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Think payload and towing capacity mean the same thing? Think again. One is all about carry, the other all about pull. Learn the key differences between these often misunderstood truck terms so you don’t risk harming your truck or your cargo. It’s time to talk truck stuff.

Carry or Pull?

The main difference between payload and towing capacity is fairly simple.

Payload refers to the number of pounds of cargo a pickup truck can carry, and towing refers to the number of pounds a pickup truck can pull

Payload Capacity: How Much Your Truck Can Carry

Your truck’s payload capacity refers to all the cargo weight that you can safely add in addition to your truck’s empty weight (also known as curb weight). A “payload” could be anything from a truck bed full of garden mulch to five passengers and a week’s worth of luggage.

Payload capacity is calculated by your vehicle manufacturer and noted in the owner’s manual. But you can calculate your truck’s payload capacity on your own by doing a little math:

Start with the maximum total weight your truck can handle, known as its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). GVWR is also determined by the manufacturer and is listed in your owner’s manual. Subtract your truck’s curb weight from its GVWR—that’s your payload capacity!

Payload Capacity = Gross Vehicle Weight – Curb Weight

For example, if your truck’s GVWR is 9,000 lbs and it weighs 5,000 lbs empty, then your payload capacity is 4,000 lbs. You can put 4,000 lbs of people and stuff in your truck.

Note: Payload capacity includes passengers! If you’re picking up a couple of friends, you may need to drop cargo to stay within your truck’s weight limit.

Note: Payload capacity includes passengers! If you’re picking up a couple of friends, you may need to drop cargo to stay within your truck’s weight limit.

  • One-quarter cord of firewood (1,250 lbs)
  • One-half cubic yard of sand (1,300 to 1,500 lbs)
  • One-half cubic yard of gravel (1,200 to 1,450 lbs)
  • One-half cubic yard of mulch (300 to 400 lbs)
  • One-half cubic yard of dirt (1,000 lbs)

Towing Capacity: How Much Your Truck Can Pull

Towing capacity refers to how much weight you can safely pull behind your truck with a trailer. Typically, your truck’s towing capacity far exceeds its payload capacity because the majority of the weight is resting on the trailer axles, not your truck’s axles.

You can find your truck’s towing capacity in the owner’s manual or calculate it on your own. To find your truck’s towing capacity, subtract your truck’s curb weight from its Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR). The GCVWR is the maximum weight of your loaded truck and the weight of its attached trailer.

Towing Capacity = Gross Combined Vehicle Weight – Curb Weight

Let’s say your truck has a GCVWR of 15,000 lbs. It weighs 5,000 lbs empty and you already have 4,000 lbs of dirt in the truck bed. Your towing capacity would be no more than 6,000 lbs.

Here are some items you might tow, along with their common weights:

  • Car (2,800 lbs)
  • Car trailer (1,600 to 2,000 lbs)
  • Motorboat (2,500 lbs)
  • Boat trailer (300 to 1,500 lbs)
  • Camper (5,200 lbs)

Payload vs. Towing Capacity Example: 2018 Chevy Silverado

The payload capacity of a 2018 Chevy Silverado truck ranges from 1,739 to 2,018 lbs. Remember, this amount refers to how much weight you can add without a trailer.

As for towing capacity, a 2018 Chevy Silverado can tow anywhere from 7,600 to 23,000 lbs, depending on how the truck is configured, notes Chevy.

If all these numbers have you “tow” excited, read on! When equipped with an EcoTec3 5.3L V8, the 2018 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup can safely tow up to 9,800 lbs.

Meanwhile, the towing capacity of the 2018 Chevy Silverado 2500HD is 14,500 lbs. And the Chevy Silverado 3500HD Duramax® 6.6L Turbo-Diesel V8? It can tow up to 20,000 lbs—almost two adult elephants!

Even Chevy’s smaller pickup model, the 2018 Chevy Colorado, can tow up to 7,700 lbs if equipped with a Duramax®2 2.8L Turbo-Diesel engine.

Know Before You Tow!

Ignoring your truck’s towing and payload capacity is one of the easiest ways to damage its frame, engine, transmission, and tires. Consult your owner’s manual before pushing, pulling, or hauling any load.

Proper hauling, based in part on the stability of your cargo, can also prevent crashes. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that from 2011 to 2014 in the U.S., road debris—including improperly loaded cargo—was a factor in an estimated average of 50,658 crashes per year, causing 9,805 injuries and 125 deaths.

This article was originally published firestonecompleteautocare.com on January 7th, 2019

Diesel Trucks Vs Gas Trucks

Unfortunately, determining whether a gas or diesel truck is right for you is not a cut and dry question. Each comes with it’s own advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a look at some of the most common areas you may be considering and which engine is better suited towards each.


Winner – Gasoline

Gas trucks are typically $5000-$8000 cheaper than diesel trucks for class 3 and 4 trucks. Diesel trucks make more sense for those driving a lot of miles each year. This number is often set around 30,000 miles annual. Above this number and a diesel truck may be more cost effective for you.


Winner – Gasoline

As of 2011, the previous 14 years saw the average price of gasoline nearly 14 cents lower than diesel fuel.


Winner – Diesel

The US Dept of Energy states that diesel engines can be 30-35% more fuel efficient than their gasoline counterparts. Diesel fuel has a higher density of “energy” within the fuel itself which means that less fuel is needed to generate the same power as a gasoline engine.


Winner – Gasoline

Typically, diesel engines cost more to maintain than gas motors. This can be attributed to the extra components on a diesel engine that are not found on gas engines, as well as the need to change filters more frequently. Diesel motors also tend to have a higher oil capacity meaning more is needed during each oil change.


Winner – Diesel

Diesel motors are designed to last many more miles than a gasoline motor. It’s not uncommon to see diesel trucks still on the road with 500,000 miles or more, whereas the design life of a gasoline motor is closer to the 200k range.


Winner – Diesel

Diesel trucks are the clear winner in terms of towing. It’s not that gasoline motors can’t tow or haul as much of a payload, but diesel engines just do it better. Since diesel motors generate all it’s power and torque at low RPMs, this give the diesel an advantage at pulling heavy loads especially up steep grades. Also, if you plan on repeatedly towing heavy loads with a gasoline engine, it may reduce engine life.


Winner – Diesel

Since a diesel truck often last twice as many miles or more as a gas engine, a diesel truck with 200k miles will command a much higher price than a gas truck with the same number of miles. After all, the diesel truck has plenty of life remaining while the gasoline engine is nearing the end of its expected lifespan. For that reason, buying will pay more for a used diesel truck than a gas truck with comparable miles.


Winner – Similar, no winner

Diesel trucks used to pollute the air more than gas trucks, but the two are pretty even these days. Recent regulations by the EPA have made this much less of an issue today. For new trucks that meet the latest emissions standards, neither has a clear advantage.

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