2015 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali
The best used heavy duty trucks are generally thought of as workhorses, and the choices we’ve corralled today are among the thoroughbreds: They supply amped-up capabilities as compared to the more popular light-duty pickups, yet they also have an increasingly wide range of modern day comforts. Some even have climate-controlled leather seating, mobile Wi-Fi capability, and custom-look appearance packages. As for the following trucks, what they also have are special advantages that more run-of-the-mill rivals may be lacking.
Chevy has a strong track record for pickup reliability, and that makes it an ideal starting place if you’re looking for the best used heavy duty trucks. The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, for instance, is from the same family that’s won its segment for two years in a row in the most recent J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Studies. Also notable is that the 2015 model year saw major upgrades for the Bowtie brand’s HD lineup: Engineers reconfigured the heavy-duty Silverado’s extended-cab configuration to be a true double cab, with forward-hinged doors, and designers began introducing Chevy’s special edition packages for the 2500HD. This allowed owners to start combining massive towing capabilities with blackout styling (in the Midnight Edition) or an athletic Custom Sport appearance.
The best used heavy duty trucks with the most capabilities are those like the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD, which ratchet-up towing and payload ratings with even stronger foundations than the 2500-class pickups. Thus, the 2013 Silverado 3500HD had best-in-class marks — at the time — for maximum payload, conventional towing and fifth-wheel towing. A key advantage here is the truck’s available 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine: it’s capable of 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque. For 2013, Chevy further broadened availability for the powerplant in that configuration, offering it for the first time on 3500HD chassis cabs and Silverados ordered with the “box-delete” option. The Silverado HDs from this model year also led their segment in the Power Vehicle Dependability Study (as previously mentioned).
General Motors has some of the best used heavy duty trucks for premium-oriented customers, too, such as the 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD. The pickup had received a full slate of both comfort and capability enhancements for this model year, including longer wheelbases and wider tracks for smoother rides. For more diesel-derived output, the 2011 Sierra HD welcomed the 6.6-liter Duramax Diesel, complete with its 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque. Engineers then added more high-strength steel to the trucks’ frames, increasing bending stiffness by 92 percent, and they deployed a front frame structure that was 125 percent stiffer than in the 2010 models. Yet at the same time, the 2011 Sierra 2500HD has a number of modern tech advantages, like a rearview camera.
The Professional Grade brand dipped its own corporate toe into the special edition segments two years ago, and the result was the 2015 GMC Sierra All Terrain HD, available in either 2500 or 3500 pickup classes. These really show the difference design — and technology — can make for the best used heavy duty trucks. For example, the All Terrain HDs wear eye-catching style cues such as LED headlamps, chrome grille surround, aluminum underbody shields and chromed aluminum 20-inch wheels, then tap into GM’s OnStar division for mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and 4G LTE connectivity. In the cabin, a rearview camera and carbon-fiber-style accents are standard. But these pickups also take that All Terrain moniker seriously. Also onboard here is the Z71 offroad package that’s highlighted by Ranch twin-tube shocks.
Photo by GMC
The Blue Oval’s best used heavy duty trucks should appeal to customers as well. After all, the 2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty led the HD pickup segment in that year’s J.D. Power APEAL Study, which evaluates Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout. And the Super Duty lineup also had won the award in 2013, proving its popularity was no fluke. Proving the trucks are perfectly suited for heavy-duty workouts, the 2014 models packed that year’s best-in-class payload and towing grades, and supported that functionality with an updated braking system. Notably, that setup helps dissipate heat much faster than the 2013 system, backed by brake rotors specifically designed for extra cooling capacity, while large pads improve feel and reduce fade.
Although all of the best used heavy duty trucks can pull their own weight — and then some — the 2015 Ford F-450 takes things to the proverbial next level with a real-world towing maximum of more than 30,000 lbs. Now, as readers may be able to tell from its numerical name, the F-450 represents yet another jump up from F-350 and other 3500-class trucks. Indeed, just to be clear, Ford has the only entry in the 4500 class, bringing essentially commercial-grade capabilities to the reach of more owners. Autobytel experts chose this particular model year because it also brought new improvements to the F-450’s specially calibrated 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel. Output also was raised to 400 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft. of torque in that powerplant.
Customers considering the best used heavy duty trucks with alternative-fuel powertrains can consider the ’13 model year to be a lucky one. That’s when the Chrysler Group — as it was known at the time — became the first and only automaker to sell a factory-built heavy duty pickup that could run compressed natural gas: the 2013 RAM 2500 Heavy Duty CNG. The breakthrough came by modifying the Ram 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with redesigned cylinder heads and other hardware so that it could run on both gasoline and CNG. Owners have a choice between 8- and 35-gallon gasoline tanks, which are complemented by two “ultra-strong” CNG tanks mounted in the front of the pickup bed. The bottom line: a CNG-only range of 301 miles plus up to 665 more miles of range on gasoline.
The year after debuting its CNG-powered entry for the best used heavy duty trucks, the same automaker launched another new engine for its HD lineup. It was a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that topped its segment with 410 horsepower and churned out 429 lb.-ft. of torque. With that engine, a 5.7-liter HEMI, and a high-output Cummins diesel, the 2013 Ram Heavy Duty boasted better towing, payload and gross combined weight ratings than any of its contemporaries. Yet it also catered to comfort with exclusive air suspensions for both the 2500 and 3500 classes. Unsurprisingly, Ram’s HD truck hauled off a variety of industry awards that year, taking home class honors in Strategic Vision’s “Most Loved Vehicles” of the year rankings, among others.
Meanwhile, Ram provides a trail-focused alternative to the best used heavy duty trucks for the street and work site. That would be the 2012 RAM 2500 Power Wagon that was named that year’s “Pickup Truck of the Year” by none other than Four Wheeler magazine. Editors called it “nearly unstoppable off-road” but “still civilized enough to be daily-driven,” and they singled out the Power Wagon’s Warn winch, disconnecting sway bar, and 33-inch BFG All-Terrain tires as hardware highlights. Of course, those are just a few of the truck’s performance enhancers, which also include electric locking differentials — front and back — along with Bilstein shocks and underbody skid plates. “Add in a 10,200-lb towing capacity,” added Four Wheeler, “and you end up with a remarkable factory-built ¾-ton truck.”
More and more of the best used heavy duty trucks can furnish premium ownership experiences, as more and more automakers are developing upscale versions of their HD pickups. Take the 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD (in 2500 or 3500 grades). It’s the first heavy-duty pickup from the Professional Grade division to get the full Denali treatment. The hallmark Denali chrome grille, chrome exterior accents, forged-aluminum wheels and body-color bumpers are all in evidence outside; then, in the cabin, a unique-to-Denali brushed-aluminum trim, Bose surround-sound audio, and power-adjustable pedals all are standard. For even more luxury, some 2011 Sierra Denali HDs were fitted with heat-and-cooled, leather-appointed seating and a heated steering wheel.
Photo by General Motors