2011 $30,000 Shootout: Results


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To determine a winner, we considered the performance data we collected over the week, sifted through the various specs and information about each truck, measured the value they offered to owners, and added in our own driving impressions.

We logged a lot of miles and a lot of time in each truck, and if this was just about performance numbers, fuel economy and payload, our choices might well be different.

But it wasn’t. This test is about much more than that — specifically, which truck gives us the most capabilities, the most creature comforts and the fewest compromises for our $30,000 price tag? Which is the most truck for our money? Which of these five competitors would force us to make the fewest concessions while doing all the things we like and have to do? With that said, here are our results.

5th Place: Chevy Silverado 1500
The Silverado is the second-oldest model in the segment and in need of powertrain, chassis and styling upgrades. The Silverado just barely qualified for this test by offering crank windows, manual door locks, manual mirrors, rubber floormats, no key fob and rear drum brakes. And you still have to write that $30,000 check anyway. While there’s something very satisfying about driving a work truck the way your dad (or granddad) did, the Silverado should have a value package combination that was closer in features to the Ram 1500.

4th Place: Nissan Titan
You have to take your hat off to a truck that can be completely ignored for a long time that still manages to hold its own in a competition like this. The Titan is the oldest truck in the segment, and it suffers from trying too much to be like other players, without making any attempt to stand out. In fact, it didn’t win a single competitive event. The suspension and ride are probably its best features, but the interior needs a major overhaul, and the exterior styling is beginning to look dated. A six-speed (or higher) gearbox would also help improve fuel economy.

3rd Place: 2011 Ford F-150
Ford’s decision to send us a regular cab for this test was bold, if not crazy, but we’re guessing the Ford people thought they had more to gain by sending a well-equipped XLT than sending a stripped-down version like the Silverado. We’re not sure if they were right, but if that’s what allowed them to include the 5.0-liter V-8, it was probably the right thing to do. The engine impressed everyone. What didn’t impress us was the strange choice of an integrated brake controller (do regular cabs tow much?), and why include the tailgate step instead of a bedliner? This configuration forced us to compromise our people-hauling abilities, especially when compared with the others. Clearly, there is a lot of good stuff here, but in the end, fancy features couldn’t outweigh our need for extra interior space.

2nd Place: Toyota Tundra
Much of our $30,000 challenge debate came down to our last two contenders, and the arguments were heated. If you’re looking for the biggest — and heaviest — truck for your buck in hauling capabilities and raw performance, there’s a strong argument that the Tundra should be your winner. In fact, in many categories where it didn’t win outright, the Tundra came in a close second. However, where the Tundra let us down was in the areas of fuel economy, interior layout and design, and the bulky feel — those specific drawbacks were not overcome by the truck’s mechanical robustness.

1st Place: Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 is our winning choice for this half-ton Shootout. The Ram was not a huge standout in any of the specific contests, but it did well everywhere. In a contest like this where overall value is such a high priority and the performance data (e.g. zero-to-60, payload capacity, braking, fuel economy, livability) are equal pieces of the judging criteria, the vehicle that does the best in the most categories is likely to come out on top, and that’s exactly how the Ram won. With the fewest sacrifices and compromises inside and out, the ST Quad Cab is our Best Truck for $30,000. Ram found the winning formula that balances price, performance and features.

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Kudos to Ram.
Looks like Ford gambled on sending a reg cab and it bit them.
The Tundra did well. Odd how the truck with the biggest brakes had longer loaded stopping distances than some of its competitors.
Chev is sure showing its age. Roll up windows, plane jane for a tad under 30k WTF???

Can't even get a 4x4 for under 30K??

Since when is hauling small humans a top criteria in a shootout?

The article is kind of misleading. GM has tacked on an ongoing rebate for it's trucks. The truck used in this test actually cost under 25K after the 4500.00 GM has put on the hood ever since newer trucks have come out. So technically, an individual can get an ext. cab 2x4 Silverado LT with the 6.2L for under 30K.

so ford won in every performance category except the uphill climb (close 2nd) but you give it 3rd place?????? sorry i just sort of skimmed the articles don't have time to read it all. But what am I missing? besides interior space, how is the ram any better than the ford? I own a 2009 ram btw

If only Tundra had a better interior, it would have one this contest. I'm still impressed that it did so well and shows what an excellent value the Tundra is. That's one reason (among many) that I was drawn to it...I could get excellent value and options for a great price plus that legendary Toyota quality. So far, I haven't been disappointed. Nissan should be proud that an 8 yr old design beat out the Chevy, but this is an indication that GM needs to update their trucks. A regular cab Ford for 30K? This begs the question: is Ford overpricing their trucks?

All in all, this was a great shootout. One for the real world where most of us live.

good article, to bad Ford could not see it to give you an extended cab. I agree with your results, Looks like the Ram did everything pretty good right near the top on every thing and No, I do not own a Ram....Chevy has 10,000 dollar discounts here on thier 4x4 extended cabs so you could probably get one of those for under 30 grand.

I think this test should have at least specified cab size, to make the playing field equal on at least one level. <$30,000 just isn't enough of a restraint to get a good test it seems to me. But nonetheless still an interesting read.

F150 would be my choice. Smallest engine and the quickest!

Thanks PUTC!

Congrats RAM!

As typical with Toyota's, nothing flashy just honest good and solid results in ALL categories!

Good test, they finished about the same as I would have placed them as well.

When the Ram gets that 8 speed, it might be a game changer.

A regular cab is crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was best truck under $30k. Not best Double Cab under $30k. If you wanted only supercabs you should have said so!

"What didn’t impress us was the strange choice of an integrated brake controller (do regular cabs tow much?)"

Why not? What is strange is this complaint.

"and why include the tailgate step instead of a bedliner?"

Bedliners are usually done aftermarket.

Mike, Your reasoning here is silly.


I agree!



"Warning: This is not the usual PickupTrucks.com comparison test."


Quite honestly, I find the most surprising part of this test was the Silverado. No way in the world would I pay $30k for a truck that doesn't even have power windows and locks!

I'm disappointed Ford didn't opt to send an extended cab STX with power and convenience groups. It'd have just as many interior conveniences as the other trucks that were provided and just as much interior space. They took a gamble, and it seems not to have paid off.

Rams are good trucks, so I'm not surprised they came out the winner in this particular instance. If I was told I had to buy one of the five trucks provided in this test as my personal truck, I would have chosen Ram as well because a regular cab just wouldn't cut it for my needs & wants. Luckily my budget was higher when I was buying a new truck in 2010

Way to go Ram! Now get-r-done with a diesel option for improved fuel economy.

The F-150's squared off sheet metal takes on a 2003 H2 appearance. I like that 5.0 engine though.

GM needs to get off their a$$ with some innovative modernization. In spite of a long in the tooth design, GM still isn't competitively priced.

The Tundra is very capable but a bit too thirsty.

The old mare Nissan isn't worthy of contention.

As a proud Tundra owner I can safely say it's the best of the bunch. Mine is just like the test truck, a 5.7 double cab in silver. Might not have all the bells and whistles of the ram but I can gurantee in the real world, it outperforms the ram and is a whole lot better on gas. Compare a regular cab Tundra with the 5.7 and it would outrun that 150. Btw how did u get a 7.something second 0-60? u have the traction control off? I can do 0-60 in 6 seconds flat with the trac control off and that's with a stock 5.7.

@Tim - I have to agree. I love the tailgate step on my truck. So does my 11 year old black lab. It isn't something that can easily be added as an aftermarket accessory. Box liners are "dime a dozen". Most dealers will throw in a plastic liner without a second glance.

@Mark Williams
I'm curious and puzzled - where are the test criteria and weights assigned to each test criteria. I'm not refering so much to the drag strip or any of the performance tests, but the intangibles - the subjective scoring for interiors, seating, comfort, etc. ??

Thanks for including the tow specs. The one reason I am considering a pickup for the next vehicle is the ability to tow. (still prefer a van) Its nice to see factory brake controllers (and not just the harness) one less thing to mess with.

I don't care about more than two seats, but I do want some space behind them.

I have to say I was wrong I did not see that coming I thought for sure it would be an upset but not for Ram congrats to Ram the winner.

So the Ford lost because it didn't have rear seats, yet out performed in most categories or came in a close second with the only exception being the road course with weight in the bed.

You questioned the Towing capabilities because it was a single cab but you didn't question the Ram which uses coil rear springs which reduce the total towing or payload capacities.

Ever considered that you dont need 4 seats in a work truck?

Jeez if ford knew that all they had to do was have a bigger cab they might as well take a windstar and put on a F150 badge on it. "It didn't win anything, but because it had more seats in wins overall."

For the IGNORANT ones on this board this message is for you. The Silverado two wheel drive extended cab Wortk Truck does list for under $30,000 dollars and that's without any rebates for you retarded ones. Why didn't ford offer a supercab configuration for under $30,000 dollars? Because they don't make one that's why.

Doing a head to head shootout and using a reg cab vs a extended cab is totally not fair because the reg cab has a BIG weight advantage. All this talk about discounts on the GM trucks but not on ford is total B.S. because you can get heavy discounts on the ford as well.

The under $30,000 requirement is LIST price, not what you can buy the truck for or using rebates you very ignorant ones. Not suprised the Chevy finished last as it has the least amount of power. Yea, Ram won the overall test and the Hemi is a nice engine but it's a gas HOG! The ram is rated at 13 city and 19 highway on their 4 wheel drive models and 14 city and 20 highway for two wheel drive models.

Toyota should be disqualified for even being in the test as they are using a 4.30 rear axle ratio. Of course they will do well in towing and acceleration tests. my point, the tests are not a apples to apples comparision.

Despite the last place showing for Chevy, it's still the second best selling truck in the USA. and when you combine GMC with Chevy, out sells the ford f-series or is neck and neck with ford for truck sales. I am anxious for GM'S all New half ton trucks with new everything and new powertrains.

I expect Chevy to be out front AGAIN. Good day.

lol you ford guy comments make me laugh told yall the ram would win good job ram

Michigan Bob,

PUTC asked for the BEST truck under $30K list price. The Chevy WT is what they got. That apprently was GM's best. All of these trucks have rebates and can be had for roughly the same price. I wouldn't call the bloggers here ignorant. They are just going by MSRP...the standard by which you price a vehicle, and THEN consider what rebates are available.

Toyota should NOT be DQ'd just for the 4.30 axle. That's what is standard in the 5.7! The 4.6 gets a 4.10 gear and the 4.0 gets a 3.90 (I think). Toyota puts big axles in the Tundra to put power to the ground for towing and hauling. That's how they're designed. Sorry they don't offer 10 different ring gears, but honestly, the transmission MORE than makes up for it. They ARE a full-size competitor and should be respected, and tested, as such.

No, the test was not apples to apples and there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the article stating such. The challenge was what could the average Joe get for under $30k. Here they are neck and neck. Go forth and purchase, my friend.

Well i'll be Lou was right I did sound like Bob. Once again peoplethe winner is the winner people thats it.

You guys must be hard up for news on your site by wasting your and our time with a test like this.

Also for the record Toyota on the next gen Tundra offer a tow package with 3.55 axle ratio for better hwy FE and a max tow package with the current 4.30 axle ratio

@Michigan Bob

An F-150 XL SuperCab with the 5.0, 3.73 limited slip and power group is $29,065 MSRP but keep talking...

@Michigan Bob- LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! Not even the sham-wow could not soak up all the ignorance dripping from that comment you left.

I was also wondering about whether or not you were using MSRP or real world pricing. I bought a CC 4x4 F150 XLT ecoboost in May and paid less than 31,000. But MSRP was considerably more. Makes sense now. Plus I also own a reg cab and have towed any and everything I have wanted to with it. So that comment really makes no sense to me personally. I have never tried putting the trailer inside the cab with me.... Not everyone has kids, and a reg cab has plenty of room for 2 people and whatever size trailer you care to pull. Anyways, congrats to Ram! I do wish this test had been the more typical PUTC test. I was really hoping for the 1/2 ton equivalent of the heavy duty hurt locker. But good job on what it was instead.

With Mike gone is PT lowering the standards? where is the score card with the points? Is this some ones opinion or objective test?

Any one else notice the Ford had rear parking sensors, but couldn't provide a ext cab for this test?

Hilarious you base every one of your HD tests off of engine performance so you can crown the GM a winner then all of a sudden a different wins most the performance tests and you make excuses for the rest.

Now out of nowhere you look at the over all package to conclude a winner. Get a clue PUTC you're losing credibility quick.....

GM can replace the 6 speed automatic with their 8 speed automatic. They can also upgrade to VVT from VCT by replacing the camshaft with cam-in-cam, and the simplex phaser for a dual phaser. That should net 350hp 350ft-lbs, improved emissions & mileage.
Nissan can upgrade from the antiquated 5 speed automatic to the 7 speed automatic (both from JATCO)
The engine could use VVT on the exhaust, a dual length intake manifold, and maybe either VVEL or direct injection (maybe both if cost cutting is done elsewhere)
Ford can upgrade from its unacceptable dual beam headlights.
Toyota can add Valvematic for improved mileage/emissions/performance.
Dodge needs that ZF 8 speed automatic ASAP (hopefully no later than 2012.5), and drop the rental grade dual beam option. It doesn't save any money by having to certify two different headlight systems.

You guys have to remember that PUTC did not pick the truck! The manufacturers just sent them to them! Good Job Tundra!!!

@5.3LOL - my comment about you sounding like Bob was "Toungue in cheek".
Unlike Bob - you make sense 99% of the time.
Bob makes no sense 99% of the time.

is it just my experience or is it much harder to get a rebate on a toyota than on a chevy ford or dodge? That sure helped them in this test. I think they set the msrp a little lower and just offer lower rebates. If it's the right time of year you can get 4 or 5 grand rebate on a ford chevy dodge, but i've never noticed those rebates on toyota. Am I wrong? Yeah i'm not really impressed with this test. Read the first seven pages and you wouldn't guess that the ram came out on top. If i was going to get a new half ton today I'd wait for that 4500 dollar rebate that ford offers all the time. Then I could get a nicely equipped xlt with the ecoboost for about 30,000 plus tax. No way you could get that good of a truck anywhere else for that price. Back in 2009 before the new engines from ford though I'm sure I made the right choice with my ram. michigan bob. hahahaha. I can read the first sentence and I always know it's him.

@beebe - rebates seem to vary from region to region. In Canada there is no way you can get a Toyota of any kind cheeper than a Detroit vehicle. I got 12K off last fall on the F150 and Toyota has 4K on the Tundra and zero rebate on the Tacoma.

These tests are done for info and our entertainment. If you don't like the way they're done do your own on your own website.

Who cares who wins? The results aren't curing cancer or paying your bills.

Take the info and use it your standards. It's that simple.

Stop with the "credibility" bullshit and get a life, some of you.

The winner is the winner congrats Ram but like some of you before I read this page I thought for sure that the F150 or Tundra had this shootout won im not sure I get it either.

You just have to time it right to get a good deal on a Toyota.
I bought a brand new 2008, 4x4, 5.7L, tow package, double-cab Tundra for $25,400, which included all tax, title, fees , etc.

My previous truck was a Ford and I looked at all of the other trucks--my concerns were: price, power, durability, and USA made content. Could I have gotten a few more bells and whistles for that price with a "domestic" brand--yes, but I don't care about that crap. Could I get more USA content, more power, or more durability--nope.

Everyone has different wants/needs--this test reaffirmed I bought the right pickup.

@ jl,

The Ram is quicker than the Toyota...Toyota 4.30 axle ratio..Ram 3.55....Other magazines tested the heavier CrewCab Ram with the Hemi and 6.4 0-60 and upper 14's !!!You say your Tundra runs 6 flat my QuadCab Ram runs 5.7 0-60 !! 14.12 in the 1/4 after 40,000 miles !!! Also the Ram R/T is the quickest production truck you can buy !!

I have a QuadCab Sport (lighter than the above said crewcab)and at the local track I beat all stock Tundra's !! Yeah,I had a Tundra before my 2011 Ram !!! I know them well !!

One thing about Dodge/Chrysler vehicles with more miles on them they get faster and way better gas mileage !! My buddy has the lower hp Hemi 345 hp 2008 Ram under 8,000 mi it ran high 15's...now 80,000mi it is a 15 flat truck 1/4 mile with 0 mods !!

Fact is Toyota has the 4.30's that is the main reason it performs like it does,only .001 ahead of a Ram with 3.55 gears !! If the Toyota had 3.55's it would be deep in the 16's in the 1/4 and about 8 ish 0-60 !!

@ Dav - thanks for posting your criteria for why you chose your truck.
That approach makes way more sense and is more respectable than brand bashing or fanboi posturing.

For the Ford fanboys whining and claiming "the F150 just needed extra doors to win":

Not so fast. Have any of you considered at all that the driving dynamics of the truck would be different with the extra doors/weight?? The F150 with extra doors and a 5.0 would be heavier than what they sent, obviously. So it would therefore handle much differently and would be a little slower...which would make it (most likely) slower than the Tundra and maybe the Ram.

Ram also probably had one of the best unloaded rides and quietest interiors which probably had a big say so in the final results. I think they Ram is the rightful winner here...it really is the best truck for under 30k. Ford boys need to get out of the denial they are in.

My opinion, the only reason Ford lost is because of the loaded handling. F150 had the slowest time through the course while loaded. Who wants a truck that can't handle a load?

Only reason Toyota didn't win, mileage. Tundra had the worst mileage out of all of them, and with the way gas prices are, that's a deal breaker.

Ram had consistent middle of the road performance, got second best mileage, and handled better with a load than without one. That is a huge plus in a pickup.

Ford won 6 out of 8 test, the objective was best truck for under 30,000, and Ford had enough for extra features. Why didn't everyone else use single cabs? The only 2 things you lose is those extra seats (which really isn't need 100% of the time) and a lower tow rating (which can be regained by a long bed). All of these trucks would have performed better in the tests if they went with single cabs, except the Nissan which doesn't offer a single cab. So really Ford was thinking the right way, Im sure if they known they would have been knocked down so much for using a single cab they could have thrown in a well equipped 5.0 super cab xl or a a basic stx super cab with a 3.7 v6. The bigger cab would only put on 400 lbs more so the performance would suffer too much.

Finally. Ford reporter is gone. Mark, i will pray for you.

Our Dodges, who art inline, hallow be thy cat! Thy timing advanced,
thy dowel pin done, in our shops as it is in thy forums. Give us this
day our daily boost, and forgive us our smoke clouds, as we forgive
those morons who ask, "Is that a hemi?" And lead us not into
Duramax-ation, but deliver us from Fords. For thine is the Cummins.
The 12 and 24 valve, forever they run!

@ zviera - Mike Levine was the one who put this test together.

@ Lou
I don't believe you.

what is a hemi? A hemispherical combustion chamber, which I think was first seen on a car in the form of a modified ford flat head v8 with special heads (forgot the name of heads) but was most noted under the hood of kick ass mopar muscle in the 60's and early 70's. Currently you can buy a V8 from chrysler/dodge/jeep thats called a hemi, but its truthfully a semi-hemi design, not a true hemi design, but the sheep dont notice....


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