Let’s Start With A Few Assumptions
- This isn’t your commuter vehicle or your weekend RV puller. This is a truck you are going to use to make a living. You’re buying a hot shot pickup to earn a living. This thing’s going to work.
- You’re going to put at least 110,000 miles a year on this thing. I’ve put 150,000 miles per year on semi trucks and pickup trucks. It’s what we do.
- You have enough common sense to not go out and buy that brand new diesel pickup.
- You already know what you’re going to do with it. There’s a big difference between what an RV hauler needs compared to a guy with a 40′ goose neck running 48 states. You’ve already decided things like 2wd vs 4wd.
Which Is The Best Hot Shot Pickup?
I’m going to give you my three choices, favorite first. It’s up to you to be sure your intended use fits within the manufacturer’s specs. Or, at the very least, you know just how far over the manufacturer’s GVWR and GCWR you’re willing to go.
Do keep in mind, hot shotting isn’t limited to pickup trucks. Depending on what you’re hauling, an inexpensive used semi could be in your best interest.
Dodge Ram, 5.9 Cummins
Dodge used the 5.9 liter in-line 6 from 1989 to 1998 in 12 valve form. From 1999 to 2007 the engine supported a 24 valve design. My favorite years of these trucks would be the 01 to 04 models, but all are great choices for durability.
- Absolutely the best fuel mileage of the big three.
- The in-line 6 leaves plenty of room under the hood. It’s the easiest to work on.
- Parts and repairs are easy to find.
- The roughest ride of the three.
- Earlier models had weak fuel lift pumps. You’ll want to update this as soon as you get the truck.
- The 4 speed automatic transmission isn’t as tough as the engine.
- 4wd versions use a straight front axle.
Although I owned a manual transmission version of this truck, I would recommend the 4 speed automatic. Parts and quality rebuilds for the 5 and 6 speed manuals are getting pretty tough to find. I’ve seen the rebuilds go out in as few as 120,000 miles.
Granted, the automatic will not last forever either, but a good transmission shop can rebuild that thing to be tougher than ever.
Ford 7.3 Powerstroke
Ford used the 7.3 V8 diesel from 88 to 03, but the engine was not turbocharged until 94. The earlier non-turbo versions are tough. I own one. But the lack of a turbo will cost you at the fuel pump.
- Although this engine may not be quite as durable as the Cummins, it’s darned close. I’ve seen dozens of examples of these engines lasting 750,000 miles and more.
- The ride quality is great.
- Parts and service are both easy to find.
- Like the Dodge, the transmission isn’t going to last as long as the engine. But again, you can get a pretty durable rebuild performed from a good transmission shop.
- It’s a V8 with a turbo, an injector pump and lot’s of other stuff crammed in under the hood. Space is limited for the DIY owner.
- It will cost you more at the fuel aisle. How much more depends on your driving habits.
2013 Chevy or GMC Duramax – If You Absolutely Have To Have a Newer Truck
The Duramax may be a great everyday choice, but I haven’t seen these things stand up past the 200,000 mark like the rest of them.
The earlier models had head gasket problems, usually around the 180,000 mark. Once the head gaskets were replaced, the injector and wiring issues would kick in and the truck would start throwing Check Engine codes. It would drive the owners nuts to the point of getting rid of the truck.
Later models didn’t have the head gasket issues, but they just didn’t hold up under load. The code throwing issue will drive you nuts. Usually starting just after the 200,000 mark, the Check Engine light will come on and the truck will power down to just under 55 mph. The most common code will be related to the fuel rail pressure.
Once you clear the code, it could be a month, a week or even 5 minutes before it comes back. I once drove a 700 mile run with never more than about 7 minutes between clearing codes. That was in a 2010 with a little over 200,000 on the clock.
- The 2013 and up doesn’t seam to have the same issues.
- That Allison automatic transmission is tough as railroad spikes.
- The ride is great.
- It’s a 2013. Like all the other trucks it has a diesel particulate filter, used diesel exhaust fluid and has a serious EGR system.
- GM picked the stupidest place for the DEF filler. You add the fluid under the hood on the passenger side, right by the firewall.
- Like all other newer models, temperatures under the hood have greatly increased. The heat takes it’s toll on everything from belts and hoses to oil life and wiring.
- You’re just not going to get the mileage out of this truck that you could out of the older ones.
Remember, this is just my opinion of the top three. Another thing I would avoid is the truck that’s been highly modified or “tuned.” If you want a modified or tuned truck, find a truck that’s bone stock. Then you’ll know what you’re starting with.
You may have to travel to another state to find that exact truck, but it’s out there. These survivors do exist if you’re willing to dig.