Once you determine what type of power you need, you will be able to narrow down the type of truck you need.  The intent of this post is to summarize yesterdays, and give you a reference to help you with your decision.  You really want to aim for a truck that will comfortably tow your average with cushion to spare (in case you overload), but is also capable of towing the max weight you can think of.  If you don’t plan to use the max often, then you don’t need much cushion on the high end.  In any case, just how much tow capacity exists depends greatly on the truck itself.

In the last post, I described several types of engines and engine sizes. A few listed included the 6.0L, 6.6L, 7.3L and so on.  The type of engine can easily be figured out simply by looking under the hood.  For the most part, just understand that higher capacity (big “L”), transmission torque, and engine horsepower, USUALLY leads to higher tow capacities.  A fun way to see this in action is to pay a visit to YouTube, and query “Ford or Chevy,” “Chevy or Dodge,” and “Dodge or Chevy.”  While I wouldn’t treat my own truck that way, it is one way to use the ignorance of others to learn (and enjoy the entertainment at the same time!).  While some are more efficient than others (diesel vs. gas), you must do your research on the particular type of engine you are considering–particularly if you buy a used truck.  Certain engines had known problems, and certain ones had specific problems during specific time periods.

Dealers and private owners alike may try to brag about “upgrades” done to a used vehicle, and tout all the benefits of these upgrades.  Be careful.  For example, common diesel upgrades we encountered were a larger air filter, “Edge” devices, or removing the muffler.  This allowed for more horse-power from the engine, and created a little more noise (for those who think that’s “cool”).  What we found out was that trying to alter the power of the motor would, over time, stress the motor beyond its most efficient capability, thereby shortening its life substantially.   My husband specifically looked for unmodified, stock engines.  On the other hand, an upgrade such as airbags on the rear springs can actually improve handling and decrease stress on your suspension.  When used properly, the air bags keep the truck and the load level, and improve the balance of the entire set-up.  They should definitely be considered a plus when towing.  Of course, if you neglect to deflate them when not towing, although it won’t hurt anything, they could cause an awfully rough ride around town!

Whatever truck you decide to buy, new or used, just be sure you investigate the specs of it.  I would recommend you request seeing the specs “in black and white” as opposed to taking someone’s word for it.  I have heard of more people who wound up NOT getting what they really needed because they believed so-and-so “expert” rather than doing the research and saving a lot of time, effort, money, and heartache to begin with.  Throughout our search, we have been quite chagrined to find that the seemingly biggest concerns buyers have are the leather seats, seat warmers, and navigational system in the cab, rather than the actual work the truck is capable of doing.  If you are buying this truck to impress the Jones’s, fine, but if you want a true work truck, you need to know those specs beyond a doubt.   Unless you just have money to burn, if you are trying to tow a 4,000 lb (fully loaded) aluminum two-horse trailer, then you could possibly get by with a 1500/F150 truck, rather than spending an extra $20,000 on a 3500/F-350, designed for hauling over 16,000 lbs.   The best way to find this out is to research the specific year model of the truck.

To give you an even clearer idea and to save you a little research, the following is a listing of the towing and payload specs of the latest model trucks (2013), as taken directly from their website.  Keep in mind that the specs given are for a basic truck, with the standard engines, and a regular cab.  Additional cab will either decrease the payload or require adjustments to the suspension, and upgrades to the engine (such as adding a high-output, or “HO,” diesel engine) would increase the tow capacity significantly.  I tried to find standard numbers for the purposes of this list, but you will have to check each rating personally.  Nonetheless, the numbers will give you a reference to help guide you.

Toyota Tundra

Chevy Silverado 1500
….F-150….

Dodge Ram 1500

Payload

1,885

1,940 3,120

1,493

Max Tow Capacity

10,400

8,900 9,800

9,150

Fifth-Wheel Tow

N/A

10,700* not shown not shown

 

Toyota Tundra

Chevy Silverado 2500 ….F-250….

Dodge Ram 2500

Payload

N/A

4,212 4,240

2,543

Max Tow Capacity

N/A

13,000 12,500

not shown

Fifth-Wheel Tow

N/A

17,800* 16,800 13,400

 

Toyota Tundra

Chevy Silverado 3500 ….F-350….

Dodge Ram 3500

Payload

N/A

7,222* 4,390

5,099

Max Tow Capacity

N/A

17,300* 15,000

not shown

Fifth-Wheel Tow

N/A

23,100* 23,200

13,950

* May require additional features that aren’t part of the standard model to increase to max capacity listed

If you wish to compare diesel engines, go to the site dieselhub.com.

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