What Size Truck to Pull a Travel Trailer

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Travel trailers have redefined family vacations in entirety, taking them to a new level. They allow you to explore the nation and the continent at large. It’s only natural that a travel trailer needs a towing truck. 

Pickup trucks are the automotive industry’s workhorses that enable you to carry large loads such as wood, mulch, household items, hay, bikes, and motorcycles in the bed. What’s more, they’re ideal for towing trailers, thanks to their brawny nature.

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Various truck manufacturers sell full-sized and compact pickups with configurations you’ll find handy when towing your travel trailer. Two popular trailer weights are 5,000 pounds and 7,500 pounds. 

Whereas the latter is almost similar in weight to a fully-loaded 30-foot dual-axle travel trailer, the former weighs as much as a 20-foot powerboat.

The weight of your travel trailer should be lower than the towing capacity of your truck to ensure that the weight of other items in the trailer (such as coolers, luggage, equipment, etc.) are accommodated. 

For more articles on travel trailers, you can check them out here.

Never tow a travel trailer of more capacity than what your truck is made to support to ensure that the drivetrain and suspension of your truck don’t get damaged. It would also ensure that you maintain control of your trailer.

Compact Trucks that Can Tow 5,000-Pound Travel Trailers

Various compact trucks come with configurations that support up to 5,000-pound towing capacity. Some compact trucks you can use to tow trailers with a maximum of 5,000 pounds capacity include the following:

  • Toyota Tacoma – The truck is a TRD Off-Road 4WD crew cab with various configurations such as 3.5-liter V6 engine, 5-foot 4-inch bed, and 6-speed auto transmission. The truck has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
  • Honda Ridgeline – The truck is a RTL-E AWD crew cab with various configurations to support towing such as 3.5-liter V6 engine, 5-foot 4-inch bed, and 6-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
  • Chevrolet Colorado – The truck is a Z71 4WD crew cab with various towing configurations such as 3.6-liter V6 engine, 5-foot 1-inch bed, and 8-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds.
  • Nissan Frontier – The truck is an SV 2WD crew cab with various configurations to support towing such as 4-liter V6 engine, 5-foot bed, and 5-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 6,640 pounds.
  • Jeep Gladiator – The truck is a Rubicon 4WD crew cab with various configurations such as 3.6-liter V6 engine, 5-foot bed, 3.73:1 rear axle ratio, and 8-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds that comes with a trailer tow package. 

Pickup Trucks that can Tow 7,500-Pound Travel Trailers

Full-Sized Trucks

Full-sized trucks on dealer lots also come with a range of configurations to support towing of a travel trailer. The trucks are often ranked based on their optimal towing capacity. They include the following:

  • Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition compares with the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe. However, it uses a unique approach. It utilizes a twin-turbo V6 engine and a rear suspension. This is unlike its competitors that use a conventional V8 and a truck-like solid axle. 

With the rear suspension, the truck delivers better handling and rides. What’s more, the truck has a higher towing capacity. A truck with a Class IV package for towing has the capacity to tow trailers that weigh up to 9,300 pounds. On the other hand, Expedition EL trucks with long wheelbases can handle up to 9,200-pound travel trailers. 

The truck has the capacity to tow heavier travel trailers than most SUVs on the market. Later models of the Ford Expedition provide superior towing capacity. They’re also built with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature of the F-150 pickup truck. 

  • Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban

This is a classic full-size pickup truck for your travel trailer. It’s designed to offer everyday comfort of an SUV and half-ton pickup truck’s towing capacity. It’s stable and powerful enough to pull a mid-sized travel trailer.

The Tahoe comes with a trailering package with a maximum capacity of 8,600 pounds. Due to the long-wheelbase Suburban’s greater weight, it tows trailers with a slightly lower capacity. However, its greater stability for towing longer travel trailers is attributed to its longer wheelbase. 

The Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon are upscale versions of the towing truck. However, the Cadillac has a lower towing capacity due to its higher weight. Nevertheless, the two trucks feature a greater 420-horsepower engine for added power when navigating hilly areas; but, it doesn’t increase a truck’s towing capacity. 

  • Ford F-150

Ford F-150 is a half-ton pickup for towing vehicles. It provides great stability and backup assist feature for reverse steering of the travel trailer (the latter feature is optional). A dial on the dashboard is twisted to showcase the intended direction of the trailer; the F-150 takes care of steering wheel twirling. 

Available in all kinds of engines, Ford comes in 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 for excellent gas mileage and strong power. Its towing capacity ranges widely from 4,900 to 12,200 pounds based on how it’s equipped. Therefore, go through Ford’s towing chart found with reputable dealers to purchase one with proper configuration to pull your travel trailer.

The XL T 4WD crew cab has 6-inch bed, 10-speed automatic transmission, 5-foot 6-inch bed, 3.55:1 rear rear axle ratio, and 2.7-liter turbo V6 engine. The truck has a towing capacity of 7,600 pounds.

  • Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Pickup trucks make great vehicles for towing travel trailers; that’s what they’re designed to do. Dedicated towing vehicles are too costly for most people (families and individuals) working on tight budgets. What’s more, pickup trucks consume lots of fuel.

This is where the RAM 1500 EcoDiesel comes in to tow your trailer without increasing your fuel bills. The V6 turbo-diesel is rated EPA at 27 mpg highway and 19 mpg city, figures resembling a large car. The truck delivers realistic statistics, atop being quiet. As a result, you can easily forget that you’re driving a diesel truck. 

Designed to save on fuel, the diesel engine has great towing power with a capacity range from 7,960 to 9,290 pounds. However, this depends on how the truck is equipped for the job. It can safely tow a travel trailer of a good size.

The Big Horn 4WD crew cab has configuration settings such as 5.7-liter V8 engine, 5-foot 7-inch bed, 3.21:1 rear axle ratio, and 8-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 8,240 pounds.

Other Full-Size Trucks

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 

The truck is a 4WD SV crew cab with configurations such as 5.6-liter V8 engine, 5-foot 6-inch bed, and 7-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 9,240 pounds.

  • Nissan Titan

This is a 4WD SV crew cab with various configurations such as 5.6-liter V8 engine, 5-foot 6-inch beds, and 7-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 9,240 pounds.

  • Toyota Tundra

The 4WD SR5 crew cab features 5.7-liter V8 engine, 5-foot 6-inch bed, and 6-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 9,800 pounds.

Compact Trucks

Some common compact trucks you’ll find on dealer lots with up to 7500-pound towing capacity include the following:

  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Although Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a van, it makes an excellent towing vehicle. It features a long wheelbase for better stability, and provides diesel power to reduce fuel bills. It has a towing capacity that ranges from 5,000 to 7,500 pounds, enough to pull a small- to mid-size travel trailer. 

Furthermore, it has a GCWR of up to 13,500 pounds, meaning you can pull a trailer at almost the maximum towing capacity of the Sprinter. At the same time, it can safely carry passengers and cargo in the vehicle.

  • Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado is a mid-size pickup truck. Just like full-size pickups, crew cab models with long beds feature long wheelbases. And, they use stability approaches similar to that of half-ton trucks. Therefore, they work best as family cars or off-roaders. 

4-cylinder Colorados that run on gas tow up to 3,500 pounds, V6 tows 7,000 pounds, and the diesel-powered model tows a maximum of 7,700 pounds. Although the GMC Canyon resembles this truck, it has a superior interior and tows just as nice.

The LT Z71 trims truck is an extended 4WD cab with towing configurations such as 2.8-liter turbo-diesel 4-cylinder, 6-foot 2-inch bed, and 6-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds.

Other Compact Trucks

  • Ford Ranger – The truck is a XL T 4WD crew cab with towing configurations such as 2.3-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, 5-foot beds, and 10-speed auto transmission. The towing capacity of this truck is 7,500 pounds.
  • Jeep Gladiator – The truck is a Sport S trims 4WD crew cab with towing configurations such as 3.6-liter V6 engine, 5-foot bed, 4.10:1 rear axle ratio, and 8-speed auto transmission. It has a towing capacity of 7,650 pounds.

How to do the Math

The tow rating or capacity of a truck is the maximum weight it can pull. Although the figure looks simple and straight-forward, various factors determine how much trailer weight your truck can safely pull. 

The tow rating of a truck assumes that it has all the necessary options for towing to attain the figure, without cargo on your truck’s bed. It takes some math to ascertain that your truck doesn’t surpass its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). It also ensures that your truck and travel trailer for towing remains less than the gross combined weight rating (GCWR).

The math for Chevrolet, for instance, is done as follows:

  • Weight of Travel Trailer – 10,000 pounds
  • GVWR of the Pickup Truck is 7,000 pounds
  • Weight of the pickup Truck (prior to adding payload) is 5,500 pounds

Added Payload to the Pickup Truck

  • 100-pound additional cargo
  • Two occupants weighing 300 pounds
  • Weight of the trailer tongue is 1,000 pounds (10% of the weight of your travel trailer)
  • 75-pound trailer hitch equipment
  • The total payload is 1,475 pounds

Formula is Weight of the towing truck (vehicle) + Payload 

5,500 pounds + 1,475 pounds = 6,975 pounds. 

The figure is slightly lower than the truck’s towing capacity of 7,000-pound GVWR.

According to the example above, the payload of a truck adds up fast when pulling a trailer due to its tongue weight. Towing near the limits of your truck’s towing capacity forces you to eliminate some passengers or cargo. This ensures that you stay within your truck’s safe towing capacity.

Towing Terms You Should Know

  • Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) 

GCWR is the optimal weight of your truck. It ensures that the loaded trailer supports safe handling of passengers or occupants and cargo with little to no risk of damage.

The GCWR isn’t stuck on the label of the doorjamb. It’s found in your truck’s towing section on the manufacturer’s official website.

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

Your truck’s weight and optimal weight for cargo and occupants, for safe handling, is what’s referred to as GVWR. It’s indicated on the driver’s doorjamb certification label of your vehicle. Only the tongue weight of your travel trailer is added against the GVWR, but not the trailer weight.

  • Payload

Combinational weight of trailer occupants and cargo (optimal value allowed) of your truck is its payload. Your truck’s base curb weight is deducted from the GVWR to get the payload. The tongue weight of your trailer is also included.

  • Weight of the Trailer Tongue

The trailer tongue weight is also referred to as tongue load. It’s a critical number to remember. It’s the weight of your trailer that actually sits on the hitch ball; it slides into your truck’s receiver and holds it up while driving. 

Excess tongue weight my result in your truck sitting too low in the rear, hurting the ability of the front wheel to offer traction, steering, and braking. However, it can also cause suspension damage.

On the converse, underweight tongue impacts how your trailer handles the pickup. This leads to your trailer swaying from side to side, a process known as fishtailing. Your truck’s ability to brake and hitch height impacts the tongue weight.

The trailer must sit at a level when attaching it to the towing truck. If you own a couple of trailers, the height of the hitch adjusts accordingly. 

So, What Size Truck Pulls a Travel Trailer?

The tongue load should be 10% to 15% of the total weight of your travel trailer. For instance, if you’re pulling 5,000 pounds, the weight of the tongue should range from 500 to 750 pounds.

If your towing truck has a high rating, it can handle the trailer you want to tow, and the trailer weight that levels on the hitch. The weight of the trailer’s tongue should be added to its payload. This means that the 500 or 750 pounds is added to the GVW of your truck.

The tongue load sits on the vehicle itself, making it part of the GVW of your truck. However, when formulating the GCW of your fully-loaded trailer and truck, tongue weight plays an important role.

Make sure that you know the payload capacity of your truck, and integrate tongue weight based on your truck’s payload. This is attributed to the tongue weight of your trailer; it affects the number of people riding in the cab, and the number of things carried.

The right truck size can pull your travel trailer based on the factors discussed above. Make sure it supports the exact needs of your travel trailer.