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.

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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


I have a chevy 1500 ext cab 4x4 I carry a slide in truck camper to the outer banks nc. Im waying bout 7800 to 8000 with everthing I had larger timlers and added one leaf spring with 2500 pound per tire rides gtreat handels great,anyone think im too heavey?

the DOT is cracking down i drive a truck and in NM i seen a dot tell a guy puling a 35 foot camper and a boat he had to pick one over gross and no CDL pup indorsement DO NOT GO OVER GROSS you will get poped you can pull double only 5 th wheel to ball but ball to ball is illegal

I'm just looking to find out if it's safe to haul an RV that has a hitch weight of 2698 lbs, with my 2010 ram2500 with a payload rating of 2400. I don't want to hurt my truck.

@Jerry - check the hitch ratings for your truck, and no, I don't think it is a good idea.

This is straight from Dodge's towing guide:

"While it's not listed in the charts, tongue weight [i] is also an important consideration. The recommended tongue weight is between 10 & 15% of the trailer weight. However, the maximum tongue weight on Class III (The bumper ball) is limited to 500 lbs, and Class IV (The receiver hitch) to 1200 lbs.This requirement overrides any recommended GTW rating, between 10% and 15% of gross trailer weight (GTW). Additionally, the GAWRs and GVWRs should never be exceeded."

Your tongue weight is well over the ratings for the hitch on your truck.

Are you sure you have a "hitch weight" of 2698lb.?

Assuming a 15% tongue weight, that means your trailer is close to 18,000 lbs.

13,600 lb would be the max you can tow with a 2500 Dodge.

Google 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 tow/haul specs.

@Lou I guess I should have explained further. I tow fifth wheel RV's. My current RV has a tongue(hitch) weight of 2200lbs. One I am looking at trading to has a hitch weight of 2698lbs. My fifth wheel hitch is sitting dead on top of my rear axle. So, in essence, I think the hitch weight of my RV would directly relate to payload ratings for the truck, since the weight of the hitch is in the bed of the truck, over the axles. From every figure I can find for my particular truck(2010 Ram 2500/crew cab/4x4/diesel) it has a payload rating of 2400#

Thanks for the reply

@Lou Looking at my specs,

GAWR front 5500
GAWR rear 6500
GCWR 20,000
Tow capacity 12,600
payload 2400

Base wt. rear 2741
base wt front 4460
base wt 7201

The RV I'm looking at weighs 12,600
with a hitch weight of 2698

Don't ask Lou questions about towing. He doesn't tow. Bottom line - if that is the trailer you want, buy the right truck for the job.

@Mike. That's what I'm wondering. If I really have the right truck for the job. I hate to spend the extra money to upgrade my truck, if there is no danger of hurting the one I have. I know I'm going over the payload by #300, but I was wondering if Dodge is just being conservative in their figures. If I go by my base weight rear(2741#), and the trailer hitch wt(2698), I am within the GAWR of 6500# at 5439#.

You said that from every figure you can ford it has a payload rating of 2400. Have you checked the payload rating on the door sticker? That will have the actual payload rating for your configuration.

Now that that number and subtract any weight of the driver that is over 150 lbs, any weight of the passengers, cargo, tools, weight of the hitch itself, tank of gas, and the pin weight, etc. You will likely be more than 300 lbs over.

You can tow anything you want, but I wouldn't feel safe putting my family (or others) in danger by trying to get the truck to handle more than it should. If that doesn't bother you could end up causing premature wear and possible failure of something.

Go to a towing forum like to have the towing community check your numers. Most people here do not tow.

I got smart and just bought a 2013 ram dual wheel 3500. It will handle any poundage I will have. 17,000 towing, and 5960 payload. I'm hooked up now: :(

I actually came here looking for an answer to a slightly different question... I want to know if I can fill a chevy silverado's bed 3/4 of the way with water in the driveway, drive it about 1 mile through a mostly flat field to the bonfire (NOT on the road... I'm a redneck, but I'm not a stupid redneck)at about 5-10 mph,park it, put a couple mostly naked girls in the back and proceed to get my party on. Without hearing expensive snapping and crunching sounds coming from the suspension. Water will exceed the manufacturer's ratings, but those are safety ratings for driving right? I'm not trying to drive the thing down the road @ 80MPH on the freeway and kill someone.

i have a 2012 tundra 4x4 5.7 6.5 bed. i planning of buying a camper, Lance 825 wet wt is approx 1800ibs, my truck payload is approx 1600ibs..i am planning of adding airbags and or stronger springs…will this do the job?

I started to find out if extra leaves would boost the capacity of the truck box we haul around trying to get the one ton sander out of the back of my three quarter ton snow plow and only take out sander as needed

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