BUYER’S GUIDE: Top 5 Used Diesel Pickups

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When it comes to moving heavy loads, it’s hard to beat a diesel-powered pickup.

Today’s medium-duty diesel engines produce horsepower that is comparable to gasoline engines of a similar size, and they make a shocking amount of torque. They are also easily modified to produce an insane amount of power.

Advancements in turbocharger and diesel fuel technology make these diesel pickups much cleaner and practical than earlier models.

Let’s take a look at five (or six) of the most reliable, powerful, and easily upgraded diesel pickups on the used pickup truck market.

1. 2006 to 2007 Chevy and GMC 2500 and 3500

2007 Chevy 2500General Motors has been producing diesel powered trucks for more than two decades.

The cream of the crop when it comes to power, reliability, and ease of modification are the 2006-07 3/4 and 1-ton trucks that are equipped with the Duramax diesel that bears the LBZ engine code.

With simple bolt-on modifications and a high-performance reprogrammer you can easily squeeze out 500hp (at the wheels).

2. 1996 to 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500

1997 Dodge 2500

These trucks make the list on sheer durability alone. It is not unusual to find one of these trucks with the factory engine and more than 500,000-miles on the odometer.

This 12-valve 5.9-liter Cummins diesel engine has a P7100 injection pump that makes it exceptional durable, if it’s well-maintained. These trucks are also easily upgraded to produce 400 horsepower at the wheels, with the possibility of a mind-bending 2,000 horses, depending upon your desire and how much cash you want to spend.

4. 1999½ to 2000 Ford Super Duty

2000 Ford Super Duty

Ford Super Duty trucks from late 1999 and 2000 are equipped with the 7.3-liter Power Stroke diesel engine that is known for its ability to accommodate high-performance modification.

The engine’s forged steel connecting rods, 17-degree high-pressure oil pump, and factory intercooler make it extremely strong and tough when it comes to aftermarket horsepower. This rugged drivetrain can easily accommodate more than 500hp at the wheels.

4. 2008 to 2010 Ford F-250, F-350, and F-450

2010 Ford F-250

Ease of high-performance modification is a major selling point for these Fords.

The F-series from this period had a 6.4-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel that can be bumped up to 600 horsepower at the wheels with tuning, intake and exhaust modifications.

These trucks have compound turbochargers that virtually eliminate turbo lag, and they have proven to be more reliable than their 6.0-liter-equipped predecessors.

 5. 2003 to 2004(½) Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500

2004½ Dodge Ram 2500

If you are a long-haul cargo carrier, this Dodge Ram’s cast-iron NV5600 six-speed manual transmission) will make you smile.

These trucks are excellent for towing, and they can be easily modified to pull a house down. Common-rail fuel injection systems were added to the 5.9-liter Cummins engines in 2003 (it was used in Dodge pickups since 1989), and it made them more powerful and much cleaner.

Honorable Mention: 1991½ to 1993 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500

1993 Dodge 2500

Dodge began producing diesel pickups in 1989, but 1991.5-’93 models were factory upgraded with an overdrive transmission and an intercooler. For less than a grand, you could add 300hp.

Search for trucks like these, as well as millions of other listings for new and used cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, on

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.