10 of the Best Trucks for Towing
Living in Los Angeles, we’re used to seeing people who own and drive pickup trucks mostly because they want to, and that’s fine. But for many, driving a truck isn’t so much a matter of “want” but of “need.” Although “want” does often play a part. When you have a boat or a camper or a toy hauler you need to pull—or even a small trailer you have to transport from time to time—owning a truck with towing capability is a must. Whether you’re shopping for a heavy-duty pickup, a versatile and popular half-ton truck, or a midsize pickup that you can drive daily and fit in your garage, here are 10 of the best trucks for towing broken down by class.
Keep in mind, the maximum tow rating of the truck you buy depends on how much your truck weighs. Your individual maximum tow rating is your truck’s Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR or GCWR, the maximum allowable weight of your truck and trailer combined) minus the weight of your actual truck and the weight of any passengers and cargo. If you buy a truck with a lot of weight-adding features, or if you intend to carry a lot of passengers or cargo while towing (or both), that will reduce the amount of weight you can tow.
Also be aware of your GCVWR if you’re planning to tow extremely heavy loads with your heavy-duty truck. In the United States, a GCVWR above 26,000 pounds requires a commercial license. That means if your truck and trailer combined weigh more than 26,000 pounds, you can’t legally drive it unless you have a Class A commercial driver’s license.
Best One-Ton HD Trucks for Towing
2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty | up to 35,100 pounds
The 2020 Ram Heavy Duty, our 2020 Truck of the Year, is an easy choice for this list of best trucks for towing, and the Ram 3500 HD dually in particular excels at towing with a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch. When equipped with the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel inline-six that makes 400 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, the Ram 3500 with dual rear wheels can tow a trailer weighing up to 35,100 pounds. The downsides are the top-dog diesel is an $11,795 option over the base gas V-8, and to handle that lofty 1,000 lb-ft, you’re forced to get a high-torque version of the old six-speed automatic transmission instead of the new eight-speed. But even with the $2,695 cheaper 850-lb-ft Cummins or the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8, the Ram 3500 is an excellent choice for towing with a fifth wheel or gooseneck thanks to available features like a high-res in-bed camera and the air suspension’s trick Alt Trailer Height ability.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra | up to 35,500 pounds
The Ram HD may be the better all-around truck, but when it comes to the best truck for towing fifth wheel or gooseneck the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD dually (and its nearly identical counterpart from GMC) has a leg up. When equipped with the 445-hp, 910-lb-ft 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V-8, the 3500HD can tow up to 35,500 pounds. The GMC also has the benefit of more gears to choose from with its Allison 10-speed automatic transmission. That helped the Sierra 3500HD out-tow the Ram during Truck of the Year testing, and also made it the more pleasant truck to tow with. Given how easily the GMC handled a gooseneck trailer loaded up to 10 tons, the Sierra 3500HD is one of the best trucks for towing mega loads.
2020 Ford F-450 Super Duty | up to 37,000 pounds
The truck industry is engaged in an all-out torque war, and the prize is “best-in-class” bragging rights. Currently, the leader in the towing arms race is Ford, with its updated F-450 Super Duty that produces 475 hp and a staggering 1,050 lb-ft of torque from a 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8. For those counting, that’s 50 lb-ft more than the Ram’s Cummins and 140 lb-ft more than GM’s Duramax. What does that much twist get you? A claimed max towing capacity of 37,000 pounds.
Best Three-Quarter-Ton HD Trucks for Towing
2020 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD | up to 18,500 (with conventional hitch)
Sometimes you don’t need a gigantic truck—you just need a pretty huge one. Still imposing and capable, a three-quarter-ton truck like the Chevy Silverado 2500HD will do the job for most. Like the larger Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500s, the 2500HD can be had with either a 401-hp, 464-lb-ft 6.6-liter gasoline V-8 or a 445-hp, 910-lb-ft 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V-8.
Although we don’t recommend the former or its six-speed automatic, when equipped with the latter, you get the slick-shifting 10-speed automatic and a towing capacity of up to 18,500 pounds on a conventional hitch. Additionally, the Silverado HD offers a transparent trailer view system, which uses two cameras (one on the tailgate and one that has to be installed on the trailer) to allow you to virtually see through whatever you’re towing. That features makes the Silverado HD one of the best trucks for towing a travel trailer or other large, sight-impeding object hanging off your hitch ball.
2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty | up to 20,200 pounds (with conventional hitch)
The F-450 might be the numbers king, but the F-250 is the workhorse of the Super Duty range. The F-250 is available in a number of bed and cab configurations, and it can he had with your choice of 6.2-liter V-8, the new 7.3-liter V-8 with 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, or the same 1,050-lb-ft Power Stroke diesel found in the 350 and 450—a costly option at $10,495. But when properly equipped, the F-250 has a max conventional towing capacity of 20,000 pounds. For most, that should be plenty for towing your RV, boat, or toy hauler.
Best Half-Ton Trucks for Towing
2020 Ram 1500 | up to 12,750 pounds
Our 2019 Truck of the Year, the Ram 1500, is still the full-size pickup to beat one year later. Its superior ride quality, unmatched quietness, and long list of available niceties make it the most luxurious half-ton truck on the market, which means it should make long trips with your RV more comfortable. The Ram 1500 can be had with either the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque), two different 5.7-liter Hemi V-8s (both making 395 hp and 410 lb-ft), or an updated version of Ram’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine (260 hp and 480 lb-ft). Additionally, Ram’s eTorque mild hybrid system, standard on the base V-6 and available on the V-8, recoups and recycles energy from the wheels that would otherwise be lost. That energy is stored in a battery and is used to assist the engine under heavy loads and power the automatic engine stop/start system to save fuel.
2020 Ford F-150 | up to 13,200 pounds
Another solid choice in the full-size truck class is the venerable Ford F-150. There’s a reason it’s America’s best-selling pickup and that’s its track record for dependability and versatility. The F-150 engine lineup includes a capable base 3.3-liter V-6 (290 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque); two turbocharged EcoBoost V-6s, a 2.7-liter (325 hp and 400 lb-ft) and a 3.5-liter (375 hp and 470 lb-ft); a 5.0-liter V-8 (395 hp and 400 lb-ft); and a 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6 (250 hp and 440 lb-ft). Additionally, there’s high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost (450 hp and 510 lb-ft) in the F-150 Raptor. For towing, we like the EcoBoost V-6s and naturally aspirated V-8 better than the new Power Stroke diesel option. The diesel feels stressed when towing on the highway, and it just doesn’t have the grunt needed to pass or maintain speed uphill. Ford’s handy Pro Trailer Back-Up Assist feature helps you reverse more easily when towing, simplifying back-up maneuvers with an intuitive knob that takes all the guesswork out of steering by doing it for you. That available feature along makes the Ford F-150 one of the best half-ton trucks for towing.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 | up to 12,100 pounds
Chevy’s Silverado 1500 (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra 1500) hasn’t advanced as much as its competitors from Ram and Ford, but it’s still among the highest-rated half-ton trucks for towing on the market. Engine options include a base 4.3-liter V-6 (285 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque), a 5.3-liter V-8 (355 hp and 383 lb-ft), a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (310 hp and 348 lb-ft), a 6.2-liter V-8 (420 hp and 460 lb-ft), and a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel inline-six (277 hp and 460 lb-ft). All gas engines get GM’s Active Fuel Management cylinder shut-off tech, and most can be had with a stop/start system. For towing purposes, it’s hard to beat the Duramax diesel option, which we called “buttery-smooth” and effortless when we pulled a trailer with one in our First Test. But we were surprised how good the new turbo-four option is during Truck of the Year testing. The engine pulls hard at low rpms and accelerates quickly even when towing a trailer.
Best Midsize trucks for towing
2020 Ford Ranger | 7,500 pounds
With a midsize truck, you won’t be able to tow everything. But you should still have enough pulling power to tow a decent-sized trailer. The Ford Ranger, though flawed, is one such midsized that’s up to the task. The Ranger is based on an old platform that got a few tweaks when it was brought over to the U.S. for 2019. Despite those enhancements, the Ranger’s ride and handling still lags behind competitors. Where it shines, however, is in its powertrain.
Every Ford Ranger variant gets a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode, and each has the same max tow rating of 7,500 pounds. In testing, a Ford Ranger XL STX did 0-60 mph in 12.5 seconds hooked up to a 4,000-pound trailer. You may be looking at the Ranger’s max tow rating and wondering why the new Jeep Gladiator, with its higher max of 7,650 pounds, didn’t make this list of best trucks for towing. The truth is we just weren’t impressed with its towing performance during Truck of the Year testing.
2020 Chevrolet Colorado | up to 7,700 pounds
The Chevy Colorado won back-to-back Truck of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016, and it continues to be our favorite pickup in the midsize truck category. With its wide range of powertrain choices, the Colorado can be equipped for to suit most consumers’ needs. A 2.5-liter inline-four making 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque serves as the base engine. From there, buyers can upgrade to a 3.6-liter V-6 (308 hp and 275 lb-ft) or a 2.8-liter turbodiesel I-4 (186 hp and 369 lb-ft). The diesel will be the best truck for towing in the lineup, but the V-6 isn’t bad either. In a midsize truck comparison test, a Colorado V-6 towed a trailer loaded with 14 bales of hay up a narrow, winding road with ease, demonstrating impressive shift logic from its standard eight-speed automatic and a supple, refined ride along the way.
Best Trucks for Towing
- 2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty | up to 35,100 pounds
- 2020 GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD | up to 35,500 pounds
- 2020 Ford F-450 Super Duty | up to 37,000 pounds
- 2020 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD | up to 18,500
- 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty | up to 20,000 pounds
- 2020 Ram 1500 | up to 12,750 pounds
- 2020 Ford F-150 | up to 13,200 pounds
- 2020 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 | up to 12,100 pounds
- 2020 Ford Ranger | 7,500 pounds
- 2020 Chevrolet Colorado | up to 7,700 pounds
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