The Best 1-Ton Pickup Trucks [2021 Comparison]

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

Are you in the market for a 1-ton truck? In this comprehensive guide, we outline the top models and explain what you should look for if you’re considering this type of vehicle.

What Qualifies as a 1-Ton Truck?

“Ton” is a weight classification that refers to a truck’s payload capacity — how much weight a truck can carry, including passengers and cargo. Historically, a truck was referred to as “1-ton” based on its payload capacity of 1 ton (or 2,000 lbs.), but this classification has become very flexible since many 1-ton truck models can carry much more than that.

What to Look for in a 1-Ton Truck

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

This refers to the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer with occupants, fuel and fluids, aftermarket body and equipment, and loaded payload weight at any given time. This is a variable as the weight can change (burning fuel, one driver vs. two occupants, etc.).

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The GVWR is the maximum legal operating weight of a vehicle as specified by the original equipment manufacturer and the federal government. This weight rating includes all components, such as the chassis, any aftermarket body or equipment, driver/occupants, fuel and fluids, and total payload weight excluding any trailers. This weight rating cannot typically change.

The GVWR is important when considering a truck because it determines a vehicle’s class. A vehicle’s class then comes with other regulations, like drivers needing certain licenses to operate the vehicle.

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 +

It’s important to note that all of the top 1-ton truck models are Class 3.

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 too much of the payload weight in the rear of the trailer, could cause unstable driving conditions. Too much trailer tongue weight can cause the rear of the truck to sag and possibly damage and break the receiver hitch.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

The GCWR is the maximum legal combined operating weight of a vehicle with a trailer as specified by the OEM and federal government. This weight includes all components as outlined in the GVWR, as well as the trailer and trailer payload weight.

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 lbs. and is towed by a 1-ton truck with a GVWR of 14,000 lbs., the resulting GCWR would be 26,500 lbs. and the operator would require a CDL.

However, if the trailer has a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. 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 lbs. or less can tow a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less and NOT require a CDL.

Is a 1-Ton Truck Right for You?

A 1-ton pickup truck offers excellent payload and towing capabilities, but how do you know if it’s the right choice for your business needs?

The most important considerations are payload and towing capabilities. If you don’t secure the right type of truck, you could risk damaging the suspension, brakes, or tires — which can be dangerous and also result in thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs.

If you have a commercial vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 10,001 lbs., you also need to secure a log book and medical certificate, as required by the Department of Transportation.

Top 1-Ton Pickup Truck Models

Ram 3500

Car and Driver rates the RAM 3500 as having the best interior in its Class, smooth ride quality, and the hauling capabilities of a big rig. As a beefed up version of the 2500, this model has a maximum towing capacity of 31,500 lbs. and a maximum payload of 7,680 lbs. Safety features include:

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

Ford F-350 Super Duty

The F-350 Super Duty is a larger model than the F-250 with a higher towing capacity of 13,100 lbs. This truck comes with the option of dual rear wheels, gasoline or turbodiesel V8 engines, and high payload capacities. If you have a lot to tow, this is a great option. Safety features include:

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

Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD

Also known as the Chevy Silverado 3500 Chassis Cab, this truck has a stronger frame featuring high-strength steel and heavy duty axles. This model was made to work with a variety of bodies, including service and utility, dump, flatbed, and more. The Silverado’s safety features include:

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

GMC Sierra 3500 HD

GMC’s Sierra 3500 shares a lot of the same features as the Chevy Silverado 3500. However, the exterior may look a bit different. GMC’s model is less rugged but still boards similar features and benefits as the Chevy. Safety features include:

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

1-Ton Pickup Trucks Comparison Table

How to Choose the Best Truck for Your Business

If you’re in the market for a 1-ton truck, here’s what you should consider:

Payload Capacity

How much weight will you need to carry? It is best to overestimate here, if possible.

Towing Capacity

How much weight will you need to tow? Again, it is better to overestimate.

Fuel Type

Would you prefer a truck that uses regular gas or diesel? Diesel trucks typically have more maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts but can prove more cost-effective in the long run depending on application and annual mileage. A diesel truck generally costs about $9,000 more than a gas-powered one; a diesel engine also weighs about 800 lbs. more. It’s also important to consider your geographic location and whether you’ll use the truck for towing.

Estimated Annual Mileage

If you travel more than 30,000 to 35,000 miles annually, we recommend a diesel truck, but that’s a general rule and specific situations may be different. Consult with your fleet management company for more information.

Budget

The good news is that all four 1-ton trucks we’ve mentioned — the Chevy Silverado 3500HD, the Ford Super Duty F-350, the GMC Sierra 3500HD, and the Ram 3500 — have similar starting prices of anywhere from $35,000 to $36,000.

Cab Configuration

Work trucks are available in different configurations: regular cab (two front doors), extended cab (two front doors and smaller half doors), or crew cab (four equal full-size doors for four or more people).

Drivetrain

Do you want rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), all-wheel drive (AWD), two-wheel drive (2WD, 4×2), or four-wheel drive (4WD, 4×4)? All classes come equipped with 4×2 or 4×4, which will affect payload and towing capacities.

SRW or DRW?

Do you need single rear wheels (SRW) or dual rear wheels (DRW)? Trucks with higher GVWR and GCWR are more likely to come with DRW.

Snow & Ice Applications

A 1-ton truck is an excellent snow plow truck. Will you be adding snow and ice equipment to your truck at some point?

Truck Bed Length

Do you need a short or long bed?

Let’s Talk About Your 1-Ton Pickup Needs

Whether you need one vehicle or an entire fleet, we are ready to help get you moving. Contact Merchants Fleet today if you have any questions or would like more information on 1-ton trucks.

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