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When Should You Upgrade to a Ram 2500?

ram 2500 hd 2020 01 angle exterior front silver scaled jpg 2020 Ram 2500 HD | photo by Matt Barnes

Pickup trucks are the family vehicle for many Americans. They have lots of space inside to seat the family comfortably, a bed that is useful for hauling large items and make for excellent tow vehicles. And for many families, the pickups of choice are half-ton models. The Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500 are among the top-selling U.S. vehicles.

Related: Life With a Ram Power Wagon: Daily Driving With the Ultimate Ram 2500

So when Ram sent us a 2020 Ram 2500 Laramie four-wheel-drive crew cab with a 6-foot 4-inch bed, we evaluated it with this question in mind: When should a family upgrade to a three-quarter-ton truck?  

The rated payload capacity for this particular Ram 2500 was 2,980 pounds and thetowing capacity was 14,110 pounds; the payload and towing capacity for a similarly equipped 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie 4WD crew cab with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (non-eTorque) would be 1,790 and 8,200, respectively. Ford recently released the maximum payload and towing capacities for the 2021 F-150; they are a whopping 3,325 pounds and 14,000 pounds, respectively. With half-ton trucks maxing out in the same range as the lower end of three-quarter-ton trucks, what are the benefits of switching to a larger truck?

Ram 2500 SAE Ratings

There are many aspects to hauling and towing safely. In the U.S., pickup trucks are tested using SAE International’s J2807 towing standard, which sets requirements for accelerating, stopping and maneuvering the rated load. Manufacturers can choose to rate a truck at a lower rating than what was tested, but never higher. A truck may also perform at a higher rating in some areas than others but can only be rated at the highest rating that passes all the SAE tests.

The Ram 2500 we tested had the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with the 3.73 final drive ratio. This same truck is offered with a 4.10 axle ratio, upping the towing capacity to 16,610 pounds, and there are versions of the Ram 2500 that can tow more than 19,000 pounds. While our specific Ram 2500was rated around 14,000 pounds, many of its components can handle higher loads. The components of most, if not all, half-ton competitors that can tow in the 14,000-pound range  will be at their upper limit.

Heavy-Duty Benefits

ram 2500 hd 2020 10 exterior front silver scaled jpg

Tow vehicle stability is critical to towing. Tow vehicle stability is determined by many factors, including weight, suspension design, suspension spring and damping rates, and stiffness of the frame. The design and loading of the trailer is another important aspect. For example, a 9,000-pound trailer with a low center of gravity and little wind resistance will be much more stable to tow than a 9,000-pound trailer that’s tall has broad sides and a higher center of gravity.

Towing the first trailer with a half-ton truck would likely not be a problem at all, especially if equipped with a weight-distribution hitch. However, towing the second trailer in a high crosswind would be more likely to unsettle the half-ton truck and cause instability. Towing the second trailer with a three-quarter-ton truck would be more stable than with the half-ton due to the higher weight, stiffer suspension, stronger brakes and heavier damping. 

Shop for a Ram 2500

Three-quarter-ton trucks have upgraded and stronger components. The engines are designed for better durability in heavy-use situations. The axles, transmissions and transfer cases are typically stronger as well. The rear axle on HD trucks is fully floating, meaning that the only load the axle shafts are taking is the torque load from the engine. The rear axle shafts in half-ton trucks take the torque supplied by the engine, but they also support a portion of the vehicle weight. HD trucks have more powerful engine options, especially when upgrading to the diesel engines. Along with all that extra power and capacity comes a need for better braking. HD trucks are equipped with rotors, calipers and pads designed for stopping heavy loads. These features translate into a stronger, more durable and safer setup for towing.

All these upgrades come at a cost: HD trucks cost more, are less fuel efficient and have higher maintenance costs. Large components often cost more and require more fluids, but have maintenance schedules similar to those of half-ton trucks. Another downside to the larger and heavier trucks is that they don’t ride, handle or maneuver as well as their half-ton counterparts.

Why Choose the Ram 2500?

Ford and GM also offer three-quarter ton trucks, but the main difference between their three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks is the stiffness of the suspension. The Ram 2500 is unique in that it has an entirely different rear suspension and rear frame design when compared to the Ram 3500. The diesel engine is also detuned for the Ram 2500, putting out less power and torque.

All the other HD trucks have leaf spring rear suspensions. The Ram 2500 has coil springs or optional air springs, both with a five-link design. A five-link suspension controls wheel hop and axle wrap much better than leaf springs do. This setup creates better control during acceleration and braking, especially with heavy loads and when driving on soft or slippery surfaces. It has also been designed to produce a smoother ride, making it the best riding three-quarter-ton truck on the market.

Half-Ton Evaluation


  • Fuel efficient
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Less expensive than HD trucks
  • Smooth ride
  • Quick when unladen


  • Lower weight capacities
  • Weaker drivetrain
  • Shorter bed/less storage capacity

Three-Quarter-Ton Evaluation


  • Stable when towing
  • Durable with strong frames, axles, transmissions and engines
  • High payload and tow ratings
  • Heavy-duty brakes
  • Optional factory-installed gooseneck/fifth-wheel mounts


  • More expensive to purchase and operate
  • May not fit in garage/harder to park
  • Harsher ride

Making the Switch

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Both half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks offer plenty of amenities and features. Deciding between the two depends on how the truck will be used. Half-ton trucks are less costly to purchase and have lower maintenance and fuel costs. They ride better, are easier to maneuver and easier to park. Three-quarter-ton trucks have powerful engine options, higher payload and tow ratings, more durable components and better brakes for stopping while carrying heavy loads. While the half-ton trucks with the highest payload and tow ratings are close to the lower-rated three-quarter-ton trucks, the three-quarter ton will be more stable and controlled than a half ton when towing or hauling the same load.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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