What Is a One Ton Truck: A Complete Guide

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

So, you were looking for a powerful truck to tow your travel trailer and were told that a one-ton pickup truck would be an excellent candidate.

But what is a one ton truck, and would it be a good match for your towing or carrying needs?

That’s a great question to ask and a very critical consideration because your truck needs to be able to tow things safely.

Today, I’ll walk you through what there is to know about the one-ton pickup truck, including its payload and towing capacity

Ready to be enlightened? Let’s begin!

what is a one ton truck

What Is a One Ton Truck?

A 1-ton truck is the father of all light-duty pickup trucks, but its true meaning has given people the slip for many years. There’s a good reason for that. There have been significant changes in number classification throughout the years.

Those who have gotten used to the former meaning of a “one-ton truck” will also find that there has been a shift in these categorizations.

Speaking of how powerhouse pickups are categorized today, there’s 1500, 2500, and 3500. The 1-ton class is the most powerful of the trio, capable of carrying more than 20,000 pounds of payload.

It didn’t used to be that way, though. Back then, a one-ton truck had a maximum payload capacity of 2,000 pounds, making it a mere lightweight compared to its modern cousins.

one ton pickup

The One-Ton Truck History

During the First and Second World Wars, those in the army were the only ones using one- and two-ton trucks. They were primarily used for transportation, moving supplies, and storing and moving artillery and ammunition.

Back then, it was rare for private citizens to own these trucks. The times have since changed. Not only are one-ton trucks available commercially, but there are now different types of light-duty trucks to choose from.

As mentioned previously, the classic one-ton pickup truck only had a maximum payload capacity of 907 kilograms or 2,000 pounds.

What does that truly mean? You may ask.

What Is Payload Capacity?

Payload capacity is a key consideration when shopping for a truck. It determines one of the most crucial abilities of a truck and is linked to other important abilities, such as towing capacity.

Basically, it is the maximum weight a truck can safely carry. A common misconception is that payload capacity refers to the heaviest weight that can be carried safely in the truck bed, but that isn’t the case.

Payload is inclusive of the passengers, water, oil, gear, fuel, and pretty much everything else that’s in the truck. If your truck is carrying it, then it counts as payload.

1 ton powered engine

The Present-Day Definition of One-Ton Truck Based on Payload Capacity

The one-ton truck does not mean the same across the board because manufacturers tend to use different payload conversions.

But while there is no strict payload capacity rating that applies to all, there is no drastic difference between how companies define their one-ton trucks. 

A more general term for a one-ton truck used across the truck segment is “medium-duty class.” It refers to trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) between 10,001 and 16,000 pounds.

According to federal classifications, this would encompass class three and four pickup trucks. GVWR takes into account the weight of the vehicle, passengers, fuel, oil, and anything else that adds to the truck’s weight that it can safely carry.

The traditional one-ton truck payload capacity of 2,000 pounds is a thing of the past. The one-ton pickup trucks of today can carry so much more than that.

Most can carry a 4,000-pound payload with ease, and some can carry 7,000 without breaking a sweat. Then, there are the latest one-top pickup models that have a maximum payload capacity just shy of 40,000 pounds.

These numbers are only going to get higher, seeing as manufacturers keep improving their light-duty trucks’ towing and carrying capabilities.

There is also a lack of standardization in the truck segment to prevent companies from taking liberties in these areas.

Thus, the true definition of a truck’s capacity is determined by its published GVWR or towing capacity and payload rating.

Buying a 1-Ton Pickup Truck

When you plan to get a one-ton pickup truck, there are some considerations to keep in mind, such as the essential features and drawbacks of owning one.

Features to Look Into

GVWR and payload capacity aside, you might also want to look at the following features when shopping for a one-ton truck:

  • Dual rear wheels
  • Gas and diesel alternatives
  • Powertrains
  • Four-wheel drive.

ford and chevrolet

Drawbacks of Owning a One Ton Truck

Then, there are the disadvantages that often come with having a one-ton truck, such as:

  • Can make learning to drive a challenge because of their size and bulk
  • Poor fuel efficiency because of its size and power
  • Relatively less comfortable than smaller, lighter trucks
  • Expensive

Weight and Power of the 1-Ton Pickup Truck

Depending on the company and legal limits, a 1-ton truck can weigh about 9,900 pounds. On the other hand, the powertrain determines the weight they can tow.

There are one-ton trucks that can tow more than 35,000 pounds, such as those outfitted with the diesel powertrain.

Of course, other specs are worth looking at, whether they’re related to your purpose. After all, you may need a one-ton truck for more than towing or carrying.

Can It Pull a Fifth Wheel?

Since we’re discussing weight and power, let’s tackle whether or not one-ton pickups can safely pull a fifth wheel.

As much as we would like to have a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer to this, it would actually depend on a specific truck’s payload capacity.

What your truck is carrying at that very moment, and we mean everything, including passengers, determines whether it is capable of pulling a fifth wheel.

There are also some pretty heavy fifth wheels out there, so it’s not all up to the truck.

Some fifth wheels are huge and hold full-size washing machines, dryers, several beds, dishwashers, large holding tanks, and different types of furniture.

That’s practically an entire house that has to be distributed across the truck via the kingpin or fifth-wheel connection.

half ton truck

How Much Can Your One-Ton Truck Tow?

To compute the towing capacity of your one-ton pickup truck, you will need to consider both the GVWR of your truck and the gross weight of whatever you plan on pulling behind.

In many cases, that could be a trailer. So let’s use that as our example.

If your truck has a GVWR of 16,000 pounds and the trailer you’re planning to tow has a gross weight of 11,000, you will require a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

That said, if you keep the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR) within 26,000 (e.g. 16,000 GVWR and 10,000 CDL), there will be no need for a CDL.

1-Ton Truck Options

There are actually quite a few trucks that fit the 2,000-pound or up payload capacity, including some by the most popular manufacturers today.

Automobile companies known for their super-size pickup truck lines are Toyota, Dodge, Ram, and Ford. Some best-selling models today that you can choose from are:

  • Ford F-350 Super Duty
  • Ford F-450 Super Duty Truck
  • Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD
  • RAM 3500
  • RAM 4500

1-Ton Truck Pricing

If you plan to add a one-ton pickup truck to your car collection, one of the latest models could set you back at $35,000.

Unless you’re swimming in cash, that’s a lot of money. But you likely already know that’s what it will come down to, so choose your model carefully.

Additional features, like a power stroke diesel engine on a Ford pickup truck, could easily translate to $10,500 on top of the $35,000.

And a feature-packed Ford F-350? That’s an easy 90 grand off your bank account.

The 1-Ton Truck for Your Needs

So what is a one ton truck? The 1-ton trucks of today are of a different breed. If you’re used to the former classifications of these trucks, you will find that manufacturers are fond of taking liberties with their super trucks.

These trucks are now stronger, so they’re suited for specific purposes. That said, there should be no drastic differences between the top brands aside from the labeling (for example, 350 for another brand, while 3500 for Chevy).

The top brands should also have different one-ton truck alternatives like gas and diesel models and basic and additional features.

One thing these trucks have in common that may not necessarily be to your liking is the “ride.” You may find them less comfortable (for long rides, in particular) compared to the lighter pickups because of their size and bulk.


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