2019 Ram 2500 Tradesman: A Better Basic

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Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

By Aaron Bragman

Ram showed us its latest 2500/3500 heavy-duty trucks at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, then had us drive the new models earlier this year. But one trim level had been missing from the public eye: the Tradesman trim, the work truck model that will likely form the basis for many fleet and commercial purchases, as well as anyone looking to get into a Ram HD truck for as little coin as possible.

Related: More Work Truck Show Coverage

Ram showed off the new Tradesman HD at The Work Truck Show 2019 in Indianapolis, an industry-only trade show aimed primarily at commercial and fleet businesses, but also increasingly used for new pickup news. The Tradesman model made its show debut here.

The basic Ram 1500 won our Best Pickup Truck of 2019 award, set apart from its competition by a knockout interior. The HD trucks continue that tradition, but the differences between the Ram and its competitors' interiors is less at the bottom end of the market where the Tradesman lives. Ram ups its game with its Limited and Laramie Longhorn trim interiors, but when you go down-market, absent that sumptuous leather and open-pore wood trim, what are we left with? We briefly drove the latest Tradesman regular cab at the truck's launch earlier this year and it felt quite strong, but the Tradesman HD at The Work Truck Show gave us another opportunity to find out.

We felt a little cheated by the Tradesman HD shown at the show. This was not the super-basic, crank-windowed, vinyl-floored entry-level model that we'd hoped would be here. Instead, we found a very comfortable HD crew-cab pickup with thick cloth seats, carpets, solid materials and quality assembly.

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The plastic quality is comparable to the HD interiors on the Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 and Ford Super Duty F-250/350 — no better, no worse. The design of the interior is equally user-friendly across competitors, but I'd still give the Ram the nod for seat comfort over the oddly short chairs in the Super Duty or the narrower-feeling thrones in the Silverado (we haven't been in a new GMC Sierra 2500/3500 yet, but it's a safe bet that it isn't any different from the Chevy inside). You can still get a Ram Tradesman HD with crank windows and manually locking doors, too, a true base model like you'd see in any number of municipalities' fleets hauling everything from landscaping equipment for public parks to barricades for parades.

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The multimedia system is still basic, however, despite the power windows and locks and leather-wrapped steering wheel on the display model I sat in. The transfer case is still a manually activated lever, too — not the automatic version in most other Ram models — so there are still some nods to the basic work truck nature of this trim level even when optioned up a bit. As soon as we get some seat time in one and can put it to work, we'll let you know how well it holds up for the money.

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Comments

Basic is good.

Now make it so basic that it won't break down.

I really don't understand why there is no auto company that
does not offer a basic truck that is so simple that it can't break down. A modern auto company could do this easily. It would not have all the features, but it would work and be so much less expensive and a big headache.

I am just surprised that they would offer any truck or any car with crank windows and manual locks when it is just as cheap to put power windows and locks on a new vehicle. Not complaining but with the assembly process and the massive amounts of parts that are bought by the auto manufacturers the savings would be in favor of standardizing power windows and locks. It is something when 20 or more years ago what was considered a well optioned vehicle would now be considered below base. I was happy that my first vehicle had cold air, an AM radio, power steering, power brakes, and an automatic transmission and back then that was considered a well optioned vehicle.

What's not to like?

My windows are almost never down. Back when only rich folks had A/C, in everybody else's cars and trucks the windows were up and down a lot, especially if chili was on the menu!!!

Crank windows are fine. Plastic seat covers are not unless you can find those folding woven plastic seat protectors to keep your britches off that hot vinyl in the summertime.

Hats off to Ram for reminding us about how pickups used to be.

A smaller company could easily steel sales by making a very simple truck with few features and still have a very good profit margin.

and still have a very good profit margin.
Posted by: Roy | Mar 6, 2019

Sorry Roy, but I used to believe that too. Until I worked for a while in the auto industry. The margins are paper-thin on work trucks. All the greasy parts on cars and trucks are the same (or nearly the same) as you have on the cheap trucks, but the expensive options are where the profit is.

An all-white F150 with the base engine and trans, base interior, base electronics and trim is very competitive and the companies like Nissan and Toyota cannot compete with GM, Ford and RAM in that space---it's all because of the scale of operations. Large scale operations can really compete on the basic offerings, but only if they can make their customers commit to specific transactions and prices.

Now if Toyota, with all of its advantages cannot compete in that space, how in the world can "a small company" do it. Simple. They can't.

profits are thin on base models. The profits at the dealership involves warranty coverage. Extended warranties on tires, paint, etc... so if you want the cheapest don't buy those options either.

@Hemi. Absolutely. The products that the F&I staff is selling can be bought better and cheaper elsewhere. But you'd be surprised how many people say What the Heck, Go Ahead.

I have a 2019 1500 Tradesman with the SXT package. Pretty much identical to this HD model. Hemi and 8 Speed without all the frills. This HD model with the 392 Hemi and Off-Road package would be amazing.

I did not say profits were big on base models, I sid profits margins are high on simple automobiles.

Base models today are very complex machines with high tech and many parts that are not necessary. They could make a heavy duty and simple truck that is far easier to build than a current base model you see on this page.

Agreed, I never roll down my windows. I get all my windows tinted nice and dark. Stays nice and cool inside. Can't stand scratches on windows from rolling them down from dirt collecting on the felt inside in the window sill on outside.


There is profit in a stripped down truck, Look at the Frontier! It's been alive for 15 years and it offers the most basic truck around. Very profitable.

Offer a basic single cab/double cab truck: no power anything.

Ram 3.92 rear with a 5.7
GM 3.42 with a 5.3
Ford 3:55 with a 5.0

All three would be screamers

Nothing wrong with "basic".

The problem is everyone defines it differently.

One persons "basic need" is anothers frivolous exercise in opulence.

I would very much like to see a full range of options going from primitive/Spartan to grotesquely wasteful and all inbetween. With the consumer ultimately choosing what works best for their budget first, needs 2nd and wants 3rd. Having sold cars though I know that wants come first, needs 2nd and budget 3rd. A lot of people didn't get good or any parenting at all with regards to managing money/these priorities and it SHOWS in the consumer. So the lesson here was give them what they want and take their money.

The manufacturer is under constant pressure to provide more... and is for the most part willing to do so for more $$$. It just makes sense. Between market competition, marketing, consumer demand, and federal regulations the needle only keeps moving one way... and ultimately for the manufacturer there is more profit to be hidden/found/built into more expensive vehicles. So it definitely behooves the manufacturer to tie the 1K hole in the roof so many demand to the 1K stereo system that has navigation in it (just like the phone in your pocket already has), to the leather/pleather interior that is more dog/kid/mess friendly to the extra large wheels that look so cool and call for more expensive tires... and o by the way 1.5K for adaptive cruise control because its not mandated by the government (we lobbied for that because it once saved a kid somewhere we heard).

Its the nature of the beast.

@ Clint

Agreed. the pickup truck is becoming the family hauler that the station wagon or minivan used to be.
I don't buy the sunroof ($1500) option bc I hardly ever use it. I never get the navigation ($700) bc my phone does it better. I get the SLT package instead of Denali bc I put aftermarket wheels on anyways. and It's a huge jump in price for that package with just a few more options that I would rarely use.

I also customize my trucks way to much also to ever lease them.

I truly enjoy my 2018 SLT with the 6.2L, but I LOVE my 98 Silverado with the 5.0L.

Just a basic truck that you drive and feel the road beneath you!

Tradesmen/worktrucks are the only models that get my attention when I’m truck shopping. I just don’t have a need/want for the fancy tech and interiors

Remember when "pwr windows, locks, tilt and cruise" was a "loaded" truck? I liked that then. Oh and we paid extra for A/C and automatic trans!

Sorry Roy, but I used to believe that too

Oh cool, now it looks like the Chevy LTZ.


@ Clint

I also agree with your comment, especially where you touch on the fact that its the person buying the truck that decides how expensive they want the truck to be.

I always laugh when i hear or read of some guy whining that trucks today have gotten so "expensive" and then to make a point provides some bloated MSRP figure for a fully loaded luxury truck.... LOL When in reality ALL brands offer nice middle trim trucks at affordable prices (actual out the door) and then there are really inexpensive lower trim/work trucks that are in my opinion are a bargain when you consider how far in capability even those trucks have come along.

Just ignorant people i guess who figure that a fully loaded (fill in the brand) CC 4WD leather/NAV/sunroof equipped top trim truck should still cost what a single cab 2wd truck with A/C did back in the 80's....

"some guy whining that trucks today have gotten so "expensive" and then to make a point provides some bloated MSRP figure for a fully loaded luxury truck.... LOL"

Every Limited H.O. that has been reviewed has been right at $75K and that is how the dealerships are going to be ordering them.

Please understand the difference, your getting as bad a Frank.

And yes, trucks are getting "expensive", heck, way out of hand, in the upper trim models.

My 98 was just over $16K out the door. The similarly price truck would be around $32K out the door today. That's double in 20 years.

I bet your salary hasn't doubled in 20 years.


@tnt

Whoa!! Did the shoe fit you without you even trying it?? LMFAO_!!

I wasnt directing anything at you but i can see where you thought i was. i'm gonna assume you read my entire comment and that you know enough about trucks to be able to see the point i was making is that when someone makes the case for trucks being so expensive they always compare today's top of line trucks with what was top of the line 20 30 40 years ago and it really is not comparable. That same HO Limited you brought up for example (starts 68.9k), tell me what truck from 20 years ago even came close to being in the same league?

Yes the top-line trucks are getting ridiculously pricey, but who forces people truck shopping to choose those ridiculously equipped trucks? Top trim trucks that "back in the day" you couldn't buy at any price because they didn't exist.

Sure your 98' might have set you back only 16k back then but how much is 16k back in 1998 when converted to 2019 dollars? And how much more advanced is the 2019 version of your 1998??

@ Fullsize

Hold up there fella, I was just pointing out a fact.

You can make your Limited truck on Ford's website all you want, but that's not how the dealerships are going to order it. They will do it like the magazine companies do.

And $16k in 1998 comes out to $24,920.82 to be exact, so about $10K more for a similarly equipped truck. That's a chunk of change.

What are you getting. Well, lets see, more electronics/gadgets that will go out and cost you money to replace. That's about it.

Yes, I will agree with you and Clint about people not understanding money. No one knows how to save.

The best thing I did while in college was work at a credit card business. I called people who were months late on payments on cards. REALLY opened my eyes on financing and spending money that people don't have. And how foolishly they spend it.

"What's not to like?"
-papjim

Nothing if you want a truck designed during the end of the Bush administration.


@tnt

"Hold up there fella, I was just pointing out a fact.
You can make your Limited truck on Ford's website all you want, but that's not how the dealerships are going to order it. They will do it like the magazine companies do.
Posted by: TNTGMC | Mar 7, 2019 10:29:45 AM"

A fact?? So by that logic then all half-ton trucks at any Chevy or GMC dealer are equipped with 6.2L V8's then right?? I mean being that all the magazine companies that do comparison tests almost always show a 6.2L truck.

24k in today's money sounds about right, so then the leaps and bounds in advancemnets and better capabilty over your 1998 should not cost any more then?? You say 32k is what you would have to spend huh? Well i wonder if you or any truck shopper would choose your 1998 or this 2019 version for 32k???

https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/759447510/overview/

Believing the govt inflation data is like believing in the tooth fairy. The truth is the same truck cost twice as much today as 20 years ago. That is the real number.

@ Fullsize

You are missing the point by a mile. I stated that a Limited Ford truck will run you around $75k, and it will with the options, which is what the magazine companies are reviewing.

You argued with me about MSRP. The TRUTH is the price is going to be at the $75K at a dealership.

And also I can get a GM 6.2L in a SLT or LTZ GM truck for $30k less than you can go to Ford and get a HO Limited. That's a fact. I did it. That's all I was pointing out.

Second, that's a sweet looking Trailboss for $32K.

And you still haven't answered my question:

I bet your salary hasn't doubled in 20 years has it?

Trucks are out of control, and its the consumers who have pushed it out of control, along with senseless finance companies letting people take loans out for 8 to 10 years.

Case in Point:
I bought my boat 3 years ago and took out a loan for 5 years. That's the max I wanted to pay out on.
There are guys up at my lake that have taken 20 years out on a boat loan?? WTF!!! People are crazy...don't understand financing, and how much interest they paying.
All they see is the monthly payment.

A simple and powerful and reliable straight 6 engine and a simple transmission that are built to be easy to work on and last 500 k is not expensive to make.

A simple i-beam chasis is not expensive to make.

A cab is not expensive to make.

It is all the ultra pampering (the extra 10 percent of unnecessary equipment and options) that make things uber expensive, and unreliable and a huge hastle.

Mass produce it, and they will come.

@tnt

"You are missing the point by a mile. I stated that a Limited Ford truck will run you around $75k, and it will with the options, which is what the magazine companies are reviewing.

You argued with me about MSRP. The TRUTH is the price is going to be at the $75K at a dealership.

I argued with you about the Limited?? You brought it up, all i did was merely call BS_ (after YOU brought up the Limited) on your 75K MSRP nonsense. Especially when you never refer to your trucks MSRP but rather the negotiated price.

Now tell me if i am wrong but i see lots of Limited's selling for what you called "a good chunck of change" under the 75k you keep claiming.....

https://www.cars.com/for-sale/searchresults.action/?mdId=21095&mkId=20015&page=1&perPage=50&prMx=80000&rd=99999&searchSource=GN_REFINEMENT&showMore=false&sort=price-lowest&stkTypId=28880&trId=24383&yrId=36362520&zc=30144


Salaries have more then doubled in some professions, as for me personally yes i make at least twice what i did 20 years ago, as a disclaimer its more a product of changing careers and good opportunities presenting themselves. I do recognize that generally speaking salaries have not doubled but on the other hand trucks have not remained the same for the expectation to be that they should cost the same.

@ full size

Wow, I am truly shocked that they are already price cutting those limited's so much. Good find.

So cheapest was $59k. That's still $15k more than a fully loaded SLT or LTZ with a 6.2L.

My question: is nobody buying the Limited trucks??

Second, I want to buy my wife the new Blazer. It's gotten solid reviews, I love the exterior styling, and the 3.6L V6 in it is superb....but it's not worth the $50k price tag their asking for the RS model. I'm hoping they price cut it like they do with their trucks??

I understand the changing jobs...and getting more

I'm just saying for many hard working Americans who are at some job for past 20years. They're salaries haven't doubled. A shame but the truth.

As for trucks not staying the same: agreed, but alot of the unnecessary things in trucks have driven the costs up.

Like I said earlier.
Ram 3.92 rear with a 5.7
GM 3.42 with a 5.3
Ford 3:55 with a 5.0

All single cab or double cabs....they will sell in bunches

A simple i-beam chasis is not expensive to make. A cab is not expensive to make.
It is all the ultra pampering (the extra 10 percent of unnecessary equipment and options) that make things uber expensive, and unreliable and a huge hastle. Mass produce it, and they will come.
Posted by: Roy | Mar 7, 2019

@Roy...they already do. It's called a Mahindra

I bought a 2016 Express crew cab 4x4 with the hemi, towing package and anti-slip axle for 27k in sept of 2016. If you want a simple truck reasonably priced you can find them at the right time.
It's stripped but I really don't miss anything that isn't there and I actually prefer the all vinyl interior with two boys and labradors.


@tnt

I really do get that trucks CAN cost a small fortune nowadays but its more of a choice by the buyer, in reality the people (not referring to you) who gripe at "expensive trucks" should really be saying: "These days IF YOU WANT TO you can option out a truck to be really expensive"

Its not mandatory to buy a Limited, Denali or LongHorn but just like the guys at the lake you go to: they chose to get more than they should.


I'm sure those Blazers will be heavily discounted down the line at some dealers, besides like i have shown here before, the MSRP means nothing if you do your homework.

I do recognize that generally speaking salaries have not doubled but on the other hand trucks have not remained the same for the expectation to be that they should cost the same.
Posted by: FullSize_only | Mar 7, 2019

Please don't forget that the US Greenback has grown some real muscles since 2013. Prior to that your dollar wasn't buying much.

Today gasoline and other commodities have stayed in a comfortable price range, so if you've still seen a big increase in salary, you're doing very well Mr Fullsize.

There are profits on work trucks but the profits are very thin. Start adding the extras and that is where the profits grow. It is nice to see Ram offering a work truck. My handyman has had a hard time finding a base work truck and the 2 that he has bought in the past he had to travel long distances to get them. He probably could have ordered one except he needed them now. He had a 2004 F-250 Powerstroke crew cab with roll down windows and a 5 speed manual for 14 years with a couple of hundred thousand miles that he literally patched together and he replaced it with a 2018 F-250 regular cab 4x4 with a gas engine last year. He said he liked the crew cab and the diesel but he was planning on retiring in a few years and need a new truck but did want to spend the money for another one. He wanted a manual but those are no longer available but he did get a vinyl seat but he could find crank windows.

typo handyman didn't want to spend the money on another crew cab. A good handyman--not cheap but good and he has more business than he can handle.

@TNTGMC--"I'm just saying for many hard working Americans who are at some job for past 20 years. They're salaries haven't doubled. A shame but the truth."

Agree but the vehicles today run a lot longer. One lady at work husband details trade-ins for the larger dealerships in Cincinnati at Kings Auto Mall. She told me his business is down despite the booming new vehicle sales because people are not trading in their old vehicles. He says many of the buyers are keeping their old vehicles for their kids and family members. I know many with families that hand down their old vehicles to kids when they buy a new vehicle. Many times the trade in value is so low especially if the vehicle has high mileage.



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