Cat vs Cummins: Which Diesel Engine is Right for You?

Written by

Charles Bolte

FACT-CHECKED BY

Vernon Hoppe 

cat vs cummins

Diesel engines are essential industrial machines that have helped the economy grow for over a century. They play a critical role in powering various industries, such as trucking and mining.

Among manufacturers of these components, Cummins and Caterpillar have been two of the leading names for many decades. Until today, these two powerhouses continue to steer top market competition.

This article explores Cat vs Cummins to help you understand their advantages and strong points against each other and give you an idea of the better choice for your next diesel engine purchase.

Cat vs Cummins: Differences and Comparison

1. Overview

Founded six years apart in the early 1900s, Cummins (1919) and Caterpillar (1925) dominated industrial machine manufacturing early on. Until today, their stretched-out history of impeccable engineering and innovation continues to power many industries.

These two companies manufacture reliable and industry-leading diesel engines and equipment for various industrial applications, from generators to marine engines.

1. Cummins

Cummins

Pioneering the development of diesel engines, Clessie Lyle Cummins founded the Cummins Engine Co. (1919) in Columbus, Indiana.

The following years brought steady success for the company, with it rolling out the industry’s very first 100,000 miles warranty just six years after its founding– a testament to the early heights the company has reached.

Now Cummins Inc., the company continues to stamp its mark globally as a multinational Fortune 500 company covering industries of power generation, engine manufacturing, components, and distribution.

One of the latest feats of Cummins, which now has a USD 34.79 Billion market cap, is the acquisition of the original manufacturer of Jake Brake, which Cummins’s founder also created.

In 2015, the QSK95, Cummins largest engine with 4,400 max HP, was built to power a global commercial rail.

Other types of Cummins engines are also manufactured for different applications, such as power for motorhome and buses.

2. Caterpillar

Caterpillar

First entering the industry as a tractor company, Caterpillar introduced its first diesel engine (D9900) in October 1931 after spending over a million US dollars on its research and development.

The early innovations by its founder, Benjamin Holt, have continued to grow to cater to different needs regarding reliable engines in our time.

Caterpillar has expanded to power generation, marine applications, and the transportation industry.

Today, Caterpillar Inc. has a market cap of over USD 126 Billion with its signature yellow machines commonly found in electric generators, marine engines, industrial locomotives, construction, and semi truck engines.

The company also builds ultra-compact machinery for off-road and small applications, like the C0.5 with 13.7 HP and an engine weight of 126 lb, landing it in the smallest Caterpillar engine group.

2. Differences

While a large chunk of Caterpillar’s significantly larger market cap is brought in by the company’s focus on construction, the company is typically pitted against Cummins for manufacturing leading diesel engines.

The two companies share a history of making the most reliable products in this category that cater to the mining and heavy equipment industry, transportation, marine power, and electric generation.

Here are several comparisons that highlight the differences between Cummins and Caterpillar:

  • Cummins started as an engine manufacturer in 1919, while Caterpillar was in the tractor business in 1925.
  • Cummins builds engines with displacements of 2.8 L up to 95 L, while Caterpillar offers engine displacement sizes from as small as 0.5 L to 32 L.

displacement-of-cummins-and-cat-engines

  • While Cummins diesel engines are mainly known for fuel efficiency, Caterpillar boasts durability and performance in heavy equipment.

durability-and-performance-of-cummins-and-vs-engines

  • Cummins’s inline six-cylinder diesel engines and Endurant powertrains are excellent for buses and trucks, while CAT is sought after for its innovative ACERT and Selective Catalytic Reduction technology, which reduces emissions from diesel engines while maintaining low sound and reliable performance.

design-of-cummins-and-vs-engines

3. Cost

Cost-of-cummins-and-cat-engines

Diesel engines will typically cost you more when it comes to purchasing price, and their repair cost can also be expensive.

While you’ll normally need to request a sales quote from Cummins and Caterpillar to know the price of new engines, their rebuild costs are more transparent online– since they are also cheaper than buying a new one.

For example, the average inframe rebuild cost for the Cummins ISX engine will be around USD 11,000, covering both the replacement parts and labor. A 5.9 Cummins rebuild cost will land you between USD 4,500 to USD 10,000.

On the other hand, the Caterpillar semi engines rebuild kit, like the widely used C12 engine, can be bought at around USD 2600, while its counterpart, the Cummins N14 engine rebuild kit, will retail at around USD 2300.

The Cat C12 vs Cummins N14 are both used to power commercial trucks, and their rebuild kit costs do not differ that much. According to CAT, a certified rebuild is a great option when you have a tight budget, as it’s 55-60% less expensive than a new engine.

4. Pros and Cons

Cummins is undoubtedly a beast when it comes to manufacturing diesel engines. The company’s line of reliable motors and the brand’s patrons constantly put Cummins among the top spots of the competition.

But as much as Cummins engines are well-liked by many, it also has some flaws and room for improvement. Here are the pros and cons of Cummins engines.

Cummins engines

Pros
  • High fuel economy
  • Excellent power output
  • Higher power density
  • Low maintenance
  • Longer service life
Cons
  • Above average maintenance cost in some engines
  • Common fuel injector problem

And here are the pros and cons of Caterpillar engines:

Caterpillar engines

Pros
  • A trusted and established brand
  • Availability of engine parts
  • Vast diesel engine offerings
  • Durable and long-lasting machines
Cons
  • Clogged injectors
  • Problematic sensors or head gaskets

Which is Better?

Cummins-vs-cat

Ultimately, choosing between Cummins and Caterpillar shouldn’t be solely confined to their general reputation. These two companies have made a fortune and a name for themselves by building a brand committed to delivering quality and performance.

Your choice should always hinge on carefully considering different aspects, such as your specific needs and applications, personal preference, and budget, among other objective criteria.

Suppose you need a reliable engine to power your RV or truck. In that case, you can confidently opt for Cummins engines, as the company’s more engaged in manufacturing reliable truck components, like how they power RAM pickup trucks.

But if your application would be for a heavy industry like construction, the better path for you is to go with Caterpillar.

Researching different review articles, online forums, and community feedback is a great way to help you make your choice. Knowing the basics of diesel engines will also be a good start if you are a first-time buyer.

Conclusion

Diesel engines continue to play significant roles today, from mining and construction applications to power generation and marine commercial transport.

Cat vs Cummins continues to dominate the market, and both companies have had their fair share of innovation and a history of excellence. This only proves that whatever your diesel engine needs, these top players deserve to be on your list.

4.3/5 - (9 votes)

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