Straightening out what the pickup truck numbers (150, 350, etc) mean for cargo capacities.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

You guys goofed! Your article on the cargo capacities of pickup trucks was completely wrong. A truck designated an F150 means the truck is rated for a half-ton of payload, not one and a half tons of payload, as you had said. An F250 is rated for a three-quarter-ton payload, not two and a half tons, as you stated. And an F350 means it's rated for one ton of payload. Please correct it before someone blows out his tires trying to carry too much weight. -- Brian

TOM: We goofed on our numbers, Brian. We both must have been passing brain stones that day. We know that traditionally, a truck with a designation of 150 (Ford) or 1500 (Chevy and Dodge) has been known as a "half-ton pickup," meaning that it has a payload capacity (the amount of weight it can carry, including passengers) of 1,000 pounds, or half a ton. The 250/2500 and 350/3500 pickups have traditionally carried three-quarter-ton and one-ton designations, respectively.

RAY: But after we got your letter (and letters from about 10,000 other readers), we decided to do a little more research, and we discovered that the traditional designations are completely wrong, too.

TOM: It turns out that the Ford F150, Chevy Silverado 1500 and Dodge Ram 1500 have payload capacities in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 pounds (if you want the exact numbers, you can look them up on our Web site). That means the 150/1500s are actually three-quarter and one-ton pickups!

RAY: But wait, it gets even more confusing. The Ford F250, Chevy Silverado 2500 and Dodge Ram 2500 have payload capacities of between 3,000 and 4,700 pounds. So that's between one and a half tons and nearly two and a half tons.

TOM: You still with us? Because the 350s and 3500s have payloads of 4,500 to almost 6,000 pounds, or between two and three tons.

RAY: So the old notions of half-ton, three-quarter-ton and one-ton pickups no longer apply. And if you're planning to carry serious cargo, you really have to check out the specific payload capacity of the truck you're interested in. Even between different versions of the same truck, payload capacities can differ quite a bit.

TOM: I still think Mercedes has the best and clearest payload designations. As we said in our previous article, they use designations like ML320 and ML430, which everybody can understand. It means those vehicles can carry 3.2 and 4.3 mothers-in-law, respectively.

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