Tow the right load with the right truck

by on February 15, 2017

Trailer tow towing capacity

Getting the right truck for the right job

Yesterday I was on the phone with a contractor who’s business has been growing over the last few years.  He is getting ready to upgrade his truck because the are getting some new equipment that will be in the 15,000 lbs range to tow.  The following is a simple breakdown of the considerations you should keep in mind when choosing a truck to haul 10000 lbs or more.

F150, 250, or 350?

The first consideration will be whether to go with a 1/2 ton (F150) or with a Superduty (F250+).  If your load is more than 11,400 lbs you are instantly into Superduty territory, however, in practical experience anything over 8,000 lbs should get you at least thinking about a 250.  You can haul up to 11,400 lbs with an F150 but as you get closer to the max towing rating you also need to remember that your load itself is generally getting larger in volume.  Pulling a 30 ft. camper at 80 miles per hour across Interstate 40 can get harry with an F150, even if you are maxing out at 10,000 lbs.  Now if you are occasionally pulling your 10,000 lb camper from home to a campsite where it sits for the summer, then an F150 might make more sense.

For contractors hauling equipment, the thing to remember about pulling a 10,000 lb load is that it creates much more wear on the engine, transmission and suspension components.  Often you will be hauling these heavy loads and bumpy surfaces and there is often a good amount of stop-and-go associated with moving the equipment around.  An F150 will take a lot of abuse, but in the long run the Superduty is really built for this type of work, so unless you are usually under the 8000 lb mark, I recommend pricing out a 250.

What effects max towing capability?

Once you know the series truck required for your load, you need to think about cab style, 2WD vs 4WD and rear end gear ratio and engine.   The larger the cab, the less you can tow.  If you add 4WD that reduces the towing capacity as well.  All of the detailed specifications can be accessed in the trailer tow guide, but here is the quick and dirty formula I use when narrowing things down:

Under 8000 lbs – F150
8000 – 15000 – F250 or F350 gas, but start thinking about diesel if 15,000+
15,000 – 18,000 – Diesel and you can do convention or 5th wheel towing
18,000 – 21,000 – Diesel and 5th wheel are required
21,000 – 32,000 – F350+ Dual Rear Wheels required

Get the Full 2018 Trailering Guide

Gear ratios

The rear end gear ratio determines the “pulling power” of the truck.  A lower gear ratio gives you better fuel economy, but less pulling power.  Common rear ends for the F150s are 3.31, 3.55, and 3.73.  In the Superduty you will usually see 3.31 and 3.73 with an occasional 4.30 paired with the 6.2L gas engine.  Again all things being equal, a low gear ratio means higher MPGs and lower towing capacity.  The trick is to pick a truck that will do everything you need it to do in terms of towing, while keeping the gear ratio as low as possible to improve fuel economy.

Choose your load before you choose your truck!

Finally it really important that you choose your load before you choose your truck.  It seems like every few months I’m sitting with someone that has a 1 year old F150 and they decided to get a bigger camper so now they need an F250.  Or I’m talking with a contractor that has a truck with a gas engine but he is killing it by regularly hauling around a 15,000 lb load.  The load always determines the truck, so be sure that you have your camper, or equipment or horse trailer picked out before you shell out $40,000 on a new truck!

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