The Ultimate Guide to Truck Towing Capacity in 2023

By: HowStuffWorks  | 
truck towing capacity
Engine Prowess: Engine power and torque significantly impact a truck's towing capability, along with transmission type. Rhys Moult / Unsplash

Imagine hittingching a trailer to your truck for a weekend getaway, only to realize that your truck can’t handle the load. That’s where understanding truck towing capacity comes in handy. In this blog post, we’ll go beyond the numbers and explore the ins and outs of truck towing capacity, from factors that influence it, to the best trucks for towing in 2023. So buckle up and let’s get started on your journey to become a towing expert.

Short Summary

  • Understanding truck towing capacity requires knowledge of GCVWR and GVWR.
  • Factors such as engine power, transmission, suspension and brakes influence the towing capacity.
  • Research state regulations for safety features & equipment required when towing a trailer.


Understanding Truck Towing Capacity

Towing capacity of a truck is an important factor to consider before attaching a trailer. It’s the maximum weight a truck can tow safely. A truck’s towing capacity is calculated based on the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR or GCWR) minus the weight of the truck, passengers, and cargo. The maximum weight limit is an essential factor that influences a truck’s towing capacity. To put it simply, a truck with a higher towing capacity is better equipped to handle heavier trailers and loads.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is another critical factor that should be considered when towing. GVWR is a weight limit specified by the vehicle manufacturer, indicating the total weight the vehicle can safely carry. It takes into account the suspension system, frame, axles, wheels, and other load-bearing components. Trucks with a max trailer tow package are designed to handle higher GVWR, making them more suitable for towing heavy loads, including those with a significant gross trailer weight. Knowing the actual weight of your vehicle is essential to ensure you stay within the GVWR limits.


Factors Influencing Towing Capacity

Several factors influence a truck’s towing capacity, including:

  • Engine power
  • Transmission
  • Suspension
  • Brakes

A more powerful engine typically has a higher towing capacity. Speed automatic transmissions are better suited for towing, as they offer smoother shifting and greater control compared to manual transmissions.

A suitable suspension system helps reduce the strain on the truck and trailer, allowing for a higher towing capacity. Similarly, optimal brakes can reduce stress on the truck and trailer, thereby allowing for a higher towing capacity.

Understanding these factors will help you choose the right truck for your towing needs.

Vehicle Towing Capacity Label

To find your truck’s towing capacity, refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual, the driver-side door jamb, or a trailer towing capacity guide available on the manufacturer’s website. Adhering to the specific towing capacity label for your vehicle is essential for safe towing.

Overloading your truck can lead to dangerous situations on the road, so it’s vital to stay within the recommended limits.


How to Calculate Your Truck's Towing Capacity

Calculating your truck’s towing capacity is a straightforward process. Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Locate your truck’s GVWR in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
  2. Determine the payload capacity by subtracting the curb weight from the GVWR.
  3. Curb weight refers to the total weight of the vehicle in its original, factory condition, without any passengers, cargo, or non-factory items.

Then, locate your truck’s Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. Finally, calculate the towing capacity by subtracting the curb weight from the GCWR. With this information, you can make informed decisions about the trailers and loads your truck can safely handle.


Payload Capacity vs. Towing Capacity

Maximum weight limitations set by the vehicle manufacturer, also known as maximum allowable weight, are termed as payload capacity and towing capacity. Both these limitations should not be crossed. Payload capacity is the amount of weight a truck bed and cab can hold. On the other hand, towing capacity describes how much weight can safely be towed behind a vehicle.

Understanding the differences between these two capacities is crucial, as exceeding either limit can put undue stress on your truck and lead to potential safety hazards.


Top Trucks for Towing in 2023

Now that you’re familiar with towing capacities and how to calculate them, let’s explore some of the best trucks for towing in 2023. These trucks boast impressive maximum towing capacities and other notable features that make them ideal for various towing tasks. Some of the best trucks for towing in 2023 include:

  1. GMC Hummer EV
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Jeep Gladiator
  4. Honda Ridgeline

From compact pickup trucks to midsize options, there’s a tow vehicle out there for every towing enthusiast.


Keep reading to discover the top trucks in each category and their standout features.

Best Compact Trucks for Towing

In the compact truck category, the GMC Hummer EV leads the pack with a max towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. Another strong contender is the Ford Ranger, which boasts a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. These towing capacity trucks offer powerful engines and impressive towing capacities in a smaller package, making them perfect for those who need a versatile truck for both daily driving and occasional towing needs.

Both the GMC Hummer EV and the Ford Ranger provide a great combination of power.

Best Midsize Trucks for Towing

For midsize trucks, the Jeep Gladiator stands out with the following features:

  • Maximum towing capacity of 7,000 pounds
  • Powered by a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V-6 engine
  • Produces 285 horsepower and 260 pounds of torque at 4400 rpm

The Honda Ridgeline is another solid choice, offering a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. These trucks strike a balance between size and towing capabilities, providing ample power for most towing tasks without being too bulky for everyday use.

Best Full-Size Trucks for Towing

In the full-size truck category, the 2023 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty takes the crown with a staggering max towing capacity of 37,090 pounds, which is also its maximum towing capacity, and boasts a maximum tow rating that outshines its competitors. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 follows closely behind with a maximum towing capacity of 13,300 pounds. These full-size trucks are designed to handle heavy-duty towing tasks and are perfect for those who need maximum power and capability in their towing vehicle.

Whether you’re hauling a trailer, boat, or other large items, these full-size trailers are great for hauling.


Tips for Safe and Efficient Towing

Now that you’ve got the knowledge and the right truck, it’s time to hit the road. But before you do, consider these tips for safe and efficient towing. First, make sure your trailer is securely hitched to your vehicle, and the weight is evenly distributed. Use the appropriate hitch for the job and be mindful of weight distribution and balance to ensure the trailer remains stable.

Keep reading for more detailed advice on choosing the right hitch, weight distribution and balance, and braking techniques.


Choosing the Right Hitch

Selecting the appropriate hitch for your truck and trailer combination is crucial for safe and efficient towing. Consider the type of trailer you’re towing, its weight, and your truck’s towing capacity when choosing a hitch. Some hitch types available include:

  • Receiver hitches
  • 5th wheel hitches
  • Gooseneck hitches
  • Weight distribution hitches
  • Pintle hitches

By selecting the right hitch, you can ensure a secure connection between your truck and trailer, minimizing the risk of accidents and damage.

Weight Distribution and Balance

Proper weight distribution and balance are essential for stable and efficient towing. Unevenly distributed weight or an improperly balanced trailer can lead to:

  • Decreased stability
  • Increased difficulty in steering and braking
  • Increased tire wear
  • Decreased fuel efficiency

To ensure proper weight distribution and balance, load the trailer evenly, attach the hitch correctly, and position the trailer appropriately relative to the vehicle.

Braking Techniques

Effective braking techniques are crucial for ensuring safety and maintaining control while towing. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Gradually decrease speed.
  2. Use the hand brake control to activate the trailer brakes.
  3. Apply the brakes with sufficient force to detect a definite deceleration.

Additionally, consider using a braking system specifically designed for towing, like an electric trailer brake controller, to enhance your truck’s braking capabilities while towing.


Enhancing Your Truck's Towing Capability

If you’re looking to get even more out of your truck’s towing capacity, consider upgrading its performance with aftermarket accessories and modifications. Air suspension kits, exhaust systems, and performance chips are some of the options that can help increase towing capacity.

Keep reading for more information on performance upgrades and towing accessories that can take your truck’s towing capabilities to the next level.


Performance Upgrades

Performance upgrades, such as engine tuning and suspension enhancements, can increase your truck’s towing capacity. Some modifications that can improve your truck’s towing capabilities include:

  • Upgrading the axles
  • Increasing suspension
  • Upgrading the brakes
  • Installing a programmer

By investing in performance upgrades, you can ensure your truck is able to handle heavier loads and deliver a better towing experience.

Towing Accessories

Various towing accessories, like weight distribution hitches and sway control systems, can improve your towing performance. Other accessories, such as trailer brakes, trailer lights, trailer hitches, trailer jacks, trailer couplers, trailer wiring, trailer tires, and trailer mirrors, can also enhance your towing experience.

Equipping your truck with the right accessories can make a significant difference in towing safety, efficiency, and control.


Towing Laws and Regulations

Before you hit the road with your trailer in tow, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the towing laws and regulations that apply in your area, as these can vary by state and may be regulated by local governments. Some states may require specific licenses for towing, and trailers must be equipped with brakes, lights, and other necessary safety features.

Keep reading for more information on state-specific regulations and required equipment.


State-specific Regulations

Checking state-specific towing regulations before hitting the road is essential for ensuring compliance with the law and towing safely. Some regulations that may differ from state to state include:

  • Maximum weights
  • Braking system requirements
  • Tail lights
  • Safety chains
  • Reflectors

Be sure to research the towing laws in the state you’re in or traveling through to avoid any legal issues or safety hazards.

Required Equipment

To tow safely and legally, certain equipment is essential. This includes:

  • Wiring harnesses
  • Heavy-duty brakes and suspension
  • An improved engine-cooling system
  • Trailer lights
  • A correctly-rated trailer coupler
  • Two safety chains
  • Trailer brakes

Ensuring your truck and trailer are equipped with the required equipment can help prevent accidents and keep you on the right side of the law.



In conclusion, understanding truck towing capacity is crucial for safe and efficient towing. By familiarizing yourself with factors influencing towing capacity, calculating your truck’s towing capacity, selecting the right truck for your needs, and following tips for safe towing, you can confidently embark on your next towing adventure. Remember to always comply with state-specific regulations and equip your truck and trailer with the required equipment. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools to become a towing expert, it’s time to hitch up your trailer and hit the open road!

This article was created using AI technology.