Is a Heavy Duty Truck More Reliable Than a Light Duty Pickup?

The last thing anyone wants is to be stranded by a broken-down vehicle. So what’s the most reliable full-size pickup truck: heavy-duty or light-duty? Consumer Reports found that the heavy-duty components of a heavy-duty truck are less likely to fail completely.

What is the difference between a light-duty truck and a heavy-duty truck?

The lightest fullsize pickup trucks are defined as “light-duty,” “half ton,” or “2a” trucks. These include the Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, Ram 1500 and General Motors’ GMC Sierra 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Heavier trucks (F-250 and up or 2500 and up) earn the title “heavy-duty.”

Black Ford pickup truck towing a cattle hauler trailer through a herd of cows.
2021 F-Series Super Duty | Ford Motor Company

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The combined vehicle weight and cargo weight of these light-duty trucks (gross vehicle weight or GVW) is 6,001-8,500 pounds. All heavy-duty trucks have a higher GVW than 8,500 pounds.

The lightest trucks manufacturers brand as a “heavy-duty” pickup truck (including the Ford F-250, the Ram 2500, and the General Motors 2500s) are defined as Class 2b vehicles by the government. They have a GVW of 8,501-10,000 pounds. Most modern heavy-duty trucks also offer tow ratings above 14,000 pounds.

Each next class of truck can haul and tow more weight. Manufacturers accomplish this with stouter drivetrain and chassis components. But each class of truck is also more expensive, less efficient, and drives rougher while empty.

Are heavy-duty pickup trucks reliable?

When Consumer Reports surveyed truck owners, they ranked the reliability of heavy-duty trucks higher than their light-duty fullsize counterparts. Because manufacturers use heavier components for heavy-duty trucks, they will breakdown less often–especially when used for light-duty tasks.

Red Ram Power Wagon truck racing along an off-road trail.
2022 Ram Power Wagon | Stellantis

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The Consumer Reports reliability scores comes from the number of problems owners reported for trucks between one and three years old. According to Consumer Reports, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD and the GMC Sierra 2500 HD lead the pack, both with scores of 78/100.

Next, the Ram 2500 and Ford F-250 are neck-and-neck. The Ford earns a rating of 59/100 while the Ram settles for 57/100. The light-duty Ram 1500 comes next, with a rating of 52/100.

Interestingly, Consumer Reports logged many more complaints from F-350 drivers. That Ford earned a score of 33/100. Then the F-150 earned 29/100, tying with the Nissan Titan.

The General Motors light-duty “1500” trucks tie with the fourth-generation Ram 1500 “Classic.” They came in last with 11/100 for reliability.

Conclusion

Red heavy-duty Ford truck towing a tractor on a trailer.
2021 F-Series Super Duty | Ford Motor Company

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Heavy-duty pickup trucks receive less owner complaints than fullsize light-duty truck owners. But if you are hunting for a reliable vehicle, a heavy-duty truck is rarely your best choice.

Consumer Reports also ranked most compact and midsize pickup trucks higher in reliability than fullsize light-duty trucks. And when heavy-duty components in a heavy-duty truck do fail, they can be time-consuming and expensive to replace.

Car and Driver recently reviewed the heavy-duty Chevy Silverado 2500. The publication pointed out that while this truck can tow and haul and incredible amount, it achieves these number by sacrificing nearly every other capability. Heavy-duty trucks are inefficient with fuel, they are more expensive up front, they are most expensive to maintain, and they can be comparatively uncomfortable to drive empty. If you can’t afford to repair a pickup truck, you probably can’t afford a heavy-duty one.

See TFL Truck’s heavy-duty versus light-duty debate below:

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