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The Cost of Pickups - Whale Watching

Late Model Trucks & Rising Costs

G.R. Whale
Jan 1, 2015
I recently drove a half-ton pickup that was around $60,000. For a 1/2-ton with no out-of-the-ordinary stuff (no diesel, no winch, no wide-body, no four-corner air, or desert-flight suspension), I could get an altogether-decent used V8 Ferrari, M5, or 911.
Granted, that Silverado High Country was quite nice, capable of shaming an outgoing Escalade in some respects. Coincidentally, however, I could build and price a 2015 LTZ-trim Silverado 2500HD with a slightly longer bed in the same four-wheel-drive Crew Cab configuration that would carry 90 percent more real-world payload and tow 2,200 pounds more. Optioned up with most of the power accessories and ventilated/heated seats the High Country had, plus the towing mirrors and forged aluminum wheels it didn't, it was missing little more than a power-adjust steering column, driver memory, and the material upgrades. And it was nearly $4,000 less. Am I buying a pickup or a fancy car with a big open trunk? (Note: All these comparisons were done same day, same zip codes, no incentives, etc.)
Photo 2/9   |   2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 HighCountry Front Three Quarters
I had the same problem when Ram launched the diesel 1/2-ton, and we were rolling around in $53,000 crew-cab short-bed four-wheel-drive Longhorn luxo-liners. You could configure a 2500 crew-cab long-bed basic with Cummins, two levers in the floor and only truck-useful bits like big mirrors and a trailer-brake controller; you get double the payload and towing capacity for $7,000 less. Additionally, you could do an SLT crew-cab long-bed with a 6.4L Hemi, 4.10 gears, rear air suspension, limited slip, forged wheels, real mirrors, and a few conveniences and still be less than that half-ton. It's clearly less lux than a Longhorn and maneuverable than the shorty half-ton, though I don't find that much difference in ride quality loaded.
Ford is not immune to this price dilemma, with $55,000 half-tons overlapping sub-$40,000 Super Duty trucks. Nissan and Toyota are exempt for most purposes because their loaded mid-sizes price right where their lowest trim full-sizes with like cab and drive begin.
And it's only going to get worse with the influx of vans and mid-size pickups. When Chevrolet said a Colorado could tow 7,000 pounds that was already higher than some Silverado V6s. Use a $4,000 premium for a 2.8L diesel and you could easily end up with a Colorado or Frontier that out-tows its fullsize cousin for little to no more money. And where will a Cummins-powered Titan or Tundra fit in here?
A base Colorado extended cab runs $21,000 with a manual gearbox and rear camera, almost $9,000 below a Silverado double-cab WT with automatic but no rear camera; it's $4,500 less if you envision no usable rear seat in an extended Colorado and compare to regular-cab Silverado. However, a Z71 4x4 Crew Cab Colorado short-bed is $35,000—that could get you in a Silverado 1500 or even a regular-cab four-wheel-drive 3/4-ton.
Photo 6/9   |   2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Front Three Quarters
Decisions, decisions.
Like most cars, segment creep has, well, crept into pickups. Two decades ago there weren't 1-tons rated to tow 10,000 pounds, and some of them barely had more V8 horsepower than the four-cylinder Colorado. Now, mid-sizes do 1/2-ton work, 1/2-tons do HD-pickup work, and HD pickups are commercial grade.
And that brings another set of cost factors. How much does it cost for a CDL? What does your insurance agent think of your new semi-in-disguise? What do you think of F-450 tires that cost (see aforementioned price disclaimer) $185 more, each, than the top-rated F-350 (itself essentially a '14 F-450 with a new badge)? Would you rather have more than 15 tons of towing capacity or ride quality based on 80-psi tires rather than 110-psi tires?
I got lucky on my old truck. It required that I pick a spare tire or a rear bumper. I thought the spare more useful, and when I weighed it as delivered, with fuel, it could carry at least a rear bumper more than rated payload. Wouldn't that make a refreshing change?
Skeptical as I am about truck ratings and costs, it could be worse. Researching trailers today, I found one clearly labeled "half-ton towable" that was almost 9,100 pounds empty and boasted a carrying capacity of more than 4,400 pounds giving a GVWR of 13,500. Unless they know something about the 2015 F-150 I don't, that's a 1,500-pound miss in the best case scenario.
I think we need another standard: SAE J2807RV.