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What Are the Differences Between the GMC Sierra 1500 and the GMC Sierra HD?

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Front side view of 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 amid mountains
The Sierra 1500 is classified as a half-ton pickup
Photo: GMC

How much pickup truck do you need? The answer to this question will help determine whether the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 or the 2021 GMC Sierra HD is right for your needs. Here’s a closer look at how these trucks differ.

The GMC Sierra HD Lineup: Find out which trim level is right for you

Front side view of 2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD towing a trailer
Heavy-duty design gives the Sierra HD stronger towing and hauling capabilities
Photo: GMC


The Sierra HD is available in two models — the three-quarter-ton 2500HD and one-ton 3500HD — and both are significantly larger than the half-ton Sierra 1500. Because of their extra height, width, length, and weight, Sierra HD models have the ability to pull and tow bigger loads than the Sierra 1500. It should be noted, though, that the Sierra 1500 isn’t exactly small — after all, it’s classified as a full-size truck. And on the inside, it has about the same amount of passenger space as the Sierra HD.

Close-up front view of 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali
The Sierra 1500 lineup provides six engines to choose from
Photo: GMC

Engine lineup

You can equip the Sierra 1500 with one of six different engine options. A 4.3-liter V6 comes standard, but you can also opt for a 2.7-liter turbo, a pair of 5.3-liter V8s, a 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel, or a 6.2-liter V8. The 6.2-liter V8 gives you the mightiest output at 420 horsepower, and it ties with the turbodiesel for the most torque at 460 lb-ft.

The Sierra HD doesn’t have as many engine choices — two — but they’re both extremely powerful ones. The standard 6.6-liter V8 delivers 401 horsepower, and the available 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel produces 910 lb-ft of torque to go with 445 horsepower.

Side view of 2021 GMC Sierra 3500HD pulling heavy trailer up hilly road
The Sierra 3500HD can tow up to 36,000 pounds
Photo: GMC

Hauling and towing

The Sierra 1500 boasts more than enough towing and hauling capability for all your normal, everyday needs. The Sierra HD is even more capable, and it’s the truck to choose if you regularly need to handle enormous and weighty loads.

The Sierra 1500’s payload ratings range from 1,750 pounds for turbodiesel models to a max of 2,250 pounds for the 4.3-liter V6. Its conventional towing capabilities top out at 11,800 pounds for the 6.2-liter V8.

The Sierra 2500HD can haul up to 3,979 pounds with the gas V8 or up to 3,715 pounds with the turbodiesel. The gas towing max is 14,500 pounds with a conventional hitch or 17,370 pounds with gooseneck/fifth-wheel equipment. With diesel, the 2500HD offers tow ratings of up to 18,500 pounds.

With its available dual-rear-wheel build, the Sierra 3500HD boasts the strongest capabilities of all. Diesel models can carry a max payload of 6,523 pounds, while gas models can handle up to 7,442 pounds. On the towing side, the 3500HD diesel can pull up to 20,000 pounds with a conventional hitch or 36,000 pounds with a gooseneck hitch.

Trailering Terminology: Get familiar with these terms before you start towing

Side view of 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali in action carrying ATV
The Sierra 1500 Denali is available with the CarbonPro bed
Photo: GMC

Standard and available features

The Sierra 1500 and Sierra HD offer a similar range of standard and available features. The 1500 does come with a wider range of interior decor options, although the HD isn’t far behind. The biggest difference here is probably the available CarbonPro carbon-fiber composite bed, which can only be found on the Sierra 1500’s Denali and AT4 trims.

Front side view of 2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali on gravel road
The Denali is the most expensive trim in the Sierra HD lineup
Photo: GMC


It’s bigger, so the Sierra HD is the more expensive truck. The 2500HD starts at $37,895 for the entry-level Sierra trim, while the ultra-deluxe Denali begins at $67,195. For the 3500HD, you’ll start at $39,095 for the Sierra and $68,395 for the Denali. In comparison, the Sierra 1500 starts at $31,795 for the entry-level trim and $57,495 for the Denali.

For in-depth news about Sierra trucks and more, check out our GMC brand coverage at The News Wheel.