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Commercial Trucks: How Do They Stack Up?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2013

If you're looking for a truck or van for your business, you're in the right place. While many articles focus on high-end models, commercial trucks represent a huge number of annual vehicle sales. How do today's commercial vehicles compare? We've looked at a few base-level "fleet" models to see which ones you should consider.

The Light-Duty Pickups

For many commercial buyers, a pickup is a necessity. Which one is best for your business?

It's easy to dismiss today's base-level full-size pickups as "the same" since they're relatively similar. But they're actually not as close as you might think. One easy difference is pricing: While a RAM 1500 Tradesman starts under $24,000, a base-level Toyota Tundra is more than $26,000 with shipping. The Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 fall between those prices, with the Silverado slightly more expensive.

Concerning equipment, base models are all pretty Spartan. While all include air conditioning, some don't bother with a CD player. All have manual locks and manual mirrors. Only the Silverado has cruise control.

For businesses, the most important factor may be the powertrain. Base-level F-150 models use a 302-horsepower 3.7-liter V6; the Silverado uses a 285-hp 4.3; and the Tundra uses a 270-hp 4.0-liter V6. The RAM boasts a standard 310-hp V8, while the brand's Pentastar V6 is optional. Each truck can tow approximately the same weight -- around 6,500 pounds -- but the F-150 holds a slight advantage. That said, the 2014 Silverado's towing capacity is unknown.

The Heavy-Duty Trucks

Many heavy-duty pickups also serve as workhorse commercial trucks. Heavy-duty pickups are far closer in price than their light-duty counterparts. The RAM 2500 holds a small price advantage, around $150 less than the Silverado 2500. But those trucks, and the Ford F-250, each start at just over $30,500 with shipping.

The Silverado 2500, which isn't redesigned for 2014 like the Silverado 1500, offers two engines. A 360-hp V8 is standard, while an optional 6.6-liter diesel makes 397 hp and a tow-friendly 765 lb-ft of torque. The F-250 eclipses each. Its standard V8 makes 385 hp, while its optional 6.7-liter diesel produces 400 hp and 800 lb-ft. The RAM 2500 uses a 383-hp V8, with an optional Cummins diesel that makes 800 lb-ft. The RAM 2500 is the only model in the class that still offers a manual transmission.

For towing, it's hard to dispute the RAM's position as king of the hill. RAM 3500 models can pull up to 30,000 pounds. Both the Silverado and F-Series Super Duty lag far behind, with towing capacities of around 22,000 pounds.

The Vans

If you need a van instead of a truck, you have several options. For light-duty use, there's the RAM Cargo and the Ford Transit Connect. The RAM Cargo is essentially a cargo version of the Dodge Grand Caravan. It uses Chrysler's Pentastar V6 and returns 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy. The Transit Connect uses a much smaller 4-cylinder, though its gas mileage figures improve to 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Pricing for the Transit Connect and RAM Cargo is about the same, both starting around $23,500. The RAM is slightly larger inside, with 144 cu ft to the Transit Connect's 126 cu ft. But the Transit Connect's smaller size makes it more maneuverable in town.

If you need a larger van, there are more options. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford E-Series and Nissan NV are each available, as are the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana twins. By far the largest is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which boasts an entry-level 316 cu ft of cargo space. But it comes at a price: The Sprinter starts at a whopping $37,000 with shipping. That's far more than the GM vans and the E-Series, which are closer to $28,000. The Sprinter also holds a premium over the $33,000 Nissan NV.

The Sprinter continues to prove itself, however, with a 188-hp diesel engine that offers impressive gas mileage. While Ford, GM and Nissan vans offer larger engines, the bigger powertrains come at the price of fuel economy.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Commercial Trucks: How Do They Stack Up? - Autotrader