What Does Half-Ton, Three-Quarter-Ton, One-Ton, Mean When Talking About Trucks?

Pickup trucks

Pickup trucks

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Q: What does half-ton, three-quarter-ton, one-ton, etc. mean when talking about trucks?

A: Half-ton, three-quarter-ton and one-ton are a classification for pickup trucks and SUVs that typically underrepresents their payload capacities, meaning the maximum weight a pickup or SUV can carry. Though tonnage designations used to correspond to a truck’s payload capacity, they now are little more than a way of classifying vehicles. The best-selling, half-ton pickup class — also known as light duty — includes Ford’s F-150 and the 1500-series trucks from Chevrolet, Dodge and GMC. The three-quarter-ton class includes the Ford F-250 Super Duty and Dodge’s and General Motors’ 2500 series. The manufacturers continue with one-ton F-350 Super Duty and 3500-series versions.

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The half-ton class is actually capable of around three-quarters of a ton of payload. Three-quarter-ton trucks may carry more than a ton and a half, and one-ton trucks have been known to haul more than twice that, safely. The trucks’ payload rating and/or gross vehicle weight rating are the only way to know.

Higher classes and payloads are made possible by heavier frames and stronger suspensions, brakes or engines, or a combination thereof. The downside is that they get poorer fuel economy and are more trucklike in their performance as their capabilities increase.

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Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.  Email Joe