Truck Sizes & Classes

Truck Sizes & Classes

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Alison Smith

When it comes to trucks, size matters. Pickups are usually described in relation to their overall weight, payload capacity, and maximum towing capabilities. Ever since the first American trucks came to market, they’ve been characterized by their payload capacity, or how much the truck can carry. Tonnage designations were originally used to depict payload capacity.

New Heavy Duty 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4500

Most non-commercial full-size pickups fall into three truck classes:

  1. Half-Ton Trucks: Payload capacity of 1,000 pounds.
  2. Three-Quarter-Ton Trucks: Payload capacity around 1,500 pounds.
  3. One-Ton Trucks: Payload capacity around 2,000 pounds.

Nowadays, those truck sizes are pretty modest estimations. Most pickups that fall into those truck classifications have a far greater payload capacity. For instance, the 2018 Ford F-150 is considered a half-ton truck but has a maximum payload capacity of 3,270 pounds!

Light Duty vs Heavy Duty Trucks

Light-duty trucks are going to be those that fall into the half-ton truck category. Some prime examples of half-ton light-duty pickups include the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, and Toyota Tundra. For most people, light-duty trucks are going to offer more than enough payload capacity and towing power. Prices for half-ton trucks range from around $25,000 to upwards of $60,000 for the most luxurious models.

New 2019 Ram 1500

Heavy-duty trucks consist of the larger three-quarter-ton F-250, Silverado 2500, and Ram 2500, as well as the one-ton F-350, Silverado 3500, and Ram 3500. Although Ford, Chevy, and Ram make trucks even bigger than that, that’s when you start to enter commercial truck territory. In comparison to light-duty trucks, heavy-duty trucks are much more suited to those who plan on using the truck for work purposes, hauling horses, towing heavy equipment or machinery, as well as pulling recreational vehicles. As expected, prices for heavy-duty trucks are going to be a bit steeper than light-duty pickups. Starting prices begin at around $30,000, going up to over $80,000 for certain models.

Midsize Pickups

Perhaps a full-size pickup is still too large for what you really need. If that’s the case, then a midsize truck might be the perfect solution. Midsize trucks, occasionally referred to as compact pickups, are much smaller than the full-size truck, which makes them more efficient when it comes to fuel usage and gas mileage. It’s no secret that trucks inherently are hard on gas, although with new technology they get better and better with each passing year. Popular midsize trucks include the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, and Ford Ranger, ranging from around $18,000 to over $40,000 in cost.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Ford F-750 Heavy Duty

For determining truck sizes, the U.S. Department of Transportation uses a classification scale called Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. GVWR is defined as the total weight of a fully-loaded vehicle. The GVWR includes the weight of the chassis, body, engine, fuel, driver, passengers, and cargo but excludes trailers. If you subtract the curb weight of the vehicle from that equation, you’ll have the payload capacity. GVWR is largely a safety standard as overloading, or exceeding payload capacity, is not only dangerous, but it can harm your truck as well. GVWR can usually be found in your owner’s manual or on the doorframe of the vehicle.

There are eight truck classes included on the GVWR Scale, ranging from light duty to heavy duty. Midsize pickups can be found in Class 1, while full-size pickups are found in Class 2, which is typically divided into two separate subsections: Class 2A and Class 2B. While the F-250, Ram 2500, and Chevy Silverado 2500 are normally considered heavy-duty trucks, they don’t fall into that category according to GVWR. Full-size half-ton pickups are included in Class 2A, while their larger three-quarter-ton counterparts are grouped into Class 2B. The one-ton F-350, Ram 3500, and Chevy Silverado 3500 are categorized as medium-duty trucks, while the heavy-duty trucks classification is reserved for commercial-grade vehicles such as dump trucks, fire trucks, and sleeper cabs.

GVWR Truck Classes

  • Light Duty Trucks - vehicle with GVWR under 10,000 pounds
  • Medium Duty Trucks - vehicle with a GVWR between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds
  • Heavy Duty Trucks - vehicle with a GVWR over 26,001 pounds

Truck Size Chart

Truck Weight Classes
Class Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) GVWR Category Examples
1 < 6,000 lbs. Light Duty Jeep Wrangler, Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, Ford Bronco
2 6,001 to 10,000 lbs. Light Duty Class 2A: Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Toyota Tundra, Ram 1500

Class 2B: Ford F-250, Chevy Silverado 2500, GMC Sierra 2500, Ram 2500
3 10,001 to 14,000 lbs. Medium Duty Ford F-350, Chevy Silverado 3500, GMC Sierra 3500
4 14,001 to 16,000 lbs. Medium Duty Ford F-450, Chevy Silverado 4500, Ram 4500
5 16,001 to 19,500 lbs. Medium Duty Ford F-550, Chevy Silverado 5500, Ram 5500
6 19,501 to 26,000 lbs. Medium Duty Ford F-650, Chevy Silverado 6500
7 26,001 to 33,000 lbs. Heavy Duty Ford F-750, Tow Truck
8 > 33,001 lbs. Heavy Duty Dump Truck, Fire Truck, Tour Bus, Cement Mixer, Truck Tractor, Sleeper Cab

Sources: Pickup Trucks By the Numbers: Who Wins On Fuel, Power, Towing, Payload | Vehicle Weight Classes and Categories, Alternative Fuels Data Center | Image Credit: Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge

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