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$40K Truck Buying Guide: F-150 vs. Ram 1500 vs. Silverado vs. Titan vs. Tundra

You get to a certain point in life that you realize your small car or small truck can't handle your day to day needs anymore. So you decide to go for a full-size pickup truck instead. As we live in the 21st century, options are plentiful, and these trucks bring a certain degree of comfort to their already considerable towing capabilities. So let's dive into those options and see which ones are the best.
2021 Ford F-150 66 photos
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We recently looked at the smaller pickup trucks available on the market, and we tried to decide on something by using a $30,000 budget, with some extra cash on the side just in case. As we're moving up one level, we'll do the same with the budget and set it at $40,000, with an extra $5,000 to spare, just in case. We'll analyze the available options from multiple perspectives, including towing capacity, payload capacity, and price.

We're looking at five different pickup trucks for this exercise: the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500, the Chevrolet Silverado, the Nissan Titan, and the Toyota Tundra. We'll be skipping on the GMC Sierra 1500 due to the similarities it has with its corporate brother, the Silverado. The final verdict will ultimately come down to your analysis and personal preferences on the subject, but we'd like to make your task easier and provide you with at least some basic information on these trucks and our take on the matter.
Ford F-150
Let's start with one of the most popular choices on the market, the 2021 Ford F-150. The starting MSRP for the F-150 is $28,940 before taxes ($1,695 destination charge), in Regular cab, 6.5-ft (198-cm) box form. The maximum towing capacity of 14,000 lbs (6,350 kg) can be achieved with a Supercab 4x2 featuring an 8-ft (243-cm) box and a 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 engine with a 3.55 or 3.73 axle ratio. The same results apply to a Supercrew using the same engine and axle ratios, but with a smaller 6.5-ft (198-cm) box.

Ford F\-150
To go up to 14,000 lbs (6,350 kg), you will also need to select the Max Trailer Tow Package. The maximum payload capacity of 3,325 lbs (1,508 kg) can be achieved if you go for a Regular Cab 4x2 with an 8-ft (243-cm) box and a 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 engine. If the towing capacity is more important to you, then the best option would be to choose the Supercab option mentioned above, which can load up to 2,980 lbs (1,351 kg) provided you also add the Heavy-Duty Payload Package.

Given that the budget isn't all that tight, we can afford to skip the XL version and go straight for the slightly more special XLT. The Max Trailer Tow Package comes as standard here, and after selecting the $1,500 Heavy-Duty Payload Package and the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that outputs 400 horsepower and 510 lb-ft (691 Nm) of torque, we end up with a final price of $46,500, including all the taxes. That means we would either have to downgrade to stick to the budget or come up with an extra $1,500, on top of the extra $5,000 we considered initially.
Ram 1500
Next on our list is the Ram 1500, the TRX's less flamboyant brother. The Tradesman variant, with a Quad Cab and 6'4" (195-cm) box is the most accessible out of the bunch, thanks to a starting MSRP of $32,245 before taxes ($1,695 destination charge). Ram boasts about the maximum towing capacity of 12,750 lbs (5,783 kg) when equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine that comes with class-exclusive eTorque Mild Hybrid Technology.

Ram 1500
While exploring the Towing Guide on the official Ram website, it seems that the maximum payload capacity is 2,320 lbs (1,052 kg) if we're talking about the Tradesman Quad Cab, with a 6'4" (195-cm) box, 2WD, and a 3.6-liter V6 eTorque engine. But if towing matters the most, it looks like 11,650 lbs (5,284 kg) can be achieved in the same type of Tradesman, but with the eTorque V8 engine we mentioned earlier, also equipped with a 3.92 axle ratio.

As with the Ford, we'll choose the better equipped Big Horn variant as a starting point. After selecting the right engine, rear axle ratio, and the HEMI Maximum Tow Package, we end up with a slightly better price in comparison to the F-150. Leaving aside the various discounts offered that add up to $4,500, the final price for this truck would be $41,575. That means you can either go ahead and add some more options or do something else with the cash you just saved.
Chevrolet Silverado
Up next is the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, for which the manufacturer claims a maximum towing capacity of 13,300 lbs (6,032 kg) if you go for a Double Cab Standard Bed RST 4x4 with the available 6.2-liter V8, Max Trailering Package, and 20-inch wheels. The maximum payload capacity is achieved with the Regular Cab Long Bed 2WD with the 2.7-liter Turbo engine. Once again, it's up to you to decide between the two characteristics, depending on which one is more important to you.

Chevrolet Silverado
Aiming for the maximum towing capacity of this truck leads us to a point where we notice that with all the required selections, the starting MSRP would be $49,885 before taxes ($1,695 destination charge). As that is considerably more than our initial budget, we're left searching for the next best thing without having to get a loan to cover the rest of the amount.

If we select the Custom Trim with the 5.3-liter Ecotec3 V8 engine and the Max Trailering Package, we can get up to 11,100 lbs (5,034 kg) in terms of towing capacity and 2,180 lbs (989 kg) for payload capacity. Not considering the current discounts, the price for such a setup would be $42,985. That means that there is still more room to play around with options and trim setups for the Silverado as well.
Nissan Titan
The 2021 Nissan Titan has a maximum declared towing capacity of 9,310 lbs (4,222 kg), which is valid for both the Crew Cab and King Cab when equipped with 2WD. A maximum payload of 1,690 lbs (766 kg) can be carried around in case you opt for a King Cab with 4WD; you shouldn't count on more than 1,610 lbs (730 kg) with the 2WD version, though. The most affordable King Cab is the S version, which starts at $36,190 before taxes ($1,595 destination charge).

Nissan Titan
But given our current budget, we can afford to go for the SV version, which has a starting MSRP of $40,390. There is only one engine option, a 5.6-liter V8 capable of a solid 400 horsepower. With the destination charge added, we are now up to $41,985, so there is still some room for you to add some extra options or to customize the way the truck looks later on.
Toyota Tundra
Toyota claims its Tundra can tow up to 10,200 lbs (4,626 kg), which isn't bad but still not as good as some of the above-mentioned trucks. A maximum payload of around 1,700 lbs (771 kg) will be possible, depending on the choices you make. As with the Titan, there is only one engine available, a 5.7-liter V8 that is good for 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft (543 Nm) of torque.

The most affordable version is the SR, which can tow up to 10,100 lbs (4,581 kg) and has a starting MSRP of $34,155 before taxes ($1,595 destination charge). Given the available budget, we can step it up a notch and configure an SR5 trim, which leads to an MSRP of $41,435 including the destination charge ($1,595). There is an interesting off-road package available, but that would mean going over the budget.

Toyota Tundra
Our take on the buying process
As we always advise you in all of our guides, there are two things you need to do to make the best decision for you. First off, establish some ground rules. Think about what you will need your future truck to be capable of doing. Consider the things you'll be towing or transporting, and how much they weigh. Consider the type of terrain you'll be driving on. Think about the number of miles you'll be driving for each year.

Write down all of the questions that your future truck should provide a correct answer to. And then you can either go out and test drive all of the available options or filter out the ones you don't like and just pick the two or three most interesting ones. The Ford F-150 is definitely the most popular choice, and we would most likely include it on the shortlist along with the Ram 1500 and the Silverado 1500.

If you read online reviews, most people rank the F-150 and Ram 1500 at the top of the list, but of course, everyone has different opinions. This means the best thing to do is go out and see these trucks for yourself. Consider the people that will be riding around with you the most. Have them come along as well, and ask them for their feedback. Then you can get a clearer picture of what truck suits you the best.

 
 
 
 
 

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