Categories of Trucks: What Half Ton Trucks are Capable of

If you've ever looked into purchasing a truck or you own one, you've likely come across the different classifications. Among them are half ton trucks, which are just one of the options you'll find among this type of vehicle, along with three-quarter ton and one-ton trucks. So, what is a half-ton truck, and what does it mean when you purchase one?

What Is a Half Ton Truck?

To start answering that question, we need first to understand that a ton is a unit of measurement, equal to two thousand pounds. A half a ton is then one thousand pounds. However, though it may seem like this refers to the weight of the truck itself, that actually isn't the case. Many vehicles in the half-ton category can easily weigh up to eleven thousand pounds, depending on the model.

Rather than talking about how much the truck weighs, the "half-ton" in the name of these vehicles is instead talking about its payload capacity—how much weight the vehicle can carry between the passengers in the cab, any additional cargo placed in the bed, and the other trailer tongue weight. With that in mind, you might guess that a half ton truck can only carry a maximum of up to one thousand pounds in cargo.

Unfortunately, once again, the answer isn't that simple. Looking at many half ton trucks on the market, they actually have much higher payload capacities than one thousand pounds, and the same holds for three-quarter ton and one-ton vehicles on the market.

These terms were much more accurate in the earlier days of pickup trucks. However, as time has gone on and technology has advanced, vehicles have improved in many ways while the names have carried over. Even if the "half ton" isn't as accurate anymore, you can still use it as a relative term of classification, with less payload than the higher classes.

Newest Half Ton Trucks

Most trucks with the "half-ton" classification can easily have up to the payload capacity that was once standard for three-fourth vehicles, with some even able to manage up to three-thousand pounds in the payload. Though these terms aren't as accurate as they once were, you'll still see trucks of this class available on the market. Some of the newest half-ton trucks and their prices are:

Both GMC and Ram trucks, along with many other brands, are some of the most notable players in the game. Because of the great capacity of these vehicles, truck prices can also run on the higher end of the spectrum, even in comparison to new car prices in different categories.

Even so, the high capacity of these half-ton trucks is part of their appeal, which is in part why the "ton" classifications of these vehicles aren't as accurate as it once was. People looking for higher payloads can have it, thanks to the advancements of technology since the first half-ton trucks hit the market—and these newer models are just some of the options that genuinely deliver in that regard.

It's likely that, even if "half ton" becomes even more outdated as a term, it will stick around as an easy classification that will likely come to mean something even more potent in the years to come.

Half Ton Truck Terms

If you start to shop for a truck, you'll likely find that you need to understand more than just what the term "half-ton" means. These vehicles have several other words that are helpful to understand so that you know what you're getting when you purchase a particular truck. One of the most critical terms is GVWR.

GVWR stands for "Gross Vehicle Weight Rating," and it is the US Department of Transport's classification system for how much weight a truck can carry. While payload refers to how much weight a vehicle can carry between passengers, the bed, and towing, GVWR counts that weight and the weight of the truck itself.

There are eight different GVWR classes, with most half-ton trucks falling into the Class 1 or 2 categories. Other trucks with larger capacities generally fall into Class 3, depending on their GVWR rating; for Class 3 vehicles, the maximum combined weight of truck and cargo can go up to 14,000 pounds.

The remaining five GVWR classes include much larger vehicles, such as delivery trucks, buses, and construction vehicles—those that need a commercial driver's license to operate.

Aside from that, other helpful terms to know when shopping for trucks include:

  • Bed length: How long the bed at the back of the pickup truck is. Many models often have two or three possible sizes to fit the driver's needs best.
  • Regular cab: A truck that only has one row of seats, occasionally with enough space for a third passenger
  • Chassis cab: A type of truck that looks like a pickup without the standard bed, instead leaving connections for aftermarket cargo parts.
  • Crew cabs: Trucks with four full-sized doors for access to two rows of seats. Different from extended cab trucks, which have two rows of seats but two full-size doors and two smaller doors for access.
  • Heavy-duty: Term to refer to trucks with higher payload capacities. Usually one-ton models.
  • Light-duty: A counter to heavy-duty trucks; another term to refer to half-ton models.
  • Towing capacity: The maximum amount a pickup truck can tow; not the same as payload, as it does not account for any additional weight in the bed or passengers.

When shopping for a half-ton truck, you'll just as likely encounter these terms as you will hear about what new car prices look like, so it's in your best interest to understand not only what dealers and reviews are talking about, but also to identify what you want out of your truck.

How OEMs Name Their Trucks


While the "ton" classifications of trucks give an idea of where a vehicle falls on the scale of payload capacity, we tend not to see these designations in the names of the trucks themselves. While not every manufacturer uses the same system, many companies like Ram, GMC, Ford, and Chevy tend to name their vehicles with 1500, 2500, and 3500 designations.

The meaning of these numbers may not be immediately apparent, but they do match up with the half ton, three-quarter ton, and one-ton categories; alternatively, they also match up with the ability to carry capacity with 1500 equaling a light duty truck, with 2500 and 3500 standing for heavy duty models.

Some companies, like Ford, also use 150, 250, and 350 classifications to stand for the same broad categories. Once, these designations used to give an accurate idea of the payload number, but now they stand as symbols for relative comparison of trucks across the line. To know the payload capacity of a vehicle, you need to check the vehicle's stats.

While it would have been possible for manufacturers to increase the numbers in the names to reflect the truck's capabilities better, many chose not to, possibly because customers were already familiar with the current system. What's interesting is that the same doesn't hold for standard cars, where numbers have escalated as a marketing tactic.

As you search for a truck, it can help to navigate these names first to know how much payload capacity you want out of your truck, and then to shop within 1500, 2500, or 3500 category that matches what you need. From there, you can look across the various manufacturers and trucks and research them more in-depth to ensure you get a vehicle that can meet your needs—half-ton or otherwise.

Wrapping Up

The "half ton" moniker may not mean what it did at the time of its inception, but it's still commonly in use today. Even though light-duty trucks can easily carry more than a half a ton in terms of payload now, it doesn't change the fact that this categorization system can give you a rough idea of what to expect out of your new truck.

The half-ton trucks of the future will likely be able to go even further beyond what we have today. But until then, you can get some serious mileage out of what's available