Truck Comparison: What Does ½ Ton, ¾ Ton, 1 Ton Mean?

Ton Trucks Explained

If you have been shopping for trucks, then you may have heard of the terms ½ ton, ¾ ton, and 1-ton trucks.

So what do these terms mean, and what type of capabilities do each of these trucks have?

Here, we will take a look at the different types of trucks and compare their various capabilities.

Want to learn more about trucks before making a decision? Check out our post on truck and cab bed sizes here.

Key Takeaways

  • A 1/2 ton truck is named because it used to be able to carry 1,000 lbs and is a light-duty truck best for light hauls and towing
  • A 3/4 ton truck is named because it used to be able to carry 1,500 lbs and is a heavy-duty truck popular with tradesmen for daily use
  • A 1 ton truck is named because it used to be able to carry 2,000 lbs and has the highest towing and hauling capacity of the three

What is GVWR

What Is GVWR?

GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This rating describes the maximum total safe weight of the vehicle. For example, let’s say that the truck's curb weight is 5,000 pounds, and the GVWR of the truck is 8,000 pounds. That means that the truck can safely add 3,000 pounds to its weight and still function normally. Exceeding the GVWR of a truck can not only get you a ticket, it can also endanger yourself and your passengers. Therefore, it is important to adhere to a vehicle GVWR.

What Is a ½ Ton Truck?

What is Half Ton Truck

A ½ ton truck is a truck that is used for light-duty hauling and towing work. The term ½ ton truck came from the fact that older ½ ton trucks could haul up to 1,000 pounds. Modern ½ trucks can exceed this amount. However, the term ½ ton truck remains. Usually, a ½ ton truck can haul about 3,000 pounds in its bed and tow up to 9,000 to 10,000 pounds depending on the powertrain.

Who Should Buy a ½ Ton Truck?

A ½ ton truck is an ideal choice for those who primarily use their vehicle as a daily driver and only occasionally use the vehicle for hauling and towing duties. Also, a ½ ton truck is an ideal choice for a blue-collar worker who likes to have fast access to their tools in the truck bed.

½ Ton Truck Examples

Some of the best ½ ton trucks include:

  • Chevy Silverado 1500
  • RAM 1500
  • Ford F-150
  • GMC Sierra 1500
  • Toyota Tundra

Check out our top picks for the best full-size trucks and the most reliable full-size trucks.

What Is a ¾ Ton Truck?

What is Three Quarter Ton Truck

A ¾ ton truck is a heavy-duty truck that is popular by many trade workers who use their trucks on a daily basis for heavy towing and hauling work. These vehicles are called ¾ ton pick-ups because older model ¾ ton trucks could haul up to 1,500 pounds in their bed. Today, ¾ ton trucks can easily haul up to 4,000 pounds in their truck bed and tow up to 14,000 pounds depending on the powertrain.

Who Should Buy a ¾ Ton Truck

A ¾ ton truck is an ideal choice for someone who intends to use their truck for hauling and towing on a daily basis. For instance, a tradesperson who works on construction sites can make great use of a ¾ ton truck. Also, those who own a boat trailer or an RV will want to consider a ¾ ton truck.

¾ Ton Truck Examples

Some of the most popular ¾ ton trucks include:

  • Chevy Silverado 2500HD
  • RAM 2500
  • Ford F-250 Super Duty
  • GMC Sierra 2500HD
  • Nissan Titan XD

Check out our top picks for the best heavy-duty trucks and the most reliable heavy-duty trucks.

What Is a 1-Ton Truck?

What is One Ton Truck

A 1-ton truck is generally the largest and most powerful truck available. The term 1-ton truck comes from the fact that old 1-ton trucks could haul up to 2,000 pounds in their bed. Today, modern 1-top trucks can easily haul up to 6,000 pounds and tow up to 36,000 pounds with a diesel powertrain.

Who Should Buy a 1-Ton Truck?

A 1-ton truck is an ideal choice for a tradesperson who will do heavy hauling and towing for their vehicle. Also, a 1-ton truck is ideal for those who will be doing their hauling and towing up steep grades due to the powerful engine in 1-ton trucks. Finally, a 1-ton truck is a great choice for those who want to tow large boats and large RVs.

For even greater hauling power, consider a dump truck.

What To Look For in a 1-Ton Truck?

When buying a 1-ton truck, check its towing and payload capacities to ensure they suit your needs. Consider the engine type for performance and fuel efficiency. The truck's durability and reliability are vital, so look for strong construction and reputable brands.

Don't overlook comfort features and advanced driving aids. Finally, consider the total cost of ownership, including purchase price, insurance, and maintenance, and potential resale value.

1-Ton Truck Examples

Top-selling 1-ton trucks include:

  • Chevy Silverado 3500HD
  • RAM 3500
  • GMC 3500
  • Ford F-350 Super Duty

In search of the ultimate work truck? Check out our picks for the best dually trucks here.

What Does 1500 Mean on a Truck?

Several automakers use 1500, 2500, and 3500 labels for trucks. Essentially, these numbers correspond to how many tons the vehicle can haul.

  • 1500 trucks can haul about a half-ton of materials. (ex. Chevrolet Silverado 1500)
  • 2500 trucks can haul about a three-quarter ton of materials. (ex. GMC Sierra 2500HD)
  • 3500 can haul about one ton. (ex. Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD)

Essentially, 1500 trucks are “light-duty trucks” while the other two are considered heavy-duty. Therefore, 1500 is suitable for daily driving and light hauling work, whereas the 2500 and 3500 are more often used for service workers.


The 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton truck were named after their load-bearing capacities when they were first introduced to the market. Today, their payloads have increased significantly to 3,000, 4,000, and up to 6,000, respectively. While a 1/2 ton truck is likely enough for light loads and the occasional tow, a 3/4 ton is suitable for laborers, and a 1 ton will give you the highest load-bearing capacity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a payload on a truck?

The payload of a truck is the amount that the truck can hold in its bed. In general, a 1/2-ton truck can carry a payload of up to 3,000 pounds. A ¾ ton truck can carry a payload of up to 4,000 pounds. Finally, a 1-ton truck can carry a payload of up to 6,000 pounds.

Are there trucks smaller than a 1/2-ton?

The United States uses commercial truck classifications according to a truck's GVWR. ½ ton trucks are classified as Class 2a and are the second-lowest rating. The lowest rating is Class 1. Class 1 trucks have a GVWR under 6,000 pounds. Trucks under the Class 1 rating include Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator, and Nissan Frontier.

Are there trucks larger than 1-ton?

The United States puts all 1-ton trucks in Class 3 based on the GVWR range of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds. There are actually 5 classifications beyond Class 3. For instance, Class 4 trucks with a GVWR from 14,001 to 16,000 pounds include the Chevy Silverado 4500HD, Ford F-450 (Chassis Cab), and the RAM 4500. Larger trucks include Class 5 trucks such as the Chevy Silverado 5500HD, Ford F-550, and RAM 550. Trucks larger than Class 5 are mostly commercial-only trucks.

How much can a ½ ton truck tow?

A ½ ton truck can tow up to 10,000 pounds, with the exact towing capacity contingent on the powertrain. Typically, trucks equipped with a diesel powertrain have a higher towing capacity. Always refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for precise towing capabilities, as it can vary based on model and configuration.

How much can a ¾ ton truck tow?

The towing capacity of a ¾ ton truck largely depends on the vehicle's specific configuration, including the powertrain, engine size, and whether it's equipped with a towing package. Typically, these trucks can tow up to 14,000 pounds. Diesel powertrains are especially notable for their superior torque, enabling the vehicle to tow on the higher end of this range. Towing capacity can also be influenced by other factors like the truck's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), rear axle ratio, and whether it has a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain.

How much can a 1-ton truck tow?

A 1-ton truck generally can tow up to 36,000 pounds, dependent on the powertrain. More specifically, a diesel powertrain typically allows the truck to achieve this higher towing capacity. Always consult the owner's manual of the specific model and configuration for the most accurate towing capabilities.

Can a ½  ton truck haul a fifth wheel?

While truck manufacturers advertise that their ½ trucks can haul a fifth wheel, it is not recommended. A fifth wheel is an RV with a hitch and a rear axle. This creates major stress on a ½ ton truck’s limited towing capacity.

Can a ¾ ton truck haul a fifth wheel?

A ¾ ton should have the power to tow many types of fifth-wheel RVs. However, you will want to reserve the larger fifth-wheel RVs for 1-ton trucks.

Can a 1-ton truck haul a fifth wheel?

A 1-ton truck will have the towing capability and the power to tow most fifth-wheel RVs.