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10 Best Used Diesel Trucks (and cars)

You Can Get A Steal of a Deal Now—Or Wish You Had Later!

People always ask us, “Which diesel should I buy?” While the correct answer to that question always depends on the person asking it, there’s no doubt some diesel vehicles are better than others. For almost every year, make, and model there’s a golden version in which the manufacturer did almost everything right—and we’re here to tell you which diesels those are. For example, if you’re looking to buy a used Ford, look at the ’08 models with the 6.4L Power Stroke rather than the ’07 Super Dutys with the 6.0L engine. The ’08 Power Stroke had more power, less warranty issues, and included a beefed-up 5R110 transmission to handle the power. As you’ll read in this article, there are also certain Dodge and GM trucks that are better than others.

Our 10 best used diesel list includes a wide range of makes, and we’ve even thrown in some vehicles that get great fuel economy. So if we were in the market for a new vehicle, here are the 10 best used diesels we’d look for.

2006 to 2007 Chevy and GMC 2500 and 3500
Although GM has produced its heavy-duty diesel trucks for more than 10 years, as far as we’re concerned, the ’06 to ’07 Silverado and Sierra LBZ-engine-code Duramax-equipped models are the ones to buy. Early LB7-engine-code Duramax trucks (’01 to ’04 model year) had injector issues, and LLY-engine-code Duramax trucks (built for ’04½ and ’05) had cooling issues while towing. The ’06 to ’07 LBZ-engine-code models had all the cooling and injector problems ironed out, but without all the emissions devices that were found on the ’071/2-and-later LMM- and LML-engine-code trucks. With the right parts, these Duramax vehicles can make more than 500 rwhp with simple bolt-ons.

2003 to 2004½ Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500
Common-rail injection ushered in a new era of technological advancement for the famed inline-six Cummins engines that have been offered in Dodge pickups since the ’89 model. The new powerplants burn cleaner and make more power—yet they are still the simplest of the modern diesels. Unfortunately, the change to ultra-low sulfur fuel combined with increased injection pressures has led to reduced injector life in new diesels. When ’05-and-later 5.9L Cummins engines have malfunctioning injectors, they can cause melted pistons, which can ultimately lead to a full engine rebuild. But the earlier common-rail Dodges (’03 to ’04½) seem to give the driver much more of a warning (in the form of a bunch of white smoke exiting the tailpipe) before they pop any pistons. Over-the-road haulers will want to look for cast-iron, NV5600 six-speed-equipped dualies from this era for their next tow rig.

1999½ to 2000 Ford Super Duty
Ford began offering the International-built 7.3L Power Stroke midway through the ’94 model year, but the late ’99 and ’00 trucks offer the best foundation for making horsepower. The first version of the Power Stroke was non-intercooled (’94½ to ’97), and the early ’99 engines came with the older-style high-pressure oil pumps. Buyers should note that California-spec ’97 trucks got split-shot injectors, and all ’97-and-later engines got a beefier block. By the time the ’01 to ’03 Super Dutys came out, International had begun equipping some of its 7.3L engines with the ill-fated powdered-metal connecting rods.

The late ’99 to ’00 model year is the jewel of 7.3L Power Stroke engines, due to having the proven, forged-steel connecting rods and 17 degree high-pressure oil pump (vs. 15 degree on ’94½ to early ’99 models) and being equipped with an intercooler from the factory. These forged-rod engines have proven they can handle more than 500 rwhp, be quite fuel efficient, and last forever.

1996 to 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500
The second-generation Dodges with the 5.9L P7100 pump 12-valve engines may just go down as the most reliable diesel trucks in history. It’s not uncommon for these pickups to make it more than 500,000 miles on the factory engine, and in most cases the truck rusts away and falls apart before the driveline does. Want power? These rigs are also some of the easiest to modify, with 400 rwhp available with just some bolt-ons, all the way up to 2,000 hp if the cash is there.

The best years to look for are the ’96 to ’98 models, which have updated transmissions and driveline parts, along with injection pumps that have more potential. If you’re looking for the small-block ’69 Camaro of diesels, it’s right here.

2008 to 2010 Ford F-250 and F-350
Part of the reason diesels have been so successful as hot rods is the fact that it’s relatively easy to crank up their power. And when you’re looking for the easiest one to crank up, look no further than the 6.4L Power Stroke. With nearly 600 rwhp available with just a tune, intake, and exhaust, ’08 to ’10 Fords are the baddest of the bolt-on bunch. The fact that they come in plush, comfortable trucks, have compound turbochargers from the factory, and are way more reliable than their 6.0L predecessors is simply icing on the cake. The ’08 to ’10 6.4Ls were also available in the F-450 pickup. These trucks came with only 325 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque but did offer larger axles, brakes, and wheels than the ’11 F-450 pickup does today.

`1991½ to 1993 Dodge
Although Dodge first crammed a Cummins inline-six into its ¾- and 1-ton pickups for the ’89, the ’91½ to ’93 models are the years to have. The mid-year models in ’91 saw a few important changes, namely, an overdrive transmission (also known as a 518) and an intercooler. With $1,000 in modifications, these trucks can reach the 300-rwhp mark and will run forever.

2009 to 2011 BMW 335d
As far as we’re concerned, this one is in a class by itself. If you have $40,000 to spend on a new sports sedan, there’d be no better choice, diesel or gas. With 0-to-60-mph times in the 5-second zone, more than 30 mpg, a plush ride, and stunning looks, the list of reasons to buy one just goes on and on. The 3.0L engine’s sequential turbochargers are truly amazing. With a torque peak at only 1,700 rpm and a power peak at 4,200 rpm, the engine has arguably the widest powerband of any current diesel. Though it’s rated at 265 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque, our guess is it’s closer to 300 hp and 500 lb-ft, which makes it quite the rocket ship.

1999½ to 2003 VW Jetta Diesel
While nearly all new diesel Volkswagens blend performance and economy, the best of the lot are thought to be the ’99½ to ’03 Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, and Passats with the ALH-code engines. With a few bolt-ons, their anemic 90hp engines can be boosted to up to 150 hp. Owners of these lightweight cars report they can get 40 to 50 mpg and still have decent performance. For us, the Jetta is a good choice based on looks, interior space, and parts availability. We’d opt for the stronger manual transmission instead of the automatic. These little VWs can also be made into hot rods if the desire arises, as there were stripped-down Golfs running high 14s back in the late ’90s.

2005 to 2006 Jeep Liberty CRD
On the fuel-efficient front, the short-lived Jeep Liberty CRD 4x4 gets our vote as a viable compact diesel option in diesel-scarce North America. Four-wheel-drive models are the best of both worlds: diesel power and off-road capablity. They were offered for just two model years (’05 and ’06), but that was enough time for the aftermarket to release several products, which solved minor EGR issues, added horsepower, and maximized fuel economy. With just two subtle modifications (fuel economy tune and aftermarket air filter), they’re capable of up to 35 mpg.

1981 to 1986 Toyota Pickup
Good luck finding one of these rare mini diesels, but if you do, you can count on more than 30 mpg in the city, and 40 mpg on the highway. These trucks are very simple to maintain, and the cost of ownership is very low. The model year to buy (if you can find it) is the one-year-only ’86 Toyota pickup, powered by a 2.4L turbodiesel making 93 hp. While the 0-to-60-mph times won’t impress anyone, the utility and mileage is hard to match—even with a newer truck.

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93 comments
James Hackman
James Hackman

I'd buy a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado LB7 3500 LT RWD DRW extended cab in deep ruby red metallic.

Dalton Hines
Dalton Hines

Ron Wike your an idiot...... International is an independent company. And the only reason ford and international parted ways was because of the fact that international didn't want to use scr an ford did.

Joshua Bass
Joshua Bass

NOT A FORD!! That's for damn sure LOL

Levi Rouse
Levi Rouse

6.0 ford with bullet proof kit is where the power is at

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton

Why did a&e kick off Phil because he said something about gay people

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan

Amen. I've got a friend with the dually 7.3 power stroke, over 400k on stock injectors, with a tune. Still hauls ass, towing and just driving, with good mileage.

Steve White
Steve White

anyone ever see a dodge ambulance? Just wondering.... Lol

Ron Wike
Ron Wike

Dylan Burkett any power stroke that was built after the 7.3 is not an International Harvester engine they are manufactured by 4 which is the reason they had so many problems with the 6.0 Ford had to go through the learning curve to get it figured out and that's when they ended up with the 6.7 after everything was said and done International is owned by GM which is the reason that forward quit using them they no longer wanted to be associated with a welfare company or brand therefore the Ford Motor Company did what they had to do to build their own engine and yes they put out a few that work drunk like a 6.0 and the 6.4 but its all let them to the 6.7 powerstroke that is force to be reckoned with and to all you other morons that have no idea what they're talking about 7.3 was a beast one of the most powerful and most reliable that was ever built and still is

John Hamilton
John Hamilton

Well, I've owned or driven them all...I will take my 06 6.0l all day against any of them. So what I put $4k in bullet proofing it. Better than a $6k tranny for a cummins and I had nothing but problems with my duramax. People are so ignorant.

Robert Mc Isaac
Robert Mc Isaac

Too many keyboard commando's on here spreading their ignorance.

Dylan Trout
Dylan Trout

Ford - found on road dead Cummins turbo deseil over Ford Chevy GMC toyato or even a hemi

Mork Gunderson
Mork Gunderson

That's simple ford there's a reason there's more in the field than any other you buy Dodge for the Cummins and the Duracrap is for all the city slickers

Dominic Voegele
Dominic Voegele

I have to admit. You 7.3 guys. Have prob never been in real power house like a cummins or dmax

Dylan Burkett
Dylan Burkett

The 7.3 6.0 and 6.4 are all international. And a tuned 6.0 will outrun a tuned 7.3 any day. Although 6.0 had a lot of issues they can be made to be just as reliable

Robert Walker Schmitt
Robert Walker Schmitt

Shorty Miller you got the 7.3 and the 6.0 mixed up man . The 6.0 was junk . The 7.3 was made by international and actually had to be down tuned for the the f series because it had to much power . Plus they last forever and have unbelievable power when programmed right

Wolf Wolfensberger
Wolf Wolfensberger

Id pick a cummins in 1st gen dodge with Allison transmission all day with stacks

Jason Mattson
Jason Mattson

I intend to take the path many others have taken and put a 5.9L 12 valve cummins into a OBS Ford. I like the simplicity and reliability of a Cummins along with the durability of a Ford. Sounds like a win win if I'm honest.

Jacinto Reyes
Jacinto Reyes

Cummins with a Allison in a Ford.... the Japanese duramax is a p.o.s....,

Trace Fuqua
Trace Fuqua

1st gen intercooled 12v cummins all day and all night!

Jesus VI
Jesus VI

Duramax! If you can afford it ;)

Mark Pangle
Mark Pangle

Cummins or CAT in a Ford King Ranch Super Duty with an Eaton or Allison Transmission. Problem Solved for all the bashing of the Big Three.

Shorty Miller
Shorty Miller

6.0 or 6.4 stroker I am a Ford man but I would buy a daramax before, I would buy a junk 7.3 !!!!

Jacinto Reyes
Jacinto Reyes

Powerstroke for life....and ford trucks simply last longer...if you are an import man then get that Japanese designed Isuzu duramax. ...cummins for fuel mileage, but the truck falls apart and all you end up with is a good running engine..,.

Brian Pawlak
Brian Pawlak

Chevy runs deep for me give me that bow tie any day

Luis Alberto Garcia Sanchez
Luis Alberto Garcia Sanchez

Give me a Power Stroke because I bleed blue always will.. Everyone who hates on a Power Stroke never owned or couldn't afford one it's not meant for everyone

Jake Smalley
Jake Smalley

Diesel Power you people are idiots. No mention of 7.3IDI. And everyone knows a manual is best. Do your homework chumps.

Diesel Power