Upgrade to Full Size - How Full?

srpat

Adventurist
#1
I've had my 07 Tacoma for 8 years now. It's been a good truck. I like the manual transmission and the size. I hate the abysmal fuel economy, range, and lack of power. Towing on the highway nets me as bad as 11 mpg and with a 20 gallon tank I am stopping way more than I would like. I also get range anxiety on trails, even with 5 or 10 gallons in the bed in jerry cans.

I tow frequently both for work and play. Nothing I tow currently exceeds 6,000lbs and even if I get a bigger camping trailer, I doubt it would be much heavier than that. My current camping trailer weighs a hair under 3,000lbs.

I really like the manual transmission, but I am opening myself up to the possibility that I might buy an automatic. I don't think a slide in camper is on the horizon, at least not in the next 10 years. With 2 adults and 2 kids, I can't imagine going back to a ground tent setup, or trying to squeeze into a slide in camper. So I definitely don't think I need a 1-ton truck.

A 1/2 ton pickup meets my towing needs, but there is nothing with a manual transmission. A 3/4 ton truck (Ram 2500 is about the only one I'm considering right now) is way overkill for everything and it costs more. But I get everything else that I want. Oh, and it costs a lot more, especially after a few suspension, armor, and tire mods.

The last few days the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel has caught my attention. Awesome fuel economy, range, power/torque. Decent price gently used. But longevity? Who knows -- they haven't been around long enough.

I briefly considered the Tundra. But I would be trading everything I don't like about the Tacoma for just as many things I don't like about the tundra. Nissan Titan doesn't seem to have the aftermarket support I like. F-150 is a maybe, but not a lot of people are building those out. Powerwagon is another candidate. It has horrible fuel economy, but at least a bigger gas tank than the Tacoma. Off the lot, it doesn't need anything to get me going. But I feel like if I'm going to spend that kind of money, I should just go buy a Cummins 2500. Then I add up the money there and go back to a used 1/2 ton ecodiesel. Round and round I go. It makes me dizzy.

Who I especially want to hear from are those that jumped from midsize to full size. Are you limited by the size? Do you miss any of the trails you used to be able to squeeze down that you can't get through anymore? Is full size even "that" much bigger on the trail?

Any other opinions?

srpat
 

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#2
Don't kid yourself, size CAN be a limitation and there IS a difference on the trail. Where are you located? Big difference between eastern forests and western desert trails too.

BUT, if it will fit, it will go especially in the case of a Power Wagon.

I don't recommend buying a used EcoDiesel. It's a light duty VM Motori engine vice medium duty like the 6.7 liter Cummins. They are good motors yes, but I have doubts about longevity compared to the Cummins. It's also an IFS front vice solid axle. Nothing wrong with it per se, but the SFA is clearly stronger with less moving parts.

For what you describe, the Power Wagon is the clear choice.
 

Al Swope

Adventurist
Founding Member
#3
Looking at the costs of gas vs. diesel, I made this table of total fuel cost per year based on 12000 miles driven. A diesel truck typically costs 6-10K more than a similar gas truck. You have to really need the diesel to justify the extra expense.

gas v diesel.PNG
 

srpat

Adventurist
#5
I'm in Southern Wisconsin. My version of offroad is Colorado, Utah, California -- anything with mountains and a nice view. I don't really enjoy forest trails as much. I've been to Uharrie and Land Between the Lakes and although fun, it definitely wasn't my brand of adventure.

Dave, any trails you did with your Tacoma that you tried with your 2500? Was it something you got used to or did you just accept the limitations with the bigger truck?

I usually pull my trailer with us on the trails we go on. It definitely makes it more of a challenge, but I have never hesitated to go someplace with my trailer as long as the truck fit. Maybe a powerwagon or similar would make that different. Not sure.

Anybody with a power wagon care to chime in with mpg? The average I read about says 10mpg but it can't be that bad. I was hoping for 13 for a city highway mix. Any idea what happens with 3-4,000lb trailer on it?
 

Doug

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#7
Looking at the costs of gas vs. diesel, I made this table of total fuel cost per year based on 12000 miles driven. A diesel truck typically costs 6-10K more than a similar gas truck. You have to really need the diesel to justify the extra expense.

View attachment 38830
Haven’t been in the truck market for a while now but when I was diesels got better mpg than gas models and there was a savings in total fuel cost.
 

srpat

Adventurist
#8
MPG is certainly part of my concern. But the other factor is range. If I am towing a small trailer but am only going to get 8-9 mpg with a power wagon, then I think I can justify looking at the price of a diesel.

From what I can tell, a trailer, especially a small one, will not have much impact on fuel economy with a diesel engine. A diesel also won't suffer as much from bigger tires. And in the case on a Ram with manual transmission, the gearing is set up where you can comfortably go to a 37" tire without having to regear.

So, this morning, if I had a budget of $40,000. I could either buy a 3 year old powerwagon with 25,000 miles on it. Or a gently used 2500 diesel and then modify it over the next year or so. Or maybe even travel to Idaho to buy from Dennis Dillon a new 2500 for 45,000.

I just keep coming back to the 2500 being ridiculously big for my needs. But then I am 100% sure that my tacoma is not big enough for my needs. Add to that the fact that no 1/2 ton comes in a manual transmission and no 1/2 ton offers a reliable diesel engine and I have a choice of way bigger than I need or not quite enough. Chevy's Colorado would fall into the not quite big enough category. The ZR2 only tows 5,000lbs. And then the wear and tear on a compact pick up from towing 3-5,000lbs for maybe 6,000 miles a year really adds to wear and tear.
 

Al Swope

Adventurist
Founding Member
#9
Haven’t been in the truck market for a while now but when I was diesels got better mpg than gas models and there was a savings in total fuel cost.
I agree, if a gasser gets 18mpg and the same truck with a diesel gets 24mpg, the diesel will save you $333 per year in fuel costs. Based on those numbers only, it would take you 22-30 years to break even after factoring in the initial cost of the vehicle. Other factors obviously apply.
 
#12
I had to buy 5 gallons of oil for my diesel oil change last night. Even at DIY prices your looking at $100+ in oil and filter. Drive a lot and it adds up.

Now my gas vs diesel experience is in MUCH larger trucks, the gas v10 got 8mpg if I stayed at 60 or less, diesel gets 10 (9.6 if I try to go 70). Pretty big mileage increase when heavy.


I think the advantage of moving to a bigger truck is the weight capacity. Tacomas are overweight 99% of the time, adding new springs, frame reinforcements etc helps, but your still wearing components faster than OE designed.
 

Chris Griggers

Adventurist
Author
#13
I went through this same debate a few months back. We went from a nicely built Tacoma to a Power Wagon. I loved our Tacoma but it just did not have the room needed with our growing family. I looked very hard at getting a Ram 2500 or 3500 4x4 diesel. But since this was just a weekend vehicle we had a small budget to work with of $35k, I could not justify the extra money for new diesel truck and I was not going to pay the kind of money folks wanted for a used one with 100k miles on them. I was told to look at the Power Wagons by a good friend and I am glad we did.

The truck has plenty of power and room for us and is very well built from the factory. Heck you can even toss 35's on it stock and 37's with a small leveling kit. The PW's don't get the best MPG but it gets about the same or better than my Tacoma did. If you are trying to save some cash you could always go with a regular gas ram 2500 4x4. Those can be picked up new and gently used for quite a bit less than you would think. Often times for less than a 1500 truck can be.

We test drove one of the new Titan XD with the 5.0 Cummins and did not like it at all. It has one heck of a dead spot in the pedal, its enough that it could actually get you in trouble if you had to suddenly accelerate to avoid something.

In the end both my wife and I are very happy with the Power Wagon. It comes with almost every thing I would want to do to it right from the factory and its all under warranty. If MPG is extremely important to you the best thing to do is get a cheap commuter car to drive daily and save the truck for fun and work. That would save you more in the long run than buying a diesel would.

Also one important thing that is often overlooked, if the truck is ever totaled or stolen it can be a nightmare trying to get paid for all of your modifications to a vehicle. However if it came that way from the factory that way then they can not dispute it...

Tacoma Build Page
https://americanadventurist.com/forum/threads/flatbed-tacoma.1926/

Power Wagon Build page
https://americanadventurist.com/forum/threads/the-adventure-wagon-a-2015-power-wagon.5981/
 
#14
Power wagon is still tempting. But I keep reading about the 32 gallon tank showing empty with 9-10 gallons left in the tank and some people having issues getting it started again if they run past empty when there is still gas in the tank. So, if true, that is a 25 gallon tank with 10-12 miles per gallon.

It's not as much about fuel economy as it is range. Yeah, I can take gas cans, but better economy plus bigger tank equals a win/win.

You have all convinced me, for today, to stop thinking about diesels.

Anybody have any thoughts on a Ram 1500 or F150? The ford can get me a 38 gallon tank. And it has manual shifting control on the transmission. I am reading up now to see what people think about the 2.7L ecoboost engine to see if that might be a better option than the 3.5 ecoboost.

Comparing to a power wagon, I lose a front locker, factory winch, beefier frame, and solid front axle.
 
#16
Like others, I had a love/hate relationship with my Tacoma. It has 120,000 miles on it, never gave me any trouble and carried my FWC easily. But to get there, one has to modify the suspension extensively and the range and mpg were terrible. We also wanted 4 doors so we can take our granddaughter camping. Tundra got ruled out pretty quickly due to bad MPG and the fact you can only get 4 doors with a 5 foot bed. So, on to looking at full size gas domestics.

What I found over several months of searching in the upper midwest are that 1) diesels are much more available than gassers 2) prices for used trucks seem ridiculous, even for high mileage ones 3) it is pretty hard to find a truck without all the expensive options (moonroof, leather, etc.) unless you order one 3) 1 ton trucks are not much more $$ than a 3/4 ton so less modifications have to be done suspension wise if you are planning to carry a camper.

I ended up with a 2015 Ram 3500 gasser with 18,000 miles for many, many $$ less than Blue Book. Granted, it is a Laramie so it has heated and cooled seats, and leather but it has built in Nav and some other nice to haves. According to the sticker, its load capacity is 3850 pounds. Given all the crazy gadgets, I was able to get a bumper to bumper extended warranty from my credit union for a 1/3 of the cost from the dealer. I'm having a flatbed built and will be installing a BunduTec camper on it in the next few months.

On the two extended highway trips I've taken, the beast got close to 20 mpg on the highway. Make no mistake, it's a massive thing to drive and nowhere near as nimble as the Tacoma around town, parking, etc.. But, everything is a compromise eventually and I can now carry five adults and all my gear in comfort and the new camper should be no problem.

Good Hunting.
 
#18
Newer diesels HATE crappy Mexico fuel. If you plan to go there (or other locations with lower grade diesel) be aware and get the fuel closest to ULSD we have here. Also, you will have to travel with DEF. I am a 250,000 mile diesel guy, but more and more I am not "needing" a diesel motor.

Just something else to toss in the decision mix.
 

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#19
DEF is available across North America at... WalMart. About $8 for 2.5 gallons. Average DED tank is about 5 gallons. DEF rarely needs refilled, and there’s DEF pumps at truck stops like Pilot, TA, Loves etc.

I’ve driven coast to coast with lots of dirt and DEF was never an issue.

YMMV ;)
 
#20
Looking at the costs of gas vs. diesel, I made this table of total fuel cost per year based on 12000 miles driven. A diesel truck typically costs 6-10K more than a similar gas truck. You have to really need the diesel to justify the extra expense.

View attachment 38830
It really depends on what platforms you're comparing. I ran the #'s for a Ram 2500 PW (6.4L Hemi) and a Ram 2500 6.7l Cummins. Assuming brand new truck prices and moderate annual mileage (15k miles) and a 60/40 mix of highway and city, the diesel's efficiency will probably pay for itself in 7-8 years, sooner if your annual mileage is higher. That's taking into account all annual maintenance costs for both engine types. Keep in mind too that FCA recommends 89 octane for its Hemi family of engines (though 87 is permissible) and that you can find used trucks where the price gap between diesel and gasoline variants is less pronounced. You also get more of your money back with a diesel when it comes time to sell.

Considering something like a Duramax Colorado vs a gasoline Colorado, I could see diesel still paying for itself in 7-8 years. The diesel efficiency advantage is pretty significant in that case and the MSRP gap between diesels and gasolines in that segment is only $3.6k or so. Again, the story changes somewhat assuming higher annual mileage.

Driving style plays a huge role too. If you're just driving stock, unloaded vehicles at moderate speeds, neither engine type will see a huge variance from the EPA ratings. If you drive fast, tow a lot, or throw lots of weight and a lift onto your vehicle (like offroad modifications) the gasoline engines tend to see bigger efficiency hits than do the diesels....at least that's been my experience.

So yes. The diesel costs more up front. It costs more to maintain (there is a delta ranging from $100-$180 in annual maintenance depending on the engines being compared). Diesel fuel costs more per gallon relative to 87 octane in most areas of the US (Canada and Alaska are a different story), but some OEM's do recommend 89 octane or higher for their gasoline engines so the cost difference is marginal in some cases.

On the flip side, you get better resale values for diesel vehicles compared to gassers, especially as you get into higher mileage. You'll get better efficiency loaded and unloaded, which equates to better range. And, IMHO, they just seem much better suited to doing work (towing, hauling, turning big tires) compared to gassers.

I don't see a right or wrong answer; each individual owner just needs to be aware of the tradeoff's before making a purchasing decision.


MPG is certainly part of my concern. But the other factor is range. If I am towing a small trailer but am only going to get 8-9 mpg with a power wagon, then I think I can justify looking at the price of a diesel.

From what I can tell, a trailer, especially a small one, will not have much impact on fuel economy with a diesel engine. A diesel also won't suffer as much from bigger tires. And in the case on a Ram with manual transmission, the gearing is set up where you can comfortably go to a 37" tire without having to regear.

So, this morning, if I had a budget of $40,000. I could either buy a 3 year old powerwagon with 25,000 miles on it. Or a gently used 2500 diesel and then modify it over the next year or so. Or maybe even travel to Idaho to buy from Dennis Dillon a new 2500 for 45,000.

I just keep coming back to the 2500 being ridiculously big for my needs. But then I am 100% sure that my tacoma is not big enough for my needs. Add to that the fact that no 1/2 ton comes in a manual transmission and no 1/2 ton offers a reliable diesel engine and I have a choice of way bigger than I need or not quite enough. Chevy's Colorado would fall into the not quite big enough category. The ZR2 only tows 5,000lbs. And then the wear and tear on a compact pick up from towing 3-5,000lbs for maybe 6,000 miles a year really adds to wear and tear.
Regularly towing 3k lbs, a max tow of 6k lbs, and concerned about fuel efficiency?

The base Duramax Colorado (not the ZR2) is rated for that kind of work, as is the gasoline Tacoma and Colorado. Now, I totally understand that just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Regularly towing 6k lbs is going to be a lot of work for any midsized truck, but if you were determined to stay within that segment, I'd recommend Duramax Colorado hands down over any other midsized options. You can still get that truck with a rear locker and modify it for offroad duties....I wouldn't feel obligated to get the ZR2 in your case.

I would advise staying away from the Ram Ecodiesel. It's one of those engines that looks good on paper, but seems to have had a lot of teething issues in the real-world. I know FCA has tried to make improvements to it, but it just doesn't have same working pedigree as the Cummins, Powerstroke and Duramax engines. Not to mention that the Ram 1500 platform itself has had its fair share of issues. If you're stuck on 1/2 tons, I'd look heavily at the Tundra and F-150 or even a Silverado. All 3 will be more than capable of handling your towing requirements; the mpg's won't be great, but the work will get done reliably. You could wait and see how the new 3.0l diesel in the F-150 turns out...knowing Ford's history, I would be hesitant to buy the first batch of those engines.

I do think that anything in the 3/4 ton segment will be an overkill for your purposes. Yes, they are arguably more overbuilt and more capable than anything else on the market (which I suppose gives some peace of mind), but they cost more to buy and run. From everything I've seen and experienced, the 6.4l Hemi in the Ram 2500 platform is a thirsty, though reliable, engine. It gets even more thirsty when you start adding weight, bigger tires and a lift to it. If you're truly concerned about efficiency and range, I'd think that you'll never be truly satisfied with it. The 6.7l Cummins and comparable diesels from the other manufacturers are a bit more efficient by comparison. But they cost more to buy and maintain compared to gasoline engines. If you really decide to go this route, just be aware that everything (from maintenance and repairs to fuel bills) is going to cost more in relation to the midsized and 1/2 ton segments.

Honestly, a 2.8l Duramax Colorado seems adequate for your purposes and goals. The cost of ownership for gas vs diesel isn't as clear cut as some people make it out to be and it often depends on the individual owner's preferences and intended usages. If you really plan on towing as much as you claimed earlier, and if you drive a lot annually, I could see a diesel option making financial sense. But I can also see the merit of simply accepting the mediocre efficiency of a 3.5l V6 Tacoma and throwing some extra jerry cans in the bed for extended trips. I have some old excel files with fuel and maintenance costs for some of these platforms. PM me if you're interested in getting that info. Good luck!
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom