Our Five Favorite Factory Options for Pickups

BS Best Options Lead BWS_4934 II

By Bruce W. Smith

Quite often pickup truck buyers are in such a rush to get into a new truck that they take what's sitting on the dealer's lot instead of special ordering one with the exact options that fit their lifestyle. The truth is that a properly ordered pickup is more likely to provide greater benefits, save you money and potentially increase its resale value.

This is especially true of heavy-duty pickups that will be used for work and recreation.

Here are our favorite five options that provide pickups with better performance and greater utility value:


Locking Differentials

BS Eaton-G80 locker[3] II

Manufacturers offer limited-slip or locking differentials as upgrades both as individual options and or as part of bigger option packages. Either will improve a pickup's functionality, as this Eaton G80 does for GM full-size pickups.

Dollar for dollar, there's not a better box to check off on the options list when buying a new truck than a limited-slip or a locking rear differential.

These traction-enhancing options aren't available on all pickup makes or models. But if the new truck you are purchasing does offer one, get it.

Barney Gwozdz, a tech specialist with Eaton, an axle supplier to automakers, said standard clutch-driven limited-slip (anti-spin) differentials are "your base-level traction-aiding device," providing an additional level of traction beyond the standard "open" differential.

Gwozdz said these types of differentials work well in situations where rear driving tires are on the ground, but one is losing some grip when power is being applied, such as at a slippery boat ramp or driving on wet pavement, loose gravel or sandy roads.

The best factory option, however, is a true mechanically locking differential such as the Eaton G80 or any of the electronic-locking differentials offered by GM, Ford, Ram, Toyota and others.

Lockers, whether mechanically or electrically actuated, apply equal power to both wheels, so even if one tire is off the ground, the tire on the opposite side of the axle can still pull you out of trouble whereas a limited-slip will not be of much help.

Prices vary between truckmakers, but typically a limited-slip will add between $300 and $400 to the MSRP. An electronic-locking differential can tack on another $100 to $150, depending on the make or model.

Those prices are hundreds of dollars less than what it would cost to have one of these traction boosters installed after the truck's purchase, which is a good reason to order a pickup with this option.

Many pickup manufacturers include limited-slip and electric-locking differentials as part of some higher trim-level packages, saving you even more money.


Heavy-Duty Electrical

BS GM HO Alternator[3] II

Spending the extra money for a high-output factory alternator or dual alternators for diesels used for commercial work like this setup from Ram ensures there will always be enough reserve electrical power to handle the job without draining the battery(s).

Stock alternators are designed to handle the electrical load of the vehicle they are matched to with a small percentage of cushion built in.

But when running fog lights, driving lights, emergency lights, charging the recreational vehicle trailer battery or using a winch or snow plow come into play, the stock pickup alternator may not be able to handle the load, leading to battery issues.

That's why heavy-duty pickup manufacturers offer battery and alternator upgrades for V-8 gas and diesel engines.

GM 2500/3500s, for example, come standard with a 150-amp alternator. A 220-amp alternator is available for $150 for both gas and diesel engines, while Duramax models can be equipped with a dual alternator setup (150/200-amp) for $380.

Ford Super Duty buyers get the best alternator upgrade bargain: The 200-amp upgrade option on F-250s/F-350s is just $75. Ram charges $100 for its 220-amp upgrade and offers a dual 220-amp setup on diesels for $395.

These are all bargains considering quality high-output aftermarket alternators cost well north of $250 — and installing dual alternators after purchase requires special bracketry, a wiring harness and labor.

But having a high-output alternator is just half the equation: A higher capacity battery (or batteries) is needed to store the juice. So check that option box as well if it's offered.

Just as with locking differentials, Ford, Ram and GM often offer higher-output alternators and bigger batteries with snow-plow prep and other heavy-duty packages, saving you even more money.


Gooseneck/Fifth-Wheel Prep Package

IMG_2751 IIA

Fifth wheel/gooseneck prep packages are now available for all of the Detroit Three's full-size HD pickup lines, as well as the coming Nissan Titan XD. Getting the subframe, like this one from Ford, and wiring installed at the factory is a far better option than having it done after purchase.

Another HD pickup option worth taking is the fifth-wheel/gooseneck prep package. Although you might not see a need for it at the time of purchase, the option will definitely save you money should there ever be a need to tow a trailer of that type.

Having the subframe hitch assembly and bed already set up from the factory for this type of trailer towing also reaps benefits when reselling or trading in the truck when that time comes.

The typical package price is less than $500 and is now offered by the Detroit Three manufacturers for 2016. (GM added this option to the new HD models this year.)

These packages typically include factory-installed cross-members, the seven-way wiring harness with the plug mounted in the side of the bed on the driver's side for easy hook up, the special subframe to hold the gooseneck trailer ball and an adapter if a fifth-wheel is needed.


Lower Axle Ratio

BS Ring Pinion Dana 80 [1] II

Optional axle ratios are a good factory option for new truck buyers who plan to add taller tires or who will be doing a lot of trailer towing. Fuel economy loss with "lower" gearing is negligible under those situations.

Most pickup buyers don't pay much attention to the axle ratio, figuring the manufacturer knows best and that what comes standard with the truck is the right ratio.

Vehicle manufacturers choose the axle ratio that best suits the needs of getting the best highway fuel economy. That stock ratio doesn't provide the best acceleration and grade-climbing performance from a towing or hauling perspective, or if taller tires, a suspension upgrade or other changes are in the buyer's long-range game plan.

Spending around $100 for the optional lower (numerically higher) axle ratio is far cheaper than spending five to 10 times that amount to have the axle gears changed after the fact — or just living with a truck that doesn't perform as well as you want.

There is a potential (1-2 mpg) loss of fuel economy at highway speeds with the lower axle ratios because the engine rpm will be slightly higher. So that aspect of the option has to be weighed against better overall towing/hauling performance.


Spray-In Bedliner

BS Ram Truck OEM bedliner[2] II

Ordering the factory spray-in bedliner doesn't save any money over post-sale installations. But factory installation guarantees the best possible application and warranty coverage.

Another item that makes sense to add to the options list, both practically and economically, is the factory spray-in bedliner.

A spray-in bedliner offers excellent protection against rust, provides a nonskid surface and helps protect the bed from getting beat up.

Although you will not see much, if any, difference in the price between having it done at the factory or applied after purchase (both cost about $500), the factory version will last longer and be of higher quality.

That's because the factory application is done when the bed is perfectly prepped, and the application is done under the most ideal conditions. The factory spray-in bedliner is also covered under the vehicle's warranty.

A factory spray-in bedliner is an excellent option paired with the gooseneck/fifth-wheel prep package.

Checking off these five options when you buy your new truck will add to its utility and overall performance as well as bring added value when the time comes to pass it on to the next owner.

Manufacturer images





"Getting the subframe, like this one from Ford, and wiring installed at the factory is a far better option than having it done after purchase."

Uh, that's the same picture you used in the Titan XD article. So which is it - Nissan or Ford?

It belongs to Nissan; Ford just copies someone else's option.

Phillip how? Ford has had the gooseneck fifth wheel prep package since 2011, and Nissan is just coming out with this now?

Spray-In Bedliner is probably my favourite out of the options listed here.

Factory brake controller should be at the top of the list. Backup camera also needs to be put on the list. Take off low geared rear end and the spraying liner from the top five in my opinion.

If you're getting a 6.6-6.7L diesel, let the higher gearing (numerically lower). There is enough torque and there are enough gears to take care of any job, you don't want to be sitting on the highway it over 2,000 rpm if you don't need to.

@alex. Total agree. My work 6.7 cummins with 4:88 gears turns 2700 rpm at 75mph and with the low rearend ratios you are always shifting at any little grade as it is so far outside its torque curve to be useful. I had a 6.7 powerstroke that had 3:31 rearend and at 75 mph it was right in it peak torque area and would motor along like nothing with 10k in tow. Can't say the same for my 6.7 cummins with 5 k in tow. 3:55 is about as low as I would want to go with a modern diesel. If it needs a lower gear the transmission will just shift to get the lower gears.

We don't get many of the options you guys have in the US.

I thought all pickups/utes/SUVs come with a plug at the back for hooking up the electrics for a tow package???

One thing that is different is diff ratios. We use trucks instead of pickups for large loads. They seem to be designed better for hauling and work.

As for LSDs and E Lockers. They tend and should be standard on a 4x4. Why would you buy a 4x4 with the minimal traction?

How about a PTO. They would be very useful for a business person ie, construction, agri, mining, etc.

Our options and some of the ones listed above are what we call accessories. The bedliner is an option on most all entry level pickups.

It's funny to see the differences between countries on how the auto manufacturers try and value add.

Like I stated we pretty much get everything you need to off road on a 4x4 pickup, except for the accessories, ie, bull bar, snorkels, drivinglights, etc.

My favorite options. Lockers, sway bar disconnect, winch,Ram box, Cargo camera, Hitch camera, 6.4 Hemi, MOPAR lift, cruise control.

My favorite option will be the 2018 Power Wagon with the major update.

•The Ram 2500/3500 pickup gets its minor refresh in 2016, with its major redesign happening in 2018.
•The chassis cab truck platforms gets a minor update in 2016, with a major redesign in 2018, following the 2500/3500 HD pickup plan.


The ALL NEW 2018 Power Wagon is on my shopping list!

@Big Al totally agree re: PTO a great choice.

@PUTC The aftermarket bedliners I've purchase, both the plastic pop-ins and the sprayon type are just fine. A franchise that specializes in these components will do a good job for you. Mine did.

Regardling the lower gears and the locker, both are key to performance and resale value. Were it not for the dopey EPA requirements, we would still have trucks with the lower gears and heavy duty drivetrains that we has when I was young.

It's getting better because Detroit has figured out hows to make money on it, but for a long time the drivetrains offered, particularly the trannies and rear ends were simply not up to snuff.

My favorite factory option is the ram recall reassurance program. Ram assures you your fiat-ram truck will be recalled at least 15 times each month because of the shoddy quality control and poor engineering. Your ram dealer will have free coffee and donuts waiting for you when you arrive at the dealer to wait 5 hours for them to 'fix' the defects.

I agree david. I only support Toyota. Unlike gm and Chrysler they didn't receive a massive bailout and unlike ford (ford credit was also bailed out) they don't have the far-left UAW assembling the vehicles.

Buy American, buy toyota!

I'll take 6.7 cummins option plus manual please!

@America Bails Out Chrysler

I hate to bust your bubble... but um, Toyota took a LOT of money from the Feds too.

The difference is that Toyota is pathetic years later, whereas Chrysler has stepped up their game. So has GM.

A paragraph from your link

According to the Fed, the commercial paper loans have been paid in full, while some $2 billion remains outstanding on loans for bond investors.

Great, now let's get the manufactures to offer this gear option for HD single wheel diesel trucks. I've wanted a Ram 3500 6.7 with 3.73 for lonnng time

The batteries offered by the factory still leave a lot to be desired. My 2005 diesel came with a pair of factory 750 CCAs - it's no problem to get aftermarket units at a reasonable price which offer notably more capacity. I replaced those factory 750s with 880 CCAs for $115 each (1760 total vs 1500), and you can find AGM 930 CCAs on sale during the year for $175 each.

Hd from ram and ford have pto provision option from the factory. Not sure if gm does.

The problem with E-lockers are the nannies that run them and how they interact with traction/stability control. I disagree when they say the best option is a "truly mechanical" locking diff. Those work best at low speeds. They would be good for higher speeds but traction/stability control systems are programmed to reactivate around 35 mph. The Raptor is the only truck with a feature that allows the diff to stay locked at any speed. I couldn't find any clear information on the PW's diffs.

@HemiV8 - since you are the resident expert on the Power Wagon....... how do the E-lockers and sway bar disconnect features work with traction/stability control?

Or do you just focus upon useless propaganda?

Maybe ad for ford driver a dmax diesel for upgrade ,,,,,:)

I can't complain about my battery in my pickup.

It has been in the pickup since it was manufactured in 2011.

I've notice of late though that it will not make it another year. I'm hoping to see it through our summer (Dec-Feb).

Believe it or not the battery is made in China!

I'm going to find out what brand it is when replacement time comes in a few months or so.

Pretty good list. I would have said 4x4. I wish HDs had a dual rear option. There has to be some way this could work automatically with an automatic. I would love to know the reason it hasn't been done or isn't worth doing. Imagine a modern diesel PU going from 6-8 speeds to having 12-16 because its rear is split.

Spray in liners are the only way to go on a truck these days. I beat the crap out of the one in my Ram and it held up great.

Clint - 4x4 should of rated higher up on the list.
A 2 speed rear would be interesting since it is common in commercial trucks. It might be a benefit to something like a 4x2 F450.

* Lockers... or at least Limited Slip Diff: I fully agree. With the bed empty, it is far too easy to spin a wheel even on relatively dry pavement. You get onto a rough road or gravel, snow and ice and you've got a tail wanting to go anywhere BUT where you want to go.

* Heavy Duty Alternator(s): This really depends on the truck. If it's intended for towing a camper or carrying a plow, then maybe I'd agree. But I don't see it as recommended UNLESS you plan to do such regularly. Any other tow doesn't need that much power.

* Fifth-Wheel/Gooseneck: I understand the potential benefit, but again unless the truck is intended for that purpose from the outset, I really can't see spending the extra few hundred; you certainly won't realize it on the other end unless you sell it to an individual who themselves intends it for that purpose. Wasted money in my opinion otherwise.

* Lower Axle Ratio: Yet again, this assumes foreknowledge of heavy-duty use in hauling/towing. Unless you plan to tow/haul on a regular basis--even if it's just hauling the family camper once a month during the summer--then go for it. Otherwise, that 10% loss in fuel mileage will add up over time.

* Spray-in Bedliner: This one I fully agree with. Even if you never, EVER carry anything in your bed (why do you have a truck under that circumstance?) you can and will have occasions where water will collect, at least for a while, and promote rust/corrosion. If that paint job gets compromised by something you carried, you're guaranteed corrosion developing at that spot. If nothing else, the spray in liner offers better corrosion protection than paint alone. If it also happens to include enough traction to reduce slippage, it's also safer for you and your load. Personally, I question why we ever went with all-metal beds when wood or even today's composite decking material was more forgiving and much easier to repair/replace if damaged. How about an option of a wood-floored bed? Better for load carrying; safer to walk on and much lower risk of rust-through compared to modern beds.

The sprayed in bed liner should be a given in all pickups tubs.

This I do believe would be the best option to not have as an option.

As for diffs. I don't know of one pickup sold in Australia that doesn't have as a minimum a LSD.

Even the Ranger/BT50 Range in 2WD come with diff locks.

I do believe it comes down to the cost of selling the vehicle. Maybe we are prepared to pay that little bit more to have some features as standard on our pickups.

I would like to see AWD pickups, like the VW Amarok. This would probably suit more pickup owners in the US than a true 4x4, due to the climatic conditions and the additional traction they would offer in the winter.

Kind of the point, Al. They're still options for some models here in the US, but the big deal now is the automatic lockers on the rear axle specifically. They're needed simply for safety as it's still to easy to get one wheel spinning even on dry pavement otherwise.

Under "Heavy Duty Electrical", you have a photo illustration of an alternator, with the caption immediately below the photo suggesting that the alternator shown is from a Ram, when in fact, it is a Ford alternator in the photo.

I copied the photo below, along with the caption, and in yet another error of fact, the photo is labeled as a "GM HO Alternator", when it is neither a Ram nor a GM alternator. It is in fact a Ford "T" mount 6G alternator.

To say have a caption that says otherwise undermines the credibility and expertise that readers might otherwise expect to find at Pickup Trucks . com.

{GM HO Alternator[3] II}

Spending the extra money for a high-output factory alternator or dual alternators for diesels used for commercial work like this setup from Ram ensures there will always be enough reserve electrical power to handle the job without draining the battery(s).

Love this list and I find myself repeatedly looking it back up to send to friends and family. As a long-time pickup truck driver, I would add to it the addition of an upgraded battery to the alternator option, as well as a back-up sensor or camera (I've seen too many dented bumpers in my days). And though it is more for the HD trucks, get the 10,000GVWR option as well. Also tick off any sort of bed cargo management solution, because having homemade 2"x6"s in the bed of the truck just looks crappy.

I was currently looking at Ram pick-ups and was surprised at the number of 1500's on the dealer lots that did not have a limited or locking diff, the option costs $435.00.

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