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  • Whale Watching: Luxury Trucks -- Is It Worth It?

Whale Watching: Luxury Trucks -- Is It Worth It?

G.R. Whale
Nov 26, 2013
At a luxury vehicle conference -- how I classify a $70,000 pickup or $120,000 sport/ute -- a panelist asked about value versus worth. Huh? My dictionary app's definition of value is worth. The second word listed is value.
Disregarding psychological and economic distinctions, I found varied, contradictory interpretations of value and worth and have come to the conclusion that we are frequently irrational, defective thinkers about vehicles. That's a good thing, or we'd all be driving white Priuses and humdrum pickups.
Motor Trend's of the Year test defines value as "price and equipment levels measured against those vehicles in the same market segment." Is value a monetary amount, while worth centers around your viewpoint? I've said something is worth it more than I've said something is a good value. Or do you consider value the utility you get from something, and worth what it trades for in the marketplace? After all, it's the Holy Grail of marketing to make people put more value on something (to pay more money) than what it costs to make it (what it is worth).
Or is the argument moot, since all same-class pickups are nearly identically priced, and intangibles like style, sound quality, the dealership it originates from, and/or brand loyalty are the factors that help you make your decision?
Photo 2/8   |   2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali CrewCab Side
"Pickups are the last bastion of loyalty, but some owners are more loyal to an engine or component brand."
Pickups are the last bastion of loyalty, but some owners are more loyal to an engine or component brand. Nissan isn't betting the farm on it, but it plans on getting potential Titan buyers in the showroom by leveraging the Cummins name and power numbers. Some say a 300-plus-hp/500-plus-lb-ft diesel is too much for a ½-ton, but I haven't heard Nissan confirm it's going into a 1/2-ton. Some say it won't be worth it, though purchase and operating costs are unknown. While some diesel drivers do get their money's worth, many would have a gas pickup if cost overruled emotion.
A spreadsheet will calculate your diesel payback point for whatever fuel prices you envision. For the mileage I get in 3/4-ton HDs, it would come at 160,000 miles -- about 16 years for my pickup needs. Would I like one for superior mileage -- especially when towing -- or the high-altitude performance? Absolutely. (When it comes to turbo V-6 versus V-8, altitude performance is why I'd pick an EcoBoost 3.5 over a 5.0-liter V-8; otherwise I'd stick with the V-8.)
But which diesel? Additional torque over a gasser on any HD pickup diesel costs at least $8000, including the cost of the transmission. That ranges from a standard Cummins auto ($20.73/lb-ft) to a Cummins manual at $31.18 because of its lower torque rating; the others fall between those two. If you pull a 28,000-pound trailer, the standard Cummins isn't worth it, but the $10,000-plus H.O. upgrade is. Maybe it's better to just have the materials or equipment delivered to your job site—10 grand will buy lots of deliveries.
However, a Ram 1500 diesel could average $3000 over a Hemi, making it $300/lb-ft. Clearly, an extra 6-7 EPA mpg on the highway won't make a diesel 1/2-ton worth it to most rational buyers; the others will pay $3000 to brag "I have a Ram diesel."
My contractor was offered a great deal on an outgoing model-year SUV, but didn't bite. You could argue a vehicle being sold for $30,000 with no obvious defects, when you know its MSRP is $40,000, is worth it. However, the SUV held no value for him, because he would need to buy (and insure and park) a trailer as well, something he doesn't have to do now. Alas, I know many who got a "great deal" while failing to consider that the wrong vehicle won't address all/some/any of their needs.
Converting your pickup to CNG might be worth it, especially if you don't need the full 8 feet of bed space and have a good CNG supply nearby. On Labor Day, local CNG was about half the price of gasoline ($2.15/gge to $3.98/gal), so that $11,000 conversion would pay off for me faster than a diesel. Even better, some CNG pickups and vans qualify for carpool-lane stickers in California; what is saving commuting time worth to you?
Thrifty buyers know today's best pickup value is an optional axle ratio. For $50 or so, a shorter ratio rarely detracts from resale value or drops highway economy unless you cruise empty, and improves tow rating and performance in any condition. Can you think of any other way to improve 0-60 times or climbing ability for $50 -- and get it covered under warranty?
Which truck do you think offers the best value? Which options? Did your spreadsheet overrule your emotional intangibles or optimistically rosy future? We know 5 percent of you will admit you didn't need that titanium uber cab HD, and 50 percent more are going to lie about it, but we'll leave your name off if you ask.



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