Trucks have an amazing tow capability, something that is emphasized by ads that boast how much the vehicles can pull. And after watching a few demonstrations of remarkable feats such as dragging a massive RV down the country roads, you are often left wondering what your truck can handle.
I did some research to find out about the biggest trailer they can pull, and that is what this post is about.
What is the Biggest Camper You Can Pull with a Half Ton Truck?
So, what is the biggest trailer you can pull with your full-sized truck? A modern full-size truck can tow up to about 9,000 lbs to 10,000 lbs. You can also tow the 10,000-lb trailers, but only if you equip your truck with a powerful engine, tow package, and other equipment.
Keep in mind that what you can tow can be significantly reduced if you own or purchase a truck with lots of weight-adding features. The same goes if you plan to carry a lot of passengers or load while you tow. Of course, you can jump right to having one of those reliable trucks for towing to skip the hassle.
Before we delve into details about how the maximum tow rating of your truck is affected by several factors, let us first understand what the term itself means.
What is a Half-Ton Truck?
The moniker is derived from a unit of measurement where one ton is equal to 2,000 pounds. A half a ton truck, therefore, is 1,000 pounds. This can easily be misconstrued to mean the weight of the truck. No. Most of the trucks in this category can weigh up to 11,000 lbs, depending on various models.
The term is the truck’s payload capacity, that is, how much weight your truck can carry, including the passengers, the cargo packed in its bed, as well as the tongue weight. It is often common knowledge among truck owners that this type of truck can carry a maximum of 1,000 lbs in cargo. This might have been the case in the early days of pickup trucks. Technology has changed things and trucks have outgrown the old categories.
Historically, pickup trucks fell into three categories, including those that carry up to 1,000 lbs in the first category, the three-quarter trucks in the second category with 1,500 lbs, and the third category belonging to pickup trucks that haul a full 2,000 pounds.
But with the advancement in technology, trucks have received serious upgrades and tow packages that allow them to tow way more than what the paper says.
That said, if you’ve ever come across another term “half-ton towable,” then before you confuse it with something else, it refers to tows that can theoretically be pulled by your full-sized truck or any other towing vehicle.
What Features Affect the Tow Size You Can Pull with Your Truck?
Apart from the payload capacity, if you are looking at towing the biggest trailer there is with your truck, it is highly recommended that you consider:
• Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
The GVWR refers to a combination of the truck’s weight with the maximum allowable weight for passengers and other cargo. Usually, you can check for this rating on the driver’s doorjamb. But remember that the dry weight – the trailer’s weight – is not included in the GVWR. The tongue weight, however, is indicated.
• Gross combined weight rating (GCWR)
The GCWR is a term used to refer to the total weight a truck can handle when fully packed – that is including passengers, cargo, and other equipment. This information, unlike the GVWR, isn’t found on your truck’s driver’s doorjamb, but rather on the official website of the manufacturer of your model under the towing section.
• Trailer tongue weight
The tongue weight of a trailer is also referred to as the tongue load. It refers to the amount of downward force your trailer exerts on your truck’s hitch ball, that is, the part that holds the trailer and ensures it remains in place while you tow.
The tongue weight of your trailer should be between 10 and 15 percent of the trailer’s total weight. For example, if you are looking at towing the maximum towable capacity for your pickup truck, say 10,000 lbs., the tongue weight should range between 1,000 lbs. and 1500 lbs.
Normally, if your truck is rated high enough to handle heavy trailers, then it means that it can handle the amount of pressure the trailer exerts on the hitch. I should remind you, however, that the tongue load of your trailer must be added to your truck’s payload. So, the above 1,000 to 1,500 lbs. should be added to your truck’s gross vehicle weight.
While considering your truck’s payload capacity, also remember that the tongue load of your trailer can limit the number of people you can carry in the cab and how much cargo the bed can accommodate.
• The Length of the Trailer
Since we have already established that it is entirely possible to tow up to 10,000-lb trailers with an optimized pickup truck, it is worth noting that the trailer’s length plays a huge role in its drivability. The trailer might be lightweight, but if it is unusually long, it will be more vulnerable to crosswinds and other weather conditions. This consideration is also a plus in terms of where you want to visit. Camper Report puts forth that an ideal trailer that will fit most state parks and campgrounds should have a combined length of 35 feet.
PRO TIP: Ensure that the trailer sits on a good level at the hitch. This is because the hitch height can affect the trailer’s tongue weight as well as how efficient your truck’s braking ability remains. If your trailer’s downward force on the hitch causes your truck to sit too low at the back, the front wheels will be affected. Their ability to brake, steer properly, and offer traction is greatly hampered, and this can cause some serious damage to the suspension. On the other hand, if the tongue weight is too little, which isn’t much of a problem if you are towing a heavy load, your trailer is bound to fishtail or sway.
That said, if you are hoping to tow as much weight as you can with your truck, which some truck enthusiasts can easily achieve with heavy modifications, engine, and equipment upgrades, the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) should not exceed 26,000 lbs. It is illegal in the US and can only be allowed if you have a Class A commercial driver’s license.
How Do You Ensure That Your Trailer is a Good Match for Your Pickup Truck?
If you are familiar with what your truck can do, as well as the weight of the trailer you are looking to pull, it is time to do some calculations. The last thing you need is to find out that your trailer isn’t a good match for your truck. And while there are a lot of factors to consider, the math to making sure that your truck hasn’t deviated way above its GVWR and that the GCWR hasn’t exceeded the maximum allowable limit is pretty straightforward.
Here’s a practical example:
Let’s assume that your trailer weight is 10,000 pounds, your truck’s GVWR is 7,000 pounds, and its weight before the added load is 5,500 pounds. Now, assuming the occupants are two, having a combined weight of 300 pounds, and you have an extra cargo of 100 pounds, trailer hitch essentials weighing 75 pounds, and a trailer tongue load of 1,000 pounds (10 percent of the trailer’s total weight), the calculation to ensuring your truck doesn’t exceed its limits will be calculated by adding the tow vehicle weight and the total payload as follows:
Vehicle weight before payload (5,500 lb.) + Total Payload (1,475 lb.) = 6,975 lb.
The total payload includes a sum weight of the occupants, the cargo, the hitch equipment, and the tongue weight).
The resulting figure is just slightly below your truck’s 7,000 lbs. GVWR. And from this example, you can see that you can easily exceed the limits of your vehicle’s payload when towing. To ensure that your truck stays within safe limits, it is recommended that you leave behind some cargo, especially if you are towing close to the maximum figure.
As is the case with some people, you might be tempted to skip this part since it can be a little confusing and might take the fun out of your packing. Fortunately, there are several towing and trailering resources online. Plus, some manufacturers such as the makers of RAM trucks have a dedicated web section that will help you get the hauling info effortlessly by simply typing in their vehicle identification number.
What Other Factors Affect the Trailers My Pickup Truck Can Pull?
While the weight is everything in considering the type of trailer your full-sized truck can pull, there are other factors that will affect how much you can tow.
• Engine size and the transmission
There are different types of engines available for towing trucks. Most come with four-cylinder or V6 engines, with the latter carried by full-sized trucks. Some of them are turbocharged for better capabilities. While many people would look at the V8 engines as the best hitters, the truth is, some turbo V6 engines can produce more torque and power when it comes to towing.
Most of the Ford F-150s, for instance, comes with a 2.7l V6 engine that can tow up to 9,000 lbs. if properly equipped for the purpose. Better yet, you can upgrade it with a 3.5l V6 turbocharged engine to tow the maximum 13,200 lbs. This is because the 3.5l engine comes with 470 pounds-feet of torque.
However, other trucks such as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, have the highest towing capacity in their category with the largest available V8 engine.
• Cab Size and bed length
Trucks are often ordered depending on their cab and bed lengths. These lengths vary from one model to another, but they range from five feet to slightly over eight feet. In my research, I found out that the highest tow capacity is achieved with an extended cab. However, other trucks defy the odds such as the Nissan Titan XD, which can tow a maximum of 11,000 pounds with just a crew cab and a 6.5-foot-long bed! The Ford F-150 also clocks the max tow capacity with the same configurations.
• Wheel configuration
For some truck owners, sacrificing the 4WD configuration for an RWD version – which often tows more than their 4WD counterparts – is out of the question. The catch here is the traction and is, especially the case if you want to haul the largest trailer you’ve got. Compared to a 2WD, 4WD trucks are especially ideal for those who are looking to drive on snowy roads or slippery and muddy places.
• Gear ratio
By gear ratio, I mean the axle ratio. If it is geared low, or shorter, then it is suitable for towing tasks since you can easily access your truck’s engine power. This will help you get moving in no time even on steep slopes. But bear in mind that at a short axle ratio, your engine will run at high RPM, especially on the highway, and if you are mindful about its fuel economy, it won’t be ideal.
For example, the RAM 1500 truck, the 2020 version with a 5.7 V8 engine, and a crew cab is equipped with a 3.21 axle ratio. If you choose the lower axle ratio, 3.92, the tow rating leaps from 8,240 lbs. to 11,340 lbs. That is quite a bang for towing!
All things considered, if you own a truck like the 2021 Nissan Titan or the Dodge Ram 1500 and cannot afford heavy-duty trucks like the Ford F-250 or any other comparable models, then you are better off towing a trailer with a maximum of 10,000 lbs., although in some instances you will need engine upgrade and other towing packages.
I have also discussed most of the considerations you should make to help you tow the biggest trailer you can without exceeding the acceptable weight limits. I now hope you better understand which trailer is the perfect match for your truck so that you can pull with ease.