Chevy Silverado 1500 vs. GMC Sierra 1500: Buy This, Not That

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71
2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 | Chevrolet

We’ve written about it before, but the old school pecking order at General Motors is quickly becoming a thing of the past. A rising tide lifts all boats, and as GM brands are getting more competitive, they’re also moving upmarket. And as they move upmarket, suddenly you have Chevy nipping at the heels of Buick and GMC, while those two are breathing down the neck of Cadillac. Having a portfolio of competitive cars is never a bad thing; most would say it’s the ideal. It just makes things … complicated.

Take GM’s full-size pickups, for instance. For decades (and we’re being broad here), the Chevy has been the Swiss Army knife, while the GMC has been a little more work-oriented, but also offered a more upscale interior if you’re willing to pay for it. As trucks have gotten more civilized across the board however, the daylight between the two has shrunk — or so it may seem.

2016 GMC Sierra 1500
2016 GMC Sierra 1500 | GMC

Both the Chevy Silverado and GMC saw their last major redesign in 2014, and got a substantial facelift for 2016. Big changes are on the way for 2018, but until then, they’re holding firm as the second and 18th best-selling vehicles in America, respectively. The General has no problem selling pickups; in fact, if you combine all of Chevy and GMC’s truck sales, they’re right behind the mighty Ford F-150. But what do you do if you’re a GM family, but don’t know whether to go to with the Bowtie brand or the truckmaker? That’s what we’ll try to parse in this latest installment of Buy This, Not That.

Tale of the tape:

2017 Chevrolet Silverado
2017 Chevrolet Silverado | Chevrolet

With the Silverado and Sierra, it’s easier to get the similarities out of the way first. Both trucks are built on the K2XX platform in the same plants. Both trucks have the standard 4.3 liter EcoTec V6, which is good for 285 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, and both can tow up to 12,000 pounds. And thanks to the 2016 refresh, both trucks have new front ends with a healthy amount of LED running lights.

And as the similarities stack up, the differences become smaller and even more trivial. Yes, the Sierra carries about a $1,000 premium over the base Chevy, but what you get is a crisper front fascia, and a little bit more chrome. In higher trim levels, the GMC’s interior starts to pull away from the Chevy, but at that point, you’ve moved into the mid-$50K Denali range, and any way you slice it, that’s a lot for a pickup.

The verdict:

2017 GMC Sierra SLT
2017 GMC Sierra SLT | GMC

The only time you really see a lot of daylight between the Sierra and Silverado is at the top end of the model ranges. The Silverado tops out in the mid-$50K range, while a loaded Sierra can land just shy of the $70K mark. But for the vast majority of buyers, the difference between GM’s full-size trucks comes down to aesthetics and preference. We happen to like GMC’s cleaner front end and taillights better, but Chevy fans clearly love the Silverado’s new look enough to make it the second-best selling vehicle in America. At the end of the day, two trucks built with the same parts on the same assembly lines are pretty similar, and that’s a good thing. It allows GM to crank out as many of them as possible in their constant pursuit of the Ford F-150.

And that’s also a good thing for Chevy and GMC guys too. Because as long as there are a few slight but key differences between the trucks, there will always be a debate about which is better. And as long as there are enthusiasts with opinions, the two will each continue to do more with the same ingredients.