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Trucks with the Best Fuel Economy

Jamie Page Deaton
February 25, 2011
Trucks with the Best Fuel Economy

When you’re buying a truck, fuel economy may be a secondary consideration. As a class, trucks are notorious for guzzling gas -- with their big engines and heavy curb weights, it’s no wonder. Still, the jobs that trucks do require a lot of gas, so truck owners can be resigned to a chubby fuel bill.

While trucks don’t have the best fuel economy as a class, you can find trucks that have better fuel economy than other trucks -- and are just as capable. Go for the truck that gets more mpgs, and you’ll have more money in your wallet.

Compact Pickups with the Best Gas Mileage

Compact pickups appeal to many buyers because they give you rugged capability plus decent fuel economy. If you want a truck for weekend fun but still plan on commuting in it, a compact pickup is a great option.

Still, you need to shop smart if you’re looking to maximize your fuel economy in the compact-pickup class. Several models, like the Ford Ranger, Suzuki Equator, Toyota Tacoma and GMC Canyon offer four-cylinder engines. For saving gas, these engines are tough to beat. With the four-cylinder engine, the Ford Ranger gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. That’s on par with some sedans. But if you go for the small engine, know that your truck’s capability will be smaller too. Many reviewers complain that the four-cylinder engines on compact trucks like the Toyota Tacoma are under powered. Plus, a four-cylinder truck can’t tow or haul as much as one with a bigger engine.

Full-Size Pickups with the Best Gas Mileage

Full-size pickup trucks have bigger engines and weigh more than the compact trucks do so their gas mileage suffers. On the other hand, they have the extra brawn to tackle more demanding jobs, so fueling a full-size truck is simply the price you have to pay for all that capability.

If you find a full-size fuel bill too big a pill to swallow, you still have options. Car companies are putting small yet powerful engines into their full-size pickups and General Motors has even come out with two hybrid pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and the GMC Sierra Hybrid. The Silverado and Sierra Hybrids have V8 engines but they also have electric motors and can travel up to 30 mph for short distances on electric power alone. While they do compromise towing and hauling ability, they make up for it with improved fuel economy. Each gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. That may not seem all that great, but it is a 25-percent improvement in city fuel economy over the base Sierra 1500 and Silverado 1500. Both trucks are pricey, starting at more than $38,000; however, you may be able to get some tax breaks which effectively lower the price.

If you don’t want to shell out so much green just so you can go green, there are other trucks out there with fairly good fuel economy. Ford recently put a turbocharged V6 engine into some of its F-150 pickup trucks. The result is that you can get an F-150 that turns in a thrifty 17/23 mpg, city/highway. And since the F-150 starts at about $22,000, you can get near-hybrid truck fuel economy while saving nearly $16,000.  If you don’t want to give up a V8, Chevrolet offers a Silverado 1500 XFE trim, which uses tricks like tires with lower rolling resistance to get 15/22 mpg, city/highway. 

Get Better Gas Mileage from any Truck

No matter what kind of truck you choose, there are ways you can improve its fuel economy. 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. That will save some fuel.