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Say you’re shopping for a new pickup truck and want one that’s capable of towing a reasonable amount of weight. Fortunately, there are several pickups on the market today that boast impressive maximum towing capacities. But how do you actually choose the best pickup for your towing and hauling needs? Let’s find out.

A white pickup truck towing a camper
Truck towing 5th wheel camper. | Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Understanding how much towing capacity you really need

The good news is that understanding how much towing capacity you actually need is fairly simple. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, once you understand how much you need to tow overall, finding the right pickup satisfying your towing and hauling needs is surprisingly simple.

Consider what you actually plan on towing. Will you be towing a small trailer? Or a more sizeable RV? If you plan on towing things like dirt bikes and lawnmowers, U.S. News & World Report recommends sticking with a light-duty pickup truck. Take, for example, the 2021 Ford Ranger, which boasts a maximum towing capacity of 7,500-pounds.

But if you need a truck that can tow, say a boat? Then you might want to consider a full-size truck, including the 2021 Ram 1500 and the 2021 Chevy Silverado. While this year’s Ram 1500 can tow up to 12,750-pounds, the 2021 Chevy Silverado boasts a maximum towing capacity of 13,300-pounds.

The 2021 Ram 1500 towing a boat
2021 Ram 1500 Limited | Stellantis

The difference between a light-duty and a heavy-duty truck

Now, according to Autotrader, while some light-duty pickup trucks can tow upwards of 10,000-pounds, if you need a serious amount of towing power, you might want to consider a heavy-duty truck instead. The most well-known heavy-duty pickups include both the Ford F-250 and the Ford F-350, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and Silverado 3500, and the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500.

According to Autotrader, many heavy-duty pickups will have you towing more than 20,000-pounds. Several heavy-duty trucks boast payload capacities well over 6,500 pounds too, which Autotrader says will have you hauling pretty much anything that can fit in the truck’s bed.

Choosing between a gas engine or a diesel-powered pickup 

Let’s talk engine options. Most pickups these days offer a range of engine options to choose from. Depending on the pickup of your choosing, you might even have the opportunity to choose a pickup with either a gas or diesel engine under the hood. But how do you actually choose? 

It all depends. While diesel pickup trucks are typically more fuel-efficient and are sometimes the best option for towing, diesel trucks tend to be more expensive and often have higher ownership costs. For some pickup shoppers, that could be a deal-breaker.

Do you need a new pickup or can a used model do the job?

When it comes to buying the best pickup for your towing needs, you might think buying a new pickup truck is the best option. According to Consumer Reports, that’s not necessarily wrong. After all, buying a new pickup means you know exactly what you’re getting and gives you the opportunity to choose the best truck for satisfying your towing needs.

That being said, buying a new truck can make for an expensive endeavor. Not to mention, new trucks depreciate fairly quickly. So if you’re looking to save rather than spend? You might want to consider a used truck instead.

“One of the best strategies is to find a pickup truck that’s only a few years old. It has already taken a big depreciation hit but should still have most of its useful life ahead of it. Modern pickup trucks, if soundly maintained, can stay on the road for 200,000 miles or longer.”

Consumer Reports

Don’t pick a truck based on towing capacity alone

Towing capacity isn’t all you should be considering when shopping for a new truck. Consider what trim levels a truck is available in, along with what features it has to offer too. After all, chances are you’ll be spending a good amount of time behind the wheel of your next truck. 


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