“What truck should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would associate online editor Alex Leanse drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.

Whether for desire of looks, speed, or technology, there are numerous cars I’d buy based on my wants. But when it comes to trucks, I could only justify a purchase based on need. Why else would I drive something so cumbersome and inefficient unless I did some serious carrying or hauling? With that in mind, if I were buying a truck, it’d be the Ram 3500 Tradesman.

Starting at $34,845, I’d spec mine as basic as it gets. Tradesman is the work-focused Ram 3500 variant, with vinyl seats, halogen headlights, 18-inch steel wheels, and a 5.0-inch display on the dashboard (non-Tradesman Ram 3500s are shown below). Optional niceties are dismally few, with not much more than some chrome exterior trim or keyless entry—pass. Offered, however, are 29, yes, 29 exterior paint colors. Those include pastel Robin Egg Blue and hi-viz National Safety Yellow, but I’d have mine in dark Timberline Green Pearl.





What’s not basic—and, for my purposes, the key to the Tradesman toolbox—is the top-spec 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel I-6 engine. It’s not often I have to punctuate an engine’s output with a comma, but this one qualifies: the upgraded version turns 400 hp and a truly mighty 1,000 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic. I must also punctuate the engine’s price with a comma, as it adds $11,795 over the stock 6.4-liter gasoline V-8. The Max Tow package—including dually rear wheels, auto-leveling rear air suspension, and a 4.10 axle ratio—is another $3,695 must-have for my Tradesman.

As we found in our First Test, this setup makes towing insanely heavy loads effortless; it’s rated to pull 35,100 lbs. In runs over the Grapevine—a five-mile, six-percent gradient, 1,600-foot ascent stretch of Interstate 5—our 3500 tester easily passed slower traffic uphill while towing a trifling 17,450 lbs behind it. Keeping downhill speeds in check were made simple with assistance from the built-in exhaust brake. This truck really lets you pretend you’re in a big rig.

Superlative numbers define the Ram 3500, and are the reason I’d buy it. My Tradesman would roll off the lot for about $51,000, and I’d drive straight to an RV dealer to buy a one-bedroom fifth-wheel trailer to pull behind it. For as basic as I’d get my truck, I’d opt for luxuries in the trailer. That could easily make it cost more than the tow rig, so all-in I’m looking at well over $100,000.

 

That’s a ton of money, frankly, more than I can afford. But I need a place to live, and it’s far less expensive than a house. The whole setup could be a manageable mortgage. With my single, outdoorsy lifestyle, the appeal of mobility and adventure-readiness is tremendous. Commute to work? I’ll set up the rig down by the beach and ride my bike in. Weekend getaway? Pull up the stakes and hit the road. The Ram 3500 Tradesman exceeds my needs, and enables me to explore when the wants of wanderlust take hold.

Other trucks I’d consider: Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD, Ford F-350

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