowadays than anything.

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