Can a half-ton truck only carry 1,000 pounds?

Back when I was a kid, a rather chubby friend of my dad’s stopped by to show off his brand new “half-ton” pickup truck. I counted four doors and six seat belts and did some math. Later, I asked my dad if his friend could give five equally beefy buddies a ride, or if going over 1,000 pounds would damage his “half-ton” truck. Once my dad stopped laughing, he explained that “half-ton” is outdated slang for the lightweight class of full-size pickups: 1,000 pounds might be a half-ton, but modern half-ton trucks -ton can bear much more weight.

How much can a half-ton truck carry?

Because “half-ton” is outdated slang for the full-size, light-duty pickup class, modern “half-tons” can all haul much more than half a ton. In fact, some well-equipped light trucks can carry over a ton of payload.

Ford F-150XLT | Ford

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If you order a full-size pickup with only two doors, a short bed, and a base engine, its payload capacity will be relatively low. A stripped-down Ford F-150 comes with a payload capacity of just 1,310 pounds. That’s less than Ford’s Maverick!

Many fully optional “half-ton” trucks can, confusingly, haul a whole ton. Remember that payload capacity includes passengers and gear in the cab as well as cargo in the bed and tongue weight of your trailer. But payload capacity is separate from towing capacity. Here are the actual payload capacities of the six full-size light-duty pickups available.

Pickup brand/model Payload capacity
2022 Nissan Titan 1,311 to 1,711 pounds
2022 Ford F-150 1,310 to 2,238 pounds
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 1,360 to 2,270 pounds
2022 Toyota Tundra 1,745 pounds – 2,290 pounds
2022 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 1,480 to 2,300 pounds
Ram 1500 2022 1,225 to 2,325 pounds

Where does the expression “half-ton truck” come from?

The US military first used large trucks for transportation and classified them by tonnage. Perhaps that’s why Ford called its first Model T truck the “One-Ton Model TT Chassis.” During World War II, the Army distinguished quarter-ton (Willys Jeep) and half-ton (Dodge WC series) vehicles from its one-ton cargo-carrying vehicles.

Dodge half-ton

Willys Jeep and Dodge Command Car in World War II | Jim Heimann Collection/Getty Images

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Mike Magda of PickupTrucks.com speculates that automakers started using the term “half-ton” to advertise pickup trucks to veterans familiar with half-ton military trucks such as the Dodge WC. These trucks, namely the Ford F-1, Dodge D/W100 and General Motors’ “Series” pickup trucks, have carved out an important niche in the market: the full-size light truck.

Over time, these trucks morphed into Ford F-100/150, Chevrolet C/K series, and eventually Dodge Ram pickup trucks. Then GM and Chrysler Corporation tried to outdo Ford by adding an extra 0 to their truck names and the modern “1500” was born. That’s how the Ram 1500 gets its name.

At the same time, these trucks competed by improving each other’s capabilities. This led to a sort of “Our half-ton can carry more than your half-ton” competition. And soon, all the “half-tons” had left the 1,000-pound payload capacity far behind.

What defines a half-ton truck?

“Half-ton” is slang for full-size, lightweight pickup trucks. These trucks are the size of their heavy-duty big brothers, but are designed to haul and tow less. They all fall under the government’s “2b” truck category, which means their combined vehicle and maximum payload weight is less than 8,501 pounds.

Ford F-150 half-ton pickup truck driving past a split rail fence and into a barnyard.

Ford F-150 Limited | Ford

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According to the US Department of Energy, trucks are classified by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This is the combined weight of the vehicle and its highest payload.

Market demands push vans from several manufacturers into groups of similar size. For example, all mid-size trucks have a GVWR of less than 6,000 pounds and belong to Class 1.

Similarly, full-size light trucks are popular with consumers as comfortable daily drivers with a strong road presence and good truck capability. These “half-ton” trucks all fall into a GVWR of between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds, which puts them in Class 2a.

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