6 Best ½ Ton Trucks for Towing

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Written By: Joe Birren, Fleet Operations Manager - Truck & Upfit Engineering

Is your business considering a half ton truck for towing? Merchants Fleet has a large stock of towing trucks to best meet your needs.

What Qualifies as a 1/2 Ton Truck?

Traditionally, trucks were categorized into how much payload weight they could haul. A ½ truck had a payload capacity of a half a ton, or 1,000 pounds.


Truck Size Tow Weight (average) Best For
½ ton 3,000 pounds All purpose vehicles, light loads or trailering
¾ ton 4,000 pounds Stronger suspension for heavier loads
1-ton 6,000 pounds (reduced if carrying a 5th wheel) Largest frame for heaviest loads and towing capacity

The maximum loaded trailer weights are much higher than above for current ½-through 1-ton trucks and can typically range from 5,000-14,000 pounds for ½ ton trucks, 13,000-22,000 pounds for ¾ ton and 13,000-30,000+ pounds for 1-ton trucks (depending on how the truck is specified)

½ ton trucks are great all-purpose vehicles that allow for some light load carrying or towing capacity. If you’re driving an overloaded truck or not carrying the correct payload or trailer weight, you’ll end up with a higher fuel and maintenance costs for things like brakes, transmission/driveline repairs, excessive tire wear or failure and possible liability issues if you are involved in an accident. You may also be out of compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. If you have questions about what size truck is right for your fleet, get in touch!

What to Consider When Choosing a New Truck for Towing

When considering a new truck intended for towing, it’s important to consider what kind of hitch and trailer you will be hauling as well as your payload and trailer weight. Will you only require a conventional receiver hitch, or are you planning to use a gooseneck or 5th wheel?

There are several factory options that will provide different levels of towing packages that will increase the GCWR and maximum trailer weight. Considerations include trailer brake controller, locking rear axle, rear axle gear ratio, suspension, and tires you may need based on the operating conditions and mileage. There are new technology packages specifically for towing which include 360-degree camera system and reverse trailering assist options. It’s important to consider important factors to get the best towing capacity truck for your needs, including:

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
The Gross Vehicle Weight is the current weight of a vehicle or trailer with occupants, fuel and fluids, aftermarket body or equipment, and loaded payload weight at any given time. The GVW of a vehicle changes often as the weight changes due to things like numbers of passengers, fuel burning, cargo weight, etc. The GVW should not go past the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating at any time.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum legal operating weight of a vehicle as specified by the OE vehicle manufacturer. This is a federally set rating and should not be exceeded. This weight rating includes all components such as the chassis, any aftermarket body or equipment, driver/occupants, fuel/fluids, and total payload weight excluding any trailers.

Federal Truck Classifications by GVWR


Class 1 0 – 6,000 lbs.
Class 2 6,001 – 10,000 lbs.
Class 3 10,001 – 14,000 lbs.
Class 4 14,001 – 16,000 lbs.
Class 5 16,001 – 19,500 lbs.
Class 6 19,501 – 26,000 lbs.
Class 7 26,001 – 33,000 lbs.
Class 8 33,001 lbs. +

½ ton trucks are generally in Class 1 or 2.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
The Gross Combined Weight Rating is the maximum legal combined operating weight of a vehicle with a trailer as specified by the OE vehicle manufacturer. This weight includes all components as outlined in GVWR as well as the trailer and trailer payload weight.

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)
The amount that a trailer and anything on it weighs at the present time. This weight is dynamic and changes when something is added or taken off a trailer.

Trailer Tongue Weight
The optimal trailer tongue weight we typically recommend is between 10-15% and is based on the loaded trailer weight. Too low of a tongue weight or having the payload weight more to the rear of the trailer could cause unstable driving conditions, while too much trailer tongue weight can cause the rear of the truck to sag and possibly damage and break the receiver hitch.

Trailering and CDL Requirements
When towing a trailer that has a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more, and the GCWR of the truck and trailer is 26,001 pounds or more, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) will be required.  For example, if a trailer has a GVWR of 12,500 pounds and is towed by a 1-ton truck with a GVWR of 14,000 pounds, the resulting GCWR would be 26,500 pounds and the operator would require a CDL.

If the trailer has a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, the CDL requirements allow for a greater GCWR for both the truck and trailer. For example, a truck with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or less can tow a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less and NOT require a CDL.

What Businesses Typically Use 1/2 Ton Trucks?

Here’s a list of businesses that typically use ½ ton trucks in their fleets.

  • Construction
  • Supervisors and Managers
  • Forestry Service
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC Professionals
  • General Contractors
  • Landscapers
  • Painters
  • Mobile Service Technicians

Top 6 1/2 Ton Truck Models

What’s the best ½ ton truck for towing? Here are our top six picks:

1. Ford F-150

One of Edmunds’ listed top work truck models, the Ford F-150 earns high marks for its versatility and wide arrange of features. The experts at Edmunds call this model “the perfect example of the tough yet modern full-size pickup truck.”

The F-150 features a six-speed automatic transmission for the basic work truck trim and a quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission for trims with more powerful engine options. For all trims, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot comes standard. Safety features include:

  • Pre-Collision Assist
  • Automatic Braking
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go
  • Lane Keep Assist

2. Ram 1500 Tradesman & Laramie

There are many reasons why the RAM 1500 topped Car and Driver’s list of 10 Best Cars and Trucks for 2020. If you live in a wintry area, the RAM 1500 is a pro in the snow. Its rich interior offers a luxurious aesthetic with maximum utilitarian capabilities, making it one of the most versatile Class 2 vehicles on our list.

Both the Tradesman and Laramie trims are available in 4×2 or 4×4 drive options, with the Tradesman being the more affordable model. Overall, Car and Driver sums it up perfectly: “The Ram 1500 isn’t just the best truck out there, it’s one of the best vehicles.” Safety features include:

  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Guided Parking
  • High-Strength Steel Frame
  • Advanced Airbag Technology

3. Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 comes in eight different trims, each with its own distinct grille and wheel design. Whichever trim you choose, the Silverado is a traditional, rugged work truck that can handle off-roading and towing.

Edmunds reviewed the 2020 Silverado as having, “improved fuel economy, a roomier cabin, and new styling to help it stand out from the crowd.” Safety features include:

  • Standard Rear Vision Camera
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Lane Departure Alert
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Rear Park Assist

4. GMC Sierra 1500

With several powertrain options to handle various towing and hauling needs, the GMC Sierra 1500 work truck is listed as Edmunds’ #3 large truck model.

The Sierra is based on the Chevy Silverado 1500, so there are many similarities. However, the Sierra has a higher price tag due to additional options like a MultiPro rear tailgate, carbon-fiber composite bed, and a higher-end interior design. Safety features include:

  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking

5. Toyota Tundra

Standard in every Tundra is 5.7L V8 powertrain, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The 26-gallon fuel tank makes it great for daily use and long hauls, and the towing capacity is around 10,000 lbs. for each of the six trims they offer. Safety features include:

  • Toyota Safety Sense™: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
  • Driver and Front Passenger Advanced Airbag System
  • Driver and Front Passenger Advanced Airbag System
  • Tire Pressure Monitor System
  • Engine Immobilizer
  • Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)

6. Nissan Titan

Car and Driver reviews the Titan as having a “tranquil interior, supremely comfortable seats, configurable cargo box.” Each trim features a V8 powertrain that produces 400 horsepower and standard rear-wheel drive, but you have the option to add on all-wheel drive capabilities.

Every trim of the Titan can tow at least 9,250 lbs., features a spring-assisted tailgate, and offers discreet in-bed cargo boxes. Safety features include:

  • Anti-Lock Braking System
  • Electronic Brake Force Distribution
  • Traction Control System
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control
  • Advanced Air Bag System
  • Automated Emergency Braking

Half Ton Truck Towing Capacity Comparison Chart

How to Choose the Best Truck for Your Business

Here are some things to consider when choosing the best truck for your business:

Towing Capacity
How much weight will your truck(s) be towing? Don’t forget to include machinery, materials, and tools. Anything over 10,001 lbs will require documentation from the Department of Transportation.

Take into consideration your monthly or annual mileage, operating conditions, payload, and towing requirements when considering the engine and drivetrain. Will you be towing a loaded trailer through mountainous regions, or will it be mostly highways across the Midwest?

Working with your fleet management company to compare different trucks models and the total cost of ownership (TCO) can be a big help when determining which truck will meet your application requirements and budgetary needs.

Fleet Savings Calculator

Fuel Type
If your vehicle drives between 30,000-35,000 annually, a diesel engine would be recommended depending on application requirements. A diesel engine is more expensive upfront and can have a higher overall maintenance spend but can save money over the lifecycle of the vehicle. If you’d like to learn more or discuss gas, diesel, hybrid or EV options get in touch!

Maintenance/Warranty Package
When purchasing your fleet, it’s important to consider the fleet maintenance programs and warranty package. Do you want to be responsible for maintenance or do you want to outsource? Make sure to read the specifics of the warranty. If you have a maintenance program that is only eligible in part of the country, that may not be beneficial to long distance drivers.

Let’s Talk About Your Fleet Needs

We’ve helped others, so let us help you! A roofing company recently came to us with concerns about transitioning from buying trucks out-of-stock to factory ordering. We proposed setting up a bailment pool to mitigate their concerns about OEM ordering timelines. With around 150 vehicles slated for replacement this year, they are anticipating approximately $300,000 in savings.

Let us help you choose the perfect ½ ton towing trucks for your fleet.


Frequently Asked Questions

What types of trucks are available?

We offer multiple trim levels of popular full-size pickups including the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Ram 1500, and a wide selection of commercial trucks, including ½ ton, ¾ ton, 1 ton, and EV models. We also offer cargo vans, which are a great option if you’re looking for a business truck rental with more space since cargo vans are designed with storage in mind.

Can I tow or go off road with the vehicle?

Our truck rental custom packages allow off-road use and towing. Some vehicles may be better suited for certain terrain or towing capabilities, so it’s best to contact us to discuss your specific situation.

Will my fleet be eligible for any government-specific discounts and services?

Discounts and benefits include low, guaranteed fixed rates, tax-exempt leasing and registration, and unique lease structure. There are also options for flexible payment terms.

What utility upfits do you offer?

We provide vehicle upfitting services for any type of vehicle — Class 1 to Class 8 trucks; light, medium, and heavy duty vehicles; commercial buses, vans, and shuttles; and passenger vehicles. No matter your industry, our truck and van upfitting services will be tailored to your business, fleet size, and goals.

What are the advantages of towing a trailer vs. getting a larger vehicle?

Towing gives you the option of disconnecting the trailer, resulting in a far more maneuverable vehicle that gets better gas mileage with lower maintenance costs than a large box truck or other similar vehicle.

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