Get up trucks it can pull a large amount of weight. It’s no surprise that many manufacturers boast the 13,000+ pound towing capacity of their half-ton trucks. But the truth is, very few setups can tow that much. Also, more experienced truck buyers who plan to regularly tow 10,000 pounds or more will opt for a heavy-duty truck anyway.
How much can half-ton trucks tow?
The Ford F-150 can tow up to 14,000 pounds. Chevrolet claims the Chevrolet Silverado 1500’s maximum tow rating is 13,300 pounds, while its cousin, the GMC Sierra 1500, can be configured to tow up to 13,000 pounds. Ram claims a towing capacity of 12,750 pounds for its full-size, light-duty 1500. Toyota’s redesigned Tundra can tow up to 12,000 pounds.
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Manufacturers test these trailer ratings for themselves. Each subjected a carefully configured truck to a series of towing tests designed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (the SAE J2807 towing tests, to be precise).
The culmination of these towing capacity tests is to pull a loaded trailer from Davis Dam on the Colorado River in Nevada along Highway 93 to Kingman, Arizona. The trail climbs almost 3,000 feet in just 11.4 miles, and temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is easily one of the toughest tow routes in the United States.
Can each half-ton truck tow more than 12,000 pounds?
Absolutely not. Manufacturers advertise a maximum trailer rating based on a very specific configuration of your truck. While you can order a custom truck this way, most half-ton pickup trucks you find on a dealer’s lot won’t have as high a towing capacity.
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the Fremont Motors Sheridan The Ford dealership shared some telling numbers. A 2020 Ford F-150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 can tow up to 12,700 pounds when configured with a very specific transfer case and rear axle ratio. If you simply switch to a more stock rear axle ratio and transfer case, your towing capacity plummets to just 8,000 pounds, with the same engine!
Truck owners who plan to tow a lot often opt for a three-quarter-ton or full-ton pickup truck. These owners don’t pay much attention to the advertised towing capacity of half-ton trucks. Manufacturers often advertise that they have the largest half-ton tow capacity in a specific category, but these numbers apply to very few actual trucks.
Towing capacity can be calculated for advertising
As tow ratings increase each year, the actual engine a high tow rating pickup truck has matters less. Of equal importance to the trailer are the refrigeration capacity, transmission and rear axle ratio of a half-ton truck. This gives automakers some flexibility in choosing which configuration to send to Davis Dam. Their choice may be due to advertising.
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For example, Ford boasts that the F-150 has the highest towing capacity in the half-ton class: a claimed 14,000 pounds for the EcoBoost V6. But Ford no longer offers a half-ton diesel, so this leaves an opportunity for a different kind of record.
General Motors was able to test the Silverado 1500 with its Duramax turbodiesel and claim the highest tow rating of any half-ton diesel truck (13,300 pounds). General Motors sent a Silverado 2WD to Davis Dam, but sent a Sierra 1500 4WD. This allows GMC to advertise the highest towing capacity of any 4WD half-ton diesel pickup truck (13,000 lbs.).
Finally, Ram tested a 1500 powered by its 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine. This allows the automaker to advertise the highest towing rating for V8-powered half-ton pickup trucks. Plus, Ram has gone longer without a redesign. Often the most recently redesigned pickup claims the highest overall towing rating in the segment, so it rotates between manufacturers.
Half-ton trucks are amazing vehicles. They offer plenty of passenger and cargo space, are comfortable for long drives, and have increasingly good fuel economy. But at the end of the day, these are full-size light-duty trucks. They are designed for both light work and driving empty. They are their three-quarter-ton and full-ton heavy-duty siblings that are uncompromisingly designed for big payloads and heavy trailers. Therefore, buyers who haul a lot of heavy trailers are generally not concerned with the maximum trailer ratings of half-ton pickup trucks.
Below, find out what you get when you upgrade to a heavy-duty pickup truck, or learn why towing with a half-ton truck isn’t always a good idea:
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