Can You Boost Your Payload Ratings?

Ford F-250 With Boosted PayloadLead photo by Michael S. Smith

By G.R. Whale

Once the power and towing bragging rights are out of the way, trucks are built to haul stuff, and payload rating is the value most often quoted to represent that. But where did that rating come from, and can you do anything to change it?

Related: Pickup Trucks 101: Payload Classifications

There’s no doubt you’ve seen comparisons of payload ratings, but they should have many footnotes because there is no detailed industry standard, and ratings change so fast that few are up to date. Truck makers typically define maximum payload as the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) minus the truck’s curb weight — and in the case of GM, they use “base option curb weight” to calculate — and payload is composed of passengers and cargo.

Numbers May Vary
From the outset there’s a gray area, as GM and Ram Truck consider all passengers to weigh 150 pounds at each seating position. That seems a bit optimistic to us. Even the FAA is considering raising its 170-pounds-per-person specification of recent years because of potential overloading of small aircraft and the ever-increasing weight of Americans. Transport Canada has proposed 200 pounds for men and 165 pounds for women. Even if we use the 150-pound specification, a half-ton four-wheel-drive pickup with five passengers could easily be left with an effective cargo capacity of just 350 to 750 pounds.

It’s important to note that the payload figures in brochures and on manufacturer websites highlight “best-case” scenarios. The specific truck in question will be fitted with the minimum equipment needed to attain that given rating. Optional parts usually add weight, though there are exceptions, like changing from steel wheels to alloy wheels, an aluminum-block engine rather than iron, smaller mirrors, or deleting the bumper or spare tire. Anything else you add — a hitch, winch, or megawatt stereo — will subtract from your payload rating.

The only way to boost the payload rating is to take weight off the truck: removing the rear seat or bumper, using lighter wheels and/or tires that meet gross axle weight rating requirements, and so on.

Overload Springs For Boosted Payload
Numbers Will Not Vary

Although payload determination may vary by manufacturer, the GVWR and GAWR (gross axle weight rating) on the certification label are standardized and absolute. Only the manufacturer — or an upfitter that started with an incomplete vehicle — can set the GVWR. There’s no wiggle room or fudge factor here; the rating exists because above it, things can and will break. And if you overload the vehicle, a break may also break your wallet because the warranty won’t cover it. Finally, be aware that regulations often treat recreational and commercial use differently.

Gross combined weight rating (GCWR) validation covers things like driveline durability and cooling, while GVWR and GAWR validation covers brakes (we don’t recommend any full-size truck running anywhere near GCWR without trailer brakes), frame, wheel bearings, springs, suspension arms/bushings, steering pumps and gear, tires, and box integrity. Look at the rear axle GAWR on many single-rear-wheel pickups, and you’ll find an odd number that’s exactly twice the maximum load rating for the tires on it.

Be Aware
As a result, you can’t increase your payload, but you can do things to make your truck more comfortable operating at or very near GVWR. Thicker, additional or re-arched spring leafs or wound coils; auxiliary airbags or a complete air suspension swap; and added or thicker anti-roll bars can help control weight better, but use caution: Increasing the diameter of one anti-roll bar without addressing the other end will change balance and handling characteristics, and increasing the spring rate requires matching the shocks. Coil-over and air shocks are less than ideal because they transfer weight to shock mounts that are not designed for them.

More From

And, of course, be aware that the weight of any airbags, additional suspension hardware, airbag compressor or heavier tire/wheel combo also lowers payload capacity. The best advice we can offer is to make sure your load is properly distributed so you don’t exceed either axle’s GAWR, and keep the heaviest part of the load as low in the bed as possible. Naturally, changing your truck’s center of gravity will affect ride and handling. If you still need to get more carrying capacity out of your pickup, consider trading it in for one you should have bought to begin with.

Chevrolet Silverado With Boosted Payload


Great article, but I'd go with a heavier tire like a 10 ply because I don't want to have a blow out with a full load.

Payload? Pffft. What's that?
I always thought that was just a suggestion.

Someone's bound to say it eventually, so it might as well be me. All the ratings are more of a guideline than hard and fast rules. If you get 100 old farmers together, you'll hear 1,000 stories about overloaded trucks and trailers. There's 3 big rules for safe towing and hauling.
1) watch your tires, as long as your tires aren't squatting too bad you should be safe. Odds are, your tire will blow before your spring breaks.
2) balance your load, keep it as close to the cab as possible so the frame will distribute the load to both axles, simple physics.
3) take your time, with a load on it will take you longer to stop and driving faster makes that distance even longer. Plus, turning too fast can cause the load to shift which can mean a lost load or a rolled truck or trailer.
I guess that would lead to number 4) secure your load.

I'm overloaded pretty frequently and have never had an issue. A little common sense goes a long way.

It's scary to see how many people buy huge 5th wheelers, over load them with desert toys and other goodies, and haul them with 3/4 ton pickups at speeds above posted limits.

you guys are to high tech cut yah some four by fours stick em on the axle and frame haul all you want then for cheap i have to do that with a ford cause the leafs suck buy a chevy if you wanna haul not a ford

@Mark Williams good article.

@Ken saw people triple towing in the US with a 5th wheeler towed by a F250. 40ft 5th Wheelers towed by F350's , when a MDT is a much better at controlling that weight on hills.

This story helps explain why pickups have gotten bigger with bigger capacities. All of the extra safety stuff adds to it as well. They do need to increase the weight of a "normal" adult. I'd have to say that the 200lb male/165 lb female standard by the Canadian rule makers makes the most sense.
Nice to see a story saying that the ratings are fixed. If you want to carry more - make your truck lighter.

Whether the truck is physically capable of hauling more or less than the payload rating is irrelevant. The bottom line is, the GVWR and GCWR can not be exceeded, and that's what law enforcement goes by when you are sent to the scales. If you're over, expect a ticket, pure and simple.

As for the 150-pound personal weight number, that has been an SAE standard for decades. The reason it has not been adjusted upward is because the SAE has to take *children* into account as well as adults. The 150-pound value factors age, gender, and other variables - Transport Canada's thought of making separate male and female numbers makes no sense, since there's no way to determine which gender will be in the vehicle. Aircraft weight standards are a different story; an overloaded airplane can come back to the ground with disastrous results.

oxi doesn't need to trade in for another truck...

oxi's Tacoma is already one ton capable!

Maybe we should listen more to REAL users of pickups rather than what some office people think to cover their rears...

My background comes from hard-core off-roading and desert racing. We push the limits of what a pickup can and cannot do in these arena's...

We increase suspension travel, run much larger and heavier tires, beef up the suspension componnets, steering and braking systems, we know how to gusset and strengthen weak points on virtually all pickups and make them STRONGER than what the OEM does...

That is what off-roaders do, at least the smart ones that is.

Right now I am in the expedition style building of my pickup. Their are many pickups in this arena out there running beefier suspensions, larger tires for ground clearance and they do this with heavier payloads...

Having over 20 years off-roading including desert racing and pavement racing with pickups trucks I daily drove, I can tell you can build them bomb proof and the ability to carry additional payload and still not upset the balance and driveability of the pickup!

You have to know what you are doing though!

And just slapping a lift kit with larger tires is NOT what I am talking about...

In the off-road world you learn how to build and strengthen your pickup to survive off the roads. If you do not build it properly as well as know how to drive off the pavement, your going to break simple things that will cost you plenty off-road...

Gawd Oxi, just shut up... We already know you think of yourself as some Off Road God...this article had nothing to do with that. It's about hauling hevy loads on the road. You come off soudling like some sort of 5th grade braggart.

@Oxi - I knew it would be a matter of time before you'd comment. Read this story over and over again.
A bunch of engineers and liability lawyers got together and set what were acceptable safe limits.
End of story.
If you legally want a 1 ton capable truck, buy a HD 350/3500.
Look at the bright side.
You can buy a F150 to tow your no-longer street legal Tacoma to your offroad trails.

Overload any pickup and hit someone/something, the highway patrol will be weighing your truck/trailer.

Damn, wish I could increase the "payload" on my Wrangler. It has sh!t for hauling couple hundred pounds makes it sink, no hauling fat people in the back seats of it for would look loaded down.

on topic of towing, I think the loading, towing, etc. are underrated in many instances. I think if you are going to be towing with a GCWR of over say....12k lbs, you should have to carry extra insurance or get a step up a class "A" or something.

I know I will get flack for this comment, but Education and arrogance are the biggest factors in safe towing, from what I have witnessed. How many of you have witnessed a truck towing what looks like right at the towing/loaded limit passing all the cars/trucks on the freeway?

If truck drivers have to adhere to special circumstances/rules (like different speed limits, different classes of DL's, etc.), so should a guy towing a tractor on a minifloat with a 1 ton truck. Imagine the catastrophic damage that could be done if the said driver lost control of that vehicle?

I regularly see guys in their half ton trucks blasting down the freeway 75-80 mph hauling a car on a trailer, 30+ft camper, or similar loads. Why? is no one elses safety a concern for you or what? I don't drive 75-80 mph in my Jeep not towing anything, I cannot see how someone could feel "safe" driving a truck pulling a loaded camper weighing 10k+ down the highway @ 80mph without a care in the world should an emergency maneuver have to be implicated.

DenverMike: As it should be, no one is exempt from the law.

I agree with max.

US pickup payload ratings are INCREDIBLY conservative.

The average 1/2-ton, 4x4, crewcab, pickup will have a payload rating of ~1500lbs--about on par with the average minivan and slightly better than most cute-utes like a CR-V or a Subaru Outback.

Right... go look at the chassis of any of those vehicles and tell me if they truly have the same capability. I don't care what your favorite brand of pickup is, it is vastly beefier than a minivan with the same payload rating.

The funny thing about this article is I am working on my trucks suspension for better towing and payload just not more towing and payload. I have already added the TRD Supercharger and Doug Thorley headers for more power. I have also added tow mirrors for better vision. Then after that I added a trailer brake controller because I wasnt going to let Sandman 4x4 call me unsafe. The last things I need to add is Bilstein 5100 Series Shock Absorbers and Air Lift LoadLifter 5000 w/ WirelessAIR.
Once all this is complete I will feel comfortable about using the 8,500lb max Tow rating and 1500lb max payload I assigned for my 2010 5.7L DC which is below what Toyota says I have stock. I didnt think you could make it so your truck could tow more just make it so it tows what it is rated for better.

I’m a contractor, so naturally I plead the fifth. But I can say we try not to mix the hauler and the people mover any more than we have to if we are heavy hauling. Also, as has been said, watch the tires and the position of the load. And if you can’t tell you just loaded too much on your rig then maybe you need to get another job.

LOL oxi! The article asked if payload could be increased. Mark was nice enough to answer the question in the article to save us from embarrassment should we answer wrong yet here comes Mr know-it-all oxi (not to be confused with Mrknowitall) to tell us that yes, payload can be increased. What can we say? LOL!

@Jason H,

No Jason, it's some people have more experiance than others in building up pickups trucks stronger!

Off-roaders can build them stronger and carry more payload if your smart about it...


Payload can be increased but you have to be smart about it...

I added a LEER aluminum cap, much heavier rear swing door bumper and allowed for some additional capacity for up to 4 sand bags and a 36-gallon aux. fuel tank loaded.

With my factory springs, they would sag and be a safety concern but with the Deavers I have on with all that additional weight, my springs DO NOT sag and I maintain proper heights and clearances in the rear...

My next project is to install a bar across the top and back of the axle to prevent the flexing of the axle under full torque loads to maintain proper driveline angles as well added strength to the 8.4" axle and also a rear spring shackle bar that will connect both shackles to the cross-member to prevent shackle twisting under full suspension travel, etc...

Kind of like this:

It will resemble the factory x-bracing that was on my X-Runner that connected to the rear shackle buckets, hence x-brace but for an off-road pickup and not a pavement hugger...

This will stiffen the rear suspension a bit for added strength and also support for the rear frame in the back with higher payloads...

That is just a start of how you can add payload to your pickup and maintain it!

Here is a vintage pic of my old 86 pickup before I raced it, notice the right shackle twisting:

This bar will help to eliminate that and give added strength to weaker suspension components:

If your going to increase payload, mind the weak links and strengthen them...


I dont see any loaded,construction,industrial or farm trucks in the bush or desert racing !!! Most people dont care about off road racing or desert racing !! And most people with lifted trucks do so for show,they like the looks of a lifted truck and dont care if it can crawl a rock !!!

I never took my 2 wd dually loaded with spare CAT parts and other heavy duty industrial equiptment parts for a desert race or went off rading or on a road coarse !! I know I am overloaded and especially when I am hauling a load in the box and towing a trailer,I have extra heavy duty springs,trailer brake and when I am loaded I am not racing around,or going off roading !! Most people coulndnt care about that crap !! I do haul my 9 second drag car to the track,so should I brag that I know how to build a truck that hauls heavy loads and A$$ !!!! No...typical brainwashed Toyota owner,totally clueless and just out of this world,go join the current recall of Toyota's with steering issues (recalled last week)

"...I regularly see guys in their half ton trucks blasting down the freeway 75-80 mph hauling a car on a trailer, 30+ft camper, or similar loads. Why? is no one elses safety a concern for you or what? I don't drive 75-80 mph in my Jeep not towing anything, I cannot see how someone could feel "safe" driving a truck pulling a loaded camper weighing 10k+ down the highway @ 80mph without a care in the world should an emergency maneuver have to be implicated...." -Red_4x4

I know what you mean. I always keep my speed around 60 m.p.h. (maximum); while towing my 5,000 pound travel trailer with my 2500 Dodge that has a towing capacity of 10,500 pounds. Most trailer tires have a maximum speed rating of 65 m.p.h. for good reason.

I've been reluctant to join the OXI bashing because I hate to speak ill of anybody, but I'm really getting annoyed with this guy. You like your old Toyota, we get it. They're not bad little trucks. My cousin has an '87 Toyota that he uses for a plow truck. It's impressive what that little 4-cylinder will push. What really bugs me is how everything comes back to off-roading. Hate to break it to you bud, but most of us don't have the time or disposable income for hardcore off-roading. I can't speak for everyone here, but my truck is a tool, not a toy. You're preaching to the wrong crowd. Accept the fact that we don't care, and shut up.

I have been reluctant to comment as well, but I have had enough with all the ignorance on this site. Buy American OR SAY BYE TO AMERICA, that means especially you. There are other makes that are as good or better than the current American versions. Everyone buy what you want and like.


It doesnt matter what you put on your truck, if you are ever in an accident with one ton of stuff in the back of a taco, you will be at fault, you will get a ticket and the other driver will likely sue you for negligence, and they will win.

Parts dont increase the GVWR, and exceeding that is illegal, end of story.

@Buy American You nailed it! That is how you should tow a 5th Wheeler,Caravan or whatever with a sensible load at a comfortable cruising speed.
People who want to win races while towing a RV , are dangerous. I might add poorly loaded or setup RV's, inadequate tow vehicles(struggle to do the job), loads that exceed, the GVWR , Axle limits , GCWR and inattentive driving are equally as dangerous.

Ford changed the F450 because when it first came out the tires weren't rated for high speed driving. People wanted a truck that could pull 19,000 lbs but at 75 MPH. Crazy,stupid, and completely irresponsible. I don't even know the top speed of the last 4 vehicles I've owned.

@JD - I see loaded work trucks in the "bush" all the time, but I live in area where logging reigns supreme. I see the point you are making; guys who work with their trucks don't usually play with their trucks.

@Luke - I'm currently in the same boat as you. I don't have the disposable income to spend on a truck to beat up offroad. When I was single, that was a different story. Other than buying a house, most of my money went into toys, trucks, hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. (and chasing girls)

The top speed of the last F-450 was 80 mph. They bumped it to 90 mph. This is still less than the 100 mph of the F-150 and this does not by any means suggest you have to go the max 90 mph when towing 19,000 lbs. The change in tires and weight reduction also helped give the truck double digit percentage improvements in fuel economy.

Thank you Mike Levine...

@Luke, @Lou:

I do have (or rather DID have) the disposeable income to waste on an offroad vehicle but I'm sure Oxi wouldn't consider it a True Hardcore Off-Roader like his because it doesn't have a ridiculous looking front bumper and doesn't say TOYOTA anywhere on it.


I am not sure what country you claim to be a hero of?

I for one try to be a hero to the United States Of America -just as the United States Of America is my hero! The men and women who have served/are serving this great nation are also my heroes.

I bought a 2500HD chevy so I could tow my open trailer/racecar at 75-80mph when it is safe to do so. I've had exactly one trailer tire problem in 25000+ miles of towing. It was a bias ply carlisle and they were junk anyway. I switched to load range D radials (in place of load range C bias) and won't go back. You can do it if you have enough truck and it's plenty safe. If traffic gets heavy you do have to slow down and allow the extra distance, though. I'm not stupid.

The dealer in my town has made some tundrahds by adding a leaf and antisway bars, what would that do to tow ratings. if nothing is he just giving false sense of security to the owners

@Jason H - did the loss of your disposible income coincide with uttering the longest sentance in the world, "I DO" ;)
That is how it worked out for me !

Here is what I did. I re-registered my truck for an additional 2K.

I don't exceed either front or rear axle ratings.

I don't exceed the tire ratings and I don't exceed the combined truck and trailer ratings.

Hey guys leave oxi alone! 5th grade was the best 3 years of his life! ok?

@Scott - How did you "re-register" your truck with increased GVWR? What state are you in? I'm curious to know because I didn't think that was possible. It's easy to do with Trailers in Texas but a motor vehicle is just a bit different.


@ Toycrusher,

I went to the DMV for Maryland (my state) and filled out the form and the certification for self inspection and payed the additional fee (6 bucks per 1,000 lbs).


I just noticed that the "83" spray painted on the piece of equipment in the box of the truck was clearly photoshopped (clone stamped) from the 83 over on the piece of equipment on the far left side of the image...That or the guy with the rattlecan has a really steady hand.

In any case I hope when ALL the manufacturers go to the new SAE Towing/Hauling standards over the next few years (like Toyota already has) there will be a little less marketing BS and a little more safety and truck buyers will be able to make better-informed decisions.

@Scott - Nice to know. @Jason - yup, it will likely be quite an eye-opener.


"you will be at fault"

Says who?

No cell phone while driving, no daydreaming while driving, I know how to use my mirrors while driving, always thinking ahead and planning outs while driving, jerking the steering wheel at speed is what morons do, I work on my own pickup and know everything about it, I routinley inspect my pickup all around, I drive a manual speaks volumes, I know how to handle a pickup above 100 mph, I simply pay attention and understand a vehicle is like a small cruise missile minus the warhead but still packs a punch and you should be mindful of the power upon impact!

If you hit me, it's YOUR FAULT!

I think that one can uprate or downrate the GVW/GCWR of a vehicle but only to the limits specified on the door tags. I currently have my truck "downrated" because it saves on license, and insurance fees. I can be held liable if I carry more than what it is registered to carry even though the door tags are rated higher. I've probably made a few trips with loads over my registered weight but it isn't something I do everyday. When I get a camper trailer or end up consistently carrying max loads, I'll do what Scott did and re-register to a higher GVW/GCWR (but still within manufacture maximum settings).

@Oxi - you humble us with your presence.
WE ARE NOT WORTHY...........
WE ARE NOT WORTHY...........
WE ARE NOT WORTHY...........
WE ARE NOT WORTHY...........

Just kidding ;)


I have always fooled around with my pickups over the years...

To install a custom Watts-link on my X-Runner, that is testing and trying things to say the least...

Baja has always opened the door to innovations and testing of new approaches and ideas to strengthen a pickup and I love that arena to start to make my personal ride stronger than it appears...

A lot of times, its simple things that can make it last longer and survive better...

And no, I do not max out my pickup when off-roading. I will get close but never max out. That is reserved when the end of the world comes and getting out of the cities is the ONLY option to survive during the power vacumme until law and order is restored, if ever...


"I have always fooled around with my pickups over the years..."

Pull yer dingdong outta that poor Toyota's tailpipe, Oxi! I always knew there was something funny about your love of that thing...LOL!

@Jason H. - aren't we supposed to be tolerant of alternative lifestyles?

The third photograph (above) makes me a little uneasy. That slide-in camper looks like it is too much for that Chevrolet 2500? I think that, for the size of that camper, a 3500 dually would be more appropriate? A crew cab, instead of the extended cab, might also help matters?

That sure is a nice tailgate-step (first photograph) on the Ford. Something like that would sure make getting in and out of the back of my Dodge Ram 2500 4X4 Power Wagon a whole lot easier. Not sure how much I am going to enjoy jumping up on the tailgate, like I have to do now, when I am in my 40s, 50s, etc.

Chevrolet with its 2011 trucks has 3/4 ton models with GVWR of 9,300, 9,500, 9,900, 10,000 lbs. and 1 ton sharing the same frame, front axle and front suspension, brakes, engine and drive train with GVWR of 10,400, 10,500, 10,700, 10,800, 11,000 pounds and the only difference with the 1 ton is an extra set of leaf springs and 18" tires with a higher load rating.

With some of the trucks the limiting factor is the rear axle load rating and with others it is the load rating of rear leaf springs and with other it is the load rating of the tires. A C7 axle heavy load option is available for the 3/4 ton trucks which has the same load rating as the axle on the 1 ton SRW trucks.

There is a reason that the base price difference between the 3/4 ton and the 1 ton trucks is less than $1,000 - there is very little difference between the two sub lines.

It is an outdated and incorrect to think of a 1/2 ton truck as having a maximum payload capacity of 1,000 lbs. or a 3/4 ton as having a maximum payload of 1,500 lbs. as there are "1/2 ton" trucks with a stated manufacturer's maximum payload of over 1,700 lbs. and "3/4 ton" trucks from Chevy for example with a maximum payload of 4,192 lbs. or more than 2 tons.

The maximum trailer weights provide an indication of the load handling capabilities of the engine, drive train, and brakes of trucks, and with the 2011 GM "3/4" ton trucks it is as high as 17,800 pounds. The payload capacity reflects the portion of the load which can be placed on the rear axle and its leaf springs and its rims and tires.

Each of these 4 components can determine the maximum payload and all but the axle are easily changed or modified by the truck's owner to increase the maximum payload capacity. With the 2500HD for example the stock axle has a 6,000 lb. rating while the optional C7 axle increase that load rating to 6700 lbs., but the 17" rims and tires have a maximum load capacity of 6400 lbs. so without changing to larger wheels and tires 6400 minus the weight of the truck on the rear axle is the maximum payload for the truck.

One can extra leaf springs or air bags or one can change out the wheels and tires at which point the gating factor is the 6700 lb. load rating of the rear axle.

A 2500HD with the C7 axle can be easily modified with the addition of Supersprings to increase the maximum payload by 800 lbs. with all of the components operating well within their safe load range as specified by GM and the tire manufacturers. This increases the GVWR from a stock value of 10,000 lbs. up to 10,800 lbs. for a 4WD SRW diesel powered 2500HD for an increase of 8% - hardly earthshattering and hardly unsafe.

Modification to the rear suspension including Supersprings, air bags, and or anti sway bars, can provide for increased safety by giving the drive a vehicle that is easier to control even with lower payloads in the bed of the truck. These mods have been applied for more than three decades that I know of and so the merits of doing so are well known by most people with any experience with trucks, towing trailers, and or race and off road vehicles.

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