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


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


  • 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 photos by Mark Williams


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@nlp--Agree most people do not make rational financial decisions. Even most of us that believe we make rational financial decisions when many times we don't. We do rationalize our decisions whether they are rational or not. I agree for most of us a diesel is not a rational or the best choice. I am glad to have the freedom to choose if I want a diesel or not.

So in conclusion:

A. Most of us are irrational
B. Most of us are irrational, even if we think that we are rational
C. Most of us trick ourselves into thinking our irrational ideas are really rational, but they are not

So, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to witness it did the tree actually fall? The tree in fact did not fall but many people thought it did, and some even convinced themselves that it did.

For next week's class, please come prepared for a lively discussion of Schrödinger's cat.

The "Cat" is a kind of mental experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by an Austrian physicist named Schrödinger. Jeff S will really enjoy it because it's a way of looking at reality in two separate states, each exactly the opposite.

In the meantime buy whatever kind of truck engine you like.

Ive always been happy with gasoline engines and never had any problems with any Chevys V8..
And Even with my TC on the back,still gets 25mpg on the highway..

See absolutely no reason to buy diesel..

Now IF GM made hybrid electric like Workhorse they might get my attention..
My next truck will be Tesla

@Jeff S

GM and VW have certainly hurt the diesel engine in the US, both in the past and in the present respectively, but who would have wanted diesel to take off and become more popular in the 80s and 90s? They were SO DIRTY back then that smog would have been far worse, and the relative carcinogenic nature of gas versus diesel is also better known now. We'd probably have an even larger cancer epidemic than we have now if diesel had gotten popular in the US. And with the efficiency and power gains on the gas side, as well as more hybrid/battery tech, diesel is increasingly being dropped in cars and reserved for industrial use.


You watch too much cable TV news. Cancer due to environmental factors (such as air pollution) is a minor cause of mortality in the west. Compared to preventable causes of death like Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity, it's nill. The majority of cancers result from your genetics. Ever wonder why some people smoke Camels their whole life and never get sick? Genes.

Re: Diesel

Air pollution is a minor concern in most parts of the US. Los Angeles? Yes. Wyoming? No.

If you want to get excited about environmental threats look no further than your water supply. Water pollution is by far the bigger issue. You can live a long life breathing lousy air, but you will not live till next week drinking bad water.

Whether or not people choose diesels (or not) has a minimal effect on our living conditions in all but a very few parts of the country.

There is a great deal of misinformation on TV news. Try to limit your daily intake to about five minutes of it.

I bought my Cummins Ram 2500 Laramie Megacab 4x4 because I could afford it, not to save money. If I was worried about money I’d have bought a Prius.

Jeff S; "GM cut corners".

Using a gas engine block to convert into a oil burner is like cutting figure 8's on the tarmac!
Just asking for trouble.

It was like a failed experiment. That shouldn't have reflected on real diesels, but it did to the casual observer.

@Jeff @Stevador

I recall that problem with those engines was related to fuel system hardware and less to engine blocks. Diesel injection pumps to be exact. Cadillac had similar issues.

Overall GM's issues in the late 70s were failures of execution, or put another way, good ideas badly brought to life. Small companies do that all the time, but when you're a multi-billion dollar operation---and you screw up---a lot more people will notice.

"Now new diesels need to have the emissions controls removed or they won't last nearly as long as they should."

I always find these types of comments bizarre. People say this and never provide any data to back it up. Show us the nationwide data documenting that emissions controls need to be removed or the truck won't last as long and show us where you got that data. As usual they never do provide that data.

Diesel used to be a byproduct of the gasoline refining process. Once engineers figured out how to refine more gasoline out of crude, diesel now had to be refined rather then a left over product, so supply went down and the cost of diesel went up. Now, it is actually more expensive to take the sulfur out of diesel than to refine gasoline - that's what a Chevron engineer told me. The Peoples Republic of California jacked up the diesel tax, so its about 80 cents more than gas. I just bought a gas 4.8 L Chevy Silverado and it compares economically to a Ram 1500 Ecodiesel without paying $4000 extra for the diesel. Some other points to consider. You don't have to buy DEF. Also, diesel emission control systems are much more complex on a Diesel motor than a gas motor which could significantly increase maintenance costs down the road. I have a 2015 VW Golf Sportwagen. I bought it after I turned in my 2015 VW Golf hatchback. I couldn't find a gas motor with the same performance. Mazda 3 and Honda came close, but they were too small inside for my needs.

@Jimmy Boy

One more thing.

You can go to any wrecking yard and buy a half dozen 4.8 vortec engines (to replace your current one) for what you'd pay to lightly overhaul the RAM's small diesel engine.

The 4.8 vortecs are GM's best kept secret. No EPA nannies, no variable displacement mechanism, no VVT.

Simple, durable and inexpensive. It kills me to hear old guys complain about their Vortec motors. "after it hit 100,000 miles the damn thing started tappin' been tappin' ever since. When it got to 400,000 miles it started usin' some oil." I'm never buying another g-ddamn chevy again."

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