2500 vs 3500 series trucks - differences?

djm68

Observer
This is a pretty broad question, but I am bit of a noob to full size domestics. When considering 250/2500 vs. a 350/3500 series truck, I realize the GVWR and load capacity is higher on the 3500 trucks. I assume this is largely related to suspension and being sprung to carry extra loads. Are there other differences? For example, do the 3500 trucks have bigger brakes? Heavy duty transmissions? Tougher frames? From what I have read, it seems that 2500/3500 seem to share the same major sub-assemblies such as axles, engines, transmissions.

For context, I am beginning to research a FS domestic to purchase for a build; I will likely buy used and will likely need/want the load carrying of a 3500 series truck. However, on the used market, there is it much more common to find 2500s. My though here being can I effectively upgrade a 2500 -> 3500 via springs/suspension upgrades.

I appreciate any insights.

Thanks,
DJM
 

Overdrive

Adventurer
With trucks from the last 15-20 years or so (I assume you aren't looking for older than that) then it's mostly a difference of spring rates. You might find a HD transfer case on a 3500 as standard (this was the case with Dodge 20 years ago...don't know what it is now). On Rams, 2500's use coil springs for the rear, 3500's use leaf springs. I think GM and Ford are leafs in the rear for both 25 & 35...but maybe GM recently went to coils. ??

The issue with changing your 2500 springs to 3500 so you can carry more weight, is your factory-rated capacity does not change. This **could** be an issue if you were found at fault in an accident due to being over the factory capacity. Yes, people are overloaded all the time...but I don't want to be one of them.

If you are going to be hauling a camper, even a light-weight one such as a FWC, just get the 3500 for the extra payload capacity and peace of mind.
 

Porkchopexpress

Well-known member
I can answer with respect to Ford because I did the research when shopping my F350. Basically it is mostly just a label that effects your legal max GVWR. This is an issue for taxes and insurance in some states but didn’t make a difference where I live. For the most part, you can option an F250 to have the same engines and suspension combinations as you can in an F350. You can even get an F350 derated to the same max GVWR as an F250. Basically the options are more important than the badge as far as mechanical difference.

My though here being can I effectively upgrade a 2500 -> 3500 via springs/suspension upgrades.
Yes, but you will still have the same legal capacity as it came from the factory.
I would not have any concern starting with a 2500 and upgrading suspension. Even if you had an accident and you were over your legal GVWR, your insurance would cover it the same as if you were speeding or committing some other infraction. It probably wouldn’t even be in the police report unless it was deemed a causal factor which seems very unlikely if you used 3500 suspension components.
Have you ever heard of the police weighing a vehicle after an accident? Seriously I have no idea.
 
Last edited:

Tex68w

Beach Bum
You see a lot more 3/4-ton's on the market because they build/sell a lot more of them than they do one-tons, this goes for all makes. No one really knows if GVWR would ever factor in after an accident and likely wouldn't if your truck isn't highly modified. That said, if you have it heavily modified then I'd be a little more concerned especially in this world where everyone is looking for a leg up and chance to to sue someone over the littlest thing.
 

Porkchopexpress

Well-known member
You see a lot more 3/4-ton's on the market because they build/sell a lot more of them than they do one-tons, this goes for all makes. No one really knows if GVWR would ever factor in after an accident and likely wouldn't if your truck isn't highly modified. That said, if you have it heavily modified then I'd be a little more concerned especially in this world where everyone is looking for a leg up and chance to to sue someone over the littlest thing.
You are covered by your auto insurance if you are sued for an accident, even if you broke a law and are at fault. You only have to pay if your insurance company agrees to pay your max coverage because they believe the other party has a strong case against you and want to avoid legal expenses. You can also get umbrella insurance which will increase your maximum coverage and increase the likelihood that your insurance company will fight on your behalf.
 

Tex68w

Beach Bum
You are covered by your auto insurance if you are sued for an accident, even if you broke a law and are at fault. You only have to pay if your insurance company agrees to pay your max coverage because they believe the other party has a strong case against you and want to avoid legal expenses. You can also get umbrella insurance which will increase your maximum coverage and increase the likelihood that your insurance company will fight on your behalf.

If you're cool with entrusting that process then knock yourself out.
 

djm68

Observer
With trucks from the last 15-20 years or so (I assume you aren't looking for older than that) then it's mostly a difference of spring rates. You might find a HD transfer case on a 3500 as standard (this was the case with Dodge 20 years ago...don't know what it is now). On Rams, 2500's use coil springs for the rear, 3500's use leaf springs. I think GM and Ford are leafs in the rear for both 25 & 35...but maybe GM recently went to coils. ??

The issue with changing your 2500 springs to 3500 so you can carry more weight, is your factory-rated capacity does not change. This **could** be an issue if you were found at fault in an accident due to being over the factory capacity. Yes, people are overloaded all the time...but I don't want to be one of them.

If you are going to be hauling a camper, even a light-weight one such as a FWC, just get the 3500 for the extra payload capacity and peace of mind.
All very helpful, thank you. I am indeed contemplating a camper, a flatbed model. I am just beginning the planning stages for a trip that I intend to take in a bit over 2 years: I plan to quit working and travel for 2 years. I am interested in an diesel, an older model to avoid the need for ULSD, DEF, etc., so I am scouring the market for a RAM with a 5.9 Cummins or a Ford 7.3 PSD. Trying to find one that is not totally thrashed is a proving to be a challenge, and finding a 3500 vs 2500 makes it even more difficult. I am not opposed to a gasser, but with a big rig, mileage is likely to be truly atrocious. Maybe newer gassers are more efficient than in the past?

Thanks,
DJM
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
All very helpful, thank you. I am indeed contemplating a camper, a flatbed model. I am just beginning the planning stages for a trip that I intend to take in a bit over 2 years: I plan to quit working and travel for 2 years. I am interested in an diesel, an older model to avoid the need for ULSD, DEF, etc., so I am scouring the market for a RAM with a 5.9 Cummins or a Ford 7.3 PSD. Trying to find one that is not totally thrashed is a proving to be a challenge, and finding a 3500 vs 2500 makes it even more difficult. I am not opposed to a gasser, but with a big rig, mileage is likely to be truly atrocious. Maybe newer gassers are more efficient than in the past?

Thanks,
DJM
Yeah, totally understand your difficult search. I spent over a year searching for the right deal, condition, mileage, options, etc. Most are really high mileage or beat. Those that are not are under COVID pricing, meaning 1.5 to 2 times the going price than pre-pandemic. I also went back and forth from gas or diesel, having owned a '97 Ram 12v Cummins. Diesel is nice but I also ran into issues of stations not offering it. Had that happen in Death Valley. After a long and exhausting search I did find a very clean 2000 Ram 2500 V10 4x4 with 86K miles. Price was good, especially for the condition and mileage. They are out there but it takes a long time to find and you have to be ready to jump at a moments notice.

Here is what I just picked up
1002211132_HDR.jpg
 

UglyViking

Active member
As was stated by @jbaucom, those trucks are from 2006 and 2003 for the most recent models respectively. That's 15+ years old and I'll fully admit I've not spent the time to dig into all the details on the differences between frame, suspension, etc. If you want that information you're going to need to visit dedicated forums for those types of trucks and dig into the generational differences.

For the newer trucks, it's just spring rates, and with the Ram coil vs leaf. I believe the brakes are identical, they are on the RAM except for the max tow which gets slightly larger brakes. Keep in mind you can always upgrade your braking system down the road as well, so don't treat it as a blocker. Outside of that, same frames, same everything, basically just getting a sticker.

I think if you're planning on having a camper permanently loaded on the thing go 3500. You're legal so you can go into Mexica/Canada without worry and you're stable. You can always make the suspension softer if you find you don't need the capability, but you can never upgrade that sticker.

If you're fine without the sticker then go 2500 and swap the springs or add bags and you're good to go. As others have said, people tow/haul overweight all the time. I'm not advising breaking the law.

I went with a 2500 because I wanted the coil rear suspension on the ram for better off road performance. I can add bags and easily make up for the fact it's got softer coils. There are guys that will tell you to never go over weight, then buy a 3500 and swap the springs to far softer springs, thus turning their truck into a 2500 but they feel good about it because it's legal. Pick your poison.

There are also people that say you can/will be held liable in the event of an accident. While anything is possible I've always challenged folks to provide actual proof of that happening, thus far I've not seen any concrete data of that fear materializing.
 

GeorgeHayduke

Active member
On 4th gen Rams you can only get the high output motor and Aisin transmission in a 3500, whereas on the 2500 you're limited to the 68RFE or G56 (went away in 2019 though). The AIsin/HO comes with a beefier transfer case and a larger ring gear in the rear axle. Ram 2500's went to coils in 2014, but before that they had leafs and were much more similar to the 3500's.

On newer Fords I think there is also a difference in rear axles (10.5 Sterling on F250 vs Dana M275 F350) but it's also affected by choice of engine and if you get particular payload packages. Ford also has a 6 speed TorqShift-G transmission for the gasser F250's that's different than the 6 speed in F350s or behind diesels.

Some states also tax 3/4 and 1 tons differently. Depending on the state, the 'commercial' status of a 1 ton may cost you more or less in taxes. If you're ever going to be towing heavy and are worried about getting a CDL, you can more easily stay under the combined rated weight limit of 26,000 lbs by going with a 3/4 ton. Also if the payload sticker matters to you but you're flexible on fuel type and having trouble finding 1 tons, a gasser 3/4 ton will have a lot more 'legal' payload than a diesel 3/4 ton.

But the most important issue of all is the difference in TPMS systems :). In a 2500, you'll have annoying lights on the dash and a startup message anytime your tire pressures are too far below the factory recommended 80 psi. On a 3500, you can view the tire pressures but it doesn't get in your face about insisting on a certain pressure.
 

Tex68w

Beach Bum
On 4th gen Rams you can only get the high output motor and Aisin transmission in a 3500, whereas on the 2500 you're limited to the 68RFE or G56 (went away in 2019 though). The AIsin/HO comes with a beefier transfer case and a larger ring gear in the rear axle. Ram 2500's went to coils in 2014, but before that they had leafs and were much more similar to the 3500's.

On newer Fords I think there is also a difference in rear axles (10.5 Sterling on F250 vs Dana M275 F350) but it's also affected by choice of engine and if you get particular payload packages. Ford also has a 6 speed TorqShift-G transmission for the gasser F250's that's different than the 6 speed in F350s or behind diesels.

Some states also tax 3/4 and 1 tons differently. Depending on the state, the 'commercial' status of a 1 ton may cost you more or less in taxes. If you're ever going to be towing heavy and are worried about getting a CDL, you can more easily stay under the combined rated weight limit of 26,000 lbs by going with a 3/4 ton. Also if the payload sticker matters to you but you're flexible on fuel type and having trouble finding 1 tons, a gasser 3/4 ton will have a lot more 'legal' payload than a diesel 3/4 ton.

But the most important issue of all is the difference in TPMS systems :). In a 2500, you'll have annoying lights on the dash and a startup message anytime your tire pressures are too far below the factory recommended 80 psi. On a 3500, you can view the tire pressures but it doesn't get in your face about insisting on a certain pressure.

The lack of TPMS alarms is a nice perk to the 3500 but you can easily adjust that with AlfaOBD as well.
 

Tex68w

Beach Bum
I have a 1 ton and stay within the weight limits, but I understand the process and weigh the risks with facts instead of anecdotes.

LOL, you've obviously never dealt with a lawyer. There aren't any readily available cases to prove that being over GVWR on a modified vehicle involved in a serious accident can lead to criminal and/or civil charges, fines, etc. but the fact that it can happen and possibly set a precedent going forward is all most need to know in order not to take the risk. It's a free country and you're welcome to do as you please but I'd hate to tempt fate over something so easily corrected, ymmv.
 

Ninelitetrip

Active member
Have a look at the tax, registration and insurance requirements for your state in terms of the GVWR. Manufactures will sticker these trucks in a range say from 9900-10,000lbs. or 10,700 - 11,500lbs. for tax and registration purposes in different states. Also look at what the state requires to register your final camper setup as an RV. Build your camper to at least that requirement and you may be able to change it to an RV, and get cheaper registration fees and insurance.

In the current market you're paying a big premium for those diesels, and pay attention at least on the FORD to the GVWR and payload difference between say a 1997 F250/350 vs a 2009 F250/F350.

Don't discount say an F350 with the 6.2 BOSS gasser.
 
Top