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Let me be blunt: Ram hasn’t changed up the drivetrain in its half-ton trucks since 2013. Yup. The big 5th-generation Ram redesign (2019) that upgraded the interior to best-in-class was mostly….that new interior. And this is great news for anyone hunting for an affordable truck with a relatively competitive drivetrain. Personally, I’d choose the lower mileage, fourth-gen Ram. Especially if there’s money to be saved. But here are the pros and cons of each.

Are there downsides of buying an older Ram?

Absolutely. An older (fourth-gen) Ram will need some love. Luckily most issues will likely be minor and cheap to fix. 

a fourth generation Ram 1500 at a gas station
Ram 1500 | Namito Yokota via Unsplash

Some of the most problematic components of Ram trucks are based on age not mileage. These include the leaking fuse box in the engine compartment called the totally integrated power module (TIPM), and the leaking rear window. So if you buy an older Ram, you’ll need to inspect and replace these seals ASAP.

The most common mechanical complaint customers report on both fourth-gen and fifth-gen Ram trucks are a cracked exhaust manifold or broken manifold bolts. Realistically, this problem is based on engine on/off cycles, not mileage. So if you pick up an old Ram—even a low-mileage one—budget to replace the exhaust manifold. If it’s out of warranty, you have a golden opportunity to swap in sturdier aftermarket headers.

If the truck lived out West, look over the paint. Early 21st century Chryslers suffered a lot of fading and peeling which will be expensive to fix. If it lived up North, inspect it for frame rust. Rear coil spring Rams will likely develop an Achilles heel as that suspension presses against a single spot on the frame.

But, if a low mileage older Ram passes all the above tests, you may be looking at a real bargain.

Are there upsides to buying a fourth-gen Ram?

Fourth-generation Ram 1500 trucks are one of the better deals on the used U.S.A.-built truck market. Hunt down a 3.6-liter V6 or a V8 with an eight-speed automatic, and you get a drivetrain that was advanced for its time and is acceptable by modern standards.

A black Ram 1500 in the snow
Ram 1500 | Vitali Adutskevich via Unsplash

The 2019 (fifth-gen) interior upgrade truly took Ram trucks to the next level. So if you are considering a fourth-gen Ram, spend some time sitting in one to make sure it’s up to snuff. If you like it, rock on. If you’re someone who listens to the FM radio while you drive and hate car computers telling you what to do, this might be the perfect truck for you.

Every half-ton Ram built since 2009 featured rear coil springs. This means they’ll offer a similar smooth ride to the latest Ram. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6/5.7-liter Hemi V8 with the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission was a powertrain so good that Ram still offers it in 2023. A mild-hybrid system has improved its MPG slightly, but its legendary reliability peaked a decade ago.

Fourth-gen Vs. fifth-gen: A matter of preference

A white Ram truck parked with a horse trailer and horses
Ram truck | Sean Quillen via Unsplash

Both Ford and General Motors have made major changes to their pickup truck drivetrains in recent years. But Ram Trucks has stayed relatively consistent. It has optimized its Hemi/eight-speed powertrain to the point that this truck matches the latest Tundra’s advanced, turbocharged V6’s mpg in every single segment. There’s something to be said for the basics done well.

So should you buy a high-mileage five-year-old or a low-mileage 10-year-old Ram? The answer may be a matter of preference. Even the newer Ram has a relatively old-fashioned drivetrain. And both the fourth and fifth-gen Ram can last 200k miles. So the question is: Do you like the no-frills old Ram or slick new truck better? 

Next, see a fifth-gen Ram running strong after 200k miles or see the differences between the fourth-generation and fifth-generation Ram in the video below: