Best Semi Truck Diesel Engine
Your truck is only as good as your engine. The type of semi truck diesel engine you have will determine how much you can tow, where you can get repairs, how long your truck will last, and what your resale value will be if or when you sell your truck. Often the type of engine you can get is determined by the manufacturer you choose. Different manufacturers offer different engines and some are more reliable or easier to fix than others.
Finding the best diesel engine for a semi truck and the best semi truck to buy takes research. Start with the type of work you do and work back from there to help you find the best semi truck engine. We’ll give you the specs and info you need to know where to start.
Semi truck engines are incredible machines. They weigh in around 2,880 pounds (that’s 345 pounds more than a Mini Cooper), carry loads up to and over 80,000 pounds, regularly pass one million miles, and are designed to run non-stop. With these impressive specs, it’s no wonder that the type of engine you choose can make all the difference when it comes to purchasing your semi truck.
These incredible feats require an incredible engine. A good example of an average class 8 semi truck diesel engine is a Detroit Diesel DD15 with a 14.8 liter, six-cylinder engine. These engines weigh 2,880 pounds and have up to 560 horsepower and 1,850 lbs of torque to their name. The Detroit Diesel is a great example that it’s not the horsepower that gets you moving—it’s the torque. The best semi truck engines today don’t rely on horsepower as much as they did in the past. Torque is what gets you moving and helps you haul those 80,000+ pound loads, mile after mile.
The best semi truck engine isn't the one you want; it’s the one you need. Sure, bragging rights about your rig might be fun, but not if you are in the hole financially with a truck you didn't need to get. If you’re an owner-operator or looking to become one, you need a vehicle that suits your needs and allows you to run a profitable business.
These days, smaller 13-liter block engines are much more efficient and powerful than they were in the past. Even small engines are reliable and can do up to 500 horsepower and 1850 Tq. Plus, a 13-liter engine can often get better fuel mileage than a 15 or 16-liter engine. If you do require more horsepower, you can always upgrade later or when you sell the truck, to increase its resale value.
Semi truck engines are true diesel engines, giving them better torque and hauling power than gasoline-powered engines. With all that said, some engines are better than others and have a reputation for reliability and endurance—but which semi truck diesel engine is best? Here are a few of the best semi truck diesel engines to consider:
The type of engine you get will often be determined by where you purchase your truck as some dealers and manufacturers only use certain semi truck engines.
If you ask seasoned truckers which is the best diesel semi truck engine and which is the most reliable, they will likely answer PACCAR. PACCAR engines are easily the best diesel semi engines on the market for both durability and reliability. In fact, more and more trucking companies are shifting to trucks with PACCAR engines because of their reliability—and their drivers know it.
Although PACCAR engines might be slightly more expensive than other manufacturers, they make up for it in lack of downtime and are the best semi truck engines around.
There are some pretty impressive diesel semi truck engines on the market that have a lot of power behind them. Here are some of the strongest truck engines around.
Keep in mind that just because an engine is the strongest, doesn't mean it’s the right fit for you. Get the truck you need, not the one you want just because it has some cool specs. Remember, you’re on the road to avoid downtime, haul your load effectively, and make a profit.
Unlike regular car or truck engines, semi truck engines are designed to take the hardships of the road and haul heavy loads for hundreds of thousands of miles. The best semi truck diesel engines often run for over one million miles—an impressive distance for engines that run virtually non-stop.
We’ve established that PACCAR engines are by far the most reliable and best diesel semi engines, but they are really only used by two trucking brands—Peterbilt and Kenworth. These trucking companies are known for their great customer service and large dealer network that allows them to quickly service trucks and get them back on the road.
Low downtime, heavy duty, well-made parts, and reliability make Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks some of the longest-lasting and best semi trucks to buy on the market today.
Semi truck drivers don’t typically haul hotshot loads, but if the option arises it can be a good way to get a quick load. However, the best rucks for hotshot hauling are large pickups, like dually, or a 1-ton truck. If you happen to have one of these vehicles, hotshot hauling can be a way to make a little extra cash on the side. Unfortunately, hotshot trucking doesn’t pay as well as it used to and is best as a side gig, rather than making up the bulk of your hauling loads.
Some of the best trucks for hotshot hauling include:
Semi trucks have become increasingly reliable over the years and true breakdowns aren’t as common as they used to be. However, nothing will kill your profit in the trucking industry like experiencing downtime. So, while it’s good to know which engines to choose, you should also know which ones to avoid.
That’s not to say that these engines aren't going to work—you just need to take into account what kind of driving you are doing, how often you will do regular maintenance, and whether you have access to mechanics trained to work on your engine.
While truck engines have made great strides in fuel efficiency and design, there is always room for improvement and innovation. The latest innovation in semi truck engines comes from none other than Tesla. While these trucks aren’t self-driving, they are designed to offer significantly better fuel efficiency than trucks in production today because they are run on an entirely electric engine.
Tesla expects these engines to be so fuel efficient that they estimate a $200,000+ savings in fuel and get 300 to 500 miles per charge. Although the price tag is a little hefty at $180,000, the company believes the fuel savings help justify the cost. They’re sure to be the most innovative semi trucks on the market and solve a major pain point of rising fuel costs for owner-operators and companies alike.
Another innovation in electric trucking comes from XOS, formerly known as Thor Trucks. These vehicles are promising 300 miles per charge and have already teamed up with UPS to get electric delivery vehicles on the road.
Finding the best diesel engine semi truck is an important step when you’re looking to purchase a reliable truck or know what you'll be using when you start working for your company. Any downtime as a trucker means lost revenue, whether you work for yourself or for a trucking company.
With the high cost of owning a truck, paying for commercial truck driver insurance, fuel, maintenance, and more, you need a reliable truck to keep you on the road and profitable. Finding the best semi truck to buy with the best diesel engine on a semi truck makes all the difference when you live the life of a truck driver.