Trucks are notorious for using too much gas. And with their big engines and heavy curb weights, it’s no wonder that trucks are so expensive to fill up. Still, the jobs that trucks are best at, like towing, hauling and even off-roading, require a lot of gas. While trucks overall don’t have the best fuel economy, you’ll find that some have better fuel economy than others.
Compact Trucks with Great Gas Mileage
Compact pickups appeal to many buyers because they give you rugged capability and respectable fuel economy. If you want a truck for weekend fun and plan on commuting in it during the week, a compact pickup truck is a great option.
Models like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier offer four-cylinder engines. These engines are your best bet if your main priority is conserving gasoline. With the four-cylinder engine and two-wheel drive, the Toyota Tacoma gets up to 21/25 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA. But if you go for a small engine, know that your truck won’t be very powerful. Many reviewers complain that the four-cylinder engines on compact trucks like the Toyota Tacoma can feel sluggish, even with an empty bed. Plus, a four-cylinder truck can’t tow or haul as much as one with a bigger engine.
Though compact trucks with larger engines are available, they don’t get nearly as good fuel economy as the four-cylinder options. Plus, in trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, the V6 engine with four-wheel drive gets only one mpg better in combined driving than the full-size Chevrolet Silverado with two-wheel drive and the base six-cylinder engine. In fact, the full-size 2013 Ram 1500 4x4 with the new 3.6-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission has better fuel economy than the compact V6 Tacoma, at 16/23 mpg city/highway.
Full-Size Trucks with Great Gas Mileage
Full-size pickup trucks have bigger engines and weigh more than the compact trucks do, so their gas mileage tends to be a bit lower. On the other hand, they can also tow and haul a lot more, and have more spacious cabins. Fueling a full-size truck is simply the price you have to pay for all that capability.
If you find a full-size truck’s fuel bill too big a pill to swallow, you still have options. Automakers are putting smaller, yet powerful, engines into their full-size pickups, and General Motors even has two hybrid pickups: the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and the GMC Sierra Hybrid. The Silverado and Sierra Hybrids have V8 engines and electric motors, and can travel for short distances on electric power alone. These hybrid trucks do compromise a bit on towing and hauling ability thanks to their powertrains and crew-cab, short-bed body styles. This body style sacrifices utility for extra passenger space no matter whether you have a gas-only truck or a hybrid truck.
Each of GM’s hybrid trucks gets an EPA-estimated 20/23 mpg with either two- or four-wheel drive. Those ratings may not seem that high, but it is about a 20 percent improvement in combined fuel economy over the base GMC Sierra 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Both hybrid trucks are pricey compared with base models, starting at more than $40,800, but when you compare them against similarly-equipped crew cab trucks, they cost only a few thousand more.
There are other non-hybrid full-size trucks out there with fairly good fuel economy. The Ford F-150 is available with a turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 engine, which returns a thrifty 16/22 mpg. This is also the engine with which the F-150 reaches its maximum 11,300-pound towing capacity. An F-150 with the EcoBoost engine starts at about $26,065, which saves you about $14,800 compared with a Chevy Silverado Hybrid. If you want even better fuel economy, the Ram 1500 has a new 305-horsepower V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that returns up to 25 mpg on the highway, which is outstanding for a full-size truck. A V6-powered Ram 1500 can tow up to 6,500 pounds.
Get Better Gas Mileage from any Truck
The EPA doesn’t list fuel economy ratings for heavy-duty trucks, but it’s safe to assume that diesel models generally get better fuel economy than gas-powered models. But no matter what kind of truck you choose, there are ways you can improve fuel economy just by changing your driving habits. The easiest way to do it is by driving sensibly. Don’t accelerate or brake hard, and take your foot off the gas and coast as much as possible. Also, adding weight to your truck will hurt its fuel economy. Don’t keep loads in the bed, and if you can, go for two-wheel drive instead of four-wheel drive. This will also help you save fuel.