Do Diesel Pickups Make Financial Sense?

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Automotive research firm Vincentric has released its latest study, this time focused on whether a diesel engine for vehicles makes monetary sense.

Of the 419 models available in the U.S. with a diesel engine option, Vincentric found just 76 had a lower cost of ownership than their gasoline counterparts. Vincentric's statistical analysis assumed the vehicle was owned for five years and was driven 15,000 miles annually. It then used eight cost factors — depreciation, taxes and fees, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, opportunity cost and repairs — to measure total cost of ownership.

The study divided 2018 diesel vehicles into four categories: passenger cars (23 diesels), SUVs/crossovers (22), pickup trucks (324) and vans (50). Of these four categories, vans — compact, full-size, passenger and cargo — equipped with diesel engines stood out in the study as strong values. Buying the diesel engine made financial sense in 49 of the 50 models. As you might expect, these evaluations are dependent on the cost of the diesel engines along with maintenance costs over five years. According to Vincentric, diesel van engines cost an extra $1,700 compared to gas options, and they cost an extra $540 annually in maintenance fees over gasoline engines.

Before we get to how pickups performed in this study, here are the top three performers in the non-pickup categories.

Passenger Cars

  • Jaguar XE 20d R-Sport
  • BMW 328i xDrive
  • Jaguar XF 20d R-Sport

SUVs/Crossovers

  • BMW X5 XDrive35d
  • Land Rover Discover SE
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport SE

Vans

  • Chevrolet Express G3500 cargo short wheelbase
  • GMC Savana 3500 cargo SWB
  • GMC Savana G3500 wagon SWB

As to pickups, not a single truck met the study criteria for being cost effective when equipped with a diesel engine. Today's high fuel costs combined with price premiums for diesel engines and heavy-duty transmission options meant Vincentric did not find a diesel pickup configuration that had a lower total cost of ownership than the gas version. However, we do have Vincentric's list of the top 10 pickups that almost make monetary sense as diesels when compared to their gas counterparts. We should note that there several averages built into a study like this and if diesel fuel prices drop, gasoline prices rise or diesel engine prices come down, the list could be dramatically different.

We also should note that, on average, the cost of diesel fuel across the nation is less than gasoline, so it's the cost of purchasing the diesel engine and the higher maintenance expenses that keep diesel pickups from making monetary sense. If studies like this covered a time-span of 10 or 20 years (meaning 150,000 or 300,000 miles on the odometer), diesel options would far outweigh their gasoline counterparts in terms of savings.

Here are the 10 pickups for which diesel engines come close to matching the costs of gas engines, according to Vincentric.

Pickup: Diesel Cost/Gas Cost

  1. Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn crew cab 4x4 long wheelbase: $66,310/$65,399
  2. Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4: $61,636/$60,465
  3. Ram 3500 SLT Mega Cab 4x4: $60,214/$58,756
  4. Ram 3500 Tradesman crew cab 4x4 SWB: $54,202/$52,741
  5. Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn crew cab 4x4 LWB: $63,858/$62,140
  6. Ram 2500 Laramie crew cab 4x4 SWB: $59,383/$57,638
  7. Nissan Titan XD SV crew cab 4x4: $48,869/$47,060
  8. Ram 2500 SLT crew cab 4x4 LWB: $56,826/$54,858
  9. Ram 2500 Tradesman crew cab 4x4 LWB: $52,921/$50,936
  10. Ford F-350 XLT SuperCab 4x4 LWB single rear wheel: $61,456/$59,447

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

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Comments

Why is it that hybrid, electric, and diesel buyers have to justify their purchase on financial means, but buying a bigger gas guzzling engine and performance package is never questioned? And don’t give that I need to accelerate on the interstate crap.

Can’t a person just want a diesel? Like leather seats? If financial metrics were all that mattered, most of us would be driving canary wagons.

It's been this way for a while. Diesel use to be significantly less but emissions equipment costs, mandated lower particle count diesel, mpg robbing regen cycles, questionable reliability, etc make's one blink. Fear not though.

The latest rage, these new smaller displacement turbo engines are getting EPA attention with reasonably high soot exhaust output so don't be surprised if the EPA requires urea/def filters in the future.

Diesels still have value however. Drama free towing and, in theory, a better resale value.

Think of it like overbuilding the neighborhood.
Diesel's are a long term investment on a short timetable.
The chassis will wear out before the power-plant.

Farmer's can find a second life for them in other equipment and they get a price break on fuel. Ideal investment for them.

Oops, it looks like depreciation was included. Maybe the best study I've seen on the topic minus one glaring issue - 15k miles per year. Of course they needed to grab the sweet spot in the annual mile data but it doesn't favor diesels since diesel pickups tend to be driven more than gas pickups.

The numbers are surprisingly close. Odd there were no GM products listed in the top 10 pickup class.

Of course they are. Key among them is engine longevity, due to its design and construction, and fuel economy. Diesels typically deliver 25 to 35 percent better fuel efficiency over gasoline engines.

“It's been this way for a while. Diesel use to be significantly less but emissions equipment costs, mandated lower particle count diesel, mpg robbing regen cycles, questionable reliability, etc make's one blink. Fear not though.

The latest rage, these new smaller displacement turbo engines are getting EPA attention with reasonably high soot exhaust output so don't be surprised if the EPA requires urea/def filters in the future.”

Lots of guessing in the comment above. Over 10,000, 20,000, etc. miles how much does an engine regen affect the overall mpg? I couldn’t find a study attempting to answer that question. Also, where is it found, not a blog or someone’s comment, that the EPA is recently nvestigating small displacement turbo Diesel engines? Couldn’t find that also. Finally, where are all the recent news articles and studies documenting the questionable reliability of Diesel engines? Your comment Is mostly an opinion.

Diesels typically deliver 25 to 35 percent better fuel efficiency over gasoline engines....Posted by: Connecticut | Aug 12, 2018

Utterly ridiculous statement. Can you present examples of this improved efficiency? Of course.

Is it routine? No.

The bigger issue, which is not addressed, is that certain kinds of work should ONLY be done by diesels. Practically nobody builds gasoline powered semi-tractor trailer rigs anymore. Diesel is the champ in that regard. Nobody builds gasoline powered steamships; again diesel marine engines rule the waves.

Something else not considered in the study is the extra cost that American half ton and 3/4 buyers take on in order to get a diesel pickup.

If I'm dying to get a 6.7 diesel engine, I'm stuck with buying a heavy duty chassis and all of the higher purchase costs and maintenance that goes with HD brakes, tires, steering and the rest. This could change in the future if the big 3 makes it more persuasive to buy diesel.

Their eval methodology is fine for sedans and small SUVs but falls short when discussing pickups.

2001 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD Crewcab 287k I tow a 10k dump trailer. Mostly city driving 14 mpg average. I change the oil and filters every 3-5 k.
What maint costs are they talking about?
One injector issue at 50k covered by warrenty (new injectors)
A $800 tranny issue at 150k and thats all.

hmmm. some one forgot the Colorado/Canyon diesels in the ZR2, combined mileage, 18mpg vs 24mpg

non ZR2, 24mpg vs 30mpg

then you have to considered the better towiing with a diesel, then the cost of latex gloves so ya don;t get diesel fuel on your hands everytimme you put fuel in your vehicle, plus diesel on the bottom of your shoes/boots and the truck stop... it all adds up

What maint costs are they talking about?
Posted by: Blair Elander | Aug 12, 2018

@Blair

Every part of the brakes, steering, chassis and frame of an HD costs more to make and maintain. Stronger, heavier, tougher stuff. It costs more. Call your local dealer and ask them how much they charge to change oil and filter. It's more.

For years I wanted an diesel drinking truck for all my life

For most people a diesel is not a practical choice. For heavy duty trucks used commercially, agriculture, and for those who do a lot of towing and hauling then it is a very good choice. If someone does a lot of driving especially highway driving then a diesel would be an ideal choice. If you don't drive a lot and most of your trips are short then a diesel would be not be a good choice. A diesel needs to run and is best if operated on a daily basis. For farmers a heavy duty diesel can be perfect and as some have stated even if the truck itself wears out the diesel engine can be used for other things.

The assumptions for statistical analysis do not seem realistic, when someone buys a diesel van or diesel equipped truck, they usually intend to use the vehicle for high mileage either it being a service vehicle or a heavy hauling vehicle. You are going to put well over 15,000 miles on it in a year.
The newer diesels even require oil changes at 15,000 miles.

I traded in a large 38gal fuel tank 5.7 V8 Tundra for a 6.7 I6 diesel RAM 3500 with a 32 gal fuel tank. The RAM is almost 2,000 pounds heavier and I actually have gotten 18 to 20 mpg and almost a 600 mile to empty range. At best I could only get 14 to 15 mpg/420 range on the Tundra and bc of the larger fuel tank, the cost to fill up is the same. Diesel this year has been more expensive than gas, but it does not fluctuate in price as often as gas.

Make the study more realistic and compare midsize trucks equipped with diesel power plants.

Chevy equinox diesel... mmm

and as some have stated even if the truck itself wears out the diesel engine can be used for other things...Posted by: Jeff S | Aug 12, 2018

An irrelevant statement, repeated. The same is utterly true for gas engines.

NASCAR is one of the biggest revenue-generating sports on TV and it all started (70 years ago) because thousands of guys with no money and no education, took junk-yard gasoline engines out of rusty old cars and made them into race car engines. It had nothing at all to do with gas versus diesel.

Diesel prices versus gasoline prices is almost entirely about federal/state/local taxes. There's no reason on earth for diesel to cost more than gasoline.

An article like this assumes the buyer has no real functional need for a diesel. For those of us who tow very heavy weights, diesel is the only truly viable alternative. Still, the article has merit in showing the financial aspect of the purchase decision and that's all this article claims to be. For those who don't need the better towing/hauling performance of a diesel but are wondering if it makes sense to go diesel instead of gas, this article has definite value.

I can see somebody getting a diesel engine if they're contractor or if they're pulling me tow behind trailer 5th wheel trailer whatever I can understand that totally you got more torque for overall better performance but if you're using a pickup 3/4 ton on up to go back and forth to work and to occasionally tow a boat or a trailer for your own personal needs then I don't see the need for a diesel motor I was in the same situation when I bought my last pickup it's used it's a Ford it's a 3/4 ton and it's gas I occasionally told my tractor with a bucket in the back o back and forth between my house and where I have my storage building maybe an occasional toe somebody's car if it's broke down and then I use it to pull my boat around from time to time which is only a Jon Boat and I don't see a big difference in the fuel consumption from a gas to a diesel with the exception as I live in an area where I do have some hills that I have to climb in if I'm pulling any sort of a heavy load which would be the tree then yes I do seem to go through a little bit more cast to climb those Hills on the flats it's not that bad fuel mileage is pretty much the same diesel is way more expensive than gas and I don't think it last longer

“then you have to considered the better towiing with a diesel, then the cost of latex gloves so ya don;t get diesel fuel on your hands everytimme you put fuel in your vehicle, plus diesel on the bottom of your shoes/boots and the truck stop... it all adds up”

How can it be that hard to pump diesel into your fuel tank? I use the pump so I don’t get diesel on my hands every time I go to add fuel. Then I wait until I finish pumping before removing the nozzle from my truck. No spilled diesel fuel.
Yes, people spill both gas and diesel occasionally when fueling their vehicles. Look over at the gas pumps and you’ll see fuel stains on the ground at the pump.

They talk bout the cost difference on gas to Diesel engine option being only being 1700.00 ? Try closer to 10,000.00. If your not towing something heavy I see no reason why to own one. I do and only use it for work towing heavy trailer. Cost of maintenance is higher plain n simple

I'm glad somebody finally got around to doing this analysis and getting it out there for public knowledge... I ran diesel trucks for well over 20 years when diesel fuel was half the price of gasoline ... it made sense at that time... once diesel got to be about 75 to 80% of gasoline the equation was over.... and that was well over 10 years ago and yet there still is this myth that diesel trucks are cost-effective... I swear we live in a culture of math retards...lol... now do the same cost analysis with hybrid vehicles and you will find the same thing

I have a new style 2.7 V6 w/2 turbos. Don't know why any one want or need more engine, I've got a 28 ft boat and my pickup pulls it better than my 5.0 V8. With better than almost three times the mileage with no significant drop off in power. I can't believe the HP they can crank out of a 6 banger. They have me convinced!!!

Tie a 10000 pound trailer towels and see what the difference would be

Tie a 10000 pound trailer to mess with the difference would be that's why I drive a diesel

I have co-workers who drive to different oilfield locations for work and they have changed the exhaust systems and the computer program and they're getting almost 25 to 30 miles to gallon out of the big F250s and the Chevy 2500 Duramax
So in this case it makes sense to own diesels.
But, this is America .. Buy what you want and No one show tell you you can't

and as some have stated even if the truck itself wears out the diesel engine can be used for other things...Posted by: Jeff S | Aug 12, 2018

An irrelevant statement, repeated. The same is utterly true for gas engines.

NASCAR is one of the biggest revenue-generating sports on TV and it all started (70 years ago) because thousands of guys with no money and no education, took junk-yard gasoline engines out of rusty old cars and made them into race car engines. It had nothing at all to do with gas versus diesel.

Posted by: papajim | Aug 12, 2018 10:46:36 AM

How rude!

How FAKE!

I currently drive a New Prius, and with anybody who knows anything about a Prius you can't tow anything and you also can't really do very much work on it yourself. I'm trying to downsize my budget and eventually tow a travel trailer a diesel truck make sense. Now I'm not talking new. I'm going with the second gen / third gen Dodge Ram Cummins 2500 or 3500. I'd love to see an article on the money value of a used diesel vehicle versus used gas vehicle. See the good thing about these older trucks is they've already depreciated, they don't have emissions equipment, and you can do I'd say 85% to 90% of the maintenance yourself with moderately simple hand tools. That's not even mentioning the massive aftermarket support for these trucks and forum communities that can bring that number even higher. And it's hard finding more then one or two gasoline trucks of that age running into the half a million+ mile range. Some of the Cummins you do a rebuild yourself for cheaper than a yearly car payment around 200-250k mi you're looking at a million mile truck. Whereas with the gas engines you'll have to rebuild them a lot more often especially if you're towing.

A helpful correction: US average price for highway diesel fuel as of 8/6/18 was $3.223 and average gas price was $2.852. So no, diesel is not cheaper than gasoline, it is significantly more expensive, which contradicts your article.

Diesels are not for me right now, but I understand why many prefer and need them. As for papa jim he gets his thrills out of arguing with others on the interweb. Papa is very bored in retirement and arguing with others is one of the few things he has to look forward to on the weekends along with the weekly bingo game. As I have previously mentioned the new SkyactivX engine from Mazda could be a game changer offering the advantages of a diesel with no spark and better mpgs. Now papa it's a nice day for a walk. Make sure you do one before your next post and make sure you have Ensure with each meal.

In 2002 I bought my Ford F350 crew cab 4-wheel drive Dooley. Been pulling equipment with it its whole life, today it has 968,000 miles.
Transmissions rebuilt twice, rear end rebuilt once and have done fuel system twice, injectors high pressure pump. Still on the road and I will get a million miles out of it

Ok, my last two trucks had right at 480,000 miles on them before I bought another truck. My current chevy is 14 years old, a fuel pump, power steering pump, are the only parts replaced, other then normal replacment parts, brake pads. I believe in the so-called study, cost are high because of unneeded replacement cost.

And now y'all know why I bought a Mazda back in the day...
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

I had my 1997 GMC Dully Diesel 2wd E Cab , Bought it in 2002 for7KSold it Now for 10 K over 150k miles , Diesel Trucks are the way

Ford killed the Diesel's reputation. I had to put three 6.0 engines in my 2004 F-250. The 6.4 was just as bad. Leave it to Ford to take a virtually indestructible product and turn it to crap. Thanks Ford diesel engineers for ruining the diesel reputation.

The FAKE Jeff

@papajim--Did you see a ghost? If I'm not me then who am I?

I don't pull anything but I keep 1000lbs of gear and material in the bed all day. Still pull about 21.5-22.5 mpg city and hwy combined.
2015 Ram Quadcab 3.6 V6 gas/ 85K miles. Love it.

papajim and others,
It's good to be all Stars and Stripes, like most of us.

There is one exception. Your comments make you look like fools.

Tesla pickup is very possible but a Chinese pickup is more possible. Why? Because China is much larger and more powerful than the US.

But, luckily most of us Stars and Strips types are not like you, insecure individuals.

I suppose you are weak and must put others down to hide your lack of confidence in yourself and others', particularly our great nation the USA by bashing China.

Please don't make all of us look stupid like papajim.

I do think diesel will eventually become the fuel of choice for light commercial vehicles in the US for pickups that work.

We have seen the pickup become a car/CUV of late. This will also allow for a niche EV pickup market. These pickups will need to be small.

Who will pickup the bill to make EV pickups cheap enough to buy?

You are correct about the urban pickup driver, who make up by far the largest majority.

The problem I foresee is who will cover the cost of subsidizing the purchase of these vehicles.

The EV will not drop in price for some time. The reason is resources are required to make EV vehicles competitive with fossil fuel vehicles. This research in batteries will cost a lot and someone will have to pay the price.

In the medium term I see diesel or better still compression ignition as the answer.

Long term costs for a well maintained diesel vs a gasser will always be in the diesels favor. Especially when you get up above the 100k mile marker. Now new diesels need to have the emissions controls removed or they won't last nearly as long as they should. The EGR system alone turns your intercooler into an oil sump and lubricates your turbos with the same lovely sludge. Just bought a 2018 GMC Denali 2500 and less than a week later I pulled the egr, deff system and the exhaust from the turbo back. Straight piped it and changed the cams then tuned it just to remove all the emissions controls that ruin new diesels. You'll also end up needing to get an after market fuel filter/water separator or your injectors will gum up. So initial cost for a diesel for those that want them to last a long time is far far higher, but at 300k I'll still be towing just fine unlike the gas engine.

What a joke the last post is.

Gas vs diesel. So 20th century. Get a clue Detroit. The world is going electric and the old men have not noticed.

Does using the mandated dpf and its host of problems depreciate owning and operating diesels? It appears the dpf setup is the diesel version of emissions controls.

When '60's muscle cars fell by the wayside as emissions controls took over, a few decades passed as EFI and catalytic converters evolved for a full return of muscle cars with more hp than anyone imagined. Perhaps diesels are undergoing a similar process?

I don't care how much more it costs. As long as I can afford it I will own a diesel for towing. Diesel pulls easier and is a more relaxing drive. Plain and simple

I will no longer buy a light duty truck equipped with a Diesel engine . As a fleet owner gas engines will provide equal service at a much lower cost per mile .

Papajim would get a diesel if he knew what was good for him.

US GDP is almost double China's

Electric trucks will not prevail until current fuel costs make it so. Considering the recent discoveries of crude and natural gas it ain't likely to happen in our lifetimes.

Goodbye Frau Himmel.

Diesels become very cost efficient when gas owners are buying their third truck and we're just updating our radios. Here's to an engine rebuild and a million mile truck, fellas...cheers.
Cost efficiency is not having a car payment for the last decade.
Worst "study" I have ever seen.

Diesel is dirty. Everything about it is dirty. We buy diesels because it can pull. Torque and horsepower and fuel economy is so much better than a gas engine.

We buy diesels because it can pull. Torque and horsepower and fuel economy is so much better than a gas engine...Posted by: Brian mahaffey | Aug 12, 2018

@Brian

Allen Johnson has a NHRA Pro-Stock Dodge Avenger he'd like to show you.

Gas engine? yes. Torque? Yup. HP? Oh yeah. Diesel? Nope



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