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Why Limited-Edition Trucks Aren’t Always Worth More

Pickup trucks are commonly subject to working conditions that can leave marks, like rust spots and chipped paint. That goes hand-in-hand with moving cargo and going off-road. But some trucks are kept as pristine as possible—not because of ownership pride, but to keep resale value high. Especially if the truck in question is a ‘limited’ or ‘special edition’ version. Truth is, though, your limited-edition truck may not be worth much more than the ‘regular’ version. Here’s why.

The Market Changes

2020 Jeep Wrangler Three O Five Edition
2020 Jeep Wrangler Three O Five Edition | FCA

Although certain types of vehicles can be stable investments, the simple fact is that tastes change. Right now, the most valuable truck market segment is off-roading. Whether it’s aftermarket accessories like campers, or factory offerings like Ford’s Raptors and the Ram Rebel TRX, a truck built for overlanding can be a valuable commodity. But this trend may eventually peter out, or the market might saturate. Investing in trucks is like investing in anything else: a gamble.

There’s also a generational trend to consider. The people that were kids and teenagers in the 80s and 90s are finally starting to earn money, and they want their poster vehicles. Which is why trucks like the 454SS are beginning to rise in value, according to Hagerty. So, trucks from the 50s, 60s, and 70s drop in value. And eventually, today’s kids and teenagers will set the market. But even then, not every truck made in the 00s will rise in value.

Too Rare, Or Not Rare Enough

Rarity can often make a limited-edition truck worth more. For example, the GMC Syclone is already a fairly valuable pickup. But the 10 Marlboro Edition Syclones command even higher premiums. The idea that ‘they’re not making/didn’t make any more’ can be a powerful market influence. But all too often, manufacturers go to extremes that limit this effect.

1979 GMC Sierra Mule
1979 GMC Sierra Mule | AutoWise

For instance, in 1979, the GMC Sierra could be ordered with the “Mule” package. Available with any engine, it featured special wheel covers, pinstripes, and solid oak side rails. But according to AutoWise, there’s very little information about it, because it was only offered in Chicagoland-area Illinois GMC dealers. If a limited-edition truck is only available in one specific area, it most likely won’t be valuable.

But, as Doug DeMuro discussed with Matt Farah on The Smoking Tire podcast and later on Autotrader, often the opposite problem occurs. An automaker makes too many ‘limited editions.’ Take, for instance, the Ford F-Series Harley-Davidson Special Editions. Ford offered the F-150 with the trim from 2002-2012 and recently brought the package back. According to CNET, over 70,000 of the original F-150 H-D Editions were sold, and there are plans to build at least 1000 of the current-gen trucks. That limited-edition truck isn’t worth much when supply really isn’t ‘limited’.

Poor Significance

Like the GMC Sierra Mule, some limited-edition trucks are little more than dealer specials. Or, as Doug DeMuro points out in his Autotrader column, they’re minor aesthetic packages meant to increase sales.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado HD Carhartt Special Edition
2021 Chevrolet Silverado HD Carhartt Special Edition | Chevrolet

A good example of this is the recently-announced Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Carhartt Edition. The only differences between it and a normal Silverado 2500HD with the Z71 Package are cosmetic. There’s no significant event being celebrated, or special anniversary.

2019 Ram 1500 Kentucky Derby Edition
2019 Ram 1500 Kentucky Derby Edition | Ram

And even if there is a potentially significant event, that’s no indication a special-edition truck will be desirable. For the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, Ram released the Ram 1500 Kentucky Derby Edition. But there’s nothing significant about this particular anniversary. Nor is the truck really anything more than a Ram 1500 Limited with a few exclusive graphics.

Not the Right Blend of Options

Interestingly, Ram also made Kentucky Derby Editions of the Ram 2500HD. But I believe these will end up commanding a slight premium in the future. Not necessarily because of rarity (only 1000 were made, and none are available), but because of options. Unlike the 1500 Kentucky Derby, the 2500HD came bundled with a few valuable options, such as a 360-degree camera for easy horse trailering.

Contrast that with the Chevrolet Avalanche North Face Edition. Beyond an exclusive seat color and a few badges, the North Face didn’t offer much in the way of special options. Exclusive colors can sometimes improve resale value, but not always. And oftentimes, what colors dealers like aren’t what the private market likes, and vice versa.

However, option combos are one of the few ways that special editions can offer value. If, for instance, a special edition cost $1000, and came bundled with a $1200 option, that would be worth investing in. Not only would you save money initially, but that option could raise the value of your truck when it came to sell it. So, you’d pay less, and get back more. But again, that depends on knowing the market.