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GMC Models Cost More Than Chevy: Why, And Which Is Better?

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2013 GMC Terrain Denali

2013 GMC Terrain Denali

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If you're out cross-shopping full-size SUVs or pickups—or if you've done so in recent years—you might be familiar with an interesting showroom discrepancy: You can go to a Chevrolet dealership, then into a GMC dealership, and see two virtually identical trucks—same engine, same equipment, even same sheetmetal—only the one at the GMC dealership has a sticker price that's up to several thousand dollars more than that of the Chevy.

For instance, a 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD 1500 LS comes with a bottom-line sticker price of $43,010, while a 2012 GMC Yukon 4WD 1500 SLE—virtually identical in equipment and features—bottom-lines at $45,090.

To those who aren't all that familiar with SUV or pickup shopping, it can be a strange market situation. General Motors [NYSE: GM] supports both truck brands, and both separate dealership networks, that essentially sell differently badged versions of the same vehicle.

U.S. Chevrolet dealerships outnumber GMC dealerships by nearly two to one (3,079 vs 1,590), according to Automotive News, as of January 1, 2012.

You'll surely see far more Chevy trucks out on the streets and highways than GMC models, too. GM sells between two and three times as many Chevrolet-badged trucks each year than it does GMC vehicles. In calendar-year 2011, Chevy sold 852,889 trucks, according to Automotive News, while GMC sold 333,204 vehicles.

So what's the difference?

“GMC traditionally has been targeted to professionals while Chevy goes for the mass market,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for the car-pricing site TrueCar. Beyond that, Toprak says that there's a clear overlap in the marketing message between the two. The only other difference, perhaps, is that GMC is aimed at “not being one of the herd,” and “more exclusive” than Chevrolet.

2013 GMC Yukon Denali

2013 GMC Yukon Denali

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Is the difference in image worth the additional money GM is charging? There are some indications the market doesn't think so. For instance, that Tahoe 4WD 1500 LS has a national-average transaction price of $41,176, according to TrueCar's vast pricing database, while the 2012 GMC Yukon 4WD 1500 SLE sells for $42,721 on average. So from those figures, which are fairly representative, the Chevrolet typically sells for 4.3 percent below sticker, while the discount for the GMC is 5.3 percent.

In other words, GM attempts to charge more for GMC, but the market in part evens out the difference.

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