What Does a Half Ton, Quarter Ton, and 1 Ton Truck Mean? (Payload and Towing Calculators)

When looking into a pickup truck you may come across the term “ton rating”.

You may find a car labeled a half-ton, a quarter ton, or a one-ton truck.

But what does that mean?

In simple terms, the ton rating is the amount of additional carrying weight that a truck can handle. So a half-ton truck can carry an extra 1000 lbs, a quarter-ton truck can carry 1500 lbs and a one-ton truck can carry 2000 lbs.

This weight is defined as the payload capacity. This article will help you understand how payload capacity is calculated, as well as some examples for each type of ton rating truck.

what does a half ton truck mean?

What is Payload Capacity?

Payload capacity is the amount of weight that a car can carry.

what is payload capacity visual
Payload capacity

It is calculated by taking the GVWR and subtracting the curb weight.

Payload Capacity = GVWR – Curb Weight

The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is a value provided by a truck manufacturer that designates the maximum weight that the truck can safely carry. This value includes the weight of the truck, passengers, cargo, modifications and tongue weight.

The tongue weight is the amount of weight that the truck carries from a trailer. The recommended tongue weight for a trailer is 10-15% of the total trailer weight.

This means if you pull a 1000 lb trailer, the tongue weight should be between 100-150 lbs.

So in order to calculate the maximum payload capacity, you need to subtract the weight of the truck. The curb weight is the weight that a truck has without anything in or on it (but with a full tank of gas).

So when you remove the curb weight from the GVWR, you will get the amount of weight that can be added to the truck (Firestone).

payload capacity calculation

Read more about the importance of GVWR here!

Payload Capacity Calculator

Play around with the calculator to determine the payload capacity of your truck to find out if it is a half-ton, quarter-ton, or one-ton truck.

Payload Capacity vs Towing Capacity

Payload capacity as mentioned before refers to the amount of weight that a truck can carry.

Towing capacity refers to the amount a truck can pull.

How are they different?

The payload capacity is based on the GVWR, but the towing capacity is based on the GCWR.

For a more detailed breakdown of payload and towing capacity, check out this article!

The GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) is a maximum weight that a particular truck can be with its trailer.

what is gcwr graphic

To calculate the towing capacity of a truck, you subtract the curb weight of your truck from the GCWR.

Towing Capacity = GCWR – Curb Weight

Payload capacity and towing capacity are not directly related. You cannot determine the towing capacity straight from the payload capacity.

Maximum Towing Capacity Calculator

Need to know how much your truck can tow? Just plug in the information below!

It is important to note that you need to take one more thing into consideration.

Though your truck may be able to tow the above number, you want to make sure that with this trailer weight, the payload capacity (carrying capacity of the truck) is not exceeded.

The calculator below will be able to tell you whether or not you will exceed the payload capacity based on a few factors: GVWR, Curb Weight, Passenger Weight, Cargo Weight, Customization Weight, and Tongue Weight (Use Tongue Weight from previous results)

For a more detailed explanation between the difference in towing and payload capacity check out this article.

What is Ton Rating?

So ton rating is a simple way to categorize trucks into three categories based on the amount of weight they can hold.

Ton rating is in three forms:

  • Half Ton
  • Quarter Ton
  • One Ton

This rating specifies the payload capacity of the truck by weight. With a ton being 2000 lbs, a half ton has a rating of 1000 lbs, a quarter ton has a rating of 1500 lbs and a one ton has a rating of 2000 lbs.

Unfortunately, this is no longer strictly followed and makes it confusing.

By definition, these are the weights that classify each type of truck, but in reality, most truck ratings actually have the ability to carry more.

It has become more of a branding effort by truck companies to separate their various offerings.

Typically half-ton trucks are designated by the number 150 or 1500, quarter-ton trucks are given 250 or 2500, and one-ton trucks are 350 or 3500. As said before, these values no longer directly related to exactly how much can be carried because there are many half-ton trucks that can carry one ton in cargo.

A more defined classification of trucks is that determined by the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau (seen below).

These two groups categorize trucks into 3-4 categories (light-duty, medium-duty, light heavy-duty, and heavy-duty trucks).

The issue here is that most consumer pickup trucks are light-duty and some are medium-duty. Any truck above these classes would typically be used for commercial purposes.

gvwr weight classes and categories from Energy.gov
Chart from Energy.gov

What is Half Ton Truck?

A half-ton truck, by definition, is one that can carry up to 1000 lbs of extra weight.

Today most half-ton trucks can exceed this value.

The manufacturer has significant control over whether or not they want a truck to be classified as a half-ton truck. They do so by providing a 150 or 1500 rating to the vehicle title.

Below are some of the most popular half-ton trucks on the market. With each truck, you will find the payload capacity and the towing capacity taken straight from google results.

Each number listed is the maximum weight for each. This does not mean that every version of these models has this capacity, but there is some variation of customization that can achieve these ratings.

*All based on 2022 models

What is Quarter Ton Truck?

Quarter ton trucks, by definition, can carry up to 1500 lbs of extra weight.

They usually have a number rating of 250 or 2500 in the name to indicate it is a medium-weight truck.

Below are some of the most popular half-ton trucks on the market. With each truck, you will find the payload capacity and the towing capacity taken straight from google results.

Each number listed is the maximum weight for each. This does not mean that every version of these models has this capacity, but there is some variation of customization that can achieve these ratings.

*Based on 2022 models

What is 1 Ton Truck?

A one-ton truck is the heaviest of the three classes and typically the most powerful consumer truck.

Anything above a one-ton rating is a commercial truck.

A 1-ton truck can carry an additional 2000 lbs safely.

These often have a 350 or 3500 added to the title name.

What Happens If You Exceed Payload Capacity?

The payload capacity is almost entirely for safety. Your truck only has so much strength and breaking capacity that when you add too much weight, the car can no longer function appropriately.

When you add too much weight to your car, you can lose control, cause extra structural damage to the vehicle and cause more severe damage in the event of an accident.

It is important to always make sure you know the specs of your truck so you do not exceed this amount.


Ton rating is defined by the amount of weight a truck can hold which includes cargo, passengers, tongue weight, and any other additions.

Half ton, quarter ton and one ton ratings refer to the percentage of a ton that a truck can carry.

Today, this rating is much more fluid than it used to be because many trucks in these ratings can carry much more, often up to two times the rating.

It is important to always calculate your specific payload and towing capacity with the calculators below.

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