Diesel vs. Gas Truck? Surprising Result at The End of The Battle

The question “Should I Buy Diesel or Gas Truck” is old as much as the first diesel-powered truck. Back in 80’ Ford revealed first truck equipped with 6.9L V8 Navistar International diesel engine. Since then, the buzz around the diesel vs. gas truck makes drivers argue and praise their choice.

The line between diesel and gas engines is so much blurred, and it is very hard to give a straightforward answer. There are so many variables in the equation that needs to be viewed from many perspectives.

Fuel prices change, technological development of the engines, personal requirements, job and vocation needs, and many other kinds of stuff will influence your decision.

That being said it is challenging to give advice that is a general rule of thumb but here are the 11 things you should consider if you are in doubt to buy diesel or gas truck?

Truck Price

The initial price of a diesel truck is always higher compared to the gas counterpart. For the high-duty truck difference in price can be up to $10,000. Small diesel trucks cost around $5,000 more than gas version of the same model.

To give you an example we’ll mention 6.6L Duramax diesel engine in Chevy Silverado. If you choose diesel version (regardless trim level), you need to pay $9,945 above MSRP.

Another example but with smaller engine capacity is RAM 1500. 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel cost $4,495 extra.

Now do the math.

How many gallons of fuel can you buy for $10,000 or $5,000? How many miles can you drive with that amount of fuel? Of course, add into the equation how many miles you drive a year? Pretty simple calculation, right?

Fuel Economy

There are many tests done by specialized truck online magazines and reputable vblogs on YouTube that clearly show that diesel trucks have better fuel economy. But, the difference in fuel economy is not so big as two decades ago or more. Gas engines have adopted many technical solutions from diesel counterparts, like variable turbochargers and transmission technology.

Best gas mileage truck MPG is quite similar to diesel one, around 2 MPG if you are using your truck for casual visits to Walmart. If you, on the other hand, use the truck for towing and hauling a lot of heavy cargo or trailer, diesel fuel efficiency comes into the first plan. However, the fuel economy battle wins the diesel truck.

Fuel Cost

Fuel prices are going up and down lately. But it is fair to say that diesel is more expensive than gas for more than ten years. If you look at the latest fuel reports for Houston, TX, you’ll notice that price of $2,42 for regular and $2,69 for diesel. Not to mention that some gas stations don’t offer diesel at all.

So, diesel is more expensive per gallon, and this one clearly goes to a gas truck.

DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid)

Diesel trucks require the use of diesel exhaust fluid. Yes, except oil, diesel truck needs urea-based fluid to reduce NOx or oxides of nitrogen emissions. DEF is an essential part for functioning SCR system. At this link, you can find technical details about fluid.

DEF consumption depends greatly on your towing needs. If you don’t need to tow heavy trailers, you may have to fill in DEF every 5,000 or 6,000 miles. The heavier towing you get, the more DEF you will need.

Price of DEF is something you need to calculate in fuel cost. Diesel Exhaust Fluid, that is certified by 22241 ISO standard and is approved for use in every diesel engine with SCR system cost around $2,85 per gallon.

Pro Tip: Take your truck to truck stop fuel station and fill up DEF fluid at the pump. It is much cheaper than buying in cases, plus DEF is fresh since gas stations are very busy and frequent places.

Owners of gas trucks don’t need to think about urea-based fluids in their vehicle. This one also goes to the gas engine.

Horsepower vs. Torque

Power. We all want the powerful engine in the truck, but is it really about horsepower? Gas engines usually have more HP. Diesel, on the other hand, has more torque. What is most important? The honest answer is TORQUE. If you are going to use the truck for towing in the region with lots of hills or you need to haul a load for long distance, then you need torque. Diesel is great for towing because it gives the power at low rpm, usually lower than 2,000 rpm.

In the last several years, diesel engines have similar power regarding horsepower. For instance, Chevrolet Silverado equipped with powerful Duramax 6.6L V8 gives astonishing 445 HP, or Ford F-250 with 6.7L V8 turbodiesel gives 5 HP less.

Torque at low revs leads us to another thing to consider in buying a diesel or gas pickup truck, and it is engine longevity.

Engine Longevity

Who will win the engine longevity fight is partially answered in the previous paragraph. Diesel engine gives higher torque at the low revs and much lower speed. This means less friction between engine and transmission components. Also, diesel engine parts like cylinders, engine block, and pistons are produced to handle high-compression ratios and temperatures.

Average gas engine life for the full-size truck is around 220,000 miles. Diesel engine life can be more than 400,000 miles. Some diesel pickups had half a million miles in odometer before their engine gives its best. So, diesel engine last longer, one point to a diesel.

Towing Capacity

The one thing is for sure if you plan to tow on long distance or you need to tow for 5 hours or so a day, buy a diesel truck. Especially if you need to tow over the mountains. Diesel trucks have more torque, and that is the main reason why do they have the much bigger towing capacity.

Along with torque and towing capability diesel trucks have an exhaust brake feature. It is a tremendous help when towing down the steep hills. For towing within the city and hauling not so heavy load, you can use the gas truck.

Another benefit of using diesel trucks for towing is automatic transmission. Ford recently developed 10-speed automatic transmission. Transmission in diesel pickups may be heavier and costly to maintain but gives better fuel economy and power needed for towing.

Here are just a few numbers to neglect about towing. High-duty trucks equipped with a diesel engine can tow more than 30,000 pounds. That is four times more than its weight. RAM 3500 diesel dually, Ford Super Duty diesel and other ultra-duty diesel trucks are capable of towing gooseneck or 6 wheel trailer at much better MPG compared to gas versions.

Diesel goes into the lead.

Maintenance Cost

Due to the more complex engine, diesel trucks have a higher maintenance cost. Maintenance intervals are usually the same, but diesel engines use more oil. The oil change service is more expensive since many repair shops fill in DEF when changing oil and filters. The electronic injectors, turbochargers, intercoolers, and transmission are generally costly to repair.

Gas engines don’t have electronic injectors, which are very sensitive on fuel impurities. Instead of complicated fuel system like in diesel, gas engines have spark plugs that are very easy to change by yourself.

If you need to change major engine parts like the crankshaft or engine head, it will cost a lot for both engines. But, regular maintenance is more expensive for diesel engines.

Offer and Customization

No matter if you prefer gas or diesel truck you can find new and used models on the market that can fit every budget. Furthermore, if your vocation requires truck upfit, many companies do truck bed conversions. Diesel or gas, there are literally tons of customization options for all trades out there; HVAC, electricians, plumbers, agricultural, contractors, and many others. The engine will not play a key role here, so let’s call it even.

Resale Value

Although diesel trucks cost more upfront, they have better resale value. Trade value of low mileage diesel truck is way higher compared to gas one. So, you’ll pay more up front, between $5,000 or $10,000 for a new pickup, but it will pay off at the end of a deal because depreciation is significantly less than with gas model.


Pollution and environmental impact are not determining factors when choosing a diesel or gas truck, but they deserve to be mentioned. Regulation is strict for both types of the engines, but diesel engines are constantly “under pressure” especially after Volkswagen diesel scandal in the US.

Nowadays, we can say that there are no differences in emissions between diesel and gas engines. No matter the fact that diesel produces more NOx then gas engine and that is the reason why all diesel trucks are required to use DEF.

Furthermore, a diesel needs to clean the particulate filter, another filter used only with diesel engines. PDF filter is designed to remove diesel particulate from the exhaust system. Dirty PDF can affect fuel economy and power delivery. Because of that diesel trucks use “regen mode” or regeneration. Gas engines don’t have PDF nor DEF.

Emissions point goes to a gas pickup truck.

Conclusion: Diesel vs. Gas Truck?

As you can see, we can call it even. Choosing between gas or diesel truck mainly depends on your towing needs, how many miles you will drive a year and for how many years you will keep the truck.

If you need to tow a lot and you don’t need to drive the different truck every two years go with the diesel. Otherwise, a truck with petrol engine will do the job. Occasional towing within the city or hauling few tool boxes in the truck bed can be done very easily with a gas truck.