Some travel trailer campers weigh too much for a midsize SUV to handle. Once you start getting over a gross weight of 7,000 pounds or so, you really should start thinking about towing it with a full-size, half-ton pickup truck.
The good news is that today’s pickup trucks are more fuel-efficient, and comfortable to drive than they were just a few years ago. Still, not all pickup trucks are the same.
Which might leave you wondering what the best pickup half-ton pickup truck is for towing your travel trailer?
At first glance the robust towing capacity of the 2020 Ford F-150 with it’s Eco-Boost engine and strong suspension system stands at a top of the list. Yet there are other half-ton trucks with their own loyal following, like the Chevrolet Silverado, and the Dodge Ram that also have the capability to tow a travel trailer with ease.
In this article we will look at key pickup truck towing and handling features. This includes things like towing capacity, suspension, and the all-important MPG fuel consumption.
This will help you filter through the various options on the market today to find the best half- ton pickup truck to tow your travel trailer camper.
6 Of The best Half-ton Pickup Trucks For Towing Travel Trailer
In the past the half-ton pickup truck market in the United States and Canada was dominated by only Ford, GMC, and Dodge.
Yet I think you’ll find that the modern-day pickup truck has evolved with better fuel efficiency without sacrificing towing capacity.
Here is the list of 7 of the best 1/2 ton trucks for towing travel trailers:
1. The 2020 Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 is one of the best selling vehicles in the world. It’s also been the best selling half-ton truck in the United States for decades!
So, it’s no wonder why it cracks the top of our list as one of the best half-ton pickup trucks for towing a travel trailer.
The dual-turbo V8 model of the 2020 Ford F-150 gives it an impressive 13,000-pounds towing capacity.
At full chuff it’s EPA rated for 18 MPG in the city and then 25 MPG on the highway, which is impressive for a half-ton pickup truck.
The Ford F-150 has certainly evolved a lot from previous iterations with a gas-guzzling 5.8-liter V8 engine.
The 2020 Ford F-150 has a very fuel-efficient 3.3-Liter V6 engine with Ford’s proprietary Eco Boost.
The six-speed transmission also helps to efficiently put the power down. This translates into a half-ton pickup truck that has nearly the same torque and power than the older V8 did.
Along the way they even tossed in traction control and a backup assist system with an LCD monitor.
This is very handy for times when you need to hitch up to your travel trailer and you don’t have anyone to guide you.
2. The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado
In the United States the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado is historically the second best-selling half-ton truck.
It continues to nip at the Ford F-150’s heels thanks to a perfect blend of power and comfort. You see this shining through with the 2020 version of the Chevrolet Silverado.
The Chevy Silverado with the 6.2-liter V8 engine gets a very nice 13,400-pound towing capacity, which lets it stand shoulder to shoulder with its closest competitor the Ford F-150.
The 10-speed transmission also means you can make the most out of the available torque when towing a travel trailer camper or boat trailer on the highway.
Chevrolet likes to infuse their vehicles with a little bit more creature comforts and special features.
You see this in the Bluetooth compatible hands-free system and the navigation system. Not to mention the nice MPG rating.
3. The 2020 Dodge Ram 1500
In recent years Dodge and the Mopar umbrella have let their Ram half-time pickup truck evolve on its own.
The end result, is a vehicle that is more fuel-efficient and reliable than past models, without sacrificing towing capacity.
Along the way they also added some special features to help make the Ram more appealing to individuals who need a truck that can work for a living, yet still, tow a travel trailer confidently.
The 2020 Dodge Ram 1500 Limited is rated to tow up to 12,750 pounds. While this is admittedly a shade less than the comparable Silverado and F-150.
Still, chances are you aren’t going to get this heavy with a travel trailer camper or even a large boat.
The high strength steel frame as well as the air suspension system also helps to reduce the risk of trailer sway at highway speeds.
When you start to rub noses with the 2020 Dodge Ram, you start seeing a lot of thoughtful engineering cues.
Take for example the air suspension system which makes for a remarkably smooth ride, and towing experience.
The Active Air Dam design of the front bumper improvs the aerodynamics.
4. The 2020 GMC Sierra Limited
Technically the GMC Sierra 1500 Limited and the Chevy Silverado are made by the same manufacturer.
A lot of the same engineers have their fingerprints on the design. Yet they also go so far as to transform the Sierra 1500 Limited into its own entity. This includes a unique exterior that is visually stunning.
The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Limited is rated to be able to tow a travel trailer up to 10,000-pounds.
Again this is a little less than the other half-ton towing trucks in this same class, yet it’s still significantly more than the light-duty pickup trucks like the Chevy Colorado and the Ford Ranger that try to nip at the Sierra’s heels.
The 5.3-liter V8 engine is rated to provide 17 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway. It also has a Dynamic Fuel Management system.
This is arguably less fuel-efficient than the competition. Still the 6-speed transmission is smooth, and the traction control system is nicely responsive.
There are a lot of little creature comforts built into the GMC Sierra’s Limited’s trim level.
This includes things like a weight-saving carbon-fiber cargo bed and a stylish, comfortable interior.
5. The 2020 Toyota Tundra
Toyota has announced its presence in the half-ton pickup truck market place over a decade ago with their Tundra.
It’s earned a reputation for being reliable as well as powerful. Not to mention it comes with some of the sophisticated engineering that you expect from a Japanese carmaker.
Yet the 2020 Toyota Tundra is manufactured in the United States to share its presence with domestic truck companies.
The 2020 Toyota Tundra with a 5.8-liter V8 engine is rated to have a towing capacity of up to 9,800-pounds.
This is a little less than what you will find with the leading Ram, F-150, and Chevrolet Silverado.
So, while it isn’t going to be able to tow a mammoth travel trailer or a fifth-wheel camper, the 2020 Toyota Tundra is still very much in play for lighter travel trailers, teardrop campers, and properly loaded toy hauler campers.
The 5.7-Liter V8 engine isn’t the most fuel-efficient in the half-ton class. It only gets 13 miles to the gallon in the city, and 17 miles to the gallon on the highway.
There are also a lot of creature comforts that you will come to enjoy such as the SiriusXM AM/FM/HD/Satellite, seek-scan Radio, a 1st row LCD monitor, and remote keyless entry.
6. The 2020 Nissan Titan XD
Nissan has made a splash in the United States in recent years. And while their light-duty pickup trucks lead the way, the Nissan Titan has stepped up to the plate to offer power, sound engineering, and a few nice creature comforts.
The 2020 Nissan Titan XD’s 5.6-Liter engine, transmission, and suspension system are rated to have a towing capacity of up to 11,000-pounds.
Here again it’s not as robust as Ford, Chevrolet, and the Dodge Ram’s towing numbers, but it can still comfortably pull all but the heaviest of travel trailers.
The 9-speed automatic transmission with overdrive helps to put down the power produced by the 5.6-Liter V-8 engine.
9 gears also make for a smooth transition when the Titan is under load. You also have to like the sophisticated traction control system.
The fuel consumption rating is a little sparse, but not bad at 16 miles to the gallon in the city, and 22 miles to the gallon on the highway.
Towing Big Trailers with a 1/2 Ton Pickup: Things to consider
In the United States domestic market the three biggest players are GMC, which represents both the Sierra and the Chevy Silverado, Ford with the F-150, and Dodge with the Ram 1500.
These big dogs have been sparring with each other for decades, to the point of having built very deep and loyal followings.
So, it’s understandable that if you are loyal to one of these brands that you might give it preference regardless of the statistics.
If you are someone who likes to crunch the numbers, and brand loyalty isn’t a major issue for you, then there are some key factors to consider when shopping for the best half-ton pickup truck to tow a travel trailer.
Understanding The Difference Between Hitch Weight And Tongue Weight
If you are new to the world of travel trailers and towing with a half-ton pickup truck, then you might be wondering what the difference is between terms like “Hitch Weight” and “Tongue Weight.”
Tongue weight is defined as the weight your travel trailer camper applies to the tongue that connects it to the hitch of the pickup truck.
The hitch weight is the weight your truck’s hitch, frame, and suspension can handle.
The closer you come to your half-ton truck’s hitch weight the more likely you are to experience complications during towing. This includes dangerous “Trailer Sway” while towing at speed.
In some cases, carefully distributing the load of your gear inside your travel trailer can slightly reduce the tongue weight that influences the hitch.
This will go a long way toward reducing your chances of suffering a dangerous trailer sway issue when you’re on the road. Ideally, your tongue weight will be roughly 12% of the total weight you are towing.
What Is The Average Weight Of Your Travel Trailer?
The answer to this question can vary widely depending on the size of the travel trailer, it’s storage tanks and its intended purpose.
The “Average” travel trailer camper tends to ring in right around 7,000 to 8,000 pounds.
This is usually well within the towing capacity of your average half-ton pickup truck.
Though, it’s worth noting, that there are some lightweight travel trailers and toy haulers that only weigh in around 5,000-pounds.
On the other end of the spectrum some of the larger, luxury travel trailers can tip the scales over 10,000-pounds.
What Is Dry Weight?
The “Dry Weight” numbers that you find in a travel trailer’s statistics is what it weighs when it’s empty.
Once you start filling the water tanks and loading it up with camping gear the gross weight of the travel trailer starts to go up.
This in turn influences the true tongue weight that will eventually be applied to the hitch of your half-ton tow vehicle.
How Much Can My Half-Ton Pickup Truck Really Tow?
Truck manufacturers usually print or stamp a metal plate in the driver’s side door well with important statistics.
This often includes the recommended maximum towing capacity based on key factors like torque, suspension, and horsepower.
Most experienced half-ton pickup drivers will note that you shouldn’t push the towing capacity up to the max.
It’s best to give yourself 15 to 20-percent leeway to compensate for things like a potential headwind, poor road conditions, or a steep incline.
All of which can increase the stress to the vehicle or lead to a possible dangerous trailer sway incident.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Way To Improve My Half-Ton Pickup Truck’s MPG?
Fuel consumption is one of the biggest complaints with half-ton pickup trucks.
For the most part, there’s not a lot you can do to make a major difference in the fuel consumption numbers. However, general maintenance can help maximize your results.
This includes things like getting timely oil changes, replacing air filters, and making sure your tires have the proper pressure before every trip.
If you stay on top of it, and you drive smart, you might be able to get an extra 2 to 3 MPG out of a half-ton pickup truck while towing a travel trailer.
Can I Tow A Fifth Wheel Trailer With A Half Ton Pickup Truck?
To be able to tow a fifth-wheel travel trailer your truck will first need a special hitch assembly installed through the cargo box and the underlying frame.
In this configuration, you should be able to tow a small, lightweight fifth-wheel travel trailer.
If you have brand loyalty to a specific truck manufacturer on this list, then chances are you have already made up your mind on what half-ton truck you want to pull your travel trailer.
Though, if you are going by the numbers alone, then two or three jumps off the page. The Ford F-150 is one of the best selling vehicles in the world for a reason.
The 2020 iteration offers you the kind of miles per gallon fuel efficiency you want for a truck that’s going to be your daily driver.
Yet it also has the robust towing capacity to handle even the heaviest of travel trailers. Yet you shouldn’t look past the Chevy Silverado, which is very popular in its own right.
It might not be as fuel-efficient as the Ford F-150, but it’s a very comfortable truck, with creature comforts packed in.
On the other hand, the 2020 Dodge Ram has a lot of sophisticated engineering built into it.
Yet it also has the robust towing power you want for a truck that needs to work for a living on Monday through Friday, and then tow a travel trailer on the weekends.
Whether you are a brand loyal truck enthusiast, or you are crunching the numbers to find the very best tow vehicle, chances are good that the best half-ton pickup truck to tow your travel trailer is somewhere on this list.