In the world of trucks, there’s a common argument that drivers will have: diesel or gas? Which fuel type is better for a daily driver? If you’re having the same conversation, you came to the right place.
In short, neither option is unanimously better. Diesel trucks last longer, they can haul more weight, and they’re more fuel-efficient. Gas-powered pickups are faster, have better performance, are cheaper to fill up, and are easier to maintain and replace. In addition, gas pickups are better for off-roading. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for in a daily driver.
As a truck expert, I put together this guide that will dive into the specifics of both fuel options, and I’ll help you decide which option is right for you. I’ll do this by describing the major benefits of both options. Let’s get started with some definitions.
What Is a Gas Truck?
Gas-powered trucks are the more popular option in America. Internationally, you’ll see a lot of diesel vehicles on the road, but America prefers good old-fashioned gas.
Just like your standard Civic, gasoline is pumped into an engine, combined with air, compressed, exploded, then the power is harnessed and used to move the vehicle.
Common gas trucks: Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500
What Is a Diesel Truck?
A diesel truck only refers to the engine used in the vehicle. You’ll actually find a lot of pickup manufacturers that take the same vehicle and drop a different engine in it. This means that a truck like a Ford F-150 can be found in both a gas and diesel option.
Diesel fuel is pumped through the truck. It goes through the same compression, mixture, and explosion process that a gas-powered truck does. The ratios are a little different, so less fuel is used during operation.
It requires a certain temperature in order for peak performance, but it generates a lot of power despite using less fuel by volume. It’s also worth mentioning that diesel fuel can ignite on its own easier, so there are no spark plugs under the hood of a diesel truck.
The popular engine brands are Duramax, Cummins, and Power Stroke. If you see any of these names in the description (or sub-model) of a truck, you automatically know that it’s a diesel.
Common diesel trucks: Ford F-150 Power Stroke, Ram 2500/3500 HD, Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD
Quickly Defining “Daily Drivers”
Since this guide is all about picking the perfect daily driver, I thought I should quickly define it. I’m using this phrase to refer to a car that you’ll use every day to commute, run errands, go on trips, and pick up groceries.
The idea is that the car should be well-versed enough to take a quick trip every day without any issues. At the same time, you should be able to use the same vehicle to visit family a few states away. You can think of a daily driver as a “jack of all trades” type of vehicle.
To consider an alternative to a daily driver, think about a high-performance, high-speed Ferrari. You’ll be more intentional about when you take it out of the garage for a spin, and it’s probably not going through any drive-thrus.
Features to Look for in a Daily Driver
There are also some major features that you should consider as you pick a daily driver. These ideas will come up as I talk through the pros of each engine style later.
How Reliable it Is
One of the biggest considerations is the reliability of the vehicle. You want something that turns on every time you turn the key and keeps running until you’re home. That’s actually why you see so many Civics and Camrys on the road — arguably two of the most reliable vehicles on the market.
For trucks, either fuel type offers a lot of reliability.
How Long the Vehicle Lasts
Another consideration is how long the vehicle lasts before you need to get a new one. If you’re anything like me, you like to buy a vehicle and then drive it until the wheels fall off. When it comes to trucks, there’s some great news: trucks will last longer than the typical compact car.
You won’t have to worry about car shopping and dealing with dealerships for longer.
Overall Ease of Use
Finally, how easy is the vehicle to use? For daily drivers, you want something that can be driven thoughtlessly. That typically means a good performance, plenty of luxuries and comforts, and simple maintenance and repairs.
Trucks are great in all of those aspects, so you won’t go wrong with either option (either a diesel or a gas-powered pickup).
Pros of a Diesel Truck
Let’s start by talking about diesel trucks. Remember that these options use diesel as fuel and they’re less popular in America. Still, they have plenty of great features to love.
First and foremost, diesel trucks are a lot better at towing cargo. This means that you can throw a bigger boat or trailer on the back of your pickup if it’s a diesel.
A standard F-150 can tow 5,000 pounds while a diesel F-150 Power Stroke can tow 11,500 pounds.
If you need to haul around big equipment, diesel is a no-brainer. In just this comparison, it offers more than double the towing capacity of a gas-powered truck.
Diesel is known for generating a higher torque when it’s consumed. This is the mechanical trait that explains why diesel vehicles are so good at towing.
Torque is a fancy way of explaining how much traction or grip there is within an engine assembly. Some people explain it as how the horsepower gets applied to the road.
High torque means that there’s a lot of rotating force by an engine’s crankshaft, and every turn of the engine translates to more motion. Lower torque values correlate to more slippage and loss of energy.
Better Fuel Economy
There are a few factors that combine to make diesel trucks more fuel-efficient. One is the higher torque value that I just described — by applying more engine power to the road, you can conserve fuel during a trip.
The other factor is the combination of fuel to air. Gas trucks are more fuel-rich, meaning that there’s more gas in the mixture. Diesel trucks can boast ratios that use half as much fuel.
At the end of the day, a diesel truck might offer 20% more miles per gallon. This adds up a lot, especially for lifelong truck owners who rely on a diesel vehicle to be their daily driver.
This means that as fuel prices go up, you don’t have to worry as much.
There is also a lot of evidence that suggests diesel trucks will last longer. It makes sense, since the engine is a lot simpler, smaller, and has fewer moving parts.
This will also help with the resale value. Since diesel vehicles last longer, you’ll be able to resell the truck for more when you’re done with it.
Pickups tend to last longer than cars, and diesel vehicles will go even farther.
No Spark Plugs Needed
Part of maintaining a vehicle includes replacing spark plugs. These can hurt your engine’s performance if you go too long before replacing them.
With a diesel, you don’t need to worry about it. Since the diesel is self-igniting, you don’t need spark plugs to get everything started.
If nothing else, this is just one less thing to worry about when it comes to owning a pickup.
Can Idle Freely
In a recent article, I explained why people leave their diesel vehicles running. When it comes to diesel vehicles, it’s a lot safer to keep the truck idling. You can even do it while you’re pumping gas, and there’s no risk of your fuel tank exploding.
In fact, idling helps keep your engine around the ideal temperature. People like to keep their diesel vehicles idling as they run into a store or pick up food. While it’s not required, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have to worry about idling your truck. It still wastes fuel, but not nearly as much as a gas-powered truck.
Pros of a Gas Truck
Next, I’ll talk about some benefits of using a gas-powered truck as your daily driver. Since gas trucks are more popular, you’ll notice that these benefits are more universally applicable as compared to diesel’s pros I just discussed.
Cheaper to Fuel Up
There’s no denying that diesel prices are pretty outrageous. In a lot of cases, a gas station will be selling diesel for a dollar more per gallon. As you can imagine, this adds up.
Pickups have much larger fuel tanks, which means you’ll need to pump more gas to fully fill up. Of course, this means that you’ll naturally see a bigger price on the screen as you’re filling up. However, the price will be even higher if you’re using diesel.
For instance, an F-150 has a 26-gallon fuel tank. That means gas is going to save you $26 on each fill-up.
It’s still true that diesel vehicles are more fuel-efficient, but you need to pay extra for that luxury.
Easier to Find Fuel
Speaking of gas stations, you’ll have a harder time finding a good one if you’re driving a diesel. Some gas stations don’t have any diesel pumps at all, they strictly sell gas.
On the other hand, every fuel stop in the country is going to offer regular gasoline to fill up your truck. Especially in rural areas, this means less driving around and looking for the right pump.
Better Horsepower (Performance)
Diesel trucks offer more towing power and a higher torque value, but gas trucks offer higher horsepower and a more impressive performance. These engine types show the difference between power and speed, with diesel vehicles being more powerful but gas-powered trucks being faster.
Comparing a gas-powered and diesel-powered F-150, you’ll go from 0-60 a half-second faster in the gas option (5.9-second 0-60 for a stock F-150, 6.4-second 0-60 for an F-150 3.0 diesel).
You’re not going to break any speed records with these pickups, but you’ll get there faster with a gas engine.
Cheaper to Maintain
Gas-powered trucks have the luxury of a more affordable maintenance plan. These parts are more common, easier to find, and cheaper to buy. As a result, overall maintenance is going to be less expensive.
Some mechanics don’t even know how to work on diesel vehicles, so they won’t accept them. That means that you’ll need to shop around for the right mechanic before you can get started.
With a gas truck, this problem goes away. You can pull into any trusty mechanic’s garage and they’ll get to work. It also comes with a cheaper bill at the end, since you’re not relying on specialized workers.
Easier to Repair
Some diesel trucks can get pretty convoluted when it comes to repairs. Again, this comes down to the fact that diesel vehicles are less common, and expertise is harder to come by.
With a gas truck, it’s easier to find a replacement part and you’ll get it quicker. You can even go to a junkyard and find countless gas trucks to take parts from.
With diesel repairs, you might wind up on a waitlist just trying to get the right part.
Better for Off-Roading
An off-roading vehicle needs to do a few things well: it needs good ground clearance, great grip, a high redline, and fast revs. Diesel trucks and gas trucks both offer great ground clearance and 4WD traction, but they differ in the other two categories.
Thanks to the higher horsepower and better performance, gas trucks can redline higher and rev faster. As such, they’re a better option for an off-roading toy.
That’s not to say that diesel vehicles are useless off-road, they’re just not as good.
Warming Up the Engine Isn’t as Important
Diesel engines work best within a certain temperature range. Most of the time, that means idling the truck for a few minutes before the engine gets a chance to heat up.
Driving with a colder engine means that components will wear out quicker, the engine will fail sooner, and fuel will be wasted. With a gas-powered truck, these issues aren’t as important.
You can jump into a gas-powered pickup and immediately drive away after starting the vehicle without any major issues. With a diesel, this is never a good idea.
The obvious solution for diesel daily drivers is to wait in the driveaway little bit before heading to work each morning. For us impatient people, these minutes will drag on. That’s why I think gas-powered trucks are so great for daily drivers.
More Available Models
Another thing worth mentioning is how many options you have when it comes to shopping for a gas-powered pickup truck. There are dozens more options for gas pickups than diesel pickups.
Since gas trucks are much more popular, this makes sense. Truck manufacturers understand how massive the market is for gas trucks, so they put plenty of options on the market.
Why does this matter? Well, it means that you get to pick the right make, model, and sub-model for your specific needs. This involves hand-picking an option based on performance, added luxuries, and price — three categories that are important when it comes to getting a daily driver.
With the lack of options in the diesel market, you’ll likely need to settle when it comes to picking your new pickup.
Which Is Right for You?
Now, it’s time to answer the question on everyone’s mind: which truck is better as a daily driver, diesel or gas? Like most comparisons in the car world, it depends on who’s asking the question.
If you’re someone who needs to haul massive trailers, you want a truck that will run forever, and you want to minimize your fuel consumption, then a diesel vehicle might be for you.
If you want a truck that’s cheap and easy to maintain, quicker, better off-road, and has more options to choose from, then a gas-powered truck is probably right for you. It’s the more popular and available option, and there are some great reasons why.
At this point, you should understand if a diesel or gas pickup truck is a better option for your daily driver. The decision is yours to make, but I hope that this guide helped you make it. If you want more help when it comes to cars, take a look at the rest of my blog.
Are you a diesel or gas die-hard? Leave a comment below and let me know why. In addition, check out my list of truck products that are perfect for every truck owner.