I think all three make a fine diesel drivetrain, but I personally felt that the D/A was the smoothest, had the nicest, wide powerband, and worked best with the transmission. I have some complaints about the GM truck overall, but nothing whatsoever on the D/A combo!
What age truck are you looking for? Since you mentioned Auto Trader could be new or used.
If you can afford it, I recommend something new enough to get a 6-spd trans. GM/Ford started in 2009. Tundra 2007. Get at least 5.0L engine (or Ford's 3.5L Ecoboost) and the numerically highest axle ratio each brand offers.
Having gone from an '05 4 spd to a '10 6 spd, I would endorse this wholeheartedly. Significant improvement.
Sounds like the OP is set on a 1/2 ton, and I would agree, depending on use. If not towing a whole lot or on cross-country trips, a newer, well equipped 1/2 ton will be just fine.
A word of caution shopping used, however -- make sure the truck has the towing and cooling goodies. Just because it has a receiver hitch, a tow-haul button, or a 7-pin adapter does not mean it is set up to tow the weight you will want to tow. Marketers quote the max numbers, not the min towing numbers that the majority of vehicles are equipped to tow.
It may be different with pickups, but shopping Suburbans and Expeditions, it was difficult to find one with the heavy duty towing stuff (trans cooler, engine oil cooler, etc) that we wanted. Many a buyer has found a nice looking 150 or 1500 series truck on Autotrader, only to find out that it cannot tow more than 5,000#.
And dealers are ignorant as to what makes up the packages. Even if you buy it from a corporate lot (the people on the GM lot where we bought our '10 used were clueless). The salesman will walk to the truck, look at the receiver in the back or the t/h button on the transmission and say "yep, it has the towing package, good to go!" when such is not the case.
If you are shopping the used market, I can't stress this enough -- you need to educate yourself as to what to look for, and make sure the truck you find has it! In reality, there are simple indicators as to what to look for (at least on the Fords and Chevys I was looking at). A peek at the radiator will allow you to see if the external cooling equipment is there. I got to the point where I would walk on the lot, peek through the grille, and either walk away or ask to see more (to the frustration of many salesmen, who tried to tell me that "no, she can tow, down't worry about it!" as I'm walking away). For GMs, at least, you can learn the codes for the packages you want, which are listed in the glove box.
Well I decided against a new Tacoma and today traded my 2000 Suburban with 207K on it for a 2011 Ram 1500 SLT Big Horn. This should tow my 3300 lb unit with no problem.
Good choice! Nothing against the Tacoma -- they seem to be nice little trucks -- but I'll bet you the RAM was the same price, gets only slightly lower fuel economy, and has a lot more room and capacity than the Taco. That is what I found when I moved from mid-sized to full-sized.
I thank everyone for your comments on the LBZ model of the Duramax. I found an early 2007 GMC Sierra Classic with the LBZ engine in it and the truck was in very good condition. I drove the 830 miles from Tennessee to Houston, TX to get it and was pleased that it got 22mpg on the way back to TN by me keeping it under 70 most of the time. About 150 miles of that was in severe rain and wind in the left over effects of the storm that hit Oklahoma City.
I noticed that it does not lock into 6th gear until it gets to about 62 MPH. Will it be a problem to tow my 14,000 lb 5th wheel in 6th gear out on the open road, or do I need to keep it in 5th gear manually?
Thanks for your comments.
I would just leave it in D, tow haul engaged, and let it do its thing. As long as it isn't hunting between 5 and 6 (which is probably wont), there should be no issue.
Actually, I would set the cruise at 64, let it shift into 6th, and enjoy moving along at 1700 rpms!
My take -- solid engine, somewhat underpowered by current standards, questionable transmission that WILL need repairs or replacement if you're towing a lot with it.
Sounds like your mech is a big 7.3 fan, and there is no issue with that. But this is still an 11 yr old truck w/ 11 yr old tech. I do not mean to commit heresy against the sacrosanct 7.3, but I don't think that the 7.3 is statistically more reliable than, say, an '06-07 LBZ Duramax or an '04-07 5.9 Cummins. But those have more power, and far better (and in the case of the LBZ, far, far better) transmissions, while still being "pre-emission."
Just some anecdotal evidence for what it is worth. 2 contractors on my street run several trucks for their businesses, and were both die-hard 7.3 fans for years. One got tired of replacing transmissions, bought himself an '09 Dodge Cummins a couple years back, and has since pretty much replaced his fleet with Dodge Cummins trucks. The other got tired of buying old 7.3's to keep his fleet current, finding problems, replacing transmissions, etc., so he finally broke down and bought a '12 RAM Cummins at the end of last year. They both kinda laugh at themselves now for dumping $$ into old 7.3's for years. FWIW.
When I had my 2500, I was within all my ratings on the truck, and didn't "need" the Equalizer. But the tow was much smoother with it -- less bouncing on freeway joints, etc. For quick local maintenance trips (ie, to run to the trailer store to empty tanks), I didn't bother with the bars, but when we headed out, we preferred the feeling of having the bars hooked up (albeit with not much weight being distributed, so the bars were quick and easy to put on and take off).
Lower gears are always better for towing.
Of course this isn't true. One must consider the whole package, not just the gears in the differentials!
For example, my 3.42-geared '10 Suburban tows far better than my '05 4.10 geared Suburban ever did. Even though both trucks have the same engine, the same torque, etc (the '10 does have 30 more ponies). Why? Because the ratios in the 6-spd transmission in the '10 are better situated to move the load.
The final ratios on the 8 spd look pretty good. But I would want to know more about why the difference in ratings between the packages. I don't know much about RAM, but with Chevy, the 3.42 gears often come with a heavier transmission cooler, engine oil cooler, etc. It isn't just the gears, but the whole package that bumps up the tow ratings over the standard equipment.
The ratios may be fine, but if you don't have anything to cool the transmission, you can get into trouble just the same.
All seem to be making good trucks right now. Minor differences between them, really.
I can tell you that we tow a TT that is slightly smaller and lighter than the OP's. Our '10 Suburban tows much better than the '05 we had. That 6 spd transmission really pairs well with the 5.3. That said, I'm sure that the Ford (particularly the EB) and the Dodge would do just as well, if not better, due to their higher HP and torque ratings.
If a short bed pickup will fit in your parking spot, that is the route I'd go. For what it is worth, our 1/2 ton Suburban gets only a couple mpg worse that the sister-in-law's Acadia. Obviously, the 1/2 ton has far superior towing and hauling capabilities.
If you haven't been in newer pickup, you'll be surprised how nice and "civilized" they are. A 1/2 ton ex cab short bed would probably work nicely with your parameters.
Towing with the LBZ is a lot of fun, especially coming from a gasser. I remember our first trip west on I80 from SLC to California. I kept thinking, "surely, this next grade will make it downshift ... nope" Cruising up grades at 65 mph in 6th gear in cruise control was certainly a cool experience. It made me want to plan trips that would include climbs up "notorious" grades, just to see how it would do. Every time, it was just uneventful ...
Towing mpg was mostly between 10 and 12 mpg for us, with a couple outliers for unusual conditions or atypical speed.
Loved my '06 LBZ. Best vehicle I have ever owned -- that truck exceeded my expectations in every way. Well, except fuel mileage, where it merely "met" my expectations. 50k problem free miles, only sold it because our family outgrew it.
Mileage wasn't awesome, though -- 15 mpg commuting, 17.5 freeway speeds (75 mph or so), 19.5 on the back roads at 60 mph unloaded. Towing was between 10-12, depending on conditions (mostly whether we were going in to the wind or not).
I'm not aware of any 1.25 receiver bike racks that will hold 4 bikes (although that doesn't mean they exist).
I would recommend the tray type bike racks if you can find one that fits. More secure, works with various types of frames and wheel sized -- mine fits my downhill bike with a crazy frame to my road bike to my kids' 20" wheel bikes.
There is always the trunk-mounted racks if you cannot find a receiver that will work. Or a roof rack - you should be able to fit 4 bikes on top of the car if you get the right setup.
As a mountain biker and road cyclist, I know it can be tough to find a solution. Good luck!
People that say they get better mileage out of tow/haul... I really don't believe that, at least not significantly better. Once you're at highway speed in top gear, it doesn't matter if you're in tow/haul or not. Tow/haul only affects how you get to top gear at highway speed. Oh, and on the Allison you also get grade braking in tow/haul mode... I love my grade braking feature.
Yeah, I screwed around with my transmission a bit -- in and out of t/h, manually shifting, stuff like that for a few trips. Then I went ahead and just drove it the way the Allison wanted to. Didn't see a difference in performance or mpgs. But it did make it easy for me to decide that my interstate cruising speed ought to be at least 64 mph!
Go with the 1 ton you like best. Not a bad truck in the bunch, just depends which you like best. All the 1 tons now ride and drive just fine, but they have that little extra bit of carrying capacity that will come in handy with a 5'er.
Also echo the sentiments of other above, but if this works for you, hey, good on you. But, just in case, I would negotiate a little wiggle room in case it doesn't work out -- return, exchange, don't actually sign the papers until he says "this is the one..." That is what I do for my wife's vehicles. She hates dealerships and won't step foot in one. So I do all the testing, research, and legwork, find one I like, and take it home to her to "approve."
A loaded LT 2500 rental, huh? I don't know if I have ever seen one of those before. I would look real close at the RPO codes inside the glove box and make sure it has everything you want. I'm not as familiar with the 3/4 tons, so I don't know what options were available for towing, but I know that with the 1/2 tons, the rentals had all the bling options, and none of the actual functional ones.
At any rate, it sounds like the best you're going to do. You won't win any races, but just remember, the 6.0 is meant to rev a little bit, and you wont kill it running over 3k rpms for a bit.
Re: the options on the more expensive, our '10 has the options you've mentioned. The backup camera is nice, but not a deal breaker. Hardly use the sun roof, and the heated 2nd row seats are buried under car seats or boosters most of the time, but when we have adult passengers, they sure like 'em!
Good luck. Sounds like you are on the right track.
Ouch! A local diesel service shop used to change mine for $58, including the the filter.
I did it once to make sure I knew how, and then decided to just let them do it -- $15 labor wasn't worth the mess I made (hands smelled like diesel for a couple days!).
I would look elsewhere.
1. Tire pressure. Door sticker says 55 front and 80 rear. Two questions:
Is that what you run at unloaded?
Is that what you run at loaded?
Wondering if I should go to 80 all the time, loaded or unloaded.
2. WDH -- owners manual of TV simply says make sure distance between front wheel well and ground is the same loaded as unloaded --- is this what you guys do as well?
3. TV has 6 speed Allison auto tranny. Owners manual says put in D, select Tow/Haul mode and let tranny find its gear. Also gives option of putting it in M with Tow/haul and choosing gear yourself -- was thinking of towing in 5th.
Which way do you guys go?
Congrats on the new truck!
Re: tire pressure, I just left it at 55/80 all the time. Rode just fine, and I didn't want to mess with the pressure.
Re: WDH, I mostly just made sure the truck was level when hooked up. It sits higher in the rear anyway. I didn't need much leveling from the Equalizer hitch, as we were never close to the rear axle ratings and the truck didn't squat much when the TT is hooked up (only about 850# tongue weight), but the WDH made for a smoother tow, so we used it.
Re: towing in D -- just put 'er in t/h, select drive, and let the Allison do what it was designed to do. Many of the programming features of the transmission are disabled when you put it in M. The grade braking, ability to hold gears, and other features work great. Might as well use 'em. I only ever needed to put it in M if we were towing through steep and winding mountain roads at low speeds. But the grade braking works great on interstate and at higher speeds.
The thing is, with kids in the mix, you never really know what is coming next.
We're on our first RV, but here's what we have gone through so far.
Started w/ 2 kids, wanted something that would work with the '05 Suburban we already had. So we got the TT in my sig. Started taking longer trips (from SLC to West Coast) a few times a year, were unhappy w/ the 'Burb's towing performance on those long trips.
So we bought the 2500hd Duramax (towed like a dream), had another kid in the meantime, so the 'Max was full. Plan at the time was that we'd be looking at a larger TT or 5'er in the next year or so to accommodate the growing kids.
Meanwhile, the relatives with whom we liked to camp on the West Coast moved or had little kids and didn't want to camp anymore, so the last couple years found us leaving the TT at home and throwing in to rent a vacation house when all the family got together. So we've been back to "local" camping trips the last couple years -- haven't gone more than 3-4 hrs lately (fortunately for us here in Utah, "local" includes destinations like Moab, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Zion NPs, among other places that are only 4 hrs away, so we're not suffering for lack of destinations). Combine that with the older 2 kids being involved in soccer/dance/etc, our nights in the TT decreased in a big way last year.
With baby #4 on the way, making the 2500hd too small for 4 kids in seats, and the prospect of fewer long trips, we downsized our TV to another Suburban. We're out of TV options for a much bigger trailer that will (comfortably) haul a family of 6 around (no, a van is not an option, don't ask ...). So we're now likely looking at a class A or C MH w/ bunks as our next RV.
Just sayin', you never know. 3 years ago, we thought we'd be looking at something a lot different than we are actually looking at. When we bought the Duramax, we were weighing between buying the new diesel 1 ton on the expectation that "we'd have it forever," so might as well get one truck and keep it for 8-10 yrs. Glad we didn't drop $55k on a truck that we would have outgrown this year.
So my opinion is, buy what works for you now, and don't hamstring yourself to the point that you cannot make different decisions down the road if you want to. You never know in 3 years what you're gonna be wanting to do. Don't make it so you have little choice!