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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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A silver 2022 Ford F-150 Platinum is shown from the front driving on an open road.

Meet the 5 Best Truck Engines Around

The engine is the heart of a truck, and when you are searching for “used truck sales near me,” it is twice as important to get an engine that is as reliable as it is powerful. A used truck can be a more affordable option, but only if the engine is designed for a long life. These days, there are a large number of different truck engines available on the used market, including traditional gasoline V8s, efficient turbocharged V6s, powerful turbo-diesels, and even hybrids! But out of all these options, what is the best truck engine around? Well, that will depend on what you are looking for out of your used truck. Fortunately, the vast selection of engine options available means that there is something for everyone, with Ford, Ram, and GM each bringing their best to the table. We won’t be playing favorites as we cover the best truck engines available on the used truck market today.

#1 – Ford 3.5L EcoBoost V6

Turbocharged engines tend to inspire a love it or hate it reaction from seasoned truckers. On the one hand, turbocharging provides tons of power and can lead to better fuel economy. On the other hand, turbocharged engines tend to be a bit more finicky, and those paper fuel economy figures often don’t pan out in practice once you hook up a trailer. If you are looking for a reliable long-term towing machine, then it might be better to stick to a traditional V8 or diesel engine, but if you want a powerful daily driver that can hang with many sports cars while still handling a trailer from time to time, then a turbocharged engine might be just the ticket.

Ford embraced turbocharged truck engines early with the EcoBoost line, and the king of the hill is the proven 3.5L EcoBoost. This twin-turbo V6 engine was introduced for the 2011 F-150, producing 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. However, it was fully redesigned for the 2017 F-150, adding a dual port-injection/direct-injection fuel system, more powerful and responsive turbos, and other improvements for greater reliability. Power has continued to go up since then, reaching 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque in the 2021 F-150. A special High Output version of this engine powers the F-150 Raptor and produces up to 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque.

A black 2022 Ram 3500 is shown from the front after viewing used truck sales near you.

#2 – Ram 5.7L HEMI V8

Although modern turbocharged engines have their place, when it comes to proven performance, nothing beats a good old V8. Pickup trucks require the sort of low-end power that is best supplied by a high-displacement engine, and naturally aspirated power plants are known for their simplicity and ease of maintenance. While many manufacturers are moving away from the trusty V8 in order to meet government fuel economy mandates, you can still find plenty of these reliable engines when shopping used––the only question is, which one should you get?

The GM small black and the Ford Coyote are both solid choices, but when it comes to V8 gasoline engines, there is one name that stands out above all others: HEMI. The original HEMI engine was revolutionary when Chrysler first introduced it in 1951, and the modern incarnation was just as much a game-changer when it was unveiled in the 2003 Ram 1500. The early versions of the 5.7L HEMI pumped out 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. But in 2009, the 5.7L went through a major redesign of almost every aspect of the engine, making these trucks the best performers on the used market. The 5.7L HEMI in the most recent used Ram trucks generates a dependable 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

#3 – Ford 7.3L Godzilla V8

Half-ton trucks may be fine for most drivers, but sometimes you just need more. Now, most drivers making the step up to a used heavy-duty truck will also switch from gas to diesel. Generally, this is the right choice since diesel provides superior towing performance. However, diesel trucks are more expensive to buy and maintain, and the additional weight usually eats into payload capacity. This means that buying a heavy-duty truck with a gasoline engine is worth considering––especially if you can find the right engine.

In 2020, Ford unveiled what is arguably the best gasoline truck engine ever designed. This 7.3L big-block V8 was appropriately codenamed “Godzilla” and stands head and shoulders above the competition. Available on the Ford Super Duty lineup, the 7.3L uses a cast-iron block, forged crankshaft, and pushrod valve train for maximum reliability. With 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, this engine provides best-in-class gasoline performance and is a worthy alternative to diesel for many heavy-duty truck drivers.

A grey 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali is shown parked on a dirt trail.

#4 – GM 3.0L Duramax I-6 Turbo-Diesel

Gasoline engines are better than ever these days, but that doesn’t mean diesel is down for the count. In fact, there are now plenty of diesel options available in used half-ton trucks as well as heavy-duty trucks. Ford, Ram, Nissan, and GM have all offered turbo-diesels in their recent half-ton truck models, and you can find them all at a used truck dealer. However, it is GM that leads the pack when it comes to half-ton diesel performance. After years of reserving diesel engines for its heavy-duty trucks, in 2020, GM brought the Duramax name to the Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500.

The GM 3.0L Duramax deserves its reputation as one of the best truck engines for a number of reasons. First, its inline-six design allows for an incredibly smooth and balanced operation that you won’t find in the competing V6 diesel engines. Second, the “baby Duramax,” as it is affectionately known, provides some of the best fuel economy you will ever see in a full-size pickup truck. Third, and most importantly, it provides some excellent power figures. While the 460 lb-ft of torque is technically not best-in-class, GM’s engine has a much flatter power curve than its competition, with peak torque arriving at just 1,500 RPM. This gives drivers exactly what they are looking for in a used diesel truck.

#5 – Ram 6.7L Cummins I-6 Turbo-Diesel

When you need the most powerful used truck available for sale, nothing can beat a heavy-duty model powered by a turbo-diesel engine. Every manufacturer’s most capable model hides a diesel engine under the hood, and many recent used diesel trucks are capable of producing over 1,000 lb-ft of torque. Max tow ratings of over 35,000 lbs are now expected from one-ton duallies, and even three-quarter-ton models can provide some unbelievable capability when outfitted with a diesel engine.

Out of the diesel engines available in heavy-duty trucks today, the original is still the best. In 1989, Dodge and Cummins teamed up to put a commercial-grade inline-six turbo-diesel in the Ram pickup, and the rest is history. The original 5.9L Cummins was replaced by a 6.7L version halfway through the 2007 model year, increasing power while reducing emissions, and in 2013, a special Cummins High Output was added to the lineup for the Ram 3500, producing 850 lb-ft of torque. But the most significant milestone was reached in 2019 when the Cummins High Output became the first heavy-duty truck engine to reach 1,000 lb-ft of torque.

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