Tow Vehicles: How Big is Big Enough?

In addition to spending far too much time looking at used boats on, even though I don’t need another, I just as often look at gently used trucks, even though mine is fine. Odd hobby, I know. My wife reminds me all the time.

As I was looking up towing capacities of late model pickups, it hit me. The amount of weight trucks can pull nowadays is staggering. Let me give you some examples.

You might think you need a monster dually, but even half-ton trucks are capable of hauling the family runabout.

The new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500 HDs are capable of pulling a maximum of 21,700 pounds on a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch. Ford’s F-350 Super Duty can pull 21,600 pounds (the F-450 pulls 24,500), and Dodge’s Ram 3500 HD is rated for 19,950 pounds.

That’s an incredible amount of trailer weight behind a pickup, I thought, and darn near three times the weight of the truck itself. I guess there are a few people who really need that kind of towing capacity, but it made me wonder where the “arms race” ends.

Sure, it’s a mighty impressive truck, but you don’t need that much might to pull the family runabout.

Every time I see that commercial for the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD shown towing a massive, twin-screw aluminum fishing boat—vessel is a better word for a boat that size—I shudder at the notion of trying to stop 21,700 pounds of weight with a 7,000-plus pound truck. Even with dual rear wheels and trailer braking systems, it’s not something I’d enjoy towing, especially on wet pavement.

Are the Big Three planning to offer trucks that tow even more? At what point does it go from being a capability to a liability? Is it really a good idea to pull that much weight with a pickup, or would it be safer to go with a business-class chassis from the likes of Freightliner, Peterbilt, or International?

More important, do you really need a crew cab with dual rear wheels to pull the family runabout? (The answer is no.) To be sure, the quality and variety of the heavy-duty pickups on today’s market is as impressive as the amount of weight they are able to pull. They are truly awesome trucks. But I think we have reached point where they are big enough, and capable enough, and the simple truth is that most boaters don’t need that much truck anyway.

Then again, that dually I just saw on would be great for pulling the Pro Line walkaround I found on…

Brett Becker

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, he regularly writes and shoots for 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.


A purpose-built ski boat has the engine in the middle. This helps the boat get out of the hole fast and provides a flatter wake for the skier.
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