They say pictures are worth a thousand words so let's begin with one...
BASE VEHICLE & TRIM:
2021 - My initial goal was to find a swell deal on a 2020 close to the end of the year. If I had been able to find one with the exact options I wanted and it was within a reasonable distance odds are I would be in it right now. Although the options I wanted could be found there were many other options I did not want which prevented me from closing a deal. There are not many standard cabs out there and it seems like most had the Chrome Appearance Group ($1,095) which I had no desire for. After much searching I shifted my focus to ordering a 2021 and seeing how good of a deal I would be able to find. Obviously, I found a really good deal and the rest is history.
RAM - I had been considering a new Wrangler or Gladiator for a few years but as a consumer I simply did not see the value in either of those options. Sitting in a $55-60k Rubicon left me with the feeling that I was being robbed. In contrast, while sitting in a $45-50k RAM 2500 or 3500 I felt like the deal was fair. The straw that broke my back was when a Jeep dealer would "try" to see if they could save you $500 or so dollars while the RAM dealer was willing to knock off thousands without even asking.
3500 - Originally my research led me to believe a 2500 with air bags would be perfect for my needs but there were many times where I read of 2500 owners stating they were a few hundred pounds over GVWR or they wished they had purchased a 3500. After talking with two dealers they stated that a 2500 regular cab 4x4 could not be ordered with the Automatic-Level Rear Air Suspension ($1,705). That was the fork in the road which led me to selecting a 3500. Owners of 3500s spoke of the rough ride with an empty bed but I was going to have a camper permanently installed so for my purposes the 3500 seemed like the best choice. If I do require air bags I will be happy to install Air-Lift or Firestone manual bags since my load will be constant.
Tradesman - I like to keep it simple and the Tradesman provided that in spades. If I wanted to add a few nice items that was easy enough to do but most important to me was not being forced to purchase exorbitantly priced packages with a long list of unnecessary, complex and fragile components. Yes, a 12" screen would be great but I rarely listen to the radio and like to turn a single knob to turn down the fan. There exists a great disconnect with new technology that, although it appears to be flashy, it is actually slowing us down. In this Tradesman, if I want to turn the fan higher I reach for one knob and turn it a bit, same with the temperature, radio volume, etc. The big touch screens force more interaction to accomplish the same task. Do the manufacturers perform time and motion studies and work towards simplifying tasks while driving for safety purposes or are they simply interested in selling very expensive and impossible to repair options?
Regular Cab - Now this was an easy-tough decision. It seems like most opt for a crew cab and 6.5' box and are quite happy with their choice. A close friend with that set-up removed his back seat and has quite a bit of storage space there. With a camper on the back I was left considering a 6.5' or 8' box option. Wheelbase was a key metric for my needs so a crew-cab with 8' box (169.5" WB) was not an option. It would be either regular and 8' box (140" WB) or crew and 6.5' box (149.5" WB). Since this will be a full time rig I opted for the 8' box which included a regular cab for my requirements. My thoughts centered around the fact that I do not plan to have anyone accompany me on a regular basis and I do not plan to be driving all the time. The majority of my time will be at camp and since the weather can turn nasty for a few days here and there the additional living room inside the camper would be welcome. I still believe the crew cab and 6.5' box is a very good option and ideal for most although I wanted to try something slightly different and enjoy the shortest wheelbase.
4x4 - This was possibly the easiest of all decisions. When exploring trails by default I remain in two wheel drive - this provides me with a very good measure of traction available and continuously refines my driving skills when traveling though difficult areas. If I run into problems I now have four wheel drive as an option to help correct. I have been quite surprised over the past few decades regarding the places I have been able to safely travel in two wheel drive that I never would have even considered if I had not had four wheel drive as a backup.
8' box - much of this was already covered when discussing my regular cab choice but I will say that a regular cab with an 8' box invokes an image of a classic truck. Tying that together with the base Tradesman and a selection of simple controls is a winning combination for me.
6.4L V8 Heavy Duty HEMI MDS Engine - As the standard engine this would satisfy my requirements. After talking with a number of owners regarding the 6.7L I6 Cummins Diesel Turbo Diesel option it was obvious that since I was not going to be towing a 10k plus trailer full time I would be fine with the 6.4L HEMI. Also, the entire Tier IV emissions for the modern diesels represent complexity and expensive dealer only components that I simply do not wish to involve myself with. The 6.4L is a mature engine that is very common and can be easily worked on most anywhere I travel. A great example would be the naturally aspirated low-pressure port fuel injection system - this can be examined and fixed in the parking lot while the turbo high-pressure direct injection system used in the diesel is much more complex requiring diesel engine specialists. I ran the numbers and even on mileage alone the break even for the diesel being used for a light duty application such as mine is 250-500k miles. As much as I would love to say I have a Cummings diesel under the hood it simply did not make sense for my requirements.
Edited by ramblinChet, 05 May 2021 - 02:49 PM.