Enthusiasts often get into heated debates about who wins in a battle of souped-up heavy-duty trucks or even proper Monster Trucks. But what about the more garden variety pickups? The sorts of models you’ll find when searching for used cars near you? Surely there’s an interesting conversation to be had about which one of those would win in a fight. So today, we’re putting two popular light-duty trucks head to head to see which one is the toughest around: the Chevy Silverado 1500 vs the Ford F-150. You know them, you love them, and you want to see them compete for glory in the ring. So let’s pit these two perennial favorites against each other and see who’s got the muscle to back up their reputation.
Made of Tougher Stuff
Taking a look at the materials that go into a truck’s construction can literally show you what it’s made of. For the 2015 F-150, Ford made the bold move to switch to a mostly aluminum body in order to shave some pounds off of the truck. While the frame is still tough steel, the bed and body panels continue to be made of more lightweight aluminum. While the Silverado 1500 was using some aluminum in its construction at this point (in the hood, for instance), most of its body was still made of high-strength steel.
In 2019, the Silverado 1500 got its own lighter re-design, but rather than doing something as simple as switching to a mostly aluminum body; Chevy looked carefully at each part of the truck to determine what material would be ideal. Elements like doors and the tailgate were replaced with aluminum, making them easier to open and close, and the hood is still made of aluminum too. But the engineers at Chevrolet concluded that the body structure should still have the strength of steel.
While the F-150’s aluminum build has its advantages in terms of fuel economy, this showdown is all about which truck is tougher. By that metric, we have to hand this one to the Silverado 1500. It would be stubborn and out of touch for any truck to be made in the exact same way that was standard a decade ago. Chevy used a surgical assessment of every part of its vehicle and high-tech tools like computer-aided design to strategically figure out how to lighten the Silverado’s load while still hanging onto strength where it’s needed.
What’s Under the Hood?
Both the Silverado 1500 and the F-150 are available with a variety of engine options. The 2022 Silverado’s base engine is a 2.7L Turbo that provides 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. The 2022 F-150 has a 3.3L V6 base engine that can only muster 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. If you want to upgrade for some more power, you can get a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 in the Silverado 1500 that brings 420 horsepower to the table, along with 460 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, the 5.0L TI-VCT V8 on the F-150 provides 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. By the numbers, it’s clear that the Silverado packs more of a punch across trim levels.
Of course, looking just at the numbers for horsepower and torque doesn’t mean much for the day-to-day work these trucks need to handle. For practical purposes, what’s important is how that power translates into towing and hauling capability. If a truck can’t lug around a heavy trailer or handle a full load in its bed, then it’s hard to really call it “tough,” no matter how fast it can go from zero to sixty.
Looking at the Silverado 1500 and F-150 over the years, the towing capacity crown seems to get passed back and forth every few years as engineers at both companies work hard to find new ways to innovate and earn the coveted title of “best-in-class towing capacity.” For instance, the 2016 F-150 was slightly ahead of the Silverado 1500, able to tow a maximum of 12,200 lbs compared to 12,000 lbs even. But the next model year, the 2017 F-150 had stayed the same at 12,200 lbs while the 2017 Silverado had improved, now boasting a maximum towing capacity of 12,500 lbs. In 2018, Ford was back on top with a best-in-class 13,200 lbs, but the 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 pulled ahead with the ability to tow 13,400 lbs.
Because of all this back and forth, it’s difficult to declare a clear winner in terms of towing capacity. Both trucks are frontrunners in the realm of towing, and each one has claimed the title “best in class” multiple times in the past. Looking at the scores overall, we’re going to call this one a draw. Either one of these pickups is beefy enough to handle the weight of a hefty trailer, and they just seem to be able to handle more and more weight as the years go by.
The Long Haul
How a truck behaves when it’s fresh off the factory floor is one thing, but these are machines that are meant to stand up to hard work day in and day out for a good, long while. Many models that seem like beasts during the first few years lose their stuff once they start to rack up a few miles. But the toughest trucks can still get the job done even after they’ve passed the dreaded 100k mile mark.
For a real-world example of a long-lasting truck in action, we can turn to the story of Brook Smith, a Missourian who bought his first truck for the tough job of towing RVs across the country. The truck, dubbed “Big Red,” is a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and over the course of towing RVs across North America, Smith managed to rack up over a million miles on the vehicle without having any major service done.
While that’s certainly some outstanding reliability, it’s only a single vehicle driven by one man. Let’s take a look at a more objective source: the Kelley Blue Book Resale Value Awards. Every year, the KBB awards the cars, trucks, and SUVs that it projects will retail at least half of their original value over five years of typical ownership. In order to hold onto its value that well, a truck has to be tough enough to stay in good shape through years of hard work, long drives, and both hot and cold weather. Looking at the KBB Resale Value Awards from 2014 to 2020, the Chevy Silverado 1500 makes the list every single year, coming in as high as number three on the list against all other cars, trucks, and SUVs on the market. During those same seven years, the Ford F-150 only made the list three times, and each one of those times, it ranked lower than the Silverado.
So, Who Wins?
The F-150 may be a popular truck, but it’s clear that it can’t go toe to toe in a fair fight with the Silverado 1500 when it comes to the title of the toughest truck. By just about any metric, from construction to being able to hold up under pressure, the Silverado is simply more of a force to be reckoned with. Certainly, the F-150 is plenty capable, but Chevy simply comes out ahead with more powerful engines, stronger materials, and construction that’s built to last. Let’s hear it for the truck of steel!