1 Compact, Unibody Pickup Truck Is Officially a Half-Ton

Most of the full-size, light-duty pickup trucks in the half-ton class are very similar. The Detroit Three’s models feature full ladder frames and available V8 engines. But one entry into this segment is very different: the compact, unibody, Honda Ridgeline AWD is officially a half-ton truck.

What class is the Honda Ridgeline AWD?

The government classifies trucks based on their Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or the combined weight of the truck and its maximum payload. With a GVWR of 6,019 pounds, the AWD Honda Ridgeline fits into Class 2a alongside the F-150 and GM and Ram’s 1500s.

Advertising photo of the front of a compact Honda Ridgline pickup truck as it drives through the mountains.
2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD Package) | Honda

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Most pickups advertised as compact and midsize fit into the official “Class 1” lightweight truck category. This class includes every truck with a GVWR below 6,000 pounds. Pickups in this category include the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, and Nissan Frontier. This category also includes the FWD Honda Ridgeline which has a GVWR of 5,710 pounds.

But if you configure your Honda Ridgeline with AWD, the added powertrain weight and payload capacity bumps it into the next class. The 2022 Ridgeline AWD offers a GVWR of 6,019 pounds. This officially puts the Ridgeline in the 6001+ pound “Class 2a” along with all the half-ton trucks.

Is the Honda Ridgeline AWD actually a half-ton truck?

The Honda Ridgeline AWD’s 6,019 pound GVWR legally bumps it into Class 2a, alongside the F-150 and the 1500s. That said, the Ridgeline AWD’s GVWR and capabilities are still a long way from the half-ton trucks in class 2a. It targets a different market segment and has never been marketed as a half-ton.

Promo photo of a white Honda Ridgeline pickup truck driving down a desert road, mountains visible in the background.
2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD Package) | Honda

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Market forces tend to make vehicles in the same segment more alike than different. The half-ton truck segment includes the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan, and Toyota Tundra. These full-size, light-duty trucks all are a similar size and leverage similar technology and construction techniques. The Ridgeline is engineered to meet a very different need.

While most half-ton trucks offer a 10,000+ pound maximum towing capacity, the Ridgeline’s maximum towing capacity is just 5,000 pounds. And while some other half-ton trucks offer payload capacities over 2,000 pounds, the Ridgeline can’t haul more than 1,600 pounds.

Few pickup fans would label the Honda Ridgeline a half-ton truck

A dog in the bed of a compact pickup truck, parked with mountains in the background.
Dog in a compact pickup truck | Guilherme Stecanella via Unsplash

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The Honda Ridgeline is a unibody vehicle with a relatively low payload and towing capacity. But that is not the only reason it is a non-starter for many half-ton truck buyers.

Many truck buyers prefer body-on-frame construction. This is because pickup trucks with full ladder frames are easier to lift and modify. In addition, you can replace the entire frame on a rusty truck and thus it may last longer than a unibody truck. But instead of body-on-frame construction, the Ridgeline shares a unibody chassis with the Honda Pilot SUV.

Even though the AWD Ridgeline belongs in truck Class 2a, and might technically be a half-ton pickup, you won’t hear many truck fans call it that.

Honda seems to know the limitations of the Ridgeline: it has never advertised its pickup, even the AWD variant, as a half-ton pickup truck. While “Class 2a” is an official classification, the phrase “half-ton” is actually a slang and marketing phrase for the full-size, light-duty truck segment. It likely dates back to pickup marketing language used to target WWII veterans in the 1950s. You can read up on the history of the half-ton truck.

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