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A black 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 Z71 Trailboss is parked in a field in front of mountains after winning a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 vs 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 comparison.

Intramural Truck Battle: 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 vs 2021 GMC Sierra 1500

Unless you haven’t been paying too much attention, then you already know that Chevrolet and GMC are part of the General Motors family of automotive companies. As such, many of their models share the same platforms and powertrains, even if their cosmetic finishes are often different. So it would seem odd to do an intramural comparison, like pitting the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 vs 2021 GMC Sierra 1500, right?

But if you thought that these two trucks are exactly the same except for the logo badges, names, and grills, then you are sadly mistaken. Despite sharing the same frames, platforms, and choice of powertrains, the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 are, in fact, two different trucks. Now, before you claim, “I’ve never seen them in the same place at the same time,” that might just be the case that you don’t get around much anymore. There are clearly some key differences between the two trucks that will show you why the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 is a better overall buy for your purposes.

Many Things in Common

In the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500, you have two of the most rugged and dependable full-size trucks on the market. You can choose either one with a rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drivetrain, the latter of which will give you better overall traction, especially in inclement weather.

The two trucks also share the same exterior dimensions since they are built on the same platform. In addition, you get a choice of regular cab, double cab, or crew cab, each of which is roomy and well-appointed. The Chevy and GMC also have the same internal passenger space in the comparable cab designs, so you and your passengers will have plenty of room to stretch out regardless of which truck you choose. They even share the same infotainment system with either a 7 or 8-inch touchscreen, depending on the trim level of your truck.

A red 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 is off-roading in the mountains.

An Extra Powertrain Choice

Now that we’ve gone over what these trucks have in common, let’s start looking at a number of key differences. This is where the rubber meets the road, or in this case, where the pistons hit the cylinders. The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 offers drivers a choice of five different engines. There is a 4.3-liter EcoTec3 V6, a 2.7-liter Turbo I-4, a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8, a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8, and a 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel I-6. Each of these comes paired with either a 6-speed, 8-speed, or 10-speed automatic transmission and will give you solid performance, with certain different attributes to recommend them. For example, the Duramax Turbo-Diesel and the Turbo I-4 will give you exceptional fuel economy, while both EcoTec3 V8 engines provide the top marks for towing.

Now here is the rub. The 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 offers all of these engines but gives drivers one more option. While the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 on the GMC has dynamic fuel management, the Silverado offers both one with dynamic fuel management and one with active fuel management, giving you one extra engine option. This means that you have more choices of your powertrain on a Chevy Silverado than on a GMC Sierra.

More Choices of Trims and Special Editions

Like most automakers, Chevy and GMC offer different packages of features and systems available as trim levels on their vehicles, as well as special editions with different exterior and interior cosmetic features or specialized equipment, like for off-roading. Each additional trim level gives you more choices of the type of things you are looking for on your truck. In other words, the more trims that are offered, the more likely you are to find a truck that has everything you want and need in your pickup.

GMC gives you six different trim levels to choose from on the 2021 Sierra 1500, including the top-of-the-line Denali trim and the AT4 with extra off-road gear. In addition, there are two special edition models built off the Denali and AT4 trim levels. While this gives you an impressive eight different models of the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 to choose from, it really cannot compete with your options on the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500.

Starting with the base model WT for “work truck,” Chevy offers you an astounding eight different trim levels on the Silverado 1500. This includes the top-trim High Country with its Old West-themed styling and the LT Trail Boss with its great off-road accessories. The Chevy Silverado 1500 is also offered in six special editions, many offered on lower trims, which is unlike the GMC, where the two special editions are only available on the top trim levels. This gives you fourteen different models of the 2021 Silverado 1500 to choose from, making it more likely you will find one with all the features you want in your truck.

A grey 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 is parked in front of a city building.

More Towing and Payload

One of the biggest reasons people buy a pickup truck is the ability to tow trailers and carry heavy cargo loads in the payload bed. The 2021 Silverado 1500 and 2021 Sierra 1500 are two of the best trucks for doing this task, so you will be well served whichever one you choose. For example, if you buy either truck with a 4.3-liter EcoTec3 V6, you will be able to tow up to 7,900 pounds.

While the towing performance with the V6 engine is the same on both trucks, the Silverado outperforms the Sierra on all other powertrain choices. If you buy a 2021 Silverado 1500 with a Turbo I-4, you will be able to tow 500 more pounds than the Sierra 1500. Similarly, the Silverado 1500 with the Turbo Diesel can tow 9,500 pounds, 300 pounds more than the Sierra 1500. This is the same difference with the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 with dynamic fuel management, where the Chevy can tow up to 11,500 pounds, while the GMC tops out at 11,200 pounds. The largest difference is seen with the 6.2-liter V8. The 2021 Silverado 1500 with this engine can tow a powerful 13,300 pounds maximum. The 2021 Sierra 1500 with the same engine tops out at 11,800 pounds.

The 2021 Silverado 1500 also gives you more payload capacity, being able to carry up to 2,280 pounds of cargo in the truck’s bed. The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 can carry up to 2,250 pounds, which is 30 pounds less. The reason for the difference may be due to the fact the GMC weighs more than the Chevy, particularly up front where the cab and grille are located. With more weight in the front of the truck, you will see reductions in towing and payload capacity.

This is also why the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 gets slightly less fuel economy than the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 with a comparable engine. For example, you will get 19 miles per gallon in city driving in a four-wheel drive Silverado 1500 with the Turbo I-4, while the four-wheel drive GMC Sierra 1500 with the same engine will give you only 18 miles per gallon in the city. The same thing is seen in the rear-wheel drive Silverado 1500 with a Turbo Diesel, where you can get up to 33 miles per gallon in highway driving, with the Sierra 1500 with the same engine and drivetrain giving you only 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

By having a slightly lighter overall vehicle weight, the 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 gives you better towing, payload, and fuel economy than the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 with a comparable powertrain and drivetrain.

More Choices for Less Money

When you have two comparable vehicles where one offers you more choices and slightly better overall performance, you would expect the one that offers you more would cost more as well. Surprisingly, this is not the case, with the Chevy having a lower MSRP than the GMC. The base MSRP for a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 is $29,300, almost one thousand dollars less than the $30,100 base MSRP on the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500. As a result, the smarter choice between these two full-size trucks is the Chevy Silverado 1500, with its lower price, more options of powertrains and models, and better overall payload and towing performance.

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