How Much Truck Do You Need to Tow That Trailer?

Mike Monticello

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Pickup trucks are the workhorses of the automotive industry. They let owners carry large household items, mulch, hay, wood, motorcycles, and bicycles in the bed, and their brawny nature makes them well-suited for towing trailers, too.

We contacted all the major truck manufacturers that sell compact and full-sized pickups in the U.S. and asked them to identify the most common configuration of each pickup buyers will find on dealer lots, and how much those trucks are capable of towing.

We looked at two popular trailer weights: 5,000 pounds, which is about the weight of a 20-foot powerboat, and 7,500 pounds, which is close to the weight of some fully loaded, dual-axle 30-foot travel trailers.

When we talk about a pickup with a 7,500-pound towing capacity, for example, it’s important to keep in mind that the weight of what you’re towing should be less than that, allowing for the weight of, say, fuel in your boat or the weight of extra coolers, and all the equipment and luggage you’re bringing for your adventure. Never tow more weight than your truck is built for. That could reduce your ability to control your trailer and damage the truck’s suspension and drivetrain.

If you’re just beginning to tow, see our primer on towing.  

Towing 5,000 Pounds: 2019 Compact Trucks

These are the most common compact truck configurations found on dealer lots ranked by their maximum tow capability. All full-sized pickups (more on those below) can tow 5,000 pounds or more.

Honda Ridgeline: RTL-E crew cab AWD with 5-foot, 4-inch bed; 3.5-liter V6 engine; 6-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 5,000 pounds

Toyota Tacoma: TRD Off-Road crew cab 4WD with 5-foot bed; 3.5-liter V6 engine; 6-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 6,400 pounds

Nissan Frontier: SV crew cab 2WD with 5-foot bed; 4.0-liter V6 engine; 5-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 6,640 pounds

Chevrolet Colorado: Z71 crew cab 4WD with 5-foot, 1-inch bed; 3.6-liter V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 7,000 pounds

Jeep Gladiator: Rubicon crew cab 4WD with 5-foot bed; 3.6-liter V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; 3.73:1 rear axle ratio.
Tow rating: 7,000 pounds (with Trailer Tow package)

Towing 7,500 Pounds: 2019 Pickup Trucks

Compact Trucks

These are the most common configurations found on dealer lots ranked by their maximum tow capability.

Ford Ranger: XLT crew cab 4WD with 5-foot bed (most common configuration); 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine; 10-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 7,500 pounds

Chevrolet Colorado: LT, Z71 trims; extended cab 4WD with 6-foot, 2-inch bed; 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder; 6-speed automatic transmission.
Max tow rating: 7,700 pounds

Jeep Gladiator: Sport, Sport S trims; crew cab 4WD with 5-foot bed; 3.6-liter V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; 4.10:1 rear axle ratio.
Max tow rating: 7,650 pounds (with Max Tow package)

Full-Sized Trucks

These are the most common configurations found on dealer lots ranked by their maximum tow capability.

Ford F-150: XLT crew cab 4WD with 5-foot, 6-inch bed; 2.7-liter turbo V6 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; 3.55:1 rear axle ratio.
Tow Rating: 7,600 pounds

Ram 1500: Big Horn crew cab 4WD with 5-foot, 7-inch bed; 5.7-liter V8 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; 3.21:1 rear axle ratio.
Tow rating: 8,240 pounds

Nissan Titan: SV crew cab 4WD with 5-foot, 6-inch bed; 5.6-liter V8 engine; 7-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 9,240 pounds

Chevrolet Silverado 1500: LT crew cab 4WD All Star Edition with 5-foot, 10-inch bed; 5.3-liter V8 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; 3.23:1 rear axle ratio.
Tow rating: 9,600 pounds

Toyota Tundra: SR5 crew cab 4WD with 5-foot, 6-inch bed; 5.7-liter V8 engine; 6-speed automatic transmission.
Tow rating: 9,800 pounds  

Doing the Math

The tow rating is the highest possible weight that the pickup can tow. It may seem like a simple number, but there are many factors that contribute to determining how much trailer your truck can safely tow. It’s also important to understand that the truck’s tow rating assumes the truck has all mandatory towing options to reach that number, and doesn’t have any cargo in the bed of the truck.

And, yes, there’s some math involved to make sure your pickup truck isn’t over its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and that the truck and loaded trailer don’t exceed the gross combined weight rating (GCWR)—see below for definitions.

Here’s an example from Chevrolet that shows the math:

Trailer weight: 10,000 pounds

Pickup truck GVWR: 7,000 pounds

Pickup truck weight before added payload: 5,500 pounds

Payload added to pickup:

Total payload: 1,475 pounds

Tow vehicle weight (5,500 pounds) + Payload (1,475 pounds) = 6,975 pounds, which is just shy of the truck’s 7,000-pound GVWR.

As this example shows, a pickup truck’s payload adds up quickly when towing, in large part because of the trailer’s tongue weight. This means that if you’re towing near your truck’s limits, you might have to leave some cargo or passengers at home to stay within its safe capacities.  

Know Your Towing Terms

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
This is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum allowable weight for occupants and cargo that the vehicle can safely handle. The GVWR is shown on the vehicle’s certification label on the driver’s doorjamb. Note that trailer weight is not added against the GVWR, but the tongue weight of the trailer is.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
The maximum weight of the vehicle and loaded trailer that can be handled safely, without risking damage. This includes all cargo and occupants. Though the GCWR for your truck is not usually found on the label on the truck’s doorjamb, it can be found in the towing section of each truck manufacturer’s website.

Payload
This is the combined maximum allowable weight of cargo and occupants that the vehicle is designed to carry. Payload is the GVWR minus the truck’s base curb weight, and don’t forget that the trailer’s tongue weight needs to be included here, too.

Trailer Tongue Weight
Also known as tongue load, this is an important number to consider. It’s the amount of the trailer’s weight on the hitch ball—that’s the part that slides into the receiver attached to the truck and holds up the trailer while you drive. Too much tongue weight can cause the truck to sit too low in the rear; that can hurt the front wheels’ ability to provide steering, traction, and braking, and potentially cause suspension damage. Too little tongue weight affects how the trailer will handle behind the pickup, potentially causing the trailer to sway side-to-side, also called fishtailing.

The height of the hitch affects the tongue weight as well as the truck’s braking ability. It’s critical that the trailer sits level when it’s attached to the tow vehicle. A hitch that can be adjusted for height is helpful if you have to tow different trailers.

Tongue load should be 10 to 15 percent of the trailer’s total weight—if you’re towing 5,000 pounds, then the tongue weight would be 500 to 750 pounds. Typically, if your truck is rated high enough to handle the trailer you’re towing, it should also be rated high enough to handle the weight the trailer puts on the hitch. But keep in mind: The trailer’s tongue weight needs to be added to the truck’s payload, so the 500 to 750 pounds in the above example needs to be added to the truck’s GVW. 

As Ford F-150 vehicle integration supervisor Scott Leonardi pointed out to us, tongue load sits directly on the vehicle itself and is therefore part of a truck's GVW. But tongue weight is not factored into the GCW of the fully loaded truck and trailer. 

It’s important to know your truck’s payload capacity, and to factor the tongue weight into the truck’s payload, because the trailer’s tongue weight may impact how many people can ride in the cab and how much stuff can be carried in the bed.  



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  • Two occupants: 300 pounds
  • Extra cargo: 100 pounds
  • Trailer hitch equipment: 75 pounds
  • Trailer tongue weight: 1,000 pounds (10 percent of trailer weight)

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