Diesel fuel hasn’t seen its reputation grow substantially as electrification becomes the method of choice for increasing fuel efficiency or in the wake of things like the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal. (Pro tip: Avoid having “-gate” appear as a suffix to your name.) But there are still positives to diesel power, particularly when it comes to pickup trucks.
Related: Study: Diesel’s Appeal Damaged, Not Dead
Diesel trucks usually have greater towing and payload capacities relative to identical gas-powered versions, as well as fuel efficiency that improves from “bad” to “a little less bad.” (This is where I say that it would be helpful if the EPA required all trucks, including heavy-duty trucks, be subjected to fuel economy testing, but that’s an argument for a different post.) Diesel fuel is also, on average, cheaper than premium-grade gasoline, and from time to time can even be cheaper than regular gas.
But — and this is a big but, I can’t lie — what does it actually cost to even equip your pickup truck with a diesel engine? In what will surely be surprising news, adding an optional diesel engine can mean needing to add a host of other options to a pickup in the same way some manufacturers insist that adding navigation also requires a premium stereo. In some cases, an upgrade to a higher trim level is necessary to even have the option of a diesel engine in a pickup.
For heavy-duty trucks, that cost can run close to $10,000, which sounds like a joke but isn’t. Even less of a joke is that for the two current mid-size diesel trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, costs increase by $6,980 and $6,510, respectively. Diesel engines for each truck require a crew cab configuration — the most expensive cab style — and numerous other options.
Our sibling site PickupTrucks.com has crunched the numbers, so here are the diesel pickup trucks from least to greatest additional cost. (Note: While GM has announced that the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 will be available with diesel engines, we don’t yet have pricing figures for those, so they’ve been excluded. The same applies to the 2019 Ram 1500.)
The 3.0 Ecodiesel V-6 is a $4,495 standalone option across all trim levels of the previous-generation 2018 Ram 1500. Of course, you’d also be buying the older version of the half-ton truck, which may not be a tradeoff you want to make.
Prices for adding the turbo-diesel 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 engine range from $5,250 to a max of $6,750 depending on cab configuration. Regular-cab models see the lowest price increase, while extended-cab models see the highest. Crew-cab models receive a more modest increase than those with extended cabs, but they remain the most expensive cab configuration. (I’m sure this makes sense to Nissan.)
Adding a diesel requires, as mentioned, a crew-cab configuration and an automatic locking rear differential ($325), Trailering Package ($250), SLE Convenience Package ($575) and the Driver Alert Package ($395) in addition to the extra cost of the turbo-diesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Total cost? $6,510.
Like its Canyon sibling, the Colorado uses the turbo-diesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder, but despite GMC being the more “premium” brand, the additional options cost more on the Chevy. The automatic locking rear differential ($325), Trailering Package ($250), LT Convenience Package ($750) and Safety Package ($690), along with the engine, add $6,980 in options.
Adding a turbo-diesel 6.7-liter Cummins six-cylinder engine costs between $8,800 and $9,300. Note: for the highest horsepower and torque figures for the diesel engine, an optional Aisin six-speed automatic transmission must be equipped for another $2,695.
The turbo-diesel 6.7-liter V-8 engine is a $9,120 option on all trim levels but the Limited, where it’s standard.
Unlike their puny mid-size brethren, there’s no cost difference between the big boys. The turbo-diesel 6.6-liter V-8 available in either GM’s HD lines costs an extra $9,395.
This is tricky, but the F-150 comes in last because the turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 isn’t available until you reach the Lariat trim level of the F-150 (and add Ford’s SuperCab — aka an extended cab). Adding a diesel to a Lariat model is a $4,000 price increase over the standard 2.7-liter EcoBoost gas engine, but to get to the Lariat, you need to spend an extra $10,720 over a base XL trim with an otherwise identical configuration. In essence, that means it will cost you around $14,000 more than a comparable base model just to get a diesel-equipped F-150.
There are the current known costs just for purchasing a truck with a diesel engine. Even with better fuel economy, when you factor in diesel exhaust fluid (an additive that reduces harmful emissions and, surprise, is an extra cost on top of diesel fuel), it might even be cheaper to drive a gas truck. There are also extra maintenance costs to consider.
No one should buy diesel trucks over regular-gas models just for the marginal increase in fuel economy, though, even if that increase is greater when towing or hauling a heavy load. Whether it’s the increased towing and payload capacities, brand loyalty to a particular diesel engine or even just a love of rollin’ coal, fuel economy should only be part of the consideration when you’re already diesel shopping.
Remember this information if you’re shopping for a truck for the first time, and don’t be swayed by a few extra mpg. Diesels are great for a lot of things, but going easy on your bank account clearly isn’t one of them.
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