Looking for advice for on which full size trucks best fit my requirements.

Athansinis

Member
I’ve been driving Toyotas most of my adult life and I had planned on upgrading from my T100 to a 2005 or 2006 Tundra, but when I started looking at my build plans, I realized there’s no way I can stay under the GVWR, so I think I need to move onto a full size truck.

My goals are: lots of highway and back road travel in remote North America. I’m not interested in technical rock crawling, but I want something capable off road so I have more options in the backcountry. I spent a summer at a remote field station in the Arctic and I really miss the Brooks Range and want to take my partner up the Dalton so she can see the Brooks, Prudhoe, and the Arctic wilderness I loved so much and I want to explore the Yukon. At least for this build, I’m not interested in overseas or South American travel.

I’ve been reading through threads for weeks (months, really) on these forums and others, but I’m hoping to get some suggestions on what truck/engine/years/etc might fit my needs best. Originally, I was thinking I wanted a 2nd gen Ram2500 with the 12v Cummins (or a pre-2007 Fuso FG), but I’m starting to lean towards gas as I think the slight loss of mpgs and engine longevity is worth a quieter vehicle with more payload, cheaper fuel, and a cheaper cost up front. So now I’m leaning toward a late 2nd generation Ram 2500 with the 5.9 Magnum. I’d prefer a manual transmission.

Requirements:
  • 4x4 extended cab with 8’ bed.
  • Payload capacity 2500lbs+ (really the more the better as I’m looking to transition away from FWCs and into a heavier camper, maybe an Alaskan, and would love a service bed)
  • Reliable engine
  • Relatively easy to work on (simple engine, easy to repair other parts)
  • Decent gas mileage (ideally loaded would be 12mpgs or better)
  • Single rear wheel
  • Safety (partner has a bad back, so the safer it is in an accident, the better)
My budget is around 20k for the vehicle in stock form…ideally less so I can spend money going through it and building it up a bit.

Thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
 

john61ct

Adventurer
If you're talking second-hand, some of the Chevy/GMC 3500 and bigger based commercial units used to get a monster gasser engine every bit as torquey as diesel

called 8.1L

IMO lower cost per mile maintenance once you get past 80-120K

but of course horrible mpg

"can pass everything but a gas station"

Forestry trucks, cherry pickers, tow trucks/flatbed, park / tribal / BLM land service fire truck / ambulances, some shuttle buses, mountain / snowy district school buses

very very rare in 4WD, maybe convert, or just add a locker

of course the gear ratios are critical
 
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john61ct

Adventurer
PS the industry calls these sizes "mid range"

OTR semi tractors being the "large" I guess.

I'm looking for something short to pull a 14K # boat trailer, so post links to search sources as you find them please
 

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AbleGuy

Too Much Fun Club, founder
Yup, a F350 4x4 with an aluminum service body and used AK camper on top would be absolutely da bomb, but you’d need to start looking now, US wide, because finding a newer AK cabover camper seems almost impossible.

Good luck and pls keep us posted...
 

nitro_rat

On a Suburban Excursion
I'm kinda a Mopar guy, the 5.9 Magnum is an absolute pig compared to the 5.7 Hemi. The Magnum will suck more gas and will not be fun to drive when loaded heavy. The Hemi has its drawbacks but the old 5.9 is just not comparable from a driveability standpoint. My 5.7 2500 QCLB never felt under powered and would spin the back tires at will even with 35's. Towed heavy no problem. The 5.9 would be struggling to keep up with traffic in comparison. Actually there's no comparison...
 

billiebob

Well-known member
I’m starting to lean towards gas as I think the slight loss of mpgs and engine longevity is worth a quieter vehicle with more payload, cheaper fuel, and a cheaper cost up front. So now I’m leaning toward a late 2nd generation Ram 2500 with the 5.9 Magnum. I’d prefer a manual transmission.
Sounds like a perfect choice. Gas is definitely more reliable in arctic climates. I'd recommend a form of a gas fired coolant heater too if you are North of 60 in the winter. That said, Ford, Chev, Dodge are pretty equal for 20 year old 3/4 ton gas pickups with a clutch. Condition and mileage are more important than brand.

Having lived in the Arctic for 10 years, the 5.9L, based on the old 360, is a far better choice than the Hemi. The Hemi has much more restrictive oil return which affects its longevity at 40 below. sometimes old school engines work better in extreme environments. The 5.9L Grand was one of the first high performance SUVs, only outdone by GMCs Typhoon, but the 5.9 Grand which I owned for 10 years was a wonderful vehicle. Maybe the Hemi has more power but the 5.9L was far more drivable. Loved it and miss it.
 
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Athansinis

Member
I'm a Cummins guy but a F-250/350 6.2 gas engine'd truck would be my guess for you.
Definitely interested in the 6.2 but mpg seems a bit questionable and I'd be right at the top of my budget. I do like the idea of a newer truck, but at the same time, it seems like newer also means a lot more complexity which means less of a chance I can make repairs in the field. I'll need to do some more research on this.

Yup, a F350 4x4 with an aluminum service body and used AK camper on top would be absolutely da bomb, but you’d need to start looking now, US wide, because finding a newer AK cabover camper seems almost impossible.

Good luck and pls keep us posted...
Fortunately, I'm pretty patient and not in a hurry to find something. I'm thinking about building a camper too since I finally have shop space, but I'm a bit intimidated by the whole thing. Would help if I knew how to weld. I'm writing my dissertation currently, so I have limited free time and that's mostly going to home projects and will go into going through the truck once I get that, so learning to weld probably won't happen until next summer.
 

Athansinis

Member
I'm kinda a Mopar guy, the 5.9 Magnum is an absolute pig compared to the 5.7 Hemi. The Magnum will suck more gas and will not be fun to drive when loaded heavy. The Hemi has its drawbacks but the old 5.9 is just not comparable from a driveability standpoint. My 5.7 2500 QCLB never felt under powered and would spin the back tires at will even with 35's. Towed heavy no problem. The 5.9 would be struggling to keep up with traffic in comparison. Actually there's no comparison...
Interesting. I'll definitely look into this as well. I definitely don't drive fast once I have the camper on, but I want enough power that I feel safe on interstates. Any specific years of the 2500/3500s with the Hemi you'd recommend?
 

Athansinis

Member
Sounds like a perfect choice. Gas is definitely more reliable in arctic climates. I'd recommend a form of a gas fired coolant heater too if you are North of 60 in the winter. That said, Ford, Chev, Dodge are pretty equal for 20 year old 3/4 ton gas pickups with a clutch. Condition and mileage are more important than brand.

Having lived in the Arctic for 10 years, the 5.9L, based on the old 360, is a far better choice than the Hemi. The Hemi has much more restrictive oil return which affects its longevity at 40 below. sometimes old school engines work better in extreme environments. The 5.9L Grand was one of the first high performance SUVs, only outdone by GMCs Typhoon, but the 5.9 Grand which I owned for 10 years was a wonderful vehicle. Maybe the Hemi has more power but the 5.9L was far more drivable. Loved it and miss it.
Awesome! Thanks for the input! My time in the Arctic thus far has been limited to summer and I'm guessing travels with my partner will not include any winter up there, but it's definitely a concern for me since I would like the option to be there in winter when I'm traveling without her.

Really appreciate the input on the engine designs...that's the type of stuff I'm having a really difficult time tracking down. Good info on the heater too....I didn't even use the furnace the first few years I had the FWC, but once I used it, I was spoiled. And, of course, it'd be ridiculous to be in the Arctic in the winter without a reliable, proven heater.

Thanks for the input so far! Would love to hear any thoughts!
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
Definitely interested in the 6.2 but mpg seems a bit questionable and I'd be right at the top of my budget. I do like the idea of a newer truck, but at the same time, it seems like newer also means a lot more complexity which means less of a chance I can make repairs in the field. I'll need to do some more research on this.
The 6.2 is far from being a complicated engine and it's more reliable than a lot of other choices. They will run for hundreds of thousands of hard miles with no fuss. They are under the hood of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of work trucks.

The 8.1 is also a good motor, just hard to find.

The Ford V10 is another beefy and reliable motor, like the 8.1 it's not common.

The 6.0 from Chevy is also another good choice. Plenty of power, its easy to find, and parts are dirt cheap.

The old gasser 5.9 is a gas guzzling boat anchor...lol.

If it was me, I would get as new of truck as possiable. They will be stronger, better suspension, better brakes, and more comfortable.
 

LandCruiserPhil

Expedition Leader
Interesting. I'll definitely look into this as well. I definitely don't drive fast once I have the camper on, but I want enough power that I feel safe on interstates. Any specific years of the 2500/3500s with the Hemi you'd recommend?
I drive a 2009 Hemi truck with 4.56 and 35's with a weight of ~8300lbs and I pull every hill with ease.
 

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Grassland

Well-known member
6.0 Chevy 2500/3500 or 6.2 F250/350, in low trims with the least amount of electronic gadgets.
If you are considering a 5.9 Chrysler then you are already in the mindset of poor fuel economy.
 

Athansinis

Member
Thanks for the continued input.

The 6.2 is far from being a complicated engine and it's more reliable than a lot of other choices. They will run for hundreds of thousands of hard miles with no fuss. They are under the hood of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of work trucks.

If it was me, I would get as new of truck as possiable. They will be stronger, better suspension, better brakes, and more comfortable.
In the long run, paying more for a newer vehicle will save money. A newer truck will need fewer repairs and modifications.
Good to know that the 6.2 is not too complicated. I do like the 2011+ 250s and 350s and wouldn't complain about having some extra comforts here and there (the heated seats in my partner's CRV have grown on me for sure). Bigger brakes are always appreciated and something I hadn't thought too much about. I also like that I could get a rear-locker on it as I don't think I can justify air-lockers anytime soon.

My main concern with getting something newer is that if I'm near the top of my budget and something serious goes wrong, I may need to spend money that I don't really have to fix it. From what I've found it seems like $20,000k into a 6.2-equipped truck would put me at around 90-110k miles, which seems like a place where, even when the engine is solid, other work needs to get done.

Point taken though!

6.0 Chevy 2500/3500 or 6.2 F250/350, in low trims with the least amount of electronic gadgets.
Yeah, I wish it was easier to find trucks without all the electronic gadgets. It appears that I can't even get the 6.2 with a manual transmission. That's, I guess, something else that appeals to me about older vehicles.

On the topic of fuel...

I’m a bit disappointed (and confused) about the gas mileage since, using Fuelly, it seems like the 5.9 had the highest gas mileage of the trucks I’m looking at:

Dodge 2500 5.9 Magnum (9.8-15mpg, with only a single year having below 12 as the average) The decent mpgs for the 5.9 gas on Fuelly is part of what shifted my thoughts away from the Cummins 12v that I had decided was probably the best choice for what I wanted to do.

Dodge 2500 5.7 Hemi 2500 (10.6-13.6mpg)

Ford F250 6.2 (10.8-12.3 mpg)

Ford F350 6.2 (9.4-12.6 mpg)

Chevy 6.0 2500 (8.6-12.3mpg)

Sample sizes are relatively small, but I'm not sure where to get better numbers from.

My T100, loaded with the camper, gets anywhere from 8-13mpg, and even unloaded it never goes above 15, so I was hoping I could stay right around that with a full-size truck and heavier payload, and it seemed possible looking at Fuelly's numbers on the 5.9.

I hate having to worry about gas mileage but when I was younger, I remember a lot of times I wanted to head into the mountains for the weekend and just couldn't afford the gas, so it's something I'm still conscious about, even though it's not a dealbreaker now.

Again, I really appreciate the suggestions. And I'm sure my partner appreciates that I'm not continuously trying to talk to her about different engines, gas mileage, etc. :LOL:
 
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