A white 2022 Ford F-150 is shown from the front parked in a field.

Battle of the Work Trucks: Which Full-Size Base Model Pickup Is Best?

When it comes to reviewing trucks like the 2022 Ford F-150 vs 2022 Ram 1500, most debates center on which rig offers the most capability or in-cabin luxury appointments. When fully equipped and upgraded, which truck pulls ahead?

However, it’s rare to compare the merits of the humble base model. Let’s face it: most entry trim buyers are commercial or fleet customers, save for a handful who are shopping on a strict budget. It’s just not that sexy to talk about value.

It turns out there’s a surprising amount of intel we can glean from comparing the base models of these two trucks. Sure, value is the obvious one, but a closer look at the spec sheets reveals a manufacturer’s priorities. Will you find standard safety features or unexpected cabin conveniences? Is there a choice of cab styles? Are attractive features locked to paid upgrades and costly equipment packages?

Ford and Ram battle mightily for market share. Trims like the Raptor and the TRX draw specialty buyers and performance aficionados in droves—and it’s easy to see why. Still, so many pickup buyers have a far simpler list of needs. Durability, capability, and affordability top the list; everything else is a bonus. With that in mind, which of these two base model rigs offers the sweet spot of value and features?

Pricing and Configurations

Looking at the extensive 2022 Ford F-150 lineup, one thing is clear: there’s a truck for just about every buyer. For that reason, the base F-150 XL is somewhat unremarkable at first glance. However, it starts at $29,990—which, it turns out, is very rare in the full-size truck category. Like its rival, the Ram 1500 Tradesman, it’s offered in 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains.

The F-150 XL is offered in three cab styles: Regular Cab (2-door), SuperCab, and SuperCrew, along with three bed lengths of 5.5’, 6.5’, and 8’. There are only two cab styles on the Ram 1500 Tradesman: Crew Cab or Quad Cab, with two available bed lengths: a 5’7” and a 6’4”. Already, Ford shows extra love to utilitarian buyers and shoppers on a budget, given the F-150’s traditional, 2-door Regular Cab offering. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the Ram 1500 Tradesman’s starting MSRP is over $5,000 more.

We find it odd that most of the Ram’s optional packages are more geared toward appearance than utility. It doesn’t seem consistent with the type of equipment commercial buyers care about. There’s the Chrome Appearance Group, the Night Addition, and the Sport Appearance Package. Still, buyers will find a handful of towing equipment packages, along with a Level 1 Equipment Group that adds carpeted flooring, floor mats, and a rear power-sliding window.

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two trucks lies in their safety features. The F-150 XL offers two standard driver-assist systems: Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Post-Collision Braking. If you want any driver-assist safety systems on your Ram 1500 Tradesman, you’ll have to buy an equipment group upgrade. That might be disconcerting to business owners worried about employee safety (and possible litigation).

A blue 2022 Ram 1500 is shown parked in the mountains.

Performance and Capability

Both the 2022 Ford F-150 XL and the 2022 Ram 1500 Tradesman start with a standard V6 engine and offer extra-cost upgrades to more powerful motors. The Ram’s 3.6-liter V6 is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the F-150 XL features a 3.3-liter V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Both engines have similar outputs, but the Ram’s V6 offers slightly more horsepower.

Buyers seeking off-roading equipment can add the FX4 Off-Road Package to the base F-150 XL. Doing so requires upgrading to the 5.0-liter V8 engine, the 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost, or the 3.5-liter V6. The package adds an electronic locking rear axle and special 4×4 FX4 decals.

The Ram 1500 Tradesman, meanwhile, isn’t offered with an off-roading package. Once again, most of the available equipment packages are appearance-oriented.

Optional engines for the F-150 XL include a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 that increases horsepower to 325 and torque to 400 lb-ft—without substantially affecting fuel economy. The available 5.0-liter V8 makes 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. All three engines have start-stop technology to optimize fuel efficiency. Ram 1500 Tradesman buyers can opt for a 395 horsepower 5.7-liter V8 or a 3.0-liter V6 Ecodiesel that makes 260 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque.

Max towing capacity for the 2022 Ram 1500 Tradesman tops off at 7,730 lbs. Payload maxes out at 2,300 lbs. The F-150 XL offers substantially more max towing capability, at 8,200 lbs; however, the max payload falls slightly shorter, coming in at 1,985 lbs. These towing and payload numbers correlate with the base engine configurations. Models equipped with optional, more powerful motors are capable of far more.

In-Vehicle Extras and No-Cost Conveniences

Infotainment is high on the list of buyer must-haves these days. Hence, it’s surprising that the designers over at Ram don’t include an infotainment touchscreen with simple connectivity on the base Tradesman trim. The bare-bones, standard, 5-in. colorless touchscreen runs on old Uconnect 3 software and offers no modern smartphone integration whatsoever (unless you consider an auxiliary input a connectivity feature).

Meanwhile, Ford F-150 XL buyers can enjoy a standard 8-in. infotainment touchscreen that runs on newer, SYNC4 operating software. SYNC4 offers voice recognition and cloud-based connectivity, including software updates—so the system always runs the newest version. Also part of the accessible data is a digital owner’s manual, a feature you don’t know you need until you need it.

The F-150 XL includes automatic on/off headlights with an auto high beam feature. The headlights are also wiper-activated. Also standard are a set of front tow hooks and intermittent windshield wipers. FordPass Connect and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot are also included. In addition to the standard comfort and convenience features, F-150 XL buyers can tack on the available XL High Equipment Group, which adds cruise control and a reverse sensing system.

After reviewing the Ram 1500 Tradesman’s spec sheet, this trim seems noticeably stripped-down. First, it doesn’t include automatic high beam headlights, nor does it have a 60/40 split rear bench seat (a standard interior feature on the F-150 XL). The driver’s data cluster measures 3.5 in. on the Ram, while the F-150’s is 4 in. Both trucks include a backup camera, but only the F-150 XL includes Dynamic Hitch Assist, a system that displays guidelines for easy trailer hook-up.

A white 2022 Ford F-150 is shown towing a trailer after winning a 2022 Ford F-150 vs 2022 Ram 1500 comparison.

Buying the Best Base Model Pickup

Many factors contribute to a buyer’s overall purchase decision. For some, it boils down to dollars and cents. The 2022 Ford F-150 XL represents the best value dollar-for-dollar when compared to a similarly equipped 2022 Ram 1500 Tradesman. Even the starting MSRP is thousands less, yet the F-150 XL offers far more standard features. The Ram boasts a bit more standard horsepower and torque, as well as larger, 18-in. wheels. However, in just about every other area, buyers will find fewer choices and an absence of cabin conveniences.

Both trucks are configurable with heftier, more powerful motors; trailering components; and additional safety features. But, if you find yourself building out the base model of either truck with all the extra goodies, it might make more sense to move one rung up the trim ladder. Both the F-150 and the Ram offer multiple trims, so go with the best-value base model if you’re committed to a basic work truck.