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2014 “Cheap” Truck Roundup: Less Is More

Posted in News on December 20, 2013
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Are the days of the short bed, standard cab V8 full size truck with a minimal trim package nearly gone? While it may be presumptuous to assume “yes” to this question, it is becoming more and more difficult to get that ideal “stripped truck” perfect for customizing and off-roading. This truck, which used to be the norm and would have had an abundant presence on dealership lots in the late 80s and 90s, has become more of a needle in the haystack as manufacturers increase trim packages and “up” the standard and available luxury options. Ram, for example, has eleven model (or trim) options, from the Tradesman work truck to the luxurious Laramie Limited. Chevy has seven, and Ford has ten (including the Raptor). If the window sticker didn’t tell us, who would know where one trim ends, and another begins? Not to mention modification of trim packages! Remember when air conditioning and automatic transmissions were considered optional? Today, unlike the 90s, you can't even get a half ton truck with a manual transmission. Trucks have come a long, long way since those days that we remember so well.

The customizers’ dream truck is out there, but the demand for the well-dressed, bells-and-whistles pickup over the basic, uncomplicated truck means you might have to search more diligently than you imagined. Generally speaking, more engine (V8) gets you “more” truck. That’s what most customers now demand. After all, those heated heats are definitely enticing. Finding “less” truck – a stripped truck – with “more” engine seems counterintuitive to the general consumer and thus, we see less demand. Case in point: a brand new standard cab short bed V8 “stripped” Chevy Silverado had to be shipped from Arizona to California back in January 2007, making it the first truck of that configuration in the state. You’d think it was rocket science for a customizer to get his hands on the ideal, basic truck! Ironic, indeed. Perhaps the saying is true – sometimes less is more. Since that was nearly seven years ago, we decided to find out what kind of base model, V8 “strip” truck we could build for 2014 model year full size pickup trucks, from the manufacturers’ websites.

The starting MSRP for the 2014 Ram 1500 is $24,385 for a Tradesman 4x2 Regular Cab 6’4” bed truck. Luckily there’s an option to delete the spray in bedliner to save $325. The standard powertrain for the Tradesman is the 3.6-liter V6 with the 8-Speed TorqueFlite 845RE and 3.21 rear axle ratio. We can actually save $640 by de-selecting this standard option and selecting the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI ($1,150) with the 6-speed auto trans (-$1,840) and 3.92 rear axle ratio ($50). (The build tool prevents selecting incompatible options.) Overall, our powertrain and bed liner delete saved us $965 over MSRP, bringing our total for a brand new 2014 Ram 1500 Hemi to $23,420. Adding 4 wheel drive to our Tradesman 5.7-liter HEMI added $3760 and brought the total to $27,180.

The 2014 Silverado starts at $25,575 for the 2WD Regular Cab, Standard Box 1WT , which features the 4.3L EcoTec3 V-6, 6-speed automatic. This trim should include power door locks and available power windows. Upgrading to the 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine ($1,095) brought the total to $26,670. Adding on 4WD (equivalent to $2,845) in addition to the V8 brought the grand total of the 1WT work truck to $30,610.

The 2014 Ford F-150 XL has a starting MSRP of $24,445 for a Regular Cab, 6-1/2’ bed, 4x2, 3.7L V6, 6-speed automatic transmission truck. Adding the 5.0L V8 FFV Engine added $1,000 to our XL build and brought it to $25,445.( In order to get the 6.2L, we’d have to at least have an XLT SuperCab.) Adding 4 wheel drive to our 5.0L XL added $4640 and brought the total to $30,085.

The 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 regular cab, standard box 2WD truck with the 4.3L EcoTec3 V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission starts at $26,075. Upgrading to the 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine ($1,095) brought the total to $27,170. Adding on 4WD (equivalent to $3,940) in addition to the V8 brought the grand total of the Sierra truck to $31,110.

The 4x2 standard bed 2014 Nissan Titan S King Cab with the 317 hp, 385 lb-ft of torque 5.6L V-8 started with a base price of $29,270. Opting for a 4x4 brought our price tag to $32,120.

A 2014 Toyota Tundra starts at $25,920 for a Regular Cab 4x2 Long Bed with the 4.0L V6 mated to a 5-speed automatic. The system wouldn’t let us select a 4x4 in this exact configuration, or the 5.7L V8. We could get the 4x4 4.6L V8 in the SR double cab for $30,905. In order to get the 5.7L V8, we’ll need to select the SR5 with a total of $30,965. The 4x4 version comes in at $34,015.

Of these “virtual builds” that we did, the best choice – the best bang for the buck - seems to be the Ram 1500 with the HEMI. Plenty capable on and off road, it was the cheapest truck to build – cheaper than the other trucks not equipped with a V8.

While we may be able to build these configurations from the computer, the real challenge is in finding them on a dealership lot. We could theoretically build them, but that doesn’t indicate how many are actually configured that way. Depending on where you are, this may or may not be a difficult task. It is possible that a slightly higher trim could be more readily available and comparable in price. Of course, deals and discounts could play a role in your decision as well.

Brace yourself for the sticker shock of today’s “cheap” new truck. Welcome to 2014.

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