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How Big of a Travel Trailer can I Pull with a Half-Ton Pickup?

How Big of a Travel Trailer can I Pull with a Half-Ton Pickup?

Pickup trucks are powerful vehicles that will serve you well if you’re an outdoorsy type. They can take your family, pets, and your kayak or travel trailer, depending on the truck’s unique capabilities. So, how big of a travel trailer can you pull with a half-ton pickup truck?

You can pull a travel trailer with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that’s 90%  of your half-ton pickup truck’s max towing capacity. Don’t choose a trailer that matches the max towing capacity of your vehicle. By going with the GVWR instead, the trailer is unlikely to overload your vehicle. 

The rest of the article will cover all you need to know about choosing a travel trailer for your half-ton pickup. You’ll also learn some of the dangers of overloading your vehicle.

Travel Trailer and Pick-Up Truck Pulling Dynamics

Most travel trailers weigh around 6,000-8,000 lbs (2700-3600 kg) empty. There are even very light weight options with some travel trailers weighing under 3000 lbs. After you fit out the trailer and include all the stuff necessary for a standard weekend trip, the weight can increase by another 10-20%. A half-ton truck may look powerful on paper, but your dream travel trailer may be too heavy for it to handle.

It’s hard to definitively pinpoint a travel trailer weight range for a half-ton truck because all truck manufacturers do not stick to an industry-wide standard for towing weight. While the vast majority of them can keep up with the weight of a travel trailer, the overall weight handling, and general limits will vary from one truck model to the other.

Below is a table showing some popular half-ton models and their maximum towing capacity to help you understand the variations in this niche:

Vehicle (Half-Ton Model)Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs.)
Nissan Titan12,750
GMC Sierra13,400
Toyota Tundra10,200
Ram 1500 9,370
Chevrolet Silverado13,400
Ford F-15013,200

The table above shows the wide disparity in the maximum towing capacity for vehicles that are supposed to be in the same bracket. The numbers published are also never the absolute maximum weight. 

Most trucks can tow more than the numbers published by manufacturers because the numbers are designed to keep you safe. Think of it like the relationship between your gas tank and the meter on your dashboard. 

So, should you max out the towing capacity of your vehicle when installing a trailer? No, it’s not a good idea. Although the vehicles can tow more than what the numbers say, it’s always best to stay well below the maximum capacity for several reasons (more on that below).

However, unless you have a Ram 1500 or a Toyota Tundra, your half-ton truck is most likely powerful enough to handle most travel trailers you hook up to it. A fully fitted travel trailer will likely still weigh less than 10,000 lbs (4500 kgs). As long as your trailer is under this weight limit, you should have no problems touring the picturesque outdoors.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Vehicle’s Towing Capacity

You should avoid maxing out your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity because it’s unsafe. Granted, you have some room to play with, as we discussed above, but you’ll never know how much extra space you’ve got to work with, which makes it dangerous. 

The documented towing capacity is a result of research and adherence to safety regulations. Staying below it improves your safety even further.

Furthermore, asking your truck or SUV to tow more than what it can handle will cause you problems now and in the future as you drive around the road. 

For starters, you won’t have adequate control over your truck when you’re out on the road. When you’re towing too much weight, it’s more difficult for you to steer effectively. The vehicle might also be too heavy when you need to slam the brakes suddenly.

Over the long-term, overloading the vehicle will lead to more wear and tear overall. The engine will also overheat frequently, shortening the lifespan of your transmission. So, you’re better off making sure your half-ton truck is far from overloaded whenever you hook up your travel trailer. 

Airstream has several travel trailer models that can be pulled by a half-ton truck.

4 Steps to Choosing the Best Travel Trailer for Your Half-Ton Truck

The steps below will ensure you make the right choice when you’re looking to pair a travel trailer with your half-ton truck:

1. Find Out Your Truck’s Maximum Towing Capacity and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

You can find the information from your dealership or by running a quick search online. Your manufacturer’s website should come up in the results with the answers. The data plate on the driver’s side of the door may also hold the information. GVWR definition – The GVWR is the maximum operating weight of a vehicle (or trailer) when loaded with cargo and passengers.

2. Calculate the Weight That Will Go on Your Travel Trailer

If you regularly take your family, pets, a kayak, bikes, and other recreational gear along on your trips, you need to factor in the extra weight into your calculations. You have to deduct the weight from your truck’s GVWR to see what’s left.

3. Pay Attention to the Trailer’s (GVWR)

When analyzing travel trailer options, you should focus on the GVWR instead of other metrics like the unloaded vehicle weight (UVW), which has figures that won’t include details like cargo, trailer add-ons, or tank fluids.

Going back to our table above, if you have a Toyota Tundra and choose a travel trailer with a UVW of 9,500 lbs (4,309.12 kg), you’re almost certainly going to go over your truck’s maximum tow rating when the trailer is loaded.

4. Don’t Get Desperate

Even when you’ve analyzed the numbers and find out that you’re cutting it close with your choice of a travel trailer, you may decide to buy the trailer regardless because you love a thing or two about it.  

The desperation to get that particular trailer is dangerous because you’ll almost certainly lose money when you ultimately have to trade in the tow trailer for a model that’s a lot more suitable to your half-ton truck. Alternatively, you may have to replace your half-ton truck for one with a higher towing capacity or a three-quarter or full-ton truck.

So, you need to stay grounded when the travel trailer salesperson gets caught up in the excitement of closing a sale and tries to nudge you towards a broader interpretation of the numbers.

Extras To Ensure Safe Towing With Your Half-Ton Truck

After you’ve found the right trailer for your half-ton truck, you’ll need to include some add-ons to ensure safe towing. The top options include the following:

  • A set of tow mirrors – You need RV tow mirrors stuck to your truck’s side mirrors to expand your view and banish all blind spots.
  • Electronic brake control system – The electronic trailer brake controller allows you to seamlessly control your trailer’s brake system without stepping out from your truck. It also reduces the load on your truck’s braking parts.
  • Sway bar – You need a sway bar if you choose a bumper-pull travel trailer instead of a fifth-wheel design. The bar will keep your trailer stable even when you approach highway speeds.

Closing Thoughts

Half-ton trucks are more powerful than ever, but you still need to ensure you choose the perfect travel trailer in line with the truck’s maximum towing capacity. For the best results, the GVWR, after loading up your trailer and calculating passenger weight, should be less than 90% of the maximum towing capacity.

If the numbers show that your half-ton truck is under powered to handle your ideal travel trailer weight, you should consider moving up a level to three-quarter-ton trucks.

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