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Talking about the best semi-truck brands brings the scene from the movie, Cars to life. The scene is when Lightning McQueen first gets lost, and he’s looking for Mack among the other semis. He runs into a truck that says, “I ain’t no Mack, I’m a Peterbilt.” Most of us aren’t familiar with the best semi-truck brands because we buy our vehicles from names like Toyota, Chevy, Ford, and Honda. That said, here are five of the top brands of semis you’ll probably see next time you drive down the highway.

Which semi-truck is best? The debate goes to the big rigs and away from the pickups

A Semi-Truck on the Road at Dawn
A Semi-Truck on the Road at Dawn | Shutterstock

We’re intimately familiar with the Chevy vs. Ford conversation and know that many pickup truck owners have a serious affinity for the brand they drive. Maybe it will surprise you or it won’t, but some truckers also have similar feelings for their semis. They certainly should since these trucks are their homes away from home out on the open road, often for weeks at a time.

Freightliner is the most popular of the semi-truck brands

Blue Freightliner Semi-Truck on the highway
Freightliner Semi-Truck | Freightliner

Drive My Way tells us that Freightliner is the most popular brand and should be among every list of top big rig brands. Many Freightliner trucks have engines that deliver up to 600 horsepower, and these semi-trucks are made to be more aerodynamic than some of the other brands. This allows the Freightliner semis to be more efficient than others, which saves money. Many drivers report the Freightliner Cascadia as being more affordable than other brands while packing in the desired features for living on the road.

You’ll find a classic 18-wheeler look with a Peterbilt semi-truck

Bright Orange Peterbilt Semi-Truck with mountain background
Peterbilt Semi-Truck | Peterbilt

It’s easy to spot a Peterbilt on the road. These semi-trucks have long front ends and feature massive amounts of chrome at the front. PACCAR, the same company that makes the Kenworth trucks, also makes Peterbilt, but much like a Chevy vs. GMC conversation, drivers are loyal to the brand name, not PACCAR. Peterbilt offers many trucks with alternative fuel options and trucks that have aluminum bodies. This results in lighter and more fuel-efficient drives out on the road.

The semi-truck brand that’s made for trucks and by truckers is Kenworth

Red Kenworth Semi-Truck with trailer staged
Kenworth Semi-Truck | Kenworth

Sometimes, the best way to build something is to ask the people that use it what they want. This can be found in the Kenworth brand of semi-trucks. Many experienced drivers have consulted on the designs of these trucks. The input is evident in many models, giving many truckers the right big rig to take out on the open road. Kenworth models, although built by PACCAR, tend to be heavier than the Peterbilt trucks.

Some Volvo semis are used in the United States, but this brand has international appeal

Volvo Semi-Truck driving along a mountain highway
Volvo Semi-Truck | Volvo

Volvo is a name you know for the passenger vehicles offered, but they also make semi-trucks. This isn’t as popular a semi-truck brand in the United States as it is in other countries. Still, several companies use Volvo semis for their trucking operations in America. The Volvo trucks come from the same company that makes Mack trucks, which have been a symbol of semi-truck quality for decades.

International trucks are known for their power and performance

Blue International Semi-Truck driving by a field of corn with a trailer
International Semi-Truck | International

One of the top global semi-truck brands is International. This brand delivers the Lonestar and LT series trucks that are attractive and powerful, giving truckers the right package for their time out on the road. The Lonestar model is typically used for delivering livestock; it might be something in the name that makes this a good marriage.

Now you’re familiar with five of the top semi-truck brands you’ll see out on the highway. Your next driving game can be to name the brands of 18-wheelers and count how many of each brand you pass during your travels.

Next, check out which diesel trucks tow the most weight, or watch this semi-truck video below:


Can It Be Profitable to Own a Semi-Truck? 4 Things to Consider