Best Trucks for Towing

With so many versions of each new truck model available — regular cab to crew cab, V6, V8 and diesel engine choices, 2- and 4-wheel drive — towing capabilities vary widely, too. Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you narrow your choices. What do you plan to tow? How will you use your pickup when you’re not towing?

Before new standards for towing capacities were introduced, comparing ratings between brands was tough. Now, automakers are adopting uniform methods for testing and rating pickups. The standard is called SAE J2807, and it’s already in use by all the major manufacturers.

You’ll definitely need a pickup that’s rated to handle your trailer’s total weight and tongue weight. Have those figures handy when beginning your search. If you only pull your trailer a few times a year, it’s okay to choose a pickup with a towing rating just above your trailer’s weight. If you tow regularly, it may be a good idea to pick a truck with a higher rating.

Heavy vs Light Duty

Some light-duty trucks offer huge towing capacities in excess of 10,000 pounds, but drivers with big trailers, such as fifth-wheel campers or gooseneck horse trailers, may be better off with a heavy-duty pickup. Again, frequency of use is a consideration. You don’t want to pony up thousands more for a big Ford F-350 or a GMC HD you’re only towing occasionally.

If you plan to tow a personal watercraft or a light-utility trailer, you may not even need a full-size pickup. Consider a smaller truck, such as a Tacoma or a Frontier,┬áif you’re only pulling a light trailer.

Gas vs Diesel

Diesel is great for towing. It provides plenty of low-end torque to get you moving and to achieve good efficiency at higher speeds, too. Diesel-motor options are mostly limited to heavy-duty pickups. The notable exception is the Dodge RAM 1500 EcoDiesel, a full-size light-duty pickup with a diesel V6. GM says that it will offer a diesel option in the midsize Chevrolet Colorado, but only gas engines will be available when they first come to the market.

Diesel engines also often add thousands to the purchase price. They can tow more and can sometimes achieve better fuel economy, but if you’ll rarely be towing anything, it may just not be worth it.