How to Pick the Right Truck for Your Towing Needs

Whether you’re towing the occasional light trailer or a 38-foot Sea Ray cabin cruiser — towing is a special consideration when shopping for a pickup truck or SUV. Sure, almost any truck can tow something — but how do you pick the right tool for your job?

Should you go with gas or diesel? 4WD or 2WD? Can hybrid trucks tow? Find out everything you need to know about picking the right truck to tow your stuff with, in THIS Major World article! 

Assess Your Towing Needs Wisely

Before you start shopping for a pickup truck or SUV to tow with, it’s important to carefully consider exactly how you think you’ll use your tow vehicle. Buy “too little” truck and you may wreck your transmission or have inadequate, power, control, and braking power. Buy “too much” truck and you may end up with a daily driver that’s too thirsty and a hassle to park around town. 

Some questions to ask you about your towing vehicle needs:

  • What is the heaviest trailer you expect to need to tow?
  • Does this vehicle also need to serve as a daily driver, family vehicle, etc.?
  • How often will you need to tow with your vehicle? (Daily? Weekly? Monthly?)
  • How much passenger room do you need?
  • Will you need to tow in the mountains? 

Choosing A Truck to Tow With: Gas vs. Diesel and More

Gas-powered trucks and SUVs like the Ford F-150 and RAM 1500 tend to be less expensive to buy and maintain than diesel-powered trucks. At the time of writing, the average price of regular gas at the pump in Long Island is $3.66 a gallon. Compare that to diesel fuel, which is hovering around $4.32 a gallon and it’s enough to erase most if not all of diesel trucks’ fuel economy advantages unfortunately. 

A gas-powered pickup truck or full-size SUV, like a Cadillac Escalade, can handle most moderate towing jobs. It may use more fuel, especially under load and it may lack the crazy low-end torque of a diesel, but unfortunately, diesel aren’t the deal they once were. The need for DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fuel) and other hassles like DPF (diesel particulate filter) regen add additional hassles that aren’t a factor with gas pickups like the Toyota Tundra.

Key Terms to Know When Choose a Vehicle for Towing:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): The maximum safe weight for the vehicle, including fuel, passengers, hitch/fifth wheel, cargo, and trailer hitch weight.
  • Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR): The maximum allowable weight of the truck, the trailer, the cargo in each, fuel, and passengers.
  • Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR): This is your total allowable weight for your trailer including the cargo on it and the weight of the trailer itself. Also called “Trailer GVWR”.
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): The max allowable weight on any individual axle. (this includes the weight of the tires, wheels, brakes, and axle itself.)
  • Maximum Tow Rating: The truck makers’ weight limit for what you can tow in total (weight of your trailer + cargo)

Should I Buy a Diesel for Towing?

Honestly, it really depends on just how much you’re going to tow and where and how much you love diesel trucks. As we said, unfortunately, some of the diesel pickup advantages (like simplicity and fuel savings) have been diminished in recent years with complicated emissions systems and higher diesel prices.

 At the same time, diesels tend to hold their value a little better because of their reputation for longevity, and the big ¾ and 1-ton full-size truck diesel engines like the big Cummins 6.7 I-6, Ford Powerstroke 6.7 liter V8 and GM’s Duramax 6.6 liter V8 are the big dogs when it comes to torque. 

Some of them have 1000 lbs or more, that’s nearly equal to what an 18-wheeler could do 20 years ago. But if you don’t need that kind of power… and it kills us to say this — diesel trucks may be more trouble than they’re worth these days. 

Can Hybrid Trucks Tow?

They can, but the hybrid pickup truck options are still fairly limited right now. Some Hybrid SUVs can tow, but it’s very important to read the fine print. Even though the electric motors give hybrid SUVs good low-end torque, many have CVT-type transmissions that aren’t designed for towing much more than a couple of Jet Skis — if that’s all you have to tow though, they may work for you. 

Generally, we recommend going only with a full-size pickup truck if you’re going to tow anything big and maybe skip the hybrid unless it’s a mild hybrid with a conventional transmission. CVTs aren’t considered tough enough for heavy-duty towing. 

Is a 1500 Half-Ton Pickup Enough for Me to Tow With?

It depends, but for most consumers, yes, the modern half-tons are up to the job. Newer half-ton pickups are way more capable than they were just 15-20 years ago. Some of today’s 1500s can tow upwards of 10,000 lbs! 

The turbocharged models like Ford’s EcoBoost 3.5 V6 have serious torque at low RPMs too. Unless you have a large boat or huge camping or horse trailer to tow — you will probably do just fine with a half-ton pickup. 

The key thing is to be aware of the maximum weight you will need to tow and don’t forget to factor in the weight of any passengers or cargo in the truck before you decide. Generally, ¾ and 1-ton pickup trucks are more for commercial use. While they do pull and carry more weight, it comes at a price. They cost significantly more money and they usually don’t ride or handle as nicely as a ½ pickup truck will. 

Gas-powered half-ton pickups for good for towing include:

  • Ford F-Series: The 2021 and newer F-150’s have a wide range of engine options, including the EcoBoost turbocharged engines and the Coyote 5.0 liter V8. F-150s can tow anywhere from 5,000 – 13,500 lbs. depending on your configuration. 
  • Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra: Customers who tow really like that Chevy continues to offer two different naturally aspirated V8s in their half-ton trucks. The Silverado half-ton and its GMC clone the Sierra will tow between 7,900 to 13,300 lbs.
  • RAM 1500: Despite its civilized ride thanks to coil springs over the rear axle, the half-ton RAM pickup is no slouch when it comes to towing duties either. The RAM 1500 will tow between 7,730 and 12,750 lbs depending on the powertrain and options. 
  • Toyota Tundra: While the Toyota Tundra doesn’t sell in the kind of numbers the Big 3 command, it holds its own in half-ton truck towing prowess, it’s built in Texas and it boasts exceptional reliability. The ½ ton Tundra (2021-on) can tow between 8,300-12,000 lbs. 

What About Transmissions and Towing with a Truck?

The transmission plays a crucial role in towing. Vehicles with automatic transmissions are generally easier to use for towing than those with manual transmissions. Some vehicles also come with a tow/haul mode that adjusts the transmission shift pattern for better towing performance.

A transmission cooler can be a good investment if you plan to do a lot of heavy towing. It helps prevent the transmission from overheating, which is a common problem when towing heavy loads. If you plan to tow fairly regularly, especially if there will be uphill towing, look for a truck that already has a transmission cooler and a “tow mode” in the transmission. 

Towing with 4WD vs. 2WD

Whether you need a vehicle with four-wheel drive (4WD) depends on what and where you’ll be towing. For towing heavy loads, driving in off-road conditions, or dealing with snow and ice, a 4WD vehicle can provide better traction and control. One thing to remember though — 2WD trucks are usually less expensive to buy, use a little less fuel and often have a slightly higher tow rating because they’re lighter. Don’t rule out a 2WD tow rig if it may make sense for you. 

Do I Need Trailer Brakes?

In New York, any trailer with a total capacity of over 3000 lbs is required to have trailer brakes. These auxiliary braking systems put brakes on the trailer in addition to your truck, which can be actuated by the driver in the cabin. They make a heavier trailer safer and easier to control, avoiding accidents and jackknifing. If you’re new to trailering, take the time to study up on trailer brakes and keep compatibility in mind when choosing your tow vehicle. 

Key Features You Should Look For in Your Towing Vehicle

When choosing a truck to tow with, these are some important features you should look for. 

  • Towing mirrors: These are larger mirrors that stick out further (or can extend and retract) to give you a wider field of view to see the end of the trailer.
  • Trailer-friendly camera systems: Any truck built since 2018 or so will have a backup camera, but some newer trucks have fancier systems and sensors that can give you a top-down view that makes maneuvering backward with a trailer WAY easier. This can help with hitching the trailer and reversing.
  • Integrated trailer brake controller: This allows you to control the trailer’s brakes from the driver’s seat. If you’re going to be towing more than 3,000 lbs on the regular, this is really nice to have. 
  • Tow/Haul mode: This adjusts the transmission shift pattern for better towing performance. Extra nice to have if you’re towing something a little heavier or taking hills. It avoids the annoying gear-hunting behavior some automatic transmissions can exhibit when towing. 
  • Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS): Features like blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist can be VERY helpful when towing.

Major World for Major Value in Tough Pickup Trucks 

There’s no better place to shop for a low-mileage used pickup truck in New York than Major World. Only trucks that pass our rigorous inspection process earn a coveted spot on our lot. Major World is well-known as one of the fairest truck dealerships in the tri-state area.

Find your perfect pickup in our online search portal before you visit. Our no-nonsense financing process is the best in the business. You can even pre-qualify yourself right now to save time and it won’t touch your credit. 

Don’t settle for less than the very best inventory of pre-owned full-size trucks in Long Island. You deserve the Major World standard of customer care. Give us a call now at (866) 614-2884.

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