Back in 2007, when the 2008 year model ½ ton trucks were being introduced, I wrote an article about the tow ratings Ford was advertising at the time. To sum the article up, Ford advertised that its F-150 was capable of towing 11,000 pounds. Now, for someone with some experience towing trailers I found this claim difficult to believe.

After some research I discovered that in 2004, 2005 and 2006 the highest tow rating for an F-150 was 9,900 pounds. In August of 2006 Ford announced the 2007 F-150 was capable of towing 10,500, and in January 2007 the tow capacity was increased to 11,000 pounds. According to the commercial the only difference between these trucks, to justify this increase, was a fully boxed frame.

I also found it interesting that this new, higher tow rating came out shortly after Toyota advertised a tow rating of 10,800 for its ½ ton Tundra. At the time I used a simple formula in an effort to verify the advertised tow ratings. If you take the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) minus the vehicle curb weight (the actual weight of the truck, less passengers and cargo) we know roughly how much weight the truck can tow.

Note: In my example I used the curb weight listed by the vehicle manufacturer at the time.

The Toyota Tundra had a GCWR of 16,000 pounds, minus the curb weight of 5,200 = 10,800 pounds, which was the advertised tow rating of the Tundra at the time. The Ford F-150 had a new GCWR of 15,800 minus the curb weight of 5,125 = 10,675 pounds, which is 325 pounds less than the advertised 11,000 pound tow rating at the time. Things didn’t add up! And I didn’t understand how the truck’s GCWR increased from 15,300 to 15,800 pounds with little or no changes to the truck. Even with the higher GCWR the truck could not tow 11,000 pounds, at least not mathematically.

I have owned Dodge trucks for many years, and because I tow trailers quite often my last two Dodge trucks have been ¾ ton models. Both trucks were short wheelbase, 4-wheel drive, 5.7 liter, 2500 series trucks with 8,800 pound tow ratings. The last travel trailer I owned weighed in at 7,300 pounds when it was loaded, and although my ¾ ton truck could tow it I wasn’t always comfortable with the way it performed. So naturally when a ½ truck was advertised with a 1-ton plus higher rating than my ¾ ton truck it raised a red flag in my mind.

At the conclusion of my first article I asked,  “At this rate what will happen with tow ratings by 2010?” Well the 2010 models are coming out, so let’s take a look at what’s happening with ½ ton truck tow ratings.

You can read my first article in its entirety.

I should probably begin this article when Edmunds Inside Line conducted a  2009 Full-Size Pickup Truck Comparison Test (Chevy Silverado vs. Dodge Ram vs. Ford F-150 vs. Toyota Tundra).

Of course the area of the testing I was most concerned about for this article was the tow test.

The following are excerpts from Edmunds website:

1) We added another task to our tow-test regimen this time. We always test trucks against their claimed capacity, ballasting each rig to a similar percentage of its particular Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). But this produces different trailer weights for each combatant, and it confuses some readers. So we added a second test: a fixed-weight face-off in which each truck pulled an identical trailer up our test mountain.

2) And let’s not forget the trailers these trucks pulled. Our Fleetwood Prowler 230 RKS is a 29-foot camper that weighs 6,280 pounds with dry tanks. We also had a Fleetwood Backpack 210 FQ, a 3,880-pound unit that’s around 23 feet long. All the trucks pulled the heavier Prowler (ballasted to an even 6,500 pounds) in the fixed-weight test. Afterwards, trailers and ballast were manipulated to burden each truck to 80 percent of its GCWR.

3) 4th Place: 2009 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 4×4

Perhaps it’s optimized for towing, we theorized. A mere 6,500-pound trailer should be a minor annoyance for a truck with an 11,200-pound tow rating, right? Well, it didn’t work out that way. Simply put, the Ford got beaten on our 11.5-mile test grade, coming in dead last by 27 seconds in a test that should have stressed it least. It was the only truck to drop below 50 mph, sagging to 47.8 mph at one point, and it spent the most time at wide-open throttle. None of this should be a surprise.  Physics suggests that a tepid 5.4-liter V8 that makes 310 hp (in the heaviest truck, no less) should not be able to out-tow others that boast 380 hp and up. Physics is right. Furthermore, the 3.73:1 axle ratio that’s needed to generate the advertised tow rating drastically affects every day fuel economy. Our unburdened F-150 achieved 12.6 mpg, well below the window sticker ratings of 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway (which were achieved with the standard 3.55:1 ratio).
This 2009 Ford F-150 is a nice truck in many ways, but it’s clearly time for a new engine. The 5.4-liter V8 is simply being asked to do too much.

Read the entire  Tow Test Comparison here.

I find it interesting that the Ford truck came in last place in the tow test despite boasting the highest tow capacity of the four trucks tested. I also find it interesting that the Ford had the lowest horsepower and torque ratings, but claimed to have the highest tow rating.

If the ½ Ford, rated to tow 11,200 pounds, finished last in all of the tow test categories while towing a 6,500 pound trailer what would the results be <b>when you add 4,700 more pounds</b> to the trailer? I personally think this tow rating is inflated beyond a weight that is safe for the average consumer to ever consider towing, with any ½ ton truck. If you advertise an 11,200 pound tow rating somebody is going to put it to the test and just thinking about it makes me nervous.

Edmunds summed it up like this: Those Ford and Dodge tow ratings never made sense to us on paper, chiefly because the Ram’s 5.7-liter V8 makes 390 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque, while the F-150’s 5.4-liter aging mill makes but 310 horses and 365 lb-ft of torque.

Now let’s take a look at what 2010 has to offer for ½ ton truck tow ratings:

I was a little disappointed to see that the 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 tow rating was bumped up 1,500 pounds over the 2009 model with no real changes to the truck itself. The new Gross Combined Weight Rating of 15,500 pounds increases the Ram’s tow rating to 9,100. Of course the truck must be configured properly to achieve this tow rating. According to Edmunds some of the reason for the increase is because the Ram easily outperformed other trucks with much higher tow ratings when Edmunds conducted its 4-way truck comparison test.

Now the ½ ton Ram has a higher tow rating than my ¾ ton Ram. I don’t necessarily agree with this new updated capacity, but I will say 9,100 pounds is more believable than Ford’s advertised 11,200 pound rating.

Speaking of Ford, what does 2010 have in store for Ford ½ ton tow ratings? Whereas only one ½ ton model of 56 configurations available in 2008 claimed to be capable of safely towing 11,000 pounds; in 2010 Ford has ten ½ ton models with ratings of 11,000 pounds or more.

I personally disagree when a manufacturer claims that its ½ ton version of a truck with a 5.4L engine and 3.73 axle ratio can safely tow a 5 ½ ton trailer down the road. The 2010 model engine is 310 horsepower @ 5,000 RPMs and produces 390 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3,500 RPMs. The only time you will achieve this peak horsepower rating is when the truck is running at 5,000 RPM’s.

The formula used to convert torque to horsepower is to multiply torque by RPM / 5,252. If the engine produces 390 lbs.-ft. of torque @ 3,500 RPM this translates to about 260 HP, but how often do you drive at 3,500 RPMs? I couldn’t find any charts depicting the torque curve for this 5.4L Ford engine, but in reality at a lower RPM range it will be towing 11,000 pounds at much lower torque and horsepower ratings.

Tow ratings, weight terminology and vehicle ratings have always been difficult to sift through and understand. In my opinion to use the strategy of inflating ½ ton truck tow ratings, to 5 1/2 tons, in an effort to sell trucks is an injustice to the consumer. The consumer needs to be properly educated to safely tow heavy trailers, not misled by vehicle manufacturers.

Towing 11,000 pounds is better left to the larger, beefier ¾ ton and 1 ton trucks that manufacturers build. I just don’t get why they see it necessary to burden their ½ ton trucks with these kinds of hefty tow ratings.

I am a product of the sixties and very well understand vehicle manufacturers competing for the consumers business. Chevy and Ford had 427 engines, so Dodge came out with a 426 HEMI to stay competitive. Forty some years later Toyota comes out with a ½ ton truck they claim can tow 10,800 pounds and overnight a ½ ton Ford can miraculously tow 11,000 pounds. The ½ ton Dodge, with a lower tow rating, beats the Ford up in a comparison test, so Dodge increases its rating by 1,500 pounds. Come on guys!

The muscle car era is over and today’s more sophisticated buyer wants the truth. One of these manufacturers should stop being so competitive to be number one in every category and try the honest approach for once. Advertise that your ½ ton truck lineup can safely and efficiently tow a 6 or 7 thousand pound trailer and advise the consumer to look into your ¾ ton and 1 ton lineup if they are towing more weight than that. You might be surprised at how receptive the trailer towing buyer is to this honest approach.

Happy & Safe Towing

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

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  4. Rob

    I have a few questions for someone of knowledge…
    My son has bought a new 2010 Dodge 1/2 ton. It has the new 5.7 hemi which is capable of towing 11,000 pounds. He is looking to purchase a trailer that rated at 9200 pound GVWR. Is this the proper truck?
    I question whether this vehicle is safe in tyowing a trailer of this size from the respect of brakes, suspension etc.
    I also question tow power of the vehicle when considering towing into an wind (we live in an area where 30-40 mph winds are not uncommon). I cannot seem to find anything on line that states how the added air resistance of towing a trailer affects towing power of a vehicle.
    We also live in a city that is 3500 feet altitude and how much does that type of altitude affect towing capacity. We have numerous trailering destinations nearby that would call for him to haul this trailer over a 5000 foot pass at a 10% grade and just wonder whether this truck is capable of towing this type of weight.
    I have gone to a few RV shows back some 7-8 years ago and recall the guys of knowledge saying that a lot of people do not consider altitude, air resistance, brakes and suspension adequately when purchasing a tow vehicle and am just wanting to get any updates on whether these new trucks are built to do the job
    PS my 3/4 Dodge V10 towing a 32 foot TT dose seem to work quite nicely but not sure if a new Dodge 1/2 ton will do the same

  5. Pat

    Thanks! Great stuff to contemplate as we have been thinking about getting a new truck. But after reading this our 2004 GMC Sierra w/82K on the clock, performs as well as all those pretty pricey newbies! It pulls our 2007 31′ Jay Feather just fine even if it is a little pokey on the steeper inclines! Your info is really appreciated and will be in my pocket if we decide to get a new truck!

  6. Ralph Thomas

    Back in 99 I was told by a chev dealer the half ton (1500) Z71 would tow my 7400 lb TT fine , and it did as long as I stayed in FL but when you head to the mountains it’s a different story……..also the RV dealer told me it would be fine…..not so. After pulling one trip in the mountains I traded my truck for a F250 super duty 7.3 diesel ……Wow! what a difference ……I can actually make it over a lot of mountains and never leave OD . I now have over 200,000 miles on my 7.3 and it runs like new (well maintained) , moral of the story don’t listen to salesmen because they have one thing in mind and thats to sell you a unit……do your own research, talk to RV’r’s who have been there and done it, you will certainly get varied opinions as to which brand of truck is best but they won’t tell you to hook up to a 12,000 lb 5th wheel with a half ton pick up.

  7. danny

    What weight size of camper or trailer would be good to tow with a standard 2008, GMC, Seirra? I am thinking of purching a camper trailer. Any good books to find some answers?

  8. Almost forgot one of the other laughers out there:

    ” (we think they are building the new 150’s on the old 250 frames…) ”

    I honestly still cannot stop laughing at this malarky!!!

    The 150 has a fully boxed frame from front to back…….it’s Fords crown jewel in regards to marketing hype and biased comparison tests.

    The 250> use a boxed front section that is C-channel the rest of the way back…..if that acrchitecture sounds familiar it’s because it’s also what the Tundra uses (on the Toyota double walls teh C-channel under the cab.

    I have always wondered what an F-250 would do on Ford’s Silver Creek test track where the 150 does so well???

  9. Good write up, Mark. Only one correction if I may: the box frame on the Ford was introduced in ’04… that means that from ’04 to ’08 the only difference in the 150 was ford getting stomped by the Tundra…….hence their need to artificially raise their tow rating. (on only one model BTW…see below)

    Before ’09, the top GCVWR 150 was a morphidite 2WD REGULAR cab long bed with an 8200 GVW…..the Super Crew was rated much less concerning towing.

    in regards to some of these responses: thanks for the laughs!!!

    From the guy who thinks he had a 283 motor in his ’66 Ford to the guy that thinks the F-350 had a higher COMBINED GVW than the 250 during the years mentioned. (the 350’s had a higher GVW but the CGVWR was the same across the board actually allowing an F-250 V10 2wd to have a higher tow RATING than the diesels.

    I still can’t stop laughing at the guy who gets 19 MPG out of a 460 and thinks there is some kind of conspiracy going on when testing Fords.

    As a Ford guy at heart who HAD to switch because of the anemic motors offered in their 1/2 tons; here’s hoping the “Boss” 6.2 is offered across the board and we at least can “equal” the ‘import”. (that happens to made in America with nearly 80% American content

    Merry Christmas to all!!!

  10. AM

    Well I had 5.4 L F-150 and was unplaesantly surprised how poorly it pulled our 6500lb trailer-pedal to the floor for very little result. Brake pedal to the floor even less result. I really dreaded pulling. So after not wanting to deal with that and the other reliablity issues I was suffering, I traded it towards a 5.7L Tundra. Night and day. Gobs of power, silky smooth powertrain, and the brakes are phenomenal. Pulls effortlessly. I was considering a 3/4 ton, but the Tundra is a far better daily driver and steps up to the plate for our seasonal camping trips.

  11. gmas

    I have tried writing Ford (no response / returned mail) to beg them to put a diesel engine in the Expedition but who would listen …

    Yep ford listened… they are working on a V6 diesel engine for the up coming expiditions with the body lengthened so as to have about as much room as the excursions. (Ford said that the excursions didn’t sell… and we know its all about the money)

    I just read a new report on the 2010 PU’s. Some real head to head competition between Dodge and Ford. Dodge has in my opinion the better diesel engine which is known world wide in everything from a fork lift , motorgrader to power boats. Ford on the other hand has contenually improved their diesel engines to be more effecent, environmentally correct and lighter weight.

    The new F150 has had some major brake changes to it. Now has double the stopping due to bigger brakes. New trans is coming out too with the later model 150’s. (we think they are building the new 150’s on the old 250 frames…) as the payload keeps going up and up. I don’t like the fact that you will only be able to have special tires on the thing for the larger loads depending on the truck size.

    I also don’t like the fact that they narrowed the tailgate down from 65 to 60 inches… makes all the older campers obsolete. .

    It will be interesting to see who wins out in the competition .. battle for the best truck. I noticed that Toyota didn’t even have a entry into the pool this year. They are supposed’ly re-designing the frame to make it stronger… but when the proto type came out.. ouch that sucker was a heavy bunch of metal. So they had to raise the HP of the engine too.. and that hurt the fuel mileage.

    Merry Christmas all.

  12. Very well written, wish I knew this before I bought my Tundra…which I kept for only 12 months before moving up to diesel.
    Consumers are faced with a double whammy here. The truck mfg.’s “boast” their tow ratings and then the rv dealers use these flawed specs to sell 5’ers to F150 owners.

  13. Linda

    All this talk scares me…. I just bought a 2010 F150 XLT 4×4 with the 5.4L and 3.55 rear & Class IV Factory Tow Pkg. I plan to buy a light TT or 5’er; somewhere about 7200# Dry. I don’t speed and don’t plan on loading most of my house in it. Can anyone tell me if this will work? Will a 5’er be better than the TT?.
    Your thoughts are appreciated.
    Thanks, Linda

  14. Bill

    I have a 2004 F250 with the 6.0 Diesel. I tow a fifth wheel at about 10,000 lbs. It works very well. I have no problems on hills and the automatic transmission works very well to hold back the load on downgrades (providing it is in tow/haul mode).

    What worries me more is a big long and heavy trailer hooked to the very back of a fairly light truck. Sort of the tail wagging the dog. I tried that with rental trailers (and the F250) and it still made me nervous. I love the stability of the truck and fifth wheel combination.

    I feel safe no matter where I go as long as it doesn’t get icy. When it gets icy, it can get dicey in a hurry.

  15. Bob

    I really liked Mark’s response. I purchased a new 2008 F150 Quad Cab with the short box and 2 wheel drive to pull my new 26′ Gulfstream Streamlite last November. I would say that my loaded trailer was around 9,000 Lbs. We headed off from our home in Indiana last June on a 13,000 mile trip that took us to Alaska and back via the state of Washington. Over many mountain pass’s with some pretty severe grades. This truck gave me everything I asked for and then some.

  16. As one who pushes the towing limits of my ’08 F150 KR CC LB 4×4 3:73, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you Mark. While one can theoretically configure and F150 to tow at it’s ratings, I don’t think it’s safe to do so. My TT weighs 7500 loaded with 875 tongue weight. With my me, my wife, and daughter in the truck, I am at my max GVW. I could not imagine 2700 lbs more. The brakes and rear suspension are just not beefy enough.

    In my travels, I’ve seen all kinds of overloaded trucks, 1/2. 3/4, 1 tons, even 450/550s, and all brands as well. It’s not just Ford. I’ve seen giant triple axle toy haulers being towed with 3/4 tons with huge tires squatting on the bump stops, duallys overloaded with 5K lbs. of pin weight in the bed (and their owners saying “well I have air bags”), 1/2 tons with a cord of wood in the bed towing a 30ft. TT, dragging the rear bumper (well, almost).

    The tow rating wars don’t seem to matter though. People will find any way to justify what they tow when they are overloaded. And most people don’t really care and that’s the sad part. I just stay as far away from them as I can when I see them on the road. But I will stop and give them a hand if they have a mechanical failure or flat tire. I then take the time (if they are receptive) to help them understand a little more about their setup. They are usually thankful and most say “I had know idea about this stuff.”

  17. David Crawford

    I have one of the 10,900 lbs towable trailers. Anyone with a F150 want to try towing it? The horsepower and torque are rated but what about the brakes?

    I use a Dodge with Cummins and I like the safety a 3/4 ton provides. The trailer doesn’t control the truck.

    I witnessed a 28 foot weekender jackknifed on I 65 south in KY a month again and the trailer rolled over and the truck suspension as all messed up like the trailer strectched the rear springs out. With a 2008 F150 4 x 4. Don’t believe I would trust it.

  18. John Meissner

    I have tried writing Ford (no response / returned mail) to beg them to put a diesel engine in the Expedition but who would listen … no one. I have a 5.4 engine and pull a 2000 Sunnybrook FKS with a slide out. I put a K&N air filter in place of the original and noticed a positive difference. I have the trailer towing package and rear end but would still like a diesel. Why should a person be forced to purchase a pickup truck when something like the Excursion (orphaned) is needed. I do not want a tow vehicle as long as a boat. I realize that a larger frame would be needed for the Expedition but that would not be too hard to do.

  19. gmas

    Mark… what you have here is someone being bought off… Ford increased their towing ability because they always had it… but used a lot of the reserve for just that… when Toy came out with their add… well… competition. However, you need to do the apples to apples thing… The latest test have ford with the 3.73 IN OVERDRIVE… while the others were running the 4.10 in streight drive… funny how things can change… and numbers can be scued… for statics…

    They didn’t mention the fact that Toy BENT IN HALF.. when it was supposed to haul 1200 lbs… while Ford, Dodge and Chev all too up to 2900 lbs before the frame started to show signs of deforming…

    As to towing…

    Their is much more to towing … than just getting the mass in motion down the road… more so is the stopping… If you check .. ford did some major changes in the size of the brakes, trans and rear axel… While not noticable on the outside.. the innards were made much heavier than what they were in 2007 so we have seen… but they are now not the weakest link… the tires are… Ford even changed the wheel bolt pattern on all the trucks going to what we call the P metrics… but, in reality it makes a stronger hauler… so old rims and tires won’t work on the new ones.. not because of plan obselents but rather re-engineering and better products…

    I don’t think ford would say they could haul the mail if they couldn’t.. too many hot dog law people out their that would sue them for fraud…

    I thought it funny that one car and driver test showed that ford and Dodge didn’t cut it… with pulling power… but, why? Well before it was filmed for the commercial… the chevy guys too the other too out and ran oil in the gas… this in turn caused the cat to plug up… causing the engine to have like a cork in the exhaust… but, crafty they never mentioned that part… but showed that the indipendent drivers from the mag found chev to be the better hauler… go figure… Its called competition… etc…

    Oh ya hp is hp… one reasion we still push the 460 around… nothing pulls like a big old engine.. and after we did some mods to it… surprise… at 60 mph the engine is only truning over 1500 rpm… (empty truck)… and we get a whopping 19 mpg… (with the turbocharger on it… we can pull the 25 ft trailer .. up hills and race the diesels… to win too while still making 12-14 mpg) For that big enigne… thats not too shabby… (then again if one does the math on the investment of money for gas mileage… the big engines always came out on top for the first 100,000 miles) but the weakest link in ours came from the rear end overheating… and we had to go with an after market finned alu cover replacement… all is good again for the white knight…

    We had one of them toys’ … and after it put a nice dent across the cab from the truck bed bending that far.. flexing.. only pulling the trailer… we had enough of the so called… abuse that … playing with words bring…

    The only way to really get a good test is to have a independent government agency which in no way takes hits from manufactures… do the testing… so that the real truth comes out… till then you have to trust the dealer and manufactures data… something one needs to be very careful of… these days… 😀

    People forget that we went to the big engines for a reasion… while today its a product of magic numbers and somehow people think that computers will find the answer to hauling the mail for pennies on the dollar… i.e the have a champain taste and want it on a beer budget… 🙂

    Keep digging.. and make sure they have apples to apples and oranges to oranges kinda thing for the tow vehicles… but, indeed today the 1/2 T pu is not that any more… most are 5/8T with 1t running gear… only the tires are the same… 🙂 😉

    The new Ford towing guide is now out for 2010.. and we noticed that they had the Dirty jobs guy showing it off on the vids again… Contrary to popular belief.. Ford really does make a good truck… least better than the imports… one can sumize…

  20. Larry Gallagher

    Many years ago (1966) I bought a 32ft Aloha travel trailer and had a half ton Ford 8ft. bed pickup as a tow vechicle. Not knowing squat about tow capabilities I drove off ignorant and happy as the dealer smiled. Going cross country back then, much of the interstate system was under construction and the detours were frequent. I recall a detour in Wisconson that put us on a gravel road with a 150ft. dropoff and a little sign that said “downgrade” After smoking the trailer brakes and fadeing the truck brakes, the only thing that saved our lives was the full syncro box in the F150. I dumped it into first and went down the hill with that 283 howling. Now that i’m older and hopefully wiser, I pay close attention to tow capabilities. I would hope Ford would do the same or at least offer trucks with a full syncro box to cover their butts..

  21. Joe Greenwood

    It’s all about marketing. Ford has been a chronic offender of tow ratings. Compare the 1999-2005 Super Duty trucks. F350 has a higher GCVR than the F250,,,,DUH,,,,except for the fact that the ONLY difference in the two is two inch axle blocks on the F350. and the emblems. That’s right….Same frame, same rear end, same fasteners, same springs, There was a long raging debate on an RV forum, until an engineer published the part numbers for all the chassis parts on both trucks….SAME for both. It seems likely that GCVRs are downgraded untill the need arises to compete with others. Then, up the scale it goes.

  22. Judy J

    I will be one of the first to admit I know very little about truck (torque, rpm). When I purchased my used 34′ Dreamer 5er I was told a new Ford 1/2 ton would probably do the job. I didn’t buy it and instead purchased a used 1 ton dually. I have taken it to S. Dakota over many hills and have never had a problem keeping up with the ‘flow’. I am glad I went with the extra ‘umph’. I feel safer and I am sure so does the traffic behind me.