Silverado 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton??

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Bowtied13

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Alright everyone I'm looking to get my overland rig and have my sights set on a 2003-2006 Chevy Silverado (my favorite body style), crew cab to fit the family. Full-size truck is just the way to go for me. However my dilemma is I can't really decide if I should get a 1/2 or a 3/4 ton pickup (both would be gas engines, not planning on getting the Duramax). So in my case the truck would be my daily driver for work (driving 60 miles a day on the highway) and also be my overland truck on the weekends. I plan on pulling a small overlanding trailer with RTT and other accessories on the trailer. Obviously a 1/2 ton would handle all of that just fine, however in the future we will most likely be buying like a 24' camp trailer for the wife and kids. So with that being said the 3/4 ton would be able to handle that much easier. And there is potential I'd be taking that trailer with me cross country once (Idaho to Alabama and back).

So I want to know everyone's thoughts; should I just stick with the 1/2 ton since I wouldn't be towing a heavy load all that often? Or should I get the bigger truck?


I'm looking for something very similar to this, except this particular truck is the Duramax and I'd be looking at getting the 6.0l gas.
http://www.fourwheeler.com/features/1801-durable-duramax-a-chevy-2500hd-and-off-road-trailer-built-for-adventure/
 

Billiebob

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Todays 1/2 ton is yesterday Cadillac. Buy the 3/4 ton if you want to haul more than 5 people and a couple of canoes.

That said...... spec it right, engine choice, rear end ratios, tires.... and you can double the payload on most half tons.
There was a time this data was readily available on the manufacturers spec sheet. Today they hide all the important stuff so you can focus on which radio you want instead.

Which was exactly what Cadillac used to do too.

But towing is what 1/2 tons, 3/4 tons and Cadillacs ALL do well.
It is payload, GVWR that means you might need a 3/4 ton.
People, golf clubs and a bbq for tailgating will overload a base 1/2 ton.
 
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Billiebob

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Obviously a 1/2 ton would handle all of that just fine, however in the future we will most likely be buying like a 24' camp trailer
NOT obviously !!!

You NEED to add up the weight of everything you plan to load into that pickup... including people and gasoline.
THEN pick the GVWR, PAYLOAD which will actually handle it.

And there will be lots of naysayers claiming the GVWR is just a suggestion, well that will work until you try to get a warranty repair after breaking something. The GVWR is the manufacturers easy out for warranty claims. Buy the truck that is rated to do what you want to do.
 
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Anak

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My vote is 3/4 ton. But then my choice for my family was a 3/4 ton '02 Suburban.

One thing that is substantially different between the two is the brake system. If you can get two of them side by side just compare the parking brake. The half ton is a joke, whereas the three quarter ton means it.

I don't know if the pickups got "Autoride", but if they did, it is different between the half and three quarter tons. On half tons there is an air compressor which will adjust the suspension (airbags in the rear?) whereas on a three quarter ton there are shock absorbers which adjust their valving depending on ride height (i.e. how much the load lowers the vehicle). I don't know what guys think of the system on the half tons, but the three quarter ton crowd pretty much universally ditches the fancy shock absorbers and has the system written out of the control module. I haven't had any issues with mine yet, but then again I haven't added a lift to mine.

The heavier trucks generally came with heavier suspension components. However, if you plan on spending much time off pavement you will find yourself wanting to upgrade the steering components. GM went for anemic steering on even the three quarter tons. The good news is there is lots of aftermarket support to fix that weak link.

While you are looking a truck over, pay attention to the oil cooler lines. Unless they have already been replaced you can expect to need to do them soon. They are at that age. Possibly transmission cooler lines too, but of the two systems, the oil cooler lines seem to be the most likely to leak.

There are also some PCV seals (or something like that) in the intake valley that you may need to deal with. I have the 8.1L and I don't think these are an issue with the big block, but the small blocks seem to have an issue with those.

As soon as you get a truck replace the fuel filter. Odds are it hasn't been done in way too long, and GM fuel pumps don't seem to have a strong margin with which to handle any extra work.

None of the above is intended to scare you off. I am quite pleased with our Suburban and have no plans to replace it. These trucks are solid platforms. Every vehicle has its weak links. The above are just issues I have come across over the years and can pass along to you so that you can make a more informed decision.
 
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Bowtied13

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Todays 1/2 ton is yesterday Cadillac. Buy the 3/4 ton if you want to haul more than 5 people and a couple of canoes.

That said...... spec it right, engine choice, rear end ratios, tires.... and you can double the payload on most half tons.
There was a time this data was readily available on the manufacturers spec sheet. Today they hide all the important stuff so you can focus on which radio you want instead.

Which was exactly what Cadillac used to do too.

But towing is what 1/2 tons, 3/4 tons and Cadillacs ALL do well.
It is payload, GVWR that means you might need a 3/4 ton.
People, golf clubs and a bbq for tailgating will overload a base 1/2 ton.

That makes sense. I would definitely be looking at upgrading from stock suspension, tires etc. Thanks for your input! :blush:
 

Bowtied13

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My vote is 3/4 ton. But then my choice for my family was a 3/4 ton '02 Suburban.

One thing that is substantially different between the two is the brake system. If you can get two of them side by side just compare the parking brake. The half ton is a joke, whereas the three quarter ton means it.

I don't know if the pickups got "Autoride", but if they did, it is different between the half and three quarter tons. On half tons there is an air compressor which will adjust the suspension (airbags in the rear?) whereas on a three quarter ton there are shock absorbers which adjust their valving depending on ride height (i.e. how much the load lowers the vehicle). I don't know what guys think of the system on the half tons, but the three quarter ton crowd pretty much universally ditches the fancy shock absorbers and has the system written out of the control module. I haven't had any issues with mine yet, but then again I haven't added a lift to mine.

The heavier trucks generally came with heavier suspension components. However, if you plan on spending much time off pavement you will find yourself wanting to upgrade the steering components. GM went for anemic steering on even the three quarter tons. The good news is there is lots of aftermarket support to fix that weak link.

While you are looking a truck over, pay attention to the oil cooler lines. Unless they have already been replaced you can expect to need to do them soon. They are at that age. Possibly transmission cooler lines too, but of the two systems, the oil cooler lines seem to be the most likely to leak.

There are also some PCV seals (or something like that) in the intake valley that you may need to deal with. I have the 8.1L and I don't think these are an issue with the big block, but the small blocks seem to have an issue with those.

As soon as you get a truck replace the fuel filter. Odds are it hasn't been done in way too long, and GM fuel pumps don't seem to have a strong margin with which to handle any extra work.

None of the above is intended to scare you off. I am quite pleased with our Suburban and have no plans to replace it. These trucks are solid platforms. Every vehicle has its weak links. The above are just issues I have come across over the years and can pass along to you so that you can make a more informed decision.

Ya I'm definitely leaning more toward the 3/4 ton, however unfortunately fuel mileage also has to come into play. And the 1/2 generally gets better fuel mileage.

Also I have looked into the BDS coilover systems for the front of the 3/4 ton which would help with the stock suspension issues offroad and steering componenents.

Thanks a lot for the advice. I'll definitely be looking at those things when I go to buy it
 

Billiebob

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And the 1/2 generally gets better fuel mileage.
Once you load it up, it does not get better mileage.
Empty yes, the 1/2 ton is todays sedan. The computers are programmed to run very lean since they are after the family sedan crowd. But add some weight and it will do no better than a similarly equipped 3/4 ton. As I said, add up the weight you plan to haul, buy the truck which will do it.

My old F350 dually with a 460 got 15mpg empty, loaded, city, highway, 50mph, 70mph.

Todays 1/2 tons only get great mileage empty. I almost bought an F150 eco thing for the high mileage but found out it gets the same mileage as my TJR with a trailer. It is all smoke & mirrors, research, read between the lines.
 

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GM might be, IME, the lightest duty 1500.

So go 2500. At least you get a locker friendly rear axle that way. Keep in mind that locking GM's front diff is a bad idea, so you really need to lean hard on that rear axle as you start to go more and more off road. I could see being on the fence 150 vs 250 Fords, but not with GM. Go 2500 and don't look back.
 
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I'm happy with everything my 02 2500hd has to offer me and my family of 5. With it's current overlanding/bug out configuration it is carrying a lot day to day. I am planning to update the suspension and tires soon but that is because this is also my project truck. When I first bought the truck with no modifications and stock tires the low 10-13 mpg was expected. With everything I've added to the truck mpg is slightly unchanged, e.g. camper shell, roof rack with basket case, bull bar, etc.

Price-wise the 2500 was not that more than the 1500's I was looking at the time. It def. drives like a full size rig. I had an 02 Chevy Avalanche and driving/steering was night and day compared to my now 2500 Silverado. I did tow with the 1500 Avalanche. After I upgraded to 4:10 gears the Avalanche barely noticed the 18' travel trailer.
 
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Bowtied13

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GM might be, IME, the lightest duty 1500.

So go 2500. At least you get a locker friendly rear axle that way. Keep in mind that locking GM's front diff is a bad idea, so you really need to lean hard on that rear axle as you start to go more and more off road. I could see being on the fence 150 vs 250 Fords, but not with GM. Go 2500 and don't look back.
That makes sense. Works for me. An SAS up front would be awesome but that would probably be way down the road if ever.
 
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Bowtied13

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I'm happy with everything my 02 2500hd has to offer me and my family of 5. With it's current overlanding/bug out configuration it is carrying a lot day to day. I am planning to update the suspension and tires soon but that is because this is also my project truck. When I first bought the truck with no modifications and stock tires the low 10-13 mpg was expected. With everything I've added to the truck mpg is slightly unchanged, e.g. camper shell, roof rack with basket case, bull bar, etc.

Price-wise the 2500 was not that more than the 1500's I was looking at the time. It def. drives like a full size rig. I had an 02 Chevy Avalanche and driving/steering was night and day compared to my now 2500 Silverado. I did tow with the 1500 Avalanche. After I upgraded to 4:10 gears the Avalanche barely noticed the 18' travel trailer.
Very cool! Nice to see someone running a similar setup to what I want. Ya mine would be my daily but also extra accessories on it as well when I'm not overlanding. But the 2500 definitely makes more sense if pulling a camper. Especially long distances.
 
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MidOH

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That makes sense. Works for me. An SAS up front would be awesome but that would probably be way down the road if ever.
Just get a Ford 250 then. SAS is done, 1550 joints are stock, freespin is stock. Just add a Yukon Grizzly locker and call it a day.
 

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I've got a Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4 currently that I DD. I had a 2001 Silverado 2WD back in the day. And our overland rig is a GMC Canyon -- I really do love GM trucks.

But, the Canyon is more capable than our 2001 Silverado in a few areas, and it's nipping at the heels of the 2018 4x4. Obviously I'm not suggesting you consider the Canyon as it won't work for your needs, but I give this comparison to communicate how relatively light the 1500 series trucks are. Canyon has 1500 lbs payload and I think 7000 lbs towing. My 2001 Silverado could only tow 5000 lbs, and a payload of only 1600 lbs. The newer 2018 1500 is a bit better, with 12,000-ish lbs towing, but only 2200 lbs payload -- so again, not a huge gap.

Chevy 1500s are great, and I love mine, but I were building a full size Overland rig I'd go for the 3/4 ton truck for sure.

Another way to think of this is "% of GVWR". If you weigh all your stuff and find out that you will only ever tow 11,500 lbs, and only ever carry 2150 lbs, the numbers will tell you that you are in 1500 territory. However, at those weights you'll be at 95% + of the vehicles capacity. Generally speaking, a vehicle that is consistently used in rugged terrain at 75% capacity will wear out slower than the same vehicle used at 95% capacity. So, even if you don't need the total capacity of the 3/4 ton, it'll probably be a more rugged and reliable choice, all other things being equal.

We use a target of 80% GVWR -- obviously this is a soft target, more of a thing we are mindful of than it is a hard, set goal. It's not like we won't pick up 50 lbs of firewood on the way into camp if we need it just because it'll put us over that 80%
 
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Desert Runner

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GM might be, IME, the lightest duty 1500.

So go 2500. At least you get a locker friendly rear axle that way. Keep in mind that locking GM's front diff is a bad idea, so you really need to lean hard on that rear axle as you start to go more and more off road. I could see being on the fence 150 vs 250 Fords, but not with GM. Go 2500 and don't look back.
I was under the impression that Ram only offered a locker rear for the POWER WAGON, also of course for the front. All other models were only available in a LTD slip design rear, unless you went aftermarket. I never had to use my G-80 in a manner where pulling the pin, was going to grenade my rear diff, but I do keep it in mind. It seems that snow conditions might be where that scenario would likely come into play as the vehicle transitioned onto pavement, and suddenly caught traction, aka...fast wheel spin.

The new 2020 Ford Tremor for looks promising with a LSD in front, and with manual front locking hubs.
Being the owner of a 2003 IFS Chevy, I have to agree with your premise if were talking stock off the lot. The worst part of IFS in the 'classic series of pickups, were the undersized tie rod ends GM put on their trucks. Retrofit that problem, and the scary toe-in, toe-out is minimized or cured. They since, have fixed that design flaw. Yes there are a few other front end tweaks needed for sled pulling, but for...REASONABLE use off road (judicial pedal use), They can manage a front locker.......as long as the driver observes the limitations that it entails. No lock to lock turning etc. This goes for straight axles also. This is of course for 2500/3500 trucks. They only offered front LSD/lockers for 1/2 tons for about a year, before being pulled from the market. That upgrade made the GM (1/2 ton) a ticking time bomb, which was sooner rather than later, as many found out.

I once was interested in a 'True Trac' LSD for my truck, as writers said that design put the least shock load on the half shafts, and other parts not liking sudden traction. That philosophy has matured to where a Locker in the front of a IFS truck is better because, when engaged (manual-not auto-Detroit style) the lifted wheel spins at the same speed as the one with traction, thus not causing sudden wheel stoppage (shock-load) when traction was reestablished. Thinking about that and watching a ton of videos, it just made sense.

So many manufacturers now use front traction devices in their IFS vehicles, right from the factory. This implies a degree of trust in their product, which has to encompass the NEWBIES who have no clue in how to use it correctly. Look at all the various cars/trucks in Australia/Africa/Middle East/Near East , that have these front systems installed that are not able to be right around the corner from a repair shop. These are not weekend warriors, but are used hard...aka....worked and put up wet.

In the end it comes down to knowing you and your trucks limitations, and not excessively exceeding that limit, which usually starts and ends with the amount of go pedal applied.
 
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The Ford hubs are manual and automatic. Old manual hubs are rare now. I think sold in canada, but nearly all SD's in the states should have ESOF now. I think '19+ were all ''supposed'' to be ESOF. Warn manuals drop right in.
 
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Bowtied13

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I was under the impression that Ram only offered a locker rear for the POWER WAGON, also of course for the front. All other models were only available in a LTD slip design rear, unless you went aftermarket. I never had to use my G-80 in a manner where pulling the pin, was going to grenade my rear diff, but I do keep it in mind. It seems that snow conditions might be where that scenario would likely come into play as the vehicle transitioned onto pavement, and suddenly caught traction, aka...fast wheel spin.

The new 2020 Ford Tremor for looks promising with a LSD in front, and with manual front locking hubs.
Being the owner of a 2003 IFS Chevy, I have to agree with your premise if were talking stock off the lot. The worst part of IFS in the 'classic series of pickups, were the undersized tie rod ends GM put on their trucks. Retrofit that problem, and the scary toe-in, toe-out is minimized or cured. They since, have fixed that design flaw. Yes there are a few other front end tweaks needed for sled pulling, but for...REASONABLE use off road (judicial pedal use), They can manage a front locker.......as long as the driver observes the limitations that it entails. No lock to lock turning etc. This goes for straight axles also. This is of course for 2500/3500 trucks. They only offered front LSD/lockers for 1/2 tons for about a year, before being pulled from the market. That upgrade made the GM (1/2 ton) a ticking time bomb, which was sooner rather than later, as many found out.

I once was interested in a 'True Trac' LSD for my truck, as writers said that design put the least shock load on the half shafts, and other parts not liking sudden traction. That philosophy has matured to where a Locker in the front of a IFS truck is better because, when engaged (manual-not auto-Detroit style) the lifted wheel spins at the same speed as the one with traction, thus not causing sudden wheel stoppage (shock-load) when traction was reestablished. Thinking about that and watching a ton of videos, it just made sense.

So many manufacturers now use front traction devices in their IFS vehicles, right from the factory. This implies a degree of trust in their product, which has to encompass the NEWBIES who have no clue in how to use it correctly. Look at all the various cars/trucks in Australia/Africa/Middle East/Near East , that have these front systems installed that are not able to be right around the corner from a repair shop. These are not weekend warriors, but are used hard...aka....worked and put up wet.

In the end it comes down to knowing you and your trucks limitations, and not excessively exceeding that limit, which usually starts and ends with the amount of go pedal applied.
Wow thanks for the info. So in talking about the front LSD/lockers for a 2500 what would I be looking for? How drastically would it limit my turning also? And would the turning be limited only when 4wd is engaged or all the time?
 

Bowtied13

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I've got a Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4 currently that I DD. I had a 2001 Silverado 2WD back in the day. And our overland rig is a GMC Canyon -- I really do love GM trucks.

But, the Canyon is more capable than our 2001 Silverado in a few areas, and it's nipping at the heels of the 2018 4x4. Obviously I'm not suggesting you consider the Canyon as it won't work for your needs, but I give this comparison to communicate how relatively light the 1500 series trucks are. Canyon has 1500 lbs payload and I think 7000 lbs towing. My 2001 Silverado could only tow 5000 lbs, and a payload of only 1600 lbs. The newer 2018 1500 is a bit better, with 12,000-ish lbs towing, but only 2200 lbs payload -- so again, not a huge gap.

Chevy 1500s are great, and I love mine, but I were building a full size Overland rig I'd go for the 3/4 ton truck for sure.

Another way to think of this is "% of GVWR". If you weigh all your stuff and find out that you will only ever tow 11,500 lbs, and only ever carry 2150 lbs, the numbers will tell you that you are in 1500 territory. However, at those weights you'll be at 95% + of the vehicles capacity. Generally speaking, a vehicle that is consistently used in rugged terrain at 75% capacity will wear out slower than the same vehicle used at 95% capacity. So, even if you don't need the total capacity of the 3/4 ton, it'll probably be a more rugged and reliable choice, all other things being equal.

We use a target of 80% GVWR -- obviously this is a soft target, more of a thing we are mindful of than it is a hard, set goal. It's not like we won't pick up 50 lbs of firewood on the way into camp if we need it just because it'll put us over that 80%
That is definitely something to keep in mind. I would for sure rather have plenty of extra cushion with the GVWR and towing capacity than be right on the limit and wearing the truck out faster plus it being more dangerous to drive. I honestly just wish that GM would make their full-size trucks more competitive with the off-road market, much like Ram and Ford are now doing. However I'm also not looking at buying a brand new truck either, so that wouldn't help me any right now anyway.
 
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Enthusiast III

That is definitely something to keep in mind. I would for sure rather have plenty of extra cushion with the GVWR and towing capacity than be right on the limit and wearing the truck out faster plus it being more dangerous to drive. I honestly just wish that GM would make their full-size trucks more competitive with the off-road market, much like Ram and Ford are now doing. However I'm also not looking at buying a brand new truck either, so that wouldn't help me any right now anyway.
I totally agree. I think they are seeing the market, but they are seeing it a bit more slowly than the others. Ford has the Raptor, Ram has the Power Wagon, but now GM has the AT4 which is a pretty sweet 1/2 ton that is catered to off-road. But, like the power wagon and raptor, the AT4 is pricey -- still, some of that tech and innovation will trickle down into their All Terrain packages eventually (GMC version of Chevy's Z-71; I think that's a recent re-branding as I recall older GM's also used the Z71 designation for off-road packages). Sadly it looks like the AT4 and All Terrain packages are not available on the HD versions of the truck. A 2500 HD GM with the All Terrain package would be a GREAT overland platform. Of course, this is 2019 trucks, too, and as you said it's not what you are looking for right now.

Still, we can all dream and drool at the potential -- that's half the fun of vehicle discussions!

I am curious to see what you'll end up with, and I wish you all the very best in your search! I'm confident that no matter what truck you buy, it'll be a good one for your needs -- the right attitude towards this stuff is way more important than the type of locker, the style of tire, the off-road specs, etc. All problems can be solved with the proper application of ingenuity and gumption!
 
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