Heavy-duty, full-size pickup trucks are the undisputed kings of towing, with some claiming tow ratings over 30,000 pounds. But light-duty full-size trucks (often called half-ton trucks) are less expensive, cheaper to maintain, and often more comfortable. What’s more, many feature enough towing capacity to get most jobs done. Here is the maximum towing capacity and corresponding configuration for each of the six half-ton pickup trucks available in the U.S.
|Make and Model||Max Towing Capacity||Configuration|
|Ford F-150||14,000 pounds||3.5-liter EcoBoost V6|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500||13,300 pounds||3.0-liter turbodiesel, double cab, 2WD, max trailering package, and 20-inch wheels|
|GMC Sierra 1500||13,000 pounds||3.0-liter turbodiesel, double cab, 4WD, max trailering package, and 20-inch wheels|
|Ram 1500||12,750 pounds||5.7-liter HEMI V8 with eTorque|
|Toyota Tundra||12,000 pounds||2WD SR5 with the tow package|
|Nissan Titan||9,320 pounds||King Cab 4×2|
The Ford F-150 EcoBoost has a maximum towing capacity of 14,000 pounds
The current king of the towing hill is Ford‘s turbocharged V6, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost. The durable EcoBoost can sip gas most of the time and make big power when you need it. This engine has won over many fans of “America’s Favorite Truck.” This is even the engine powering the current generation of the Ford F-150 Raptor, paired with the new Ford 10-speed automatic transmission.
So how does a truck with a turbocharger (a technology historically prone to overheating) pass thermal management towing tests such as the punishing Davis Dam test in the desert of Arizona? Ford designed its EcoBoost engine family with cooling in mind. This is why it plumbed the engine’s water cooling system into the turbocharger as well. The result has proven itself to be as durable as any modern engine.
General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 can tow 13,000 pounds
General Motors sells both the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500. Because these half-ton trucks are mechanically identical, most of their specs are the same. But Chevrolet advertises a maximum Silverado 1500 towing capacity of 13,300 pounds. GMC, on the other hand, only advertises a 13,0000-pound tow rating for its Sierra 1500.
What the truck is going on here? Automakers advertise a maximum tow rating based on the pickup truck configuration they choose to test. Chevy chose to test a Silverado 1500 with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel and its max trailering package and 2WD. It claims it can get the same towing capacity from the RST 4WD with its 6.2-liter V8.
GMC, on the other hand, chose to test its 3.0-liter turbodiesel, 4WD configuration and only achieved 13,000 pounds–likely because of the extra weight of the 4WD system. Why? Probably so GMC could advertise the best-in-class 4WD diesel tow rating.
The Ram 1500 can tow 12,750 pounds with its HEMI V8
One of the most storied engines in Ram’s powertrain lineup is the 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The HEMI engine dates back to 1951 and is named for its hemispherical combustion chambers. Its unsurprising that Ram leveraged a HEMI V8 to set the latest 1500’s maximum towing capacity.
Each of the Detroit Three usually reclaims the highest towing capacity award with each new generation. Then the two other manufacturers complete a redesign with better engine cooling and leapfrog ahead for a few years. It was only a few years ago that Ram released its fifth-generation 1500 (2019). But General Motors also introduced its fourth-generation Silverado in 2019 and Ford launched its 14th-generation F-150 for the 2021 model year.
When it comes to maximum towing capacity, the F-150 is the current half-ton pickup truck to beat. But it’s likely that either General Motors or Ram will take that number one spot with their next redesign.