How Big of a Truck Do You Need?

A question that often comes up in discussions about needing to pull a trailer is how big of a truck do you need to pull your trailer?  How this question is answered depends on a lot of factors.  We are going to breakdown some of the key factors to help you answer this question.

First Things First- Defining Tow Vehicles

When we talk about trucks to tow a trailer we are actually talking about tow vehicles.  These can range from small pick-up trucks and SUV’s to huge medium duty pickups.  While each of these categories are indeed a tow vehicle and deserve their own seperate post concerning the different types of tow vehicles for today we are going to focus on just three types of trucks.

Half Ton Trucks and SUV’s

  • These are the best selling trucks and SUV’s
  • These trucks include the Ford F-150, Chevrolet and GMC 1500 series, Ram 1500 Series, Toyota Tundra, and the Nissan Titan and Titan XD.
  • Generally lighter and have less carrying and towing capacity
  • Typically owned by households and are used for lighter duty work.
  • Generally have lower payload and tow ratings.
  • Available in many configurations, cab size, engine size, and ratings.
  • Typically include Gasoline motors but some makes are coming out with diesel motors.
  • Typically more nimble handling than heavier duty trucks
  • Easier to park in some peoples opinion than the Heavy Duty trucks.

Three-Quarter Ton Trucks

  • These trucks are the first level of trucks that most people tend to call Heavy Duty trucks.
  • These include the Ford F-250 , Chevy and GMC 2500, and the Ram 2500 series trucks.
  • Typically available in a Diesel or a Gasoline motor
  • Available in many cab configurations and bed lengths.

One-Ton Trucks

  • These are trucks that generally have the highest weight carrying capacity and the highest towing capacity.
  • These include the Ford F-350, Chevy and GMC 3500, and the Ram 3500 series trucks.
  • They are also the heaviest trucks
  • Available in many cab configurations and bed lengths.
  • Available in multiple configurations including what is called “Single Rear Wheel” and “Dual Rear Wheel”
  • Please note that in the one ton

How Are You Going to Use Your Truck?

Now that we have defined tow vehicles for this post we need to start talking about what you want to do?  There are several questions that you need to ask yourself before you run out and buy the first truck that appeals to you.

  1. How much weight will you be carrying physically in the truck.  This includes passengers and cargo. This also includes the hitch and the tongue weight of the trailer that you will be towing.
  2. How big is the trailer going to be that you will be towing? Forget marketing on trailers.  Many times a trailer will be marketed as “half-ton towable” but it may weigh too much for most half ton trucks.
  3. How often will you be towing?  Towing puts a lot of strain on your truck and you need to be able to make sure your truck will handle the strain.
  4. How far will you be towing?  You may be okay to wrestle the wheel of a marginal truck for a few miles a couple times a year but how about if you are going to be taking cross country trips?

Once you have these questions answered you can start looking at the specification on the trucks themselves and determine which truck would work best for your application.

Truck Class Guide

I have created a general guide to help you decide what kind of truck you need.  I hope you find this useful.

Half-Ton trucks:  Smaller trailers, utility trailers, two horse trailers,  small car trailers, pop up tent trailers, smaller travel trailers (typically around 7,000 lbs loaded).

Three-Quater Ton Trucks and Single Rear Wheel One-Ton Trucks: All trailers able to be towed by half ton trucks,  most travel trailers, some gooseneck trailers, some fifth wheel trailers.  These trucks typically max out around 15,000 lbs trailers.

One-Ton Dual Rear Wheel trucks: All trailers towable by half-ton, three-quarter ton, and one-ton single rear wheel trucks. And much heavier fifth wheel, travel trailer, and gooseneck trailers.  Some of these trucks have in excess of 25,000 lb tow ratings!

*Disclaimer… please consult the manufacturers of the trucks you are considering for actually payload, tow rating, and loading information.

As you can see its not always black and white as to what is the most appropriate truck to purchase for towing your application.  The general rule of thumb I have lived by is to purchase a bigger truck than you need to allow yourself some headroom between your tow rating, your payload rating, and the load that the trailer will put on your truck.

If you have any comments, please leave them below.

Thanks Everyone!