What’s the Difference Between the Ram 1500 and the Ram 2500?

There is just something simple and right about listening to Robert Earl Keen and writing a piece about Ram trucks. I thought I would start by painting a tiny picture of the inside of my mind, dear reader; you know, to set the stage. Ram is one of the most commanding names in the truck industry. It is so commanding, in fact, that it broke off as its own brand from Dodge. That is the definition of commanding. The Ram 1500 and Ram 2500 have won countless awards, accolades, and multi-generational respect from many truck owners. The question is, what makes them different? They look similar enough, but are they? 

Which is better, the Ram 1500 or Ram 2500?

According to AutoTrader.com, the most basic difference between the two Rams is the Ram 1500 is what is considered a “light-duty” truck, and the Ram 2500 is a “heavy-duty” truck. This is based on payload and towing capacities mostly. 

Most light-duty trucks like the Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra can haul between 1,500-3,000 lbs and tow around 12,000 lbs. These numbers vary, of course. Light-duty Trucks also tend to have gas-powered engines instead of diesel, although this isn’t a rule written down anywhere. 

The 2020 Ram 1500 Built to Serve Edition in Spitfire Orange
2020 Ram 1500 Built to Serve Edition in Spitfire Orange | Ram

The heavy-duty trucks being a bit beefier, can haul bigger, more industrial loads. The heavy-duty units include trucks like the F-250, Silverado 2500, and, of course, the Ram 2500 and 3500. 

AutoTrader.com says they tend to have a payload limit somewhere around 6,500 lbs and a towing capacity of a monstrous 20,000, give or take a few hundred pounds, depending on the brand and configuration. These monster trucks typically get their power from giant diesel motors that create more torque than most of us know what to do with. 

The benefits of a light-duty truck 

Ram has a wide range of 1500 and 2500 trucks. The 1500 series is likely the one that is most appropriate for most of us. It comes in every flavor, from a plain light-duty work truck to the dune-jumping monster truck known as the Ram TRX 1500. Because of all the smaller Rams options, you get things like hybrid powertrains and smaller engines that are far more efficient and cheaper to run day-to-day. 

A silver 2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn four-door full-size pickup truck turning in a city intersection
2021 Ram 1500 Big Horn | Stellantis

The Ram 1500 features more modern appointments like air suspension to make daily driving more comfortable. As reported by MotorTrend, the Ram 2500 also has a verison of air suspension, but it is only used to level out heavy loads. 

The benefits of a heavy-duty truck

As I mentioned before, both trucks have diesel options, but they are hardly comparable. The Ram 2500 is really not meant to drive around to run errands. There’s a diesel motor for the Ram 2500 that’s produced by Cummins. It is a 6.7-liter in-line six that makes 370 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque. 

A black 2018 Ram 2500 parked on pavement with a mountain range in the background
A 2018 Ram 2500 outfitted with off-road equipment | Stellantis

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is Great at Trash Talk

The 2500 is also a stronger value overall. Yes, the initial investment is more for the big dog. Still, over time, the capability, reliability of a diesel, and relatively decent fuel economy make the value of the entire package hard to argue.

Which Ram is the best?

At the end of the day, you just have to pick what is right for you. If you need your truck to do a lot of heavy work, then the Ram 2500 is the easy answer. If you plan to drive the truck every day and use it for towing and hauling from time to time, then some version of the light-duty Ram 1500 is likely the best choice.