Boat Towing: How Much Truck is Enough?

I’ve written about tow-vehicle power before, but it’s time to revisit the topic.

Say you just purchased a used boat, but the truck you have just won’t cut it when it comes to pulling it out of the water or towing it long distances over hilly terrain. The same thing happened to me. I wanted to buy a used 2008 F-250 4×4 to tow my 8,000-pound boat. I was also thinking of a same-year F-350 dually Crew Cab to be on the safe side. Ramp conditions are not always the best where I lived at the time, and I really didn’t want to struggle.

A truck with a 12,500-lb. towing capacity could be considered overkill for an 8,000-lb. boat -- but you also have to consider your local launch-ramp conditions, your towing terrain and distances, and your driving habits and mileage needs.
A truck with a 12,500-lb. towing capacity could be considered overkill for an 8,000-lb. boat — but you also have to consider your local launch-ramp conditions, your towing terrain and distances, your driving habits, and your mileage needs.

Like any towing question, it comes down to numbers. A four-wheel-drive F-250 with a gas or diesel engine and single rear wheels would be plenty capable, and unless I was going to be getting a larger boat (I wasn’t) an F-350 dually would be overkill. In fact, I could have pulled the boat safely and competently with a half-ton F-150. But let’s look at the numbers.

A Crew Cab F-250 with four-wheel drive has a towing capacity of 12,500 pounds, which is plenty more than the weight of my boat. A dually four-wheel-drive F-350 with a diesel or a V-10 is rated at 15,000 pounds, which is nearly twice what I needed — even though duallies are perennially cool. Also, the added weight of a F-350 would negatively affect the fuel economy of the diesel, and Ford’s V-10 is already known for its thirst for fuel.

What about a half-ton pickup? Lots of half-ton trucks have towing capacities of 10,000 pounds or more. Why not one of those? Well, that’s where terrain comes in. I’m often pulling over hills and mountains, and you can’t beat the torque of a diesel.  So that’s the way I went, and I haven’t had a gasoline-engine truck ever since. The three-quarter ton truck was a bit of overkill, but it was a choice I could live with as a daily driver. I couldn’t say the same about a dually, coolness notwithstanding.

Sometimes, just enough overkill is a good thing.

 

Written by: Brett Becker

Brett Becker is a freelance writer and photographer who has covered
the marine industry for 15 years. In addition to covering the ski boat
and runabout markets for Boats.com, he regularly writes and shoots for
BoatTrader.com. Based in Ventura, Calif., Becker holds a bachelor’s
degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication from the
University of Central Florida in Orlando.

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