Differences Between Chevy & GMC

by Tom Lutzenberger
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truck image by Jan Will from Fotolia.com

Many car owners considering American pickup purchases might find themselves asking the question, "What's the difference between a Chevy pickup and a GMC pickup? It's common knowledge that the two brands are made by the same car manufacturer (General Motors), and most of the two brands' pickup and SUV models appear to be the same in make and construction. However, there are fundamental differences that do exist, and they are not all associated with car parts.

Operational Brand Differences

Despite that Chevrolet and GMC are different divisions of the same automaker, they compete with each other in the pickup market as well as with all the other pickup manufacturers. Chevrolet sells a lot more vehicles than GMC, though a great deal of the difference is simply the fact that Chevrolet has a wider range of product offerings -- not only does it sell pickups like its sibling GMC, but it also markets a number of sedans and coupes, convertibles and hatchbacks, and the iconic sports cars the Camaro and the Corvette.

Historical Truck Differences

In the 1960s, GMC trucks and Chevrolet trucks included distinctive differences in headlight shapes and function. GMC trucks used what were called "quad headlights." Chevy trucks, on the other hand, utilized dual headlights. This difference ended, however, in 1973. In the 1980s GMC truck design was built to be stronger than Chevy trucks due to the target market for the product. GMC trucks were mainly marketed for commercial and construction use, thus being built with a stronger engine for durability. GMC trucks and vans came with upgraded suspension and transmission versus Chevy trucks which were used more for commuting and daily traffic. Today, GMC trucks still retain larger and stronger braking systems, a beefier transmission and larger strength in the wheel axles and suspension versus their Chevy counterparts.

Appearance Differences

Since most GMC model lines are built on the same assembly lines as Chevrolet pickups and SUVs, the differences between the vehicles are limited. Today, much of uniqueness is found primarily in cosmetic packages: options and trim levels. The trim and materials used for internal design give customers pause trying to decide which vehicle to buy. Typically, a GMC truck's base level is about the same as a Chevy midlevel trim. A stock top-level GMC typically has more luxury amenities than the top-trim Chevy truck.

Quality Control Differences

Comparing apparently identical GMC and Chevrolet pickups might inspire the question, "Why does the GMC cost more?" It's common practice among modern auto manufacturers that have twin brands to do more quality control tests on each unit that reaches the end of the assembly line. While a Chevrolet pickup might receive a 60- or 100-point inspection before release, a GMC might have a 110-point inspection. The extra inspection time costs more for labor, therefore it costs slightly more to purchase. The upshot is, the more thorough inspection increases the reliability factor, and therefore the value, of the GMC.

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