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Old 08-26-2016, 02:02 AM   #1
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How Much Truck Do You Need?

Steve, a friend of mine was over this afternoon, and following business, our conversation fell to my recently purchased Avion. Steve is a carpenter and drives an immaculate ‘98 diesel F-350 which serves as both work truck and daily driver. Last he knew, I was driving a Ford minivan, so he wondered how it could tow 4 tons of aluminum with it. I told him I traded it for a Sequoia, which still left him mildly puzzled. He’s seen Toyotas hitched to trailers, but didn’t know if they were any good at towing. He shrugged that of course his diesel F-350 could pull anything. I said yes, his truck could pull a large trailer “easier” but not necessarily “better”. He didn’t see the difference between “better” and “easier”. I quickly saw I was wasting my breath making the point.

It’s been a bit of an eye opener to see so many truck owners think payload and towing capacity are the same thing. Sure, in broad terms, heavy duty trucks pull more than light trucks, and can carry a heavier load. But there’s so much more to trailer towing than heavy duty springs.

A common conversation sounds like this: “We’ve been pulling our popup with a ½ ton Ford, but we’re trading up to a 22’, so we need a ¾ ton Chevy. Unless we get that good deal on the 26’, then we’re getting a Ram diesel dually.” This follows the same logic: “Wife is pregnant with our third child, so we’re trading in the minivan for a 12 passenger van. But if it’s twins, we’re getting a 15 passenger.” Like I told Steve, it may be easier, but it’s not better.

So this evening I gathered some factoids from Google. These are all subject to correction, but since the source was the same for all, there were no favorites. If I slighted your truck, likely I slighted your rival’s truck too.

Every model truck has a variety of stated capacities. Ex. Ford F-150 towing capacity ranges from 5,000 to 10,400 lbs (wide range!!), depending on engine, transmission, radiator, etc. For all models, I used the highest number, assuming it was best equipped to tow an Airstream. DO NOT use these numbers as indicators of your truck’s capacity! Check your owner’s manual!

There are some surprises in this list. If not, I would not have bothered to create this post. There are no diesel trucks here. Not because they are not abundantly capable, but in all cases, the weight of the diesel engine reduced the truck’s stated capacity by 200-500 lbs. Likewise, 4X4s lose carrying capacity due to the increased weight of their hardware. I’m well aware of the pleasure of a torquey diesel engine. I’ve owned and driven several of them over the years (onramp whiplash). But on this list we are going for maximum numbers given by the manufactures. If they say a gasser has greater pulling capacity, we’ll follow it for the sake of comparison. Argue that point with ALL the manufacturers, not me. There’s more to trailer towing than torque.

2017 Airstream Classic 30 is the longest/heaviest trailer made by Airstream today. Dry weight 7365, GVWR 10,000, hitch 773. Dry weight plus 1,000 lbs of food, water, clothing and toys is still within the towing ability of all these trucks. GVWR exceeds only two of them.


Here is a list of all the major full size pickups sold in America today in order of greatest to least maximum towing capacity. I have also included payload numbers. As you can see, the connection between payload and towing capacity is only incidental. (BTW, 25’ and 26’ Airstreams have absurdly high hitch weights: 837 and 903 lbs, widely out of balance with their total weights. Plan accordingly!)


Chevy 2500..........14,500 lbs.....3,559 lbs
Chevy 3500..........13,800 lbs.....6,288 lbs
Ford F-250 F-350..12,500 lbs.....4,267 lbs - 4,477 lbs (tie)
Nissan Titan..........12,310 lbs.....2,589 lbs
Ram 3500.............11,910 lbs.....4,476 lbs
Ram 2500.............11,890 lbs.....3,060 lbs
Toyota Tundra.......10,500 lbs.....2,060 lbs
Ford F-150............10,400 lbs.....2,320 lbs
Chevy 1500.............9,400 lbs.....1,990 lbs
Ram 1500...............8,780 lbs.....1,933 lbs
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Old 08-26-2016, 02:19 AM   #2
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A couple obvious surprises are that the Chevy 2500 tows 700 lbs more than the 3500, even though the 3500 payload is 2729 lbs more.

The only difference between F-250 and F-350 is 210 lbs payload? Is that all???

Nissan tows more than Ram. Period.

Ram 3500 pulls 20 lbs more than 2500.
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Old 08-26-2016, 02:37 AM   #3
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The ram 3500 can pull up to 32000 lbs if properly equipped. The ford 3500 is close to there too. It all varies in how it's equipped. My 1500 pulls my 25 ft great, yes it's very close to its axle rating when fully loaded but that's ok.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:25 AM   #4
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I believe the initial problem is the source of your information - Google.... There are many errors in the data because you don't know if the information google provides is showing specs for the base engine, larger engine, gear ratio, cab or bed configuration. These numbers could be all over the place.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:29 AM   #5
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Diesel engines throw everything off. Buying a three quarter or one ton with a gas engine is counter productive.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:48 AM   #6
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In all fairness to the original poster, manufacturers do seem to make the question of capacity a difficult subject to get a handle on. As a rule, within a model, the more complex, the more options, doors, drive axels etc chosen the lower the ratings go. In other words, a short, 2 door, 2 wheel drive truck within a model line tends to have more capacity than a quad cab 4x4 within the same model. Simply due to the fact that the weight of the additional cab space, frame, drive system all combines to a substantial number that gets subtracted from the total capacity. This is why you see 1500 quad cabs with 4 wheel drive in high trim groups with 1000 or less load capacity. Same thing with 2500's for that matter. We went chasing load capacity doe to everything we routinely haul in the bed of our truck. I also wanted a comfortable ride, nice cabin, great seats and a diesel. We ended up with an air suspension 2500 Ram and it has become my all time favorite vehicle. We drive it when we have to head into Boston in morning traffic just because it is so comfortable and it offers such a commanding view of the road! My wife's Audi SQ5 is an awesome vehicle but my truck is getting more miles on it this summer...
By the way, we about doubled our load capacity over the F150 when we went to the RAM to just over 2000 pounds. It is true, we don't need the tow rating for our Bambi but the rig feels much better once we load everything in the bed that we travel with.
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Old 08-26-2016, 07:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avionstream View Post
Diesel engines throw everything off. Buying a three quarter or one ton with a gas engine is counter productive.
I would have to disagree with that statement. I know several pipeline contractors who have jumped back into big gas engines due to the duty cycle of the vehicle they use. Many do a lot of short distances, lots of idling, workers who beat the snot out of the vehicle and they were bitten by the expensive diesel emissions bug. Modern diesels don't perform well under this duty cycle without expensive maintenance to the emission systems.

I believe the original poster stated that he was trying to compare specs on gas engine vehicles.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:01 AM   #8
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I swore I would never enter another one of these endless tow vehicle debates, but I cannot stop myself. None of these towing capacity numbers are any good unless your "standards" for performance are the same as the SAE J2807 standard upon which they are based.

Zero-to-60 in 30 seconds is nowhere near my standard for acceptable or safe acceleration. Try entering a freeway on an uphill ramp, or crossing a busy highway, with a 40'-50' long rig that accelerates slower than a 1950's VW bug.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:23 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by field & stream View Post
I swore I would never enter another one of these endless tow vehicle debates, but I cannot stop myself. None of these towing capacity numbers are any good unless your "standards" for performance are the same as the SAE J2807 standard upon which they are based.

Zero-to-60 in 30 seconds is nowhere near my standard for acceptable or safe acceleration. Try entering a freeway on an uphill ramp, or crossing a busy highway, with a 40'-50' long rig that accelerates slower than a 1950's VW bug.
You are so correct!
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by field & stream View Post
I swore I would never enter another one of these endless tow vehicle debates, but I cannot stop myself. None of these towing capacity numbers are any good unless your "standards" for performance are the same as the SAE J2807 standard upon which they are based.

Zero-to-60 in 30 seconds is nowhere near my standard for acceptable or safe acceleration. Try entering a freeway on an uphill ramp, or crossing a busy highway, with a 40'-50' long rig that accelerates slower than a 1950's VW bug.

That's how I feel pulling my 29" AS with a 4.6ltr F150. Just short on power when towing.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:37 AM   #11
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It seems to me that everyone puts way to much thought into the numbers. Look at your vehicle CGVWR. Does that cover the truck, cargo and trailer? If so you're good. If not, get a bigger truck. If you have a 1/2 ton truck, you will need a WD system to distribute the weight properly.
With that said the only trailer with WD that I own is the AS, its not needed with my other trailers even though they can carry the same weight its not needed as I can move the load around to center the weight.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:40 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by field & stream View Post

Zero-to-60 in 30 seconds is nowhere near my standard for acceptable or safe acceleration. Try entering a freeway on an uphill ramp, or crossing a busy highway, with a 40'-50' long rig that accelerates slower than a 1950's VW bug.
You should drive one of my Mack's. We would be tickled pink with acceleration like that.
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:44 AM   #13
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You should drive one of my Mack's. We would be tickled pink with acceleration like that.
Acceleration?


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So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:58 AM   #14
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Everyone's different, the numbers are only a starting point.

We know how much truck we need based on towing our present Airstream all over the country many times the past five years with our Reg Cab Ram Hemi. We are out 6-7 months a year without a need for much gear in the truck bed and the Airstream loads well-balanced. The coil spring suspension and ProPride hitch provide a very smooth and stable ride for us and our Airstream, and a shorter wheelbase provides great maneuverability.

So when we bought a new one early this year we stayed with the Ram 1500, but added two more seating positions for the occasional extra passenger, 3.92 axle ratio for towing, a small diesel engine with low rpm torque and 8-speed transmission for smooth delivery of power, excellent compression braking, and remarkable fuel economy in normal conditions (28-29 mpg solo, 16-17 towing, 24.9 mpg average all miles since new, near half towing).

That's how much truck WE need, a perfect match for us and our Airstream. We love this combination, couldn't be more satisfied.
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