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It seems like just the other day that a six-speed automatic transmission was the premium pickup truck option. But the times, they are a changing. The 10-speed automatic is becoming the standard in the half-ton truck segment. With an MSRP of $34,585, the Ford F-150 XL is the cheapest truck with a 10-speed automatic. But budget-minded buyers may still choose a different option.

The Ford F-150 XL is the cheapest 10-speed pickup truck

The 2023 Ford F-150 in a grassy field
2023 Ford F-150 | Ford

As recently as 2022, you could still get a Ford F-150 for under $30k. But production problems such as the global supply chain shortage forced Ford to jack up the total for its F-150 XL. Halfway through 2023, the entry-level F-Series’ MSRP is $34,585.

This is a far cry from last year’s $29,990. But it is still one of the better deals in the segment. For $34k, you get a current-generation F-150 with a modern powertrain (a naturally-aspirated V6 and that 10-speed automatic transmission). It comes with Ford’s latest driver aids, such as automatic emergency braking. The entry-level F-150 also comes with cruise control and power windows, which you had to pay extra for until 2022.

Ford will build you an F-150 with a vast array of engines: From the 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 to the hybrid “PowerBoost” drivetrain with its 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. But every F-150 powerplant comes with the same 10-speed automatic transmission.

Which half-ton trucks have a 10-speed transmission?

Blue 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 | Chevrolet

Every 2023 Ford F-150, every Toyota Tundra, some Chevrolet Silverados, and some GMC Sierras come with a 10-speed automatic transmission. No Ram or Nissan pickup has a 10-speed automatic transmission, but some of the fans of these trucks prefer them this way.

Ford and General Motors pioneered the 10-speed truck when they co-developed an all-new automatic transmission. Ford branded this transmission as the 10R80 and installs it in every new F-150. General Motors calls it the “Hydra-Matic 10L80.” GM installs this 10-speed in virtually every 2023 GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado 1500. But if you opt for the entry-level 2.7-liter turbocharged I4, you must also settle for the older eight-speed automatic. The Ford and GM 10-speeds are almost mechanically identical, but the two automakers write unique software to control their shift points.

When Toyota redesigned its 2022 Tundra for the truck’s third generation, it stayed with its usual transmission supplier: Aisin. But the automaker asked Aisin to upgrade from the old six-speed automatic to a new 10-speed unit. Every 2022-present Tundra has some version of the new turbocharged V6 and 10-speed automatic powertrain.

Is a 10-speed pickup truck transmission worth it?

Ram Heavy Duty 6.7-liter I-6 Cummins Diesel engine
Ram Heavy Duty 6.7-liter I-6 Cummins Diesel engine and six-speed transmission | Cummins

A transmission with more gears allows a pickup truck’s motor to stay in its most efficient power band. It makes for a smoother drive and better fuel efficiency. So more gears are always better, right? In real-world use, the 10-speed transmission may be a bit overrated.

Imagine accelerating to 60 mph in a pickup truck with a manual transmission. How many shifts do you truly have time to perform? There’s a reason many purpose-built drag racers have two gears.

An automatic transmission can shift much faster than you or I. But it still has limits. So you may not be surprised to hear that even eight-speeds don’t use every gear. For example, the old ZF-built eight-speed automatics Ram still installs in all its half-ton 1500s have one gear only uses during acceleration and another just for deceleration: in essence, it is just a seven-speed.

So why do Ford, Chevy, and Toyota need a 10-speed automatic? In the case of the 10L80/10R80 in a new F-150 or Silverado, three of the 10 gears are overdrives. One of those gears is engineered for more efficiency in tow/haul mode than the old eight-speed could offer. Those trucks will never shift up through all 10 gears while accelerating.

Is an eight-speed automatic truck transmission bad?

What’s the downside of an old eight-speed automatic? In the case of the Ram 1500, there doesn’t seem to be one. With the 5.7-liter V8 and eight-speed, the Ram gets identical fuel mileage to the Toyota Tundra with its new turbocharged V6 and 10-speed. According to the EPA’s, that includes 2WD and 4WD models in the city and on the highway. The Ram’s mpg is even better in some towing situations.

Moreover, the old ZF eight-speed has proven reliable. You might even consider it the most reliable part of the fifth-gen Ram 1500. We can only hope the new 10-speed transmissions prove as inexpensive to run long term.

Next, read about one owner who put 200,000 miles on his fifth-gen Ram, without even changing the transmission fluid. Or learn more about 10-speed transmissions in the video below: