By G.R. Whale
Anyone versed in standards and sciences will tell you one ton is either 2,000 pounds or 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds), depending on which country you are in. But when it comes to pickup trucks, the terms now require clarification.
If you do a little research, you can find the first mention of a "one-ton" truck about a century ago; even one of the best-known non-pickup vehicles in the world — the Jeep — was designed as a quarter-ton vehicle. And that meant it had exactly 500 pounds of payload capacity, just as a one-ton truck was designed to carry 2,000 pounds of payload. But nowadays, that's all changed.
Although the nomenclature has been consistent, with half-ton designators always beginning with the numeral 1 (F-1, C-10, D100 and 1500), three-quarter tons with a 2 (F-250 or 2500) and one tons with 3 (F-350 or 3500), as advertising became more competitive and consumers grew in importance, capacities and conventional naming overlapped. The result is that today there are half tons, depending on how they're equipped, that can't carry 1,000 pounds and others that can easily carry twice that much. In fact, almost every three-quarter ton (including the new fence-sitting Nissan Titan XD) carries at least that much. And the workhorse one-ton pickup trucks usually offer payload ratings somewhere between 4,000 and just less 8,000 pounds, crushing their one-ton predecessors.
It's worth noting, a Ford F-450 Super Duty, which sounds like a 1 1/4-ton truck class (above a one ton), does have the same maximum gross vehicle weight rating as the other one tons; in fact, the King Ranch version actually carries less payload than an equivalent Ford F-350 Super Duty, yet it uses notably stronger front suspension components, more expensive, long-wearing, stiffer-riding tires, different axle gears and a few other beefier modifications (however, both do have a 14,000-pound GVWR). The point here is, even within the same brand, the ton designations don't always match up. What do you call a one-ton pickup, and does it matter what your manufacturer of choice calls it? Or has the "ton" designation for pickups been rendered obsolete?
(Editor's note: All quoted specs are for 2016 model-year pickups with the exception of the 2017 Ford F-350/450 Super Duty.)
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears; Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan