Dodge Rams have seen many iterations over the years, and most of the differences are under the hood.
The Cummins engine, which serves the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 lines, has undergone many changes over the years.
Choosing the best year depends on what you are looking for unless you rely on ratings and reviews alone.
Also, different models offer variations on engine performance so that customers can choose a truck tailored to their purpose.
What Are The Best Years For The Dodge Cummins Engines?
Cummins is the maker of Dodge Ram’s diesel engines. Dodge also offers gasoline engines with a different name. Benchmark years for Cummins Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 engines are 1989, 2003-2009, 2010-2018, and 2019.
Each of these years had defining improvements to the Cummins engine.
For the full scoop on each of these years and why they are the best, read on!
1989 was the first year Dodge used the Cummins engine, and it was such a smashing success. It was so successful that many of those engines are still used today.
So, which Dodge Cummins engine is the best? While the 1989 engine predates the Ram 2500 and 3500 lineup, its impact was huge because the first Cummins engine set the benchmark for engines in use today over thirty years later.
The 1989 engine offers good power and lacks all the sophisticated electronic bells and whistles that may cause modern engines to break down.
So, what makes the 1st Gen Cummins so simple, robust, and reliable?
- Smaller than a traditional V8 engine (easier to repair)
- Inline-6 engine design
- Gear-driven components
- Direct fuel injection (first of its kind)
- Large crankshaft
Now that you know what made the 1st Gen Cummins such a game-changer let’s look at Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 Cummins engines.
2003 was an important year for Dodge Ram because the 3rd Gen Cummins engine made its debut, and Dodge launched the Ram 2500 and 3500 lines, which they still sell today.
In addition, the 3rd generation era stands out because it is the crossover period of the old 5.9L Cummins and the new 6.7L engine still in use today.
By this time, the 3rd generation 5.9L engine still resembled the 1st generation in places, despite the new engine having many upgrades such as:
- Improved fuel injection
- More cab space
- Smoother ride
- More horsepower
In 2007 Dodge switched over to the cleaner 6.7L engine and retired the 5.9L Cummins.
Modern times demanded more out of the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 lines, and the 5.9L was no longer big enough to deliver the necessary power with clean enough emissions.
However, the change raised the question with consumers: is the 6.7 Cummins reliable? Environmental concerns had started dictating engine design and pressured Cummins to keep up.
In 2010 the 4th Gen Cummins arrived on the market, and Dodge put the 6.7L engine in their Ram 2500 and 3500 lines.
Since 2007, every engine installed in the Ram 2500 and 3500 lines has been 6.7L. So, the debate begins to form.
Was the Dodge Ram better served by the 5.9L engine or its replacement, the 6.7L engine?
Arriving at the answer is not easy because manufacturing adds yearly technological upgrades that improve engine performance and increase the technical obstacles when doing repairs.
The early to mid-2000 period is also when Dodge saw that it needed to increase the power of the Ram and its size and capabilities.
Dodge Ram started its 5th Gen Cummins in 2019. In many regards, the bird’s eye view is not different from the previous generation.
The trucks keep getting bigger, and they need to do more, so they need more power. It’s simple.
Because modern electronics have created a climate of needing specialists for repairs, avoiding as many repairs as possible through proper maintenance is the name of the game.
Avoiding repairs has always been true for all automobiles, but it is more critical than ever with modern vehicles, considering the difficulty and expense of repairs.
Dodge Ram 2500 vs. 3500
Models in these two Ram lines look almost identical. Appearances do not have much to do with which model you should choose.
The most crucial factor is the job you need the truck to do. Large trucks like this get poor mileage, even for diesel. Most people need these trucks to do heavy work.
The 2500 line is adequate for most trailers up to around 19,000 pounds, but the specifics depend on the year and model.
The 3500 series, with more horsepower, can haul heavier loads up to around 34,000 pounds, but the specific specs depend on the year and model.
Many people prefer the 3500 line because they already need the power to haul heavy loads, and the Ram 3500 offers more versatility between lighter and heavier hauls.
Regardless, people want to know, what is the best year for the ram 2500, and what is the best year for the ram 3500? You need to look at the generational changes and the different engines to determine that.
Is 5.9 or 6.7 Cummins better?
Hands down, as designers have added more computers and electronics to Cummins engines, the reliability has gone down. The drop in reliability automatically knocks 5th Gen engines out of the competition.
It is true, 5th Gen offers the most power and hauling capacity, but if the engine suffers expensive break-downs, it cannot be the best choice.
The 3rd Gen Cummins engines are highly regarded by many as some of the best quality work Dodge ever brought to market.
However, if you are considering buying a used truck, there is a fine line to navigate in making your decision.
Ask yourself, “what do I need the truck to do?”
From the 3rd to the 4th generation, the Cummins engine made a significant leap in horsepower from a maximum of 350hp (3rd) to 385 (4th).
In the world of horsepower, 35 is a big difference.
If, after research, you find the 3rd Gen to be adequate for your needs, go with the 3rd. Most consumers consider those years to be some of Dodge’s best for heavy trucks.
The early 2000s were years when technology and computers were changing everything but not to the point of overkill, which brings reliability issues.
On one important note, the 4th Gen introduced an integrated exhaust brake.
Most people who tow consider this technology essential for effective braking.
You should find used 3rd Gen Rams for $10,000 to $20,000.
The 5.9L from the first part of the 3rd generation offers more reliability but less power. The 6.7L delivers more torque and allows for heavier loads.
The 3rd Gen Cummins is genuinely a beloved engine, but what is the best year for Dodge Ram? Deciding the best year for Dodge heavy trucks is difficult due to Dodge switching from the 5.9L to the 6.7L engine.
The choice is simple if you only need the most power.
There is no doubt the 6.7L engine delivers better power.
However, if the 5.9L engine delivers enough power for your needs, it is the most reliable across Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 lines.
The best year to get a 3rd Gen Cummins was 2006-2007.
These were the last Rams to have the 5.9L engine, and they received the latest technological touches in the engine’s long service history.
The 3500 is the most popular due to its extra power with 325 horsepower and 610 lb-ft of torque.
If you have different needs than this verdict delivers, look for 3rd and early 4th generation Cummins to avoid modern design flaws and less reliability overall.