Pickup Trucks 101: How Much Can My Truck Tow?

Ford 1 II

By Matthew Barnes

Looking to purchase a travel trailer? Getting a new boat to take friends and family to the lake? Need an excavator to dig a foundation for a shed? If you need to tow a trailer, it's a good idea to make sure your tow vehicle can handle the load. How can you figure out the amount a vehicle can safely tow? Follow this guide.

Terminology

First, here's a primer for the terminology involved in towing.

  • Gross vehicle weight rating: The GVWR is the maximum amount a vehicle can safely weigh when fully loaded.
  • Gross axle weight rating: The GAWR is the maximum weight that can be safely placed on a single axle of a vehicle.
  • Gross combined weight rating: The GCWR is the maximum allowable weight for the tow vehicle, the passengers and cargo in the tow vehicle, and the trailer and cargo in the trailer.

Know How Much You Can Tow

2017 GMC Manual II
2017 GMC owner's manual

The GVWR and GAWR are easy to find. These numbers are printed on a tag on the driver's doorjamb (see photo below). Knowing these numbers can help determine how much cargo a vehicle can hold and what tongue weight can be placed on the vehicle. After checking the GAWR and GVWR, look for the tow vehicle's GCWR in the owner's manual. You can find the GCWR for newer vehicles on manufacturer websites as well. Ratings will vary significantly depending on the vehicle's engine, transmission, cab configuration, bed configuration and axle ratio.

Door Tag II
Door tag

Most trailers have a tag on the driver's side near the front that lists the GAWR for each axle and the total GVWR. As seen on the door tag above and in the three photos below, be aware that the sum of the GAWR for all the axles may not be the same as the GVWR. In the first photo below, we see a trailer with three 7,000-pound GAWR axles with a GVWR of 21,000 pounds. In the second photo, the trailer has two 7,000-pound GAWR axles with a GVWR of 15,000 pounds. And in the third photo, the trailer has three 7,000-pound axles with a GVWR of 17,000 pounds.

Trailer Tag 1 II

Trailer Tag 2 II

Trailer Tag 3 II
A variety of trailer tags

Once those numbers have been found, check the receiver on the tow vehicle to be sure that it is rated to handle the loads that will be towed. Be aware that some vehicles have different numbers for weight carry and weight distribution. Be sure to check the rating on the trailer hitch or ball mount as well. The lowest-rated piece of towing equipment will determine the most weight that can safely be towed.

Now that all the information has been gathered, it's time to load up and hit the scales. First, measure the tongue weight. The desired trailer tongue weight will vary depending on the type of connection between the tow vehicle and trailer. Conventional trailers, also known as bumper-pull, should have a tongue weight that is 10 to 15 percent of the total trailer weight. Both gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers should be between 15 and 30 percent. This will be covered in-depth in a future story.

How to Calculate Tongue Weight

Next, with the trailer connected to the tow vehicle, measure the weight on each axle of the tow vehicle to get the gross axle weight for each axle and the gross vehicle weight. Then, weigh each axle on the trailer with it connected to the tow vehicle to get the GAW for each axle and the GVW of the trailer. Add together the GAW of all axles on the tow vehicle and the trailer to get the gross combined weight of the tow vehicle and trailer. Be sure these weights do not exceed the ratings for the tow vehicle, trailer or towing connections.

If the GCW is not over the GCWR, but the rear GAW of the tow vehicle exceeds its GAWR, try redistributing cargo in the vehicle. If the trailer is far enough below its GVWR to handle the extra weight in the tow vehicle, consider shifting the extra weight to the trailer. However, remember that the type of trailer being towed determines how much of the total trailer weight can be placed on the tongue. And that can be as little as 10 percent of the total trailer weight. That means that any weight moved from the tow vehicle to the trailer can reduce the weight on the tow vehicle by as much as 90 percent of the weight moved. This may be enough to keep the loads below the weight ratings.

Once all of that is done, it's time to hit the road. While this might seem like a lot of work, once you gain experience preparation time will decrease. The more you tow, the more you get a feel for when your truck or trailer are improperly loaded.

Tacoma 1 II
Toyota Tacoma

State Towing Regulations

State laws vary, so it is always a good idea to look up your local state laws and the laws for any state in which you will be towing. Doing this will ensure that you have proper licensing and understand towing laws. Some states have different speed limits for vehicles that are towing. Other states require a Class A license for noncommercial use when the GCWR exceeds 26,000 pounds. If the state you live in that doesn't require a Class A license, then you can travel through other states without needing a Class A license. For commercial towing, federal law mandates that all vehicles with more than a 10,000-pound GCWR must be properly licensed and that the driver have a medical card. Federal law also mandates that a commercial driver's license is required to drive a commercial vehicle with a GCWR greater than 26,000 pounds.

Conclusion

It may take some time and a little bit of math to determine how much a vehicle can safely tow, but it only needs to be figured out once. With that knowledge, you can determine which trailers a vehicle can pull. While it's not plausible to weigh every trailer you tow, it's a good idea to measure the tongue weight and trailer weight of trailers you purchase or will be towing regularly.

Cars.com photos by Matthew Barnes

Comments

Thanks for posting this again. Some people need reminded that adding springs and such does not increase your payloads but actually decrease it per the sticker, since it adds weight. This should be read by all truck dealers, RV dealers, and the like.

-CT

memo to Oxi: this means you!

Now that’s a nice truck.

Now that’s a nice truck.

It can be easy to hit the payload limit on many trucks, especially upper trim levels, if you are towing heavy. Especially with crew cabs that are so prevalent now, it is tempting to load up the family, all of their luggage and gear, and not have enough payload left over to handle that tongue weight on that big pull-behind camper.....

ALL I need to know is the F-150 has the most towing and payload than any other pickup in it's class.
No, I am never going to overload, or tow anything near it's capacity in my F-150 but I feel comfortable to know it can handle MORE than any Silverado or Ram
I like being #1

Good thing i got a gas Titan XD Crew cab 4x4 with 2230 lbs. Couldn't find another half ton with crew cab, 6.5' bed that has 4x4 and with that payload. Coming from a 3/4 ton that had a shitty ride quality even though it had rear springs... Nothing beats the ride of a half ton.

Notice how that white ford is longer then the trailer?
that's the ford limit
Notice aluminum trailers cracking after time? just think if your truck body is aluminum

I've overloaded mine a couple times, oops, I had no choice right, it did ok I guess. Half ton 125/122 tires.

Notice how that white ford is longer then the trailer?
Posted by: Water | Mar 16, 2018 3:54:53 PM

True the long box trucks are much much more stable when towing a trailer...unlike the short 5.5 boxes.

ALL I need to know is the F-150 has the most towing and payload than any other pickup in it's class.
Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 16, 2018 3:28:50 PM

There u go ...(In it's class). Because Ford says in its class and then Ram says in it's class and GM in it's class they consider that each one is different and in a class by itself...not in all 1/2 tons. U don't hear better that A or B or C trucks...just something IN IT's Class...because each on is different.

How many people actually load their trailer and truck they way they would if going camping and even think to go get it weighted. 1 in 1000....more like 1 in 20,000 unless they are frequent users....the weekend warriors wont. I camp quite a bit and see many many 24 or 28 and some 32 trailers hooked behind a 1/2 ton loaded up at any campground I go to...most have no idea how much they weigh or do they care.

ALL I need to know is the F-150 has the most towing and payload than any other pickup in it's class.
No, I am never going to overload, or tow anything near it's capacity in my F-150 but I feel comfortable to know it can handle MORE than any Silverado or Ram
I like being #1


Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 16, 2018 3:28:50

My ecoboost tows o.k., but it sucks fuel more than any other truck I have had when towing. And please, the F150 is not bad, but It is not the best.

One quick clarification that could be helpful; most people do not need to worry about the commercial towing requirements. It generally only applies to people who are being paid to haul the loads they carry. Towing for work may not necessarily be commercial hauling. For example, as a farmer in my state I can drive and tow anything up to and over an 84,000 lbs semi truck with a regular drivers license.

You know, I'm running into more and more salespeople (including showroom managers) who, when I ask how much a specific vehicle CAN tow, they reply, "How heavy is your trailer?"

Hey, if I knew that I wouldn't be asking the question, would I? What if, for instance, I don't HAVE a trailer and I just want to know the vehicle's limits? What if I plan to buy a trailer and I just want to keep it under the vehicle's limit? How am I supposed to know how much my trailer is going to weigh if I don't have one yet?

"ALL I need to know is the F-150 has the most towing and payload than any other pickup in it's class. No, I am never going to overload, or tow anything near it's capacity in my F-150 but I feel comfortable to know it can handle MORE than any Silverado or Ram" ---- Posted by: Ecoboost Rules


All I need to know is that I don't need such overkill. I don't care who has the heaviest load capacity OR the strongest towing capacity, all I need to know is whether it can tow what I want to tow and carry the loads I want to carry. Since my towing needs are likely limited to 5,000 pounds (a 2-person camping trailer) and bed loads are unlikely to exceed 1000 pounds.

Getting the "best in class" just because it's "best in class" is childish thinking. It's an ego boost for those who feel they have to be superior in everything.

Hey Pickup Truck.com

I would like to see a 1/2 ton challenge with the trucks at or near their towing and loaded limits. Not just a flat bed trailer on a flat road either. A tall camper on mountain type roads. Some real world conditions. IMO these tow ratings are over inflated. Some of these trucks wouldn't last more than a day or two pulling like that.

What the heck:

There are tons of videos for 1/2 towing challenge on TFL Trucks

I can save you some time watching them all by telling you the F-150 with the 3.5 Eco-Boost wins them all,,,,, but I understand if you don't believe me.

I agree with "what the heck". Put trucks on the interstate also and have them going 70 mph towing a boat with truck bed filled with water toys, luggage, bikes,......or pulling a camper with bed filled up as well along with truck can filled with 4 to 5 people. Better representation of what family due when going to lake home (like my family does) or going on vacation.

My step dads 13 ecboost sucks so much gas towing its crazy. They pull 2 Kawasaki jetskis (2,000 lbs tops in weight) and he can't get 13mpgs.
I tow a 5,000 lbs boat and can get 14mpg all day long with my 5.3L.

Just BC Ford sells more trucks (fleet) doesn't mean they are the best.
There are just a lot of people out there who look at price and payments per month and say hey I can get into this Ford for cheaper!! They are not fanboys, case and point frontier! Its cheap and people will still buy it after 13 years of really nothing done to it

Real world: guy I work with went to Ford dealer in town BC he could lease it (payment) for cheaper than any other truck. He didn't care what it was......he is know when he sees that the ecoboost doesn't get the MPGs its supposed to get. Its an FX4 and everything in the dang truck is grey plastic, so don't tell me Ford has nest interior!!!

You can configure a 2018 F-150 with 13,200 lbs towing and 3,270 lbs payload
(3,270 payload requires optional suspension package)

huh? that's a better payload than many super-heavy duty trucks

You can configure a 2018 F-150 with 13,200 lbs towing and 3,270 lbs payload (3,270 payload requires optional suspension package)
Ecoboost Rules | Mar 17, 2018

Did you say the F150 is RATED to tow 13,200? Have you ever personally seen one do it?

papajim:

think about it:
The 2018 F-150 is picked by Consumer Reports as the BEST full size truck.
The 2018 F-150 is Motor Trends truck of the year
The 2018 F-150 costs less than any truck in it's class
The 2018 F-150 with 2.7 Eco-Boost got the EPA Award as the BEST MPG in any gasoline full size truck
The 2018 F-150 is #1 best in crash tests
The 2018 F-150 has the best resale value full size truck
The 2018 F-150 has the highest rated towing and payload

WHY would anybody buy anything else?

@ER

RATED. One word says it all.

I would love to see the F150 tow 13k lbs over a few years. That tiny motor will never hold up and on a long distance haul...it would suck gas like the V10s do! To tow that much with a half ton is crazy!

At ecoboost rules....go try it for a long trip and tell us how it goes! Bet u don't get 5 mpgs and have white knuckles the entire trip

I would love to see the F150 tow 13k lbs over a few years. That tiny motor will never hold up and on a long distance haul...it would suck gas like the V10s do! To tow that much with a half ton is crazy!

I would love to see that f150 do it for just one long trip.?? There is no way that that would be safe. The driver would need to pop some relaxation pills and a few beers after that trip. Lol, if he didn't get blown into a ditch.

Ecoboost rules you obviously never pulled anything in your life so you have no clue what it's like. just keep driving your f150 to the mall as a personal status. We use our trucks what they are supposed to do hauling and towing. And what ever ekse we need it to do on the farm.

If you have to ask how much your truck can tow...
You should not be towing at all.

WHY would anybody buy anything else?

Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 17, 2018 10:47:21 AM

Ask the 1.5 million last year who did.

What the heck

I have a Haulin 6x12 slope nose enclosed trailer that I haul my ATV and dirt bikes. Not sure what the weight is but my F-150 with the 3.5 Eco-Boost pulls it like there's nothing back there.

You do know the "Haulin" brand of trailers are the best and most heavy duty with seamless sides and 16" off center frame.
I got the Haulin Brand cause I wanted the best, like the best to match the best F-150.
When I go to off-road runs I get a lot of great comments when other riders look at my matching color F-150 and Trailer and everybody knows I have class by owning the best combination.

@ EB

Are u conceded?? Are u one of those guys that constantly has to brag himself up to make you feel better

Best this, best that is a matter of opinion!!!

3 words say it.

Papajim doesn't haul.

Papajim doesn't tow.

Papajim does mallcrawling.

Please ignore papajin.

Papa's a tr0ll.

......that I haul my ATV and dirt bikes.

Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 17, 2018 1:46:54 PM


Tells us about the best ATV's and dirt bikes. I have neither but may purchase an ATV in the future.

I just traded in my 17 sierra 5.3L for an 18 sierra 6.2L.

Can't wait to unleash the full power of the highest rated HP V8 in its class. Pick it up next weekend. They are swapping out the DVDs for the kiddos and adding a few other things that aren't in yet.

Anxiety is killing me!!!

CT I got a heck of a deal..over $12k off.

Ecoboost Rules and TNTGMC auditioning for the sequel to Step Brothers, lol. So who is going to be Reilly and who is going to be Ferrell ?

@ casual observer

Your lame

I was sharing the deal GMC has going and I got one! And BTW...that movie is stupid. I have never thought Ferrell as funny

TNT
Congrats on the new truck I'm sure you'll love it

Ecoboost rules
I'm glad that you actually pull something with your truck, but that's just a toy
My side by side could pull that thing. Lol

@ Ecoboost Rules --- Are you related to Chingon, mentality is about the same.

I have a Haulin 6x12 slope nose enclosed trailer that I haul my ATV and dirt bikes. Not sure what the weight is but my F-150 with the 3.5 Eco-Boost pulls it like there's nothing back there.

You do know the "Haulin" brand of trailers are the best and most heavy duty with seamless sides and 16" off center frame.
I got the Haulin Brand cause I wanted the best, like the best to match the best F-150.
When I go to off-road runs I get a lot of great comments when other riders look at my matching color F-150 and Trailer and everybody knows I have class by owning the best combination.


Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 17, 2018 1:46:54 PM

LOL. So you only really need a Toyota Tacoma to pull your trailer.
Glad you have the best of everything for all the wrong reasons.
Do you really think people care what truck you have, most people have better things to think about.

probably a 3k single axle. scary the weight is not known

@ papajim & crunchtime:

Please refrain from commenting about trucks! You know nothing, stick with your feminist cars and leave the men with the trucks please!

@Papa, Stick to what you know: your Corvette. You don't haul or tow.

I was just trying to help

When I have something that's the best I just want to share it with everybody else so they could have the best too.

I can't help it to know it's a good feeling when other people give me comments such as telling me "nice truck" ,"nice trailer", "wish I owned one".

I made a mistake thinking everybody here in PUTC would like and respect me better if I told them what brand of truck and trailer I owned. That happens when I meet people face to face and I kinda expected the same thing to happen here. I was wrong.

You honestly expected random people on the internet to not only like you but respect you, and on this website of all places where every comment is an insult?

@ EB

To you, u might think u have the best but to others your best isn't their best! Its a matter of opinion. You think your ecoboost is the best while others "like myself" think they are junk and V8s are way to go.
Just enjoy your truck... Glad u like it....I personally have driven my step dads 13 ecoboost many times and can say it rockets out of the hole but everything else isn't up to my standards. There is more to a truck than just 0 to 60....plus the 6.2L beats it anyways!
It doesn't ever get MPGs its supposed to, the entire interior is filled with gray plastic, It doesn't ride that well, and its road noise is terrible....but hey, he loves the truck and I don't heckle him about it. But he has told me time and time again that my GMC rides 10 times better....he however does have that extra bit of room in back of crew cab which is nice.
You got a heck of a deal on your truck...
I just go one 2 yesterday....am very eager to enjoy my truck ad much as u enjoy yours.

Just look at Fords endless recall list. That will tell you everything you need to know. Garbage.

HEMI V8

The only recall on my F-150 are the seat rail bolts and the door latch cover to keep the water out of the latch from freezing.

That's minor stuff compared to the Ram and Silverado recalls

News flash for those of you who say X truck sucks gas while towing-they all do. My Silverado towing my boat gets around 10 mpg at 70- on the highway. My brohter towed a 6K pound camper with his ecobooost and got 9. Buy a car and do not tow anything if you want good FE.

-CT

@ CT

News flash the ecoboost suck gas MORE than a V8 does!
News flash...Ford claims best MPGs but doesn't live up to it!
News flash, you pull that much supposed GVWR for a turbo V6 it won't hold up!
News flash..I pull a 5k boat and get 13 to 14 MPGs, stepdad pulls 2 Jetskis and can't get 13....those are real world numbers!!!!

@TNTGMC
Data to support your claim that a turbo V6 won’t hold up? Define “hold up”. There are too many variables to make any consistent claims of “holding up” with any engine when towing. If I were going to make any statements about reliability and towing I’d be more concerned with transmissions.

@ CT

News flash the ecoboost suck gas MORE than a V8 does!
News flash...Ford claims best MPGs but doesn't live up to it!
News flash, you pull that much supposed GVWR for a turbo V6 it won't hold up!
News flash..I pull a 5k boat and get 13 to 14 MPGs, stepdad pulls 2 Jetskis and can't get 13....those are real world numbers!!!!
Posted by: TNTGMC | Mar 19, 2018 7:19:15 AM

ok the last time you posted (a few months ago) your pulling MPG's you said you boat weight was 6,000 LBS and now you're saying it's 5,000 LBS, the next time you tow your 5 or 6K boat hit the reset button on you MPG"s and thats real world numbers because there's no way you getting 14 MPG's pulling a 5 or 6K boat around with a 5.3 Chevy
here the link for the 6.2 Chevy and GMC that just got 10 MPG's pulling 6700 LBS

http://special-reports.pickuptrucks.com/2015/01/2015-light-duty-v-8-challenge-fuel-economy.html

I've always said 13 to 14 MPGs
I always reset..I had 3.42 rear end in it....look at GM forums...there are tons if guys who have a 3.42 rear end and get good mileage..
With the 16 I had 3.08 rear end. It only got 10 to 11
I'm not falsifying my data....no need to! As for the pounds it does vary from 5k to 6k depending on if pulling with hardly any fuel and fill with storage or if its completely filled up...I fill it up at home.BC gas is cheaper....u want to argue any more???? Fanboys!!!! Geeezzz

When I get my new 6.2L this weekend. I'll put that data down to! It has 3.23 rear end......

As for not holding up...it physics..there is no way a turbo V6 can go through the strenuous activity of pull over 10k lbs over a long period of time...think about it..its not rocket science....
But u fanboys keep defensing the ecoboost...while ford is realizing the 5.0L is a better motor BC they charge more for it now....they got all u suckers to buy into getting that gerbil motor.

So many factors to consider with each test and towing. Where I drive its flat and I don't really need to kick cruise off for 2 hours of driving. Anything else us need clarified..... Mr. Eating Chevy's.

As for not holding up...there are tons of articles and YouTube videos and guys complaining about the eco bust overheating while pulling!!!!! Do a little research



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