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5 Reasons You'll Be Happier With A 500HP Truck Build Instead Of A Ford F-150 Raptor R or Ram 1500 TRX

The Ford F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX are drool-worthy off-road trucks—from a certain perspective. There’s more to having fun away from the asphalt than enormous power, which is why you should consider the joys inherent in building a more modest 500 horsepower project truck as an alternative to these out-of-the-box behemoths.

Ford Raptor R splashing through sand

Check out these 5 reasons a 500 horsepower truck build will have you smiling wide as an alternative to the TRX or Raptor R.

1. You’re Open To Any Era And Model Of Truck

Perhaps the single best thing about a build-it-yourself off-roader is that you’re facing zero restrictions in terms of the truck you choose as your project.

A whole bunch of off-road trucks together

Want to go full classic and rely on big cubic inches wrapped in a retro body style? Knock yourself out! Feel like keeping the old school look but modernizing the drivetrain with the latest in engine advancements and electronic controls? Have at it! Each of these paths is well-worn in terms of institutional knowledge from builders online who’ve put in the work producing 500 horsepower machines from junkyard parts, crate engines, or rebuilt original motors.

Three full-size off-road pickups

Sticking with a more modern option can make for easier, if not necessarily more affordable progress towards a potent trail beast. The preponderance of Ford’s EcoBoost engine tech often means that 500 ponies are often just a tune or a turbo-swap away in a recent truck, while diesel builds are equally susceptible to big power improvements through the judicious application of software and forced induction. In fact, the newer a truck you’re looking at, the closer 500 hp is from the stock dyno rating.

2. You Won’t Overpower The Fun

As impressive as it is on paper, the 700-plus horsepower produced by the Ford Raptor R and the Ram 1500 TRX comes with a sizable asterisk. Specifically, controlling that much output in a tight off-road environment can be more than a little stressful. While each of these trucks is in its element bashing across dunes, where wide open spaces guarantee a minimum of chaos should things get a little too sideways, throttle discipline on a more restrictive trail or rock climb can certainly get stressful.

Ram TRX engine bay

I know what you’re thinking: is 500 horses really any less of a concern under similar circumstances? While it’s certainly far from modest, it’s a nearly 30 percent reduction as compared to the Raptor R and the TRX. In a best case scenario, that’s one-third less the traction loss on a loose surface, one-third less chance of an “oops” against a canyon wall, and (potentially) a one-third reduction at the fuel pump.

3. No Dealer Mark-Up

Let’s face it: buying almost anything these days costs you more than it did pre-pandemic, with even used truck prices significantly higher due to the inventory squeeze associated with a lack of new vehicles being available at dealerships.

Ram 1500 TRX leaping through the air

That being said, at the very least a used project truck isn’t going to come with the $85,700 starting price of the Ram TRX or the eye-watering $109,000 tag associated with the Ford F-150 Raptor R. The Raptor R represents a whopping $30,000 upcharge versus the standard Raptor right from the factory, but neither of these window stickers include the tens of thousands of dollars in dealer mark-up fees that are regularly applied to further profit off of eager enthusiasts.

Full-size off-road pickup with custom drivetrain installed

With a project, you’re in control of what direction you want to take it from a parts and labor perspective. If you want to spend big on brand-name parts right out of the box, you can definitely do that, but you can also DIY your way to savings with a more judicious financial approach to your 500 horsepower build.

4. You Don’t Have To Daily It

There are only a small percentage of customers out there who can swallow the huge cost of a TRX or Raptor R and leave it parked all week, only to be enjoyed on adrenaline-soaked weekends. For most of us, dumping that much coin into a monthly payment means getting the most out of a vehicle, or at the very least, not being able to afford a second option to drive on a daily basis.

Ford F-150 Raptor R grille close-up

And herein lies the problem. The TRX and the Raptor R aren’t the friendliest commuters on the market. It’s not just their deep thirst for premium fuel that makes them problematic as mile-eaters, but also their enormous bulk and towering ride height that transform these full-size trucks into a liability in traffic. This is on top of a suspension tune that’s aimed at dealing with the rough stuff rather than feeling responsive on asphalt.

Full-size off-road pickup GMC climbing rock face

A 500 horsepower project truck that you can park until it’s time to have fun is, for many off-road fans, a more viable alternative to the “always-on” aspect of making an enormous factory hot rod your one-and-only driver.

5. You Can Customize To Match Your Specific Needs

When you hand over your hard-earned cash for the Ford F-150 Raptor R or the Ram TRX, you’re effectively buying-in to each automaker’s definition of what kind of off-roading you’ll enjoy the most. As mentioned before, each of these trucks is intended for high-speed runs across an open landscape, and while for many that represents their own personal idea of heaven, others might prefer a different approach to enjoying their time in the dirt.

Full-size off-road pickup on Nitto tires

With 500 horsepower on tap, a project truck offers enough horsepower to tackle nearly any type of all-terrain shenanigans. The money you save building your own off-road ride allows you to focus on the areas that are really important to you. This can be as simple as investing in long-travel suspension, a specific set of mud terrain tires, the right gearing for the slopes you’ll encounter, or the kind of overlanding accessories that will let you stay out in the woods for the entire weekend. It also opens up room for winches, auxiliary lighting, or snorkels—essentially, any kind of specialized accessory that might not be offered with a stock TRX or Raptor R.

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