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The question, “do half-ton trucks have better reliability than heavy-duty versions,” is a slippery slope. So we’ll try to answer it, but will start by saying “it depends.” So many factors enter into what makes a truck a truck that you must first consider what you’ll be doing with it. 

What are the reliability tradeoffs between diesel and gas engines?

2021 Chevrolet Silverado
2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD | GM

Will it be for hauling a trailer or boat on a regular basis? Are you looking for something to haul both your family and weekend payloads? Because in some cases, you’ll require a diesel engine, which adds a certain complexity to your purchase. But the more complex, the more there is to go wrong. 

The great thing about newer light-duty and heavy-duty pickup trucks is that they can do plenty of hauling, and can do it without beating you up. Ride quality, sound insulation, creature comforts, and safety/driver-assist technology make them almost car-like. But a half-ton truck that rides better and has more infotainment screens can get beat up quickly when regularly hauling heavy loads. 

Is stronger better?

Ford F-250
2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty | Ford

That’s why heavy-duty trucks exist. They have stronger frames, axles, and more. So they can take a beating from hauling heavy loads on a regular basis. They’re going to be more reliable because they’re just made to take that extra beating. 

But the downside to the heavy-dutiness is when there are no loads. While better than in the past, they ride harsher. They also tend to use more fuel since, after all, they’re using more power hauling their heavier self or heavy loads. And when something does break, components are more expensive to fix and/or replace. 

So this is why we say “it depends.” A gas engine for regular hauling won’t hold up as long as a diesel. But a diesel in a half-ton is a personal preference, but it comes with added maintenance and costs. So it’s a mix-and-match game of preference, hauling duties, and expense. 

Do these recalls indicate truck reliability?

2021 Ram
2021 Ram 1500 | Stellantis

Assessing NHTSA recalls over the past three years for gas versus diesel engines, it’s a mixed bag. The winner is the Chevrolet Silverado, with no recalls for 2500 and 3500 trucks, and only one in 2020 for fuel pump issues. The Ram 2500 shows a recall for transmissions three years running, with an ECM issue last year, and fuel pump problems in 2020. For the Ram 1500, for the past three years, there has been a fuel pump recall each year. 

Ford’s F-250 had a transmission recall in 2020, as did the F-150. An automatic transmission recall was also issued for the F-150 in 2021. And in 2021, the F-250 had a recall for fuel filter leak issues for diesel engines. In general, problems related to engines and transmissions happen in the first three years, and then once the mileage goes past 100,000 to 150,000 miles. 

What do consumer sites say about truck reliability?

Ford F-150
2022 Ford F-150 | Ford

Reliability ratings from consumer sites like Consumer Reports and JD Power favor heavy-duty trucks over half-ton pickups. But again, reliability is only a certain slice of the overall pie. In the end, putting together a checklist of your wants, needs, and questions is the first step. 

Then, head out to your local dealer to see the combined whole of what to check off on your list. The seat of your pants, gut feeling, and how much you want to pay will hopefully lead you to a good decision. 


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