Buyers agree that of the models of diesel trucks, the classic Dodge Ram is the best. Known for its reliable Cummins engine and its power, Rams have been the favorite truck of diesel drivers since the 1980s. The truck has gone through many changes over the last 50 years, with some years being better than others.
The best years for Dodge diesel trucks are 1996-1998, 2006-2007, and 2010-2011. These years of the Dodge Ram have the fewest complaints and the most capabilities among Dodge diesel trucks. Owners give these trucks the highest reviews for their hauling capacity and reliability.
In order to understand why these years are the best among so many makes of Dodge diesel engines, a thorough analysis of their pros and cons is needed. Let’s take a look at what these top years have to offer.
1996-1998 Dodge Ram
The 1996-1998 Dodge Rams came shortly after the makers updated the body style for a fresh new look in 1994. The 1996-1998 Dodge Rams were ahead of their class by virtue of their P7100 injection pump- a perfect complement to the 5.9L Cummins engine. Together, they boasted one of the most reliable and capable engines in the world of diesel.
The biggest advantages of these years were their power and dependability. Diesel trucks are always built with hauling capability in mind, but thanks to the quality engine, these Rams were long-lasting giants as well. Compared to others in its class, the 5.9L Cummins engine is simple and easier to fix. The simplicity of the Dodge Ram has always been one of its selling points, which is something that will long be appreciated by Ram owners.
These things considered, the 1996-1998 Dodge Rams do have some drawbacks. They have much less horsepower than the newer makes of this model, and while the engine is long-lasting, many other parts of the car are not. The interior of the car in particular has been known to wear out easily.
If you are considering purchasing a 1996-1998 Dodge Ram, know that they are usually highly valued and worth a little more than you might expect (prices range from about $2,000 to $10,000). Prospective owners should also know that most 5.9L Cummins engines suffer from what is known as a “Killer Dowel Pin”- a mechanical fault that can cause your engine to die unexpectedly.
These faults aside, these Dodge Rams are still treasured by their owners. If you are in the market, the best transmission you can find is probably a 5-speed manual as these cars will handle better than their automatic or 6-speed counterparts.
2006-2007 Dodge Ram
Almost a decade after the prized 1996-1998 Rams were sold, Dodge had a few more favorites to release. Starting in 2003, Dodge changed the fuel injection system to the Bosch common-rail injection system, which added more horsepower to the vehicle. As an added bonus, the new injection system decreased the noise produced by the truck. The cab space was also greatly expanded, making the trucks of these years much more comfortable to ride in.
Overall, the biggest advantage of these Rams is the increased horsepower. The 2006-2007 engines are made for power, which adds a lot to the value of the trucks. If you are looking to buy a used Dodge diesel truck, the 2006-2007 versions are arguably the best purchase for their capability and value.
Compared to the 1996-1998 models, however, you are purchasing a little less durability. The new common-rail injection system is effective but doesn’t last as long as the rest of the engine and will likely need replacing if you plan on driving a lot.
Out of the complaints that the NHTSA has received, the majority have to do with the way that these trucks handle and the integrity of the steering column. All trucks have their own quirks though, so don’t be too concerned. Overall, the number of complaints about these diesel trucks is low. However, these systems can also be expensive and, if not dealt with properly, can cause serious damage to the engine. Used 2006-2007 Dodge Rams can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.
If you are looking to purchase, the 3500 Dodge Ram is the most appreciated by its owners, with the manual transmissions being the most powerful by a significant margin. If you spend the time and effort, you will find a decent array of used 2006-2007 Dodge Rams that are still in good condition.
2011-2012 Dodge Ram
Starting in late 2007/2008, Dodge Rams were manufactured with an upgraded engine, the 6.7L Cummins. Thanks to the additional engine size, these Rams have significantly more horsepower and torque to get the job done. As the 6.7L engine was refined and improved, the trucks gained greater responsiveness and maneuverability. Furthermore, the 2011-2012 models of Dodge Rams include an integrated exhaust brake- a feature that most people who tow consider a must-have nowadays.
With the greater engine power, of course, you are also purchasing a lower fuel efficiency than you might expect buying newer trucks like these. However, you probably aren’t buying a truck to eke out those extra miles on every gallon- you want a hauling, towing, driving machine. The 6.7L Cummins will get you 400 horsepower with around 1,000 pounds of torque. The engine handles the power very well, but some drivers do report their head gaskets popping in response to the engine’s output.
When it comes to owner satisfaction, 2011 Dodge Rams have a remarkably high customer satisfaction rate. The NHTSA has received only 4 complaints about this truck, which shows how satisfied owners are with it. The 2012 Ram has a similarly low number of 19 complaints.
Because these trucks are newer, expect to pay at least $15,000 for them. The 6.7L engines from 2007-2010 are going to be a cheaper option but know that you sacrifice some rideability on years before 2011. Buying newer than 2012 will get you some great trucks but the 2011-2012 models are probably a better choice for price, capability, and simplicity.
There are many who advocate for newer issues of the Dodge Ram, but the selections mentioned above have remained favorites through the last 20 years. Whichever year you decide to shop for, you can trust the power and simplicity of the Dodge Ram.