2009-2010 Truck Maximum Tow Rating Guide – Part Two

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Last week, we listed off all the maximum tow ratings for 2009 and 2010 half-ton trucks. The ratings ranged everywhere from 6,000 lbs to 11,300…and most manufacturers ratings are inconsistent. Ford’s 5.4L F150, for example, is rated anywhere from 7,700 lbs to 11,300 lbs depending on the presence of a tow package. That’s a difference of 46% for the same engine – how can this be?

There's something fishy about manufacturer's maximum trailer tow ratings.

There's something fishy about manufacturer's maximum trailer tow ratings.

There are a lot of factors that go into determining a truck’s tow rating, but generally speaking we can boil all the factors that determine maximum trailer tow ratings down to five categories:

  1. Power. How much can the truck pull safely with reasonable power? Can the truck move the maximum load up a steep grade? Can the truck pass safely while pulling the max?
  2. Cooling. While pulling the max, can the truck adequately cool the engine and transmission in all conditions?
  3. Braking. There are federal stopping standards to meet, not to mention the fact that most truck owners expect to be able to stop when pulling a trailer (even without trailer brakes to assist).
  4. Control. Is the truck going to pull the trailer, or is the trailer going to pull the truck?
  5. Liability. If the end user follows all the manufacturer’s guidelines, what is the likelihood they’ll get in an accident that will result in liability for the automaker?

Amazingly, despite the fact that all of these considerations are fairly straightforward, there are no standard testing procedures to determine a vehicle’s maximum trailer tow rating. Each manufacturer is allowed to determine their own tests.

We all know that the “highest in class” tow rating is a bragging right that truck owners cherish. Who can pull more is a standard that truck owners like to compare…but what if a truck manufacturer wanted to over-rate one of their vehicles to grab bragging rights? What would be the risk? Consumers that tried to pull the max would either:

  1. Not have enough power, slow down traffic, and get a bigger truck next time.
  2. Overheat and destroy an engine or a transmission (or both).
  3. Lose control and get in an accident.
  4. All of the above.

In scenario #1, the manufacturer has little risk. The consumer isn’t happy and might not buy another truck from them in the future, but that’s not a huge problem…not many consumers pull the maximum.

In scenario #2, the manufacturer might have to replace an engine or transmission prematurely. This is likely the biggest disincentive to over-rating a vehicle because it results in more warranty replacements (and therefore lower profits).

In scenario #3, the manufacturer might have to endure a lawsuit. Considering that most individual consumers don’t have the resources or wherewithal to drag a major automaker into court, this is the lowest risk scenario of all.

Knowing that these are the risks, let’s take one more look at some manufacturers maximum trailer tow ratings:

  • Dodge’s tow ratings seem low, but perhaps that’s a result of Dodge’s lifetime powertrain warranty. If Dodge owners follow their scheduled maintenance, they’re entitled to a new engine or transmission in the event of a failure for as long as they own the truck. Dodge is probably very concerned about over-rating their trucks because they would have to buy a whole bunch of replacement engines and/or transmissions. Of all the manufacturer ratings, Dodge’s seem to be the most realistic. Ditto for Nissan.
  • GM’s products seem to have a very reasonable range of tow ratings as well. From as little as 6k pounds towing capacity for a 5.3 to the 10,700 lbs rating of their 6.2L, tow ratings seem to be rational.
  • The Tundra’s max tow rating seems a little high when you compare the performance of the truck to the Ram and the GM 6.2L, but perhaps Toyota feels their larger braking system and 6-speed automatic overcome the power, cooling, and braking concerns.
  • Ford’s 11,300 lbs tow rating for the 5.4L seems completely and totally ridiculous…bordering on irresponsible. Ford says that their truck (when properly equipped) manages to out-pull the much more powerful trucks from Dodge, GM, Nissan, and Toyota – how?

It might be worth noting here that a bare-bones 2010 Ford 4×2 F150 Regular Cab Long Box 5.4L (3.55 rear) has an MSRP of $24,580 and is rated to pull 9,800 pounds (high, but possible). The “maximum towing” version of this same truck can pull 11,300 pounds…with an MSRP of $26,360.

In other words, adding 1,500 pounds of towing capacity costs $1,800 more. All Ford adds on is a different axle ratio (3.73), different steering gear ratio (20:1 instead of 18:1), bigger front bushings, bigger rear leafs, and 7-lug wheels (instead of 6). All those extras can’t possibly cost Ford $1800.

Anyone want to guess that some of that money is used to offset higher warranty claim rates and to protect against possible future liability claims? Keep in mind it only costs $380 to go from a 5,000 lbs tow rating to a 9,800 lbs tow rating for the same model.

Bottom Line: Maximum trailer tow ratings should be treated with a high degree of skepticism, and a good rule of thumb is to tow no more than 80% of your truck’s rated max. As many have said, if you’re looking to pull 8-10k pounds, you might want to seriously consider a 3/4 or 1 ton truck.

By the way, there is some good news about maximum trailer tow ratings. TruckTrend.com did a nice story recently about a new SAE tow rating standard that’s worth a read. Hopefully, when all the manufacturers adopt this standard, we’ll see some reality in the numbers from everyone (Toyota included).


Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com

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  1. Jeremy the CyberThug says:

    Really, Toyota demonstrated their ability to safely tow the rated weight. None of the others did. Like I said earlier, If they can tow as much just as well then duplicate the Tundra commercial tests. If not, go put on your fluffy pink robe and get your Pedicure.

  2. Jeremy – LOL. Eloquent as always. The article from TruckTrend does a very nice job of explaining exactly why all of the manufacturer tow ratings are likely overstated. The simple explanation is that, when a new standard is announced, the Tundra will still be at or near the top…but in all likelihood that top number isn’t going to be 10k+ lbs. Ditto for everyone else. Ford? Look out below.

  3. Mickey says:

    Very good info Jason. That’s a big price difference on the amount of towing from Ford. It does lead you to believe something isn’t right there.

  4. […] Towing Here's an article part II on towing. 2009-2010 Truck Maximum Tow Rating Guide – Part Two | Tundra Headquarters __________________ MIDNIGHT RIDER CREWMAX LIMITED MIDNIGHT RIDER 07 Crewmax Limited Nautical […]

  5. Bill says:

    Dodge tow ratings are down because their trucks can’t handle the extra weight without blowing a transmission or rear differential. GM tow ratings have been terrible for many years due to GM can no longer build a good truck. Ford’s tow ratings are outright ridiculous pull 11k behind a 1/2 ton truck for a week and you’ll be wishing you would have bought that F-350. A 1/2 ton truck wasn’t built to tow 11k. I have a new generation (2008) Toyota Tundra, and I don’t plan on ever towing 10k with it. If I was planning on towing anything that big I would have bought a 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck. People who buy a 1/2 ton truck knowing they will be towing a 35′ trailer all over are not only dumb, but they’re risking the lives of people around them. Even with trailer brakes that trailer considerably overloads the truck causing excessive stress on all components and eventual failure, and premature brake wear.

  6. Jeremy the Dark Dork says:

    You forgot Hair loss, urinary track infections, and testicular implosion. The first two are treatable, that third missed side effect will make you stop and think before towing too much weight.

  7. Mickey says:

    Jason I put your towing on Tundra talk to spread your word.

  8. Jer says:

    Just placed an order for a 2010 Tundra, Crew Max. 12 weeks to get a truck, thats ridiculous. Had a heated discussion with a F150 lover over the weekend claiming Ford boast the highest towing capacity and that Toyota’s are for wanna be’s. I was a little puzzled by the claim that his truck with less horsepower, less torque and a taller gear ratio could tow more than a Tundra. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

    Only addition I would make is clarify what is meant by half tonne truck. This refers to payload and not towing capacity. Half tonne is 500 Kg and Tundra can handle anywhere from 600-800 kg with the same truck depending on configuration of cab, 2wd vs 4wd etc. By this definition many of the trucks are half tonne and others are 3/4 tonne (payload). There is no correlation between payload and towing capacity. Please correct me if Im wrong.

  9. Mickey – Thanks a lot – I really appreciate it.

  10. Jer – The terms “half ton”, 3/4 ton, 1 ton, etc. are all antiquated. They have little relevance to modern pickups in terms of actual capacities. Payload and towing are related in terms of tongue weight – the average trailer has a tongue weight that’s equal to 10-20% of the total weight of the trailer. So, if a trailer weighs 10,000 lbs, it has a tongue weight of 1-2k lbs. That’s a situation where the Tundra is rated to PULL the trailer, but not rated to HAUL the trailer if the tongue weight exceeds about 1600lbs (depending on model, options, weight of drivers, etc.).

  11. Jer says:

    Well Im sure it will pull the 32 foot camper trailer just fine. We only pull it to the lake a couple times a year… BTW…. Anyone ever seen the Salsa Red Peal that Toyota offers? When trying to pick out a colour at the dealer the Salsa red caught our eye but we have yet to see one on the road and the dealer didnt have one on the lot.

  12. loren says:

    Chevy tow ratings seem rational and toyota a little high I don’t understand that. I have not seen one article that clearly puts chevy in front. Actually the toyota seems to do better. The chevy has a little more power but taller gears. And if the toyota has power braking and cooling concerns there is no doubt the chevy would to

  13. loren – If you read the TruckTrend article, you’ll see that there are a lot of factors that are fudged into a truck’s tow rating. For example, weight isn’t the only concern. I know of an F450 that lost 3 transmissions in 30k miles pulling a 6,000lbs boat…and the truck was performing to the best of it’s abilities. It turns out the boat was HUGE and the air resistance at highway speeds was incredible. The truck’s owner never even considered the fact that the aerodynamic cross section of his boat generated the equivalent of 30,000 lbs of trailer weight. To bring this back to the tow ratings, no one discloses the aerodynamics of the trailer rating…so it’s hard to say. Standardization is needed, and when a new standard comes out we’ll probably see the Toyota at or near the top of the pack. However, I highly doubt the number will be as high…I wouldn’t be surprised if EVERY tow rating was 20% lower than the manufacturers currently claim. Make sense?

  14. TXTee says:

    Jer – I have seen the Salsa Red Pearl in person and on the road…..it’s very nice. I have a Highlander in that color so I didn’t want a truck same color. Beautiful color option on pracitally all Toyota models. I actually like it too because it’s NOT common.

  15. John says:

    None of these trucks can in the real legal world haul their max rated trailer weights. For example a Toyota double cab 4×4 has a payload of 1620lbs which you need to figure the passenger and any stuff hauled as well as the weight of the fuel load. What is left is for the trailer tongue weight or 5th wheel pin. Most 8 or 9 k 5th wheels would not be legal going with a 15% pin weight with just fuel in the truck and no passengers. Even a TT with a 1000lb tongue would be pushing it if a family was traveling. IMO 1/2 tons are trucks for farmers and contractors etc that don’t use them to tow anything other than a tandem 8k rated deck or maybe a small TT. Buy a real truck to pull anything over 8k.

  16. […] – Truck Trend 2009-2010 Truck Maximum Tow Rating Guide – Part One | Tundra Headquarters 2009-2010 Truck Maximum Tow Rating Guide – Part Two | Tundra Headquarters […]

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