Know Your Pickup's Weight-Carrying Limits

Pickups_Trailers_Logan[9] II

By Bruce W. Smith

Pickups are designed to tow, which is why the majority of owners purchase them. That's also why tow ratings are a source of pride and a marketing tool for manufacturers.

But trailering numbers can be misleading to the average pickup owner. The "maximum tow rating" of all pickups is predicated on the truck being "properly equipped," which means using the correct hitch setup for the weight of the trailer it's towing.

That means when a trailered weight reaches a certain point, as set by the pickup manufacturer, a weight-distributing-type hitch or a gooseneck/fifth wheel needs to be used instead of the factory receiver hitch with the typical shank-and-ball or pintle hook.

Towing a trailer on the receiver hitch using just the shank-and-ball is called "conventional" towing — and the capacities for this type of towing are well below a pickup's maximum trailering capacity.

What's the big deal in how heavy a trailer is towed or what hitch is being used? A few things: liability in the event of an accident, vehicle control and occupant safety.

Until recently truckmakers did their own in-house testing to determine tow ratings. Shared testing standards did not exist, so there wasn't a way for consumers to compare like vehicles with one another. Buyers took the manufacturers' word for it.

That all changed when vehicle manufacturers joined with SAE International (formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers) to create SAE J2807 — a comprehensive set of parameters and test standards to determine tow ratings. J2807 took almost a decade to craft before it was finally adopted by all of the main pickup players.

Alaska_Towing_Big_Boat[6] II

Towing trailered loads in excess of a pickup's "weight-carrying" hitch limit requires the use of a weight-distributing setup for the truck to be considered properly equipped. This boat trailer combo weighs close to 10,000 pounds, well above the truck's weight-carrying limit.


In a nutshell, SAE J2807 requires the vehicle manufacturer to use a vehicle equipped with the popular options found on at least 33 percent of the vehicles sold for that model; they also must run the test procedures with the equivalent of a 150-pound driver and passenger. The truck is hitched in a specific manner to a trailer that meets SAE specs and puts the tow vehicle (the pickup truck) at its maximum gross combined weight rating, meaning the combined weight of the pickup, its maximum payload, full fuel tank and the weight of the trailer.

Then a series of tests are conducted that target handling, trailer sway, braking, acceleration and component durability. The tests also include driving up the Davis Dam, a 7 percent grade that runs eastward out of Laughlin, Nev., for 11 miles to the top of the 3,500-foot summit in daytime temperatures of 100 degrees with the air conditioning going full blast. The vehicle manufacturer looks at all the data and decides what towing limits to place on that particular make/model vehicle.

If a vehicle is described as "J2807 compliant," then its towing capacity and resulting limitations regarding the use of weight-distributing fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitches has been done using the SAE standards.

That's why today's tow ratings should not be taken lightly: They really are the limit the vehicle manufacturers have determined is the maximum that vehicle can safely tow and/or where additional equipment is necessary to tow the load.

Ignoring the vehicle manufacturer's towing requirements can affect the truck's warranty, and from a legal perspective, towing beyond the specified limits may place all the liability on the driver's shoulders in the event of an accident.

With that said, maximum on-the-ball hitch towing capacities aren't always easy to find. So we've done a little legwork for you. The information below shows the conventional towing limits found in the vehicle manufacturer's towing guides or owner's manuals. If your trailer weighs more than the weights listed below, a weight-distributing hitch is required. Generally speaking, the maximum conventional tow rating for midsize and half-ton pickups is about 5,000 pounds, with GM trucks being the exception. In the heavy-duty class (three-quarter ton and one-ton pickups), towing capacity ranges from 5,000 (Ram) to 13,000 pounds (Chevrolet and GMC). Below is a listing of each truckmaker's factory conventional tow ratings, and the respective 10 percent tongue weight recommendations, as well as our source information.


  • F-150: 5,000 pounds/500 pounds tongue weight (2016 RV & Trailer Towing Guide, Page 16)
  • F-250/350 single rear wheel (gas): 6,000 pounds/600 pounds tongue weight (2016 RV & Trailer Towing Guide, Page 28)
  • F-250/350 6.7-liter single rear wheel: 8,500 pounds/850 pounds tongue weight (2016 RV & Trailer Towing Guide, Page 28)
  • F-350 dualie/F-450: 8,500 pounds/850 pounds tongue weight (2016 RV & Trailer Towing Guide, Page 28)

For Ford's 2016 RV & Trailer Towing Guide, click here.


  • Canyon (V-6): 5,000 pounds/500 pounds tongue weight (2016 Trailering Guide, Page 17)
  • Sierra 1500: 7,000 pounds/700 tongue weight (2016 Trailering Guide, Page 13)
  • Sierra 2500HD/3500HD: 13,000 pounds/1,300 pounds tongue weight (2016 Trailering Guide, Page 14)

For GMC's 2016 Trailering Guide, click here.


  • Colorado (V-6 or four-cylinder diesel): 5,000 pounds/500 pounds tongue weight (2015 Trailering Guide, Page 12, or click here for the 2016 diesel)
  • Silverado 1500: 7,000 pounds/700 pounds tongue weight (2015 Trailering Guide, Page 9)
  • Silverado 2500HD/3500HD: 13,000 pounds/1,300 pounds tongue weight (2015 Trailering Guide, Page 10)

For Chevrolet's 2015 Trailering Guide, click here.


For Ram's 2016 Towing & Payload Capacity Guide, click here.



  • Frontier: 5,000 pounds/500 pounds tongue weight (2016 owner's manual, Section 9, Page 32)
  • Titan: 5,000 pounds/500 pounds tongue weight (2015 Towing Guide, Page 5)

For Nissan's 2015 Towing Guide, click here. photos by Bruce W. Smith


Conventional_Towing[9] II

Using just the hitch ball is called towing in the "conventional" or "weight-carrying" mode, which offers far less capacity than a pickup's maximum tow rating.



Colorado_Towing_Corvette[6] II

The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado diesel can tow up to 7,700 pounds (with a 4x2 powertrain) — but only if a weight-distributing hitch is used. The max trailer weight is only 5,000 pounds using just the factory hitch, shank and ball.



It's not what you think your truck can tow/handle, it's what your vehicle can safely tow with you in it.

I few people i know take the factory hitches off and put stronger aftermarket hitches on. i don't know or see anybody using weight dis while towing construction equipment. The bobcat and trailer my b-in-law has weight 13k and we don't even own weight dis. Ive seen him pull his dump trailer with the bobcat inside along with broken up concrete to the dump and the trailer weigh in at 18k using a 2005 chevy 2500hd gas now he has a 2011 2500hd diesel but the old truck pulled it just fine.


from The Detroit News
Suit accuses Fiat Chrysler, CEO of securities fraud


from The Detroit News
Suit accuses Fiat Chrysler, CEO of securities fraud

Fiat Chrysler U.S. Q3 profit falls 89% on costs for recalls

Net income declined to $70 million from $611 million a year earlier, FCA US, the parent company’s North American unit, said in a filing Thursday.

What these guides and reports sort of gloss over for towing big trailers - not the ball on the back "boats trailers" - big 24,000lb+ 5th wheels - is that one will run out of rear axle capacity in the real world long before one runs out of maximum trailer weight. That's why you see the max tow demonstrations with gooseneck trailers to keep the pin weight down on the rear axle. For example the F-450 "pickups" (even the new ones) have a relatively low rear axle capacity - 9,100 RAWR - relative to the high trailer towing rating. This issue makes the max trailer tow number, except for specially selected and loaded gooseneck trailers used for demonstration, almost impossible to use without going over the RAWR. Do the math in a real world, loaded truck situation with an air-ride hitch - tools and other necessary items in the bed. It is almost always the RAWR that limits the "pickup trucks."

@Bob if you tow 18k with an f150 from 1982 you don't have much of a brain. Most trucks have the power to pull the weight at least on flat ground but they don't have the capacity to handle that weight safely.

The problem with the new trucks is they are more powerful than some semi's on the road and people need to realize it is not a race when your trailer weighs 3-4Xs more than your truck and the trailer brakes have to be working.

I like hoiw it says with GM trucks being the exception, on the about 5000lb limit, back when I owned 2 Gm trucks, towing trailers in the 3K range, they couldnt hold up to that, so it should read, other than groceries do not use to tow/haul......

@Bob - I was following a guy in a Chevy HD on a windy back road. He was conventionally towing a dumper trailer with a load of gravel. He barely crested a hill at 20 miles per hour. On the way down the other side the idiot built up speed to around 55 mph. The downhill was fairly steep with a slight mid hill curve then a sharp 90 degree left at the bottom. The guy hammered the brakes to scrub speed and the trailer started to push his truck all over the road. Luckily there was no oncoming traffic because he wobbled into the oncoming lane.

I agree that the guy did not use common sense or any sense for that matter. The problem with common sense is that "common" implies average. The average guy does not know any of the stuff outlined in this article.

@Mark Williams - kudos on posting articles focused on cargo and tow ratings. People NEED to be educated on proper adherence to ratings.

The linked GM towing guides do NOT specify separate dead-weight towing. The chats are for weight distributing.
Skeeter- just because there are plenty of JBAs out there exercising stupid-human-overload, doesn't make it right or safe.

Mr Knowitall - agreed. People confuse good luck for skill and experience.

There is a lot of thought and engineering going into all of this. Im glad that there will be at least some standards that will include things like a full tank of fuel and 300lbs (still seems a bit light to me) of passengers and keeping the spare tire in its spot. They should probably throw in another 100lbs of miscellaneous weight (tools, emergency kits, luggage, big gulps...). I don't often see weight distributing hitches outside of the RV community. I have never seen one on a dump or equipment trailer being pulled by a pickup regardless of the pickup or what was on the trailer. Regardless the standardization should be good or the consumer. For those who are SERIOUS about doing SERIOUS towing they need to invest SERIOUS thought and do their homework regardless of their brand preference.

Interesting article Mark.

I do think the author has overstated the reasons for purchasing a pickup. The proportion of people in a 1/2 ton will be quite small that will tow to and beyond the manufacturers limits.

HDs, I can see an opportunity for overloaded vehicles.

There will always be people who overload vehicles and flout the law.

Here in Australia the individual Department of Transports across the various States and Territories tend to concentrate on vehicles with a load of over 4 tonnes to go across weigh bridges.

The Grey Nomad boom here and the thousands of old farts towing larger trailers should be investigated.

I even think the hitch wieght should be weighed against the trailer weight to ensure the trailer is loaded correctly.

Many of these old farts probably only ever owned at best a Camry size vehicle, then they step into a SUV/pickup and trailer combo that can be over 40 foot long.

From what I've witnessed the worse offenders of overloading then to be business owners and contractors, not the average person

Big Al from Oz - you speaking from what you see in Australia?

I tend to see one of two scenarios with personal use pickups - overloaded 1/2 ton trucks where the operator clearly does NOT understand gross COMBINED weight ratings or guys using HD diesel pickups towing light trailers (light for GCWR). The guys with HD's towing 5-10 k trailers drive oblivious to the mass behind them because 800 lbft diesels aren't under much stress.

Commercial pickup trucks tend NOT to be overloaded because we have Worker's Compensation Board Inspectors, and Ministry of Transport Inspectors all focused upon commercial use vehicles. On top of that any company has their own supervisory staff that also keeps an eye on safe use of vehicles as they can be held responsible for any unsafe practices that they observe and do not remedy.

Big Al from Oz - one more point - NO. I do not think the author overstated the reason why people are buying pickups.

Non-commercial personal use types will most likely give towing and hauling as a reason why they bought a pickup. That is no different than NRA types. You might not ever need to shoot someone but having the capability gives you a warm fuzzy feeling all over ;)

I spend over several months a year in the US.

Stop assuming. Most pickups never tow more than a few thousand pounds.

The authors comment is akin to one of those nostalgic views people have in Australia about the ute and the US has about the pickup.

Here every Aussie drives a V8 Holden or Ford. In the States everyone drives a pickup. So what is the ratio of utes/PU vs cars? I'd bet you'll find there are more cars/CUV/SUVs on our roads than pickups.

Just count the number of pickup vs cars first up. Then count the number of pickups towing. Then count the number of pickups that you consider towing near their max.


@loU, AGREED, I see the half tons towing fifth wheels and half tons towing over and near their ratings ALL the time. I visit campgrounds all over the country and I probly see more people this way then people who are set up the right way. Last year I witnessed a f250 pull into a campground, not to camp, but to get his broken axle fixed, he was towing a tri axle 42' fifth wheel, the funny part was, when a bunch of us offered help, this poor guy couldn't understand why this happened, I said right away, this camper is waaaay to heavy for that truck, he replied, "But the dealer added air bags and said I would be ok." Classic.

@Big Al, you must not get out much, or Australia is weird

The Titan is rated for 950lbs of tongue weight. The 500/5000lbs is for slapping a ball on the step bumper.

I think that as long as someone doesn't drive like an idiot, they will be fine when towing at (or even over) their pickup's limits.

That said, my dad recently sold his 53' triple axle race trailer. He pulled it with one of his semi trucks. The guy that bought it showed up to get it with (and intends to tow it with) a 1-ton Fiat... .

I like hoiw it says with GM trucks being the exception, on the about 5000lb limit, back when I owned 2 Gm trucks, towing trailers in the 3K range, they couldnt hold up to that, so it should read, other than groceries do not use to tow/haul......

Posted by: Nitro | Nov 9, 2015 10:20:05 AM

Did you read the same article I did? The author said GM was the exception because they can handle MORE than the 500/5000 limits, not less.

These charts and a number of the comments show why these extreme trailer weights bragged about in advertising and promo materials are pointless. If I needed to tow something that weighed 30,000 pounds net of cargo and trailer, nothing short of a Class 6 truck would be in front of it. Stopping a load is far more important than blasting uphill because you have 860-900 pound-feet of diesel torque in a pickup truck.

@BARFo - once again you ain't comprehending. I pointed out that if you ask someone why they are buying a truck and they will say to tow or haul or both. In many cases it is "JUST IN CASE" they need to tow or haul.

You didn't even understand my NRA metaphor.

RoadTrip - unscrupulous and/or ignorant sales staff whether they be selling RV's or pickups focus on the maximum advertised numbers. When I bought my F150 the salesman was clueless to capacity or towing but he was real slick at showing how to adjust the seats or deploy the manstep.

Off topic,but here's the numbers on GM's diesel twins:

Get your neanderthall @zz off of Big Al's.

You work for the UAW of Canadian hospitals.

Ever since you been on Big Al's back over his on midsizers vs full sizers.

Why? Like we stated FORD DOESN'T have a midsizer in the US or Canada. GM, Toyota, Nissan all have one.

To all who really care about this site.
Here is a copy of an email I just sent to Mark Williams.

I have been in constant touch with him to try and track down the $hithead who's destroying this site. Maybe 25% or less of what has been posted on this site is credible.

I have speculated certain people on this site because of the views they had held, but not all of them are the 'culprit/s'.

The site was good up until a couple of months ago, then it has turned to $hit (see Lou's attacks on Big Al.) Big Al has not had any support from anyone.

From what I gather you guys don't want to talk about trucks and differences in trucks. You guys argue over 1hp or 1/2 longer bed.

I understand loyalty, but these are only trucks.

An interest of mine has been economics, as you can tell by some of my writing.

I wish luck to the guys who saw what was going on and not blaming me. Try and keep this site going.

For your information, Big Al is involved in the aviation industry in the mechanical side of the business and he specialises in many areas from engines (all types), hydraulics, ECS (pressurisation & A/C), flight controls (including fast jet, supersonic flight), fuel systems, brakes/landing gears etc. Economics and the transport industry are his hobbies along with travel.

Big Al did offer and had a lot to offer until recently. Now Big Al being laughed off the site (thanks to Lou and others), sorry.

They succeeded.

LouBS-You really are a jerkoff.

"Now Big Al being laughed off the site"


Don't need to be in healthcare to spot that one!

@ Big Al from Oz Support Team

I guess BAFO needs his big brother to help? hahahahahahahahaha

GO AWAY. You can't even have your own name other then by adding 'support team' hahahahahaha What a joke just like BAFO himself.

@Mark Williams
That is why something like this has a bumper tow of 8,000lbs and a 5ver rating of 23,000lbs

@Mark Williams - kudos on posting articles focused on cargo and tow ratings. People NEED to be educated on proper adherence to ratings.

Posted by: Lou_BC | Nov 9, 2015 10:28:29 AM

Nice, I didn't notice Ram Trucks mentioned in the article are the only brand across the board with SAEJ2807 Certified Best in class towing Numbers :-)
Ford can still use their magic spring dust on payload.

Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for GM's pickup lines, said the automaker won't engage in a towing arms race "that is meaningless to 99.9 percent of customers" and will instead focus on "capability and confidence while towing."

Wilkinson said the average heavy-duty customer tows about 9,000 pounds, giving consumers a wide choice of heavy haulers. GM has instead focused on integrating cruise control, powertrain grade braking and its diesel exhaust brake to make it easier to climb and descend steep grades while towing.

"As long as the specs meet your needs, the other stuff is what really counts," Wilkinson said. GM plans to comply with the J2807 towing standard for its heavy-duty pickup ratings for the 2016 model year, Wilkinson said.

Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for GM's pickup lines, said the automaker won't engage in a towing arms race "that is meaningless to 99.9 percent of customers" and will instead focus on "capability and confidence while towing."

Wasn't it the Ram 1500 who won the handling test on this site with a thousand pounds in the bed?



Do i need all that capability of the A.E.V. RAM Prospector?
Decisions, Decisions.........

Doesn't Ford and Chevy rate their trucks towing numbers without the bumper??????

Can a Ram haul or tow anything other than groceries from Wal-Mart????????

@ Ray RAy, you missed the point of what I was saying, yes the article says they can tow more, my point was, in the 2 trucks I owned from GM, towing much less than that and they couldnt handle it, so they should tell people they can handle X amount if they actually cant

I would bet any amount of money that Nitro has never owned a GM product. This pointless bashing has got too stop.

Ok, Nitro. I did miss that. But, I wonder how relevant a comparison of an older GM product is to a new one, considering we are talking about TODAY's towing capabilities. It just seems like a baseless bash on GM, which may have been your intention?

Nitro, when i was younger, I worked for an equipment rental company. The delivery truck was a 2006 gmc sierra 1500 single cab, long box 4x4 with the 4.8 vortec. The truck had to have timbren blocks put under the axles because of the load behind it. Hooked behind it was a big tex tilt trailer that i'm sure was over 3,000 pounds by itself. Every day this truck/trailer combo would haul either mini excavators and skid steers to job sites with that equipment being over 9000 pounds. Since the day that truck was new, the trailer has never been off the back of this truck, (unless it needed a car wash). That rig accumulated over 220K miles before it was retired to just being the parts runner. Was the truck underpowered, yes. Was the truck overloaded, HELL YES. But the fact that it did it all those years without ever needing anything more than brakes, tune ups and some front wheel hub assembles was pretty impressive if you ask me. I dont believe one bit what you are saying about GM trucks not being able to handle 3000 pounds.

@RAy Ray, not really a bash, after having all the issues I had with GM products(cars too), I would not buy another half ton or car/suv, unless it was a 2500/3500, as I almost bought one of those but went with the F250, but really liked the duramax/allison combo and still would buy one of those, but I am the type that when I buy a truck I drive them all and then decide which one I like at the time, by the next time I buy since they all change so much, then its all open again, its actually more fun that way then being the brand lover and only going for that one vehicle, but as far as my 98 silverado and 01 Silverado, yes they towed 3 K fine, but after many tranny issues and front brakes on both, that was the end for me.

@Evan, everyone has the my GM or FOrd or DOge story that towed eveything and many miles with no issues, but in my experience, that was not the case, after 2 same trucks, and same issues I moved on again, my own experience

@HemiV8 - In the light duty V8 challenge this is what PUTC had o say about the 4th (FOURTH) Place Ram:

"Ram lost most of its points was in its limited payload, braking numbers and the ride quality of the air suspension when towing or loaded."

What where the cargo ratings of that Ram Rebel PUTC recently tested?

you need to work on comprehension - this story does mention Ram. They are in 4th place on the list.

Oh, that 4th place number shows up once again.

If you want a pickup and expect it to do some work buy a GM or Ford truck.
If you want car like ride and don't ever expect to do anything more than play, buy a Ram.

I wonder when HemiV8 will turn this into a recall spam war?


Do i need all that capability of the A.E.V. RAM Prospector?
Decisions, Decisions.........
Posted by: HEMI V8 | Nov 10, 2015 2:45:54 AM

Try working like normal people and make you'll get one in a few years. If you can post online, and off-road at Pismo Beach, you can be working. Living off govn't welfare and scamming tax payers and companies for disability is not the right thing to do and is fraud.

I wonder when HemiV8 will turn this into a recall spam war?

Posted by: Lou_BC | Nov 10, 2015 10:39:06 AM

Nope Ford has 1st place. They have already won that war.

Try comprehending this.

"Wilkinson said the average heavy-duty customer tows about 9,000 pounds, " (2500 H.D.)

2500 customers. What are you towing Lou a motor cycle trailer?

Fords tow numbers are on sea level ground for their 1/2 ton H.D. You can kid yourself on towing 10,000 plus in your Ford I do tow heavy and I am getting an H.D. Just like the majority who tows.

"The winner of the empty autocross was the Ram 1500, with a time of 46.0 seconds. Our test driver made note of how well the suspension was able to dive and hold the corners and keep the rear end controlled better than any other in the test, especially in tight hard-right, hard-left transitions."

With the 1,000 pounds of strapped-down sandbags in the bed, we ran the trucks through the course again. This time around, each of the competitors was typically around 1.5 seconds slower, with the exception of the Nissan Titan, which was actually faster by 0.3 seconds. The only way our tester could explain it was by describing how frustrating each of his Titan runs were with its aggressive traction control. The faster time during the loaded run is probably explained by the greater traction capability of the rear tires coming out of corners.

In first place after the loaded runs, the Ram posted a loaded best time of 47.1 seconds. This time, it was Ford in second place with a time of 48.5, and the Chevy came in third again with a time of 48.8.

I didn't see auto cross on the latest test?

What was that about comprehension? DUH! EH!

"Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for GM's pickup lines, said the automaker won't engage in a towing arms race "that is meaningless to 99.9 percent of customers" and will instead focus on "capability and confidence while towing."


"The Ram also had higher top speeds up the steepest grades, handled the heavy loads with more control, and kept the drivers more comfortable and less stressed."

HemiV8 - ever consider stand up comedy?

Maybe one day Ram will be used in the same sentence with the words durability and capability.

And maybe one day FCA will be mentioned in business without their CEO talking about the need for merger or bailout.

And maybe someday Ram will be once again an American company.

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