Heavy-Duty Trucks

US News

If you do a lot of towing and hauling or own a business that does, you’ve probably considered buying a heavy-duty truck. These trucks aren’t for everyone, though. Because they have large engines and tougher components, heavy-duty trucks tend to be more expensive than a basic half-ton pickup, and they use a lot of fuel. These characteristics don’t make heavy-duty trucks the best choice for weekend warriors who want something they can commute in during the week, but they do make sense for people who have heavy equipment to move.

Do You Need a Heavy-Duty Truck?

Most full-size trucks can haul and tow about 10,000 pounds, depending on their configuration, so you won’t need a heavy-duty truck if you’re towing less than that. The Ford F-150 maxes out at 11,300 pounds, and can tow things like a trailer with a few horses or a speed boat. A smaller tow-behind RV should be no problem either. And a full-size truck should also be able to handle things like a trailer packed with jet skis, ATVs or snowmobiles. Before you opt for a heavy-duty truck, take a look at what you tow and see if a half-ton pickup is all you need. You could save some money at the dealership and at the pump.

Heavy-Duty Truck Capabilities

If you have a large boat, RV or trailer, or own a business that hauls things like construction equipment, you’re going to need a big truck. How much a heavy-duty truck can haul or tow depends on the kind of truck you get and how it’s configured. Towing and hauling capacities are based on how much weight the suspension and axles can support, among other things. That means that if you add lots of heavy options onto your heavy-duty truck, like a crew cab instead of an extended cab, or four-wheel drive instead of two-wheel drive, your truck won’t tow as much. Trucks with dual rear wheels, also called duallies or dooleys, can tow more weight because they have more traction.

Heavy-duty trucks in the 2500 model range (i.e., Ford Super Duty F-250, Chevrolet Silverado 2500) can generally haul at least 2,500 pounds in the bed and tow about 16,000 pounds, while those in the 3500 range can usually haul at least 3,500 pounds and tow up to about 23,000 pounds. Models larger than that are usually only available to commercial buyers, but Ford makes its F-450 available to personal use shoppers. The Ford Super Duty F-450 can tow the most of any heavy-duty truck, with a towing capacity of 24,500 pounds. However, because it comes standard with a crew cab, it can only haul 5,260 pounds.

To put some of those numbers in context, a Caterpillar 416E backhoe loader weighs about 15,000 pounds. You have to factor in the weight of the trailer, but the Ford F-350, Chevy Silverado 3500 and Ram 3500 trucks should all be able to handle equipment of that size. A West Pointe luxury tow-behind RV from SunnyBrooke weighs about 14,700 pounds. Again, most 3500 trucks should have no problem with that one. And a smaller tow-behind RV could be handled by almost any 250 or 2500 model. Before you go for the biggest heavy-duty pickup you can find, evaluate its capabilities to see if you really need it.

Off-Roading

In general, heavy-duty trucks aren’t very good for off-roading. They’re too wide for narrow trails, and their large wheelbase and big turning circles make them less-than-convenient if you meet a sharp curve. However, Ram makes one heavy-duty off-roader that test drivers say is great for low-range activities like rock crawling and mudding. The Ram 2500 Power Wagon may be expensive, with a starting price of nearly $45,600, but it comes standard with lots of the equipment off-roaders need, like skid plates, an electric front winch, four-wheel drive and more than a foot of ground clearance. Plus, with 10,200 pounds of towing capacity, the Power Wagon will easily tow a dirt bike or ATV for when the going really gets tough.

Heavy-Duty Truck Capabilities

HD Truck Model 

Starting Price

Maximum Payload (lbs.)

Maximum Towing (lbs.)

Chevrolet Silverado 2500

$28,800

4,212

17,800

Ram 2500

$28,430

3,190

15,500

Ford F-250

$29,455

4,290

16,700

Chevrolet Silverado 3500

$30,365

7,215

23,000

Ram 3500

$36,800

5,280

22,750

Ford F-350

$30,175

7,110

22,700

Ford F-450

$49,395

5,260

24,500

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