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Which is better: Peterbilt or Kenworth?

This is one of the most heated debates in the trucking world. When you are making a hundred thousand dollar investment, you darn well better make the right decision. In the United States, the authority brands for the market are Kenworth and Peterbilt. They are both manufactured by PACCAR, an American based company that has a dealer network of over 1,800 locations in more than 100 countries. Though Freightliner Trucks and Volvo sell more trucks annually, Petes and Kenworths are generally regarded as the most desirable big rigs. Peterbilts are know as the “Harley Davidson” of trucks while Kenworths are seen as more affordable, yet still premium, option.

Inside of a Peterbilt

Inside view of a Peterbilt.

The problem with the Kenworth/Peterbilt debate is most trucks are made for a specific purpose. For instance, you’re going to want a different engine and transmission if you are operating a dump truck and idling all the time. Because what’s under the hood varies so much one Kenworth might be superior to a similar Peterbilt. This definitely puts a tick in the win column for Kenworth because you will save some money if you buy smart. Then there is the CAT vs Detroit debate but that is another story…

Peterbilt’s biggest advantage is resale value. You’re paying for a quality brand name that people will pay for again and again. I’ve seen owners buy a Pete, use it for years, and sell it for more than they paid! You can’t ask for a better investment. You do have to be careful though, some of the newer models have not held up quite as well in the resale market. The 387 comes to mind… Kenworths do have decent resale value as well; The W900L has a great reputation. Peterbilt still wins this argument though. There are still going to be 359s on the road for years to come.

The last big selling point for Peterbilts is their interior. As you can see in the picture, you get a pretty neat setup with a Peterbilt. A large majority of show trucks are Peterbilts so there is no shortage of customization options. Your cab is your home away from home so why not make it feel that way? They have roomy and wide cabs for long haul guys. Most Kenworths are about a foot or two narrower; you can adjust the passenger window from the driver’s seat. This much space might not always be practical for in-town trucks so once again, make sure you select the best truck for the driver and the job. We’d love to hear more feedback from you guys so please comment below! Also, if you want to throw any other trucks in the debate feel free. We have fiercely loyal Western Star fans, especially those from Australia.

We are running specials all this month of semi truck bumpers so make sure to check those out as well.

Posted on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 7:35 pm.

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21 Responses to “Which is better: Peterbilt or Kenworth?”

  1. BigBoi622 says:

    I am considering a 2009 peterbilt 387. Can u elaborate on the problems with this particular peterbilt. It will be my first truck and if u know of any problems it would help a lot thanks.

  2. Tegan miles says:

    It’s funny how some people will spend an extra $10,000 just for the big brands such as Pete or kw. Everyone wants Petes. Like you said it’s like having a Harley Davison motorcycle. Everyone wants the big brand name.

    • chris says:

      Not really. Harleys and Peterbilts are for people with an eye for detail and class. Anyone with a detailed eye knows Harleys and Peterbilts have a different classic style and look.

  3. cory says:

    I personally hate how the clutch pedal feels in a Pete,also I feel the cab is smaller in a Pete,you can’t beat a kenworth as far as a smooth ride.the 8 air bag on the drives and the set forward front axle is like riding in a caddy ,and the cab is quieter also,thats why they are often imitated but never duplicated

  4. Fred Zedeny says:

    I’ve owned an extended hood 359 Pete for years.In my opinion, best looking Pete ever.Room in cab, not a strong point however.Only complaint,dash has tendency to crack,and dash lights going out often. GREAT TRUCK.

  5. TRISTIAN says:


  6. Dave says:

    Am I reading your article correct? Kw cab is foot or two narrower than Pete?
    They are both about the smallest cabs you can get. Neither are ideal if you are a xtra large dude.
    I give kw the edge because the cab is quieter and I hate the Pete clutch pedal.
    It’s crazy what accessories you can get for a Pete tho. Insane.
    I wonder if they don’t intentionally make the Pete loud because Pete boys are old school and they prolly enjoy a little rumble in the cab? (They are the Harley Davidson after all!)
    Either way with a kw or a Pete you can’t go wrong.

  7. Dan says:

    Hi. I’m wondering. I was in a kW w900b 72″ sleeper. My boss will be buying a new truck for me. Pete 388 63″ sleeper. My questions are.
    1- is there any difference in sleeper wise?? He told me 63″Pete is same size as 72″kW as Pete measure at a different point.
    2- is there anything to do with that clutch?? Switch pedal, customize it, anything at all?? I’m working in mud all day n I HATE that clutch. Just a matter of time before my foot slip n something happen.
    3- any major difference between Pete n kW I should be concern about?? I felt the kW was best truck I’ve driven before.

    Thnx for your help

    • 1.) Honestly you will have to contact Peterbilt/Kenworth or visit their manufacturer website to find out all of the differences. The year of the truck is going to matter, if I recall correctly they’ve been making the W900B for quite some time. The sleepers are going to be similar but I wouldn’t rely on the measurements, there might be cabinets awkwardly positioned or less roof-space that takes away from or adds to the perceived space you are getting. I’d recommend taking a look through some postings on TruckPaper.com that have pictures of inside the cabins for the year you are considering getting.

      2.) As for the clutch we carry custom pedals with a bit more grip. They are available right here http://www.raneystruckparts.com/peterbilt-379-386-388-389-diamond-billet-foot-pedal-set/. They are the sickest on the market and have texture to allow superior grip.

      3.) Pete and KW have a very similar drive train, normally, but with so many options out there you will definitely have to ask the dealership what the truck will be equipped and compare, with your boss, his KW to his the new Pete. Overall though KW and Pete are super trucks (both made by PACCAR) to be driving with a lot of advances in technology in recent years.

      I hope this was helpful, good luck with your new truck!

      • geoff irvine says:

        I was just interested in the differences between PB and KW. I found out more than i could have imagined.
        One comment you say that your clutch pedals are the “sickest on the market” perhaps you meant the “stickiest”??

  8. Chris says:

    Hey, this article and all of the responses have been really helpful. I am looking to buy my first truck and looking at hauling at least a 6 car trailer and would like to know what would be the ideal specs for a reliable and affordable first truck such as Mileage, Year, Make, Model, and any other important details I maybe overlooking. If anyone has any suggestions for the best trailer I would also appreciate that to.. Thanks for any help you guys can provide, its extremely appreciated!!!

  9. Genaro says:

    Would I have any problems with a 1985 359 peterbilt as a otr truck

  10. Skip says:

    Like many others out there, I have driven a little bit of everything in the past million miles or so. I have always found something about each truck I liked, and disliked. I ALWAYS thought of myself as a KW guy, then I drove a Pete with a forward set axle. It won hands down pulling FedEx doubles. But either truck beat Freightshakers, Volvos, and every other truck I’ve driven down the highway. Though, I had a Volvo when I first started driving the big road that I could put anywhere, anytime, in any condition, EVEN as a newbee.

    Roll On.

  11. Manuel fuentes says:

    Interesting comments guys..so I’m in the process to buy a tractor to haul household goods. I was looking into buying a used 2011 cascadia DD15…with some of this information on this site I will be doing some more search. .any suggestions will be welcome, thanks guys

  12. Jeff says:

    I drive a 81 kenworth w900a and love it! (Gravel truck), but hands down (if they still made them) Pacific trucks in my opinion are the most rugged and coolest looking trucks out there! Hayes trucks included since they merged.

  13. Danny says:

    I have an ’85 w900 with a b model and its just shy of 500k. Runs like a dream. 288in wheel base helps with the ride but I can put that truck most places. I really wanted a 359 with the corvette dash, but after driving both, I would choose the kw any day.

  14. Jerry says:

    Kenworth is so much better because their w900 mixer looks all sad (which is cool).

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Raney's Inc originated from Raney's Truck Center, one of the most reputable Heavy Duty Truck Parts and Service companies in central Florida. As a bricks and mortars store since 1986, Raney's Truck Center decided to venture into the online world of sales. A team of new people were put together and Raney's Truck Center rapidly began to change.

Within one year Raney's Truck Center had developed a strong online presence through its first ecommerce website and saw the opportunity for much more growth. Within the second year this division became its own separate company, Raney's Inc, and took what they had learned from the traditional business model of the truck center and combined it with a new age mentality. Raney's Inc is built to provide an excellent experience for all customers and employees equally in and out of work. Connecting with and helping truckers across the world is not just a job at Raney's, it is our mission. This is enforced and demonstrated through our strong company culture within our team and the strong relationships we share with our customers.

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