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Welcome to the site! Well, the questions that you raise are valid. I have very little knowledge of the 8.1 gasser, but I have driven my 04 duramax for about 2 1/2 years now. When talking about gas/diesel comparisons, there really isn't any comparison between the 2. One thing to look at is the price of gasoline vs. diesel in your area. I know here in Alaska diesel is .40 more a gallon. Overall with mixed driving, you should get better mileage out of the duramax. The mileage will drop to about 10-14 mpg towing, but in mixed unloaded driving you should see anywhere from 16-20 mpg. Maintenance isn't that much more on a diesel vs. gasser. Diesels are real sensitive when it comes to fuel and fuel filters. I always carry an extra filter in my truck and the tools to change it. It takes 10 qts to change the oil, but you only have to change it every 7500 miles or more if you do an oil analysis. In 7500 miles, I typically have to add about a qt of oil. As far as towing power, if you tow with a duramax, I highly doubt you will go back to a gasser. Diesels make their torque at a lot lower RPM than the gassers do. I suspect that the duramax would shift a lot less than a gasser would pulling the same weight. The only nightmares with the earlier duramax's was injectors (01-04 LB7 engines). they are a pain to change when it comes time. The 01-03s are covered by a 7yr/200,000 mile no deductible on the injectors. I am assuming that the 04s will be following soon behind. Some of the 05 LLY engines would overheat. If I were you, I would look at getting an 03 or 04 LB7. You should be able to pick one up at a fairly decent price. Also, reguardless on if you go with a gas or diesel, make sure to change the spin-on filter on the allison about every 5000-10000 miles. It is cheap insurance and it keeps crud out of the tranny. I hope this helps a little on the decision on the 2. I know there will be more people to chime in as time goes on.
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