Should You Buy A Used Pickup For Towing?

Are you looking to buy a used truck with some serious towing capabilities? There are tons of used trucks out there whose owners claim to be great for towing. How do you know what to look for in such vehicles? We’ll answer these questions and more in this well-researched buyer guide to help you make an informed financial decision.

You should consider a used pickup truck for all your towing needs. Here are a couple of smart things to do first before buying a used pickup:

  • Do a thorough background check on the truck.
  • Run a quality inspection.
  • Assess the truck’s towing capacity.
  • Determine the truck’s tow packages.
  • Think about the Long-Term Financing Options

We understand how important it is that you find the right pickup truck for the job. That’s why we’ve taken the time to discuss the above points in a detailed, well-structured layout. Also included in this post are a couple of frequently asked questions to help you in your selection process. Let’s get into it, shall we?

The F350 Ford parked along the preserve park, Should You Buy A Used Pickup For Towing?

Should You Buy A Used Pickup For Towing?

You should - one hundred percent. Before you do, though, here are five essential things you should do before and after making your purchase:

1. Do a Thorough Background Check on the Truck

Seek to know why the truck is being sold. It might look good on the outside, but underneath all that are a multitude of mechanical issues. Get a peek into the maintenance records of the truck you want to buy. Has it had any parts changed? Does it get tune-ups regularly? 

Look into the truck’s accident history as well. Being in the loop of any previous accidents will help you take the necessary precautions to avoid a repeat of the same in the future. The lights, engine, and brakes are the parts you should look out for the most. If they’re dysfunctional, inquire if you can get them replaced before making the purchase.

2. Run a Quality Inspection

Here’s where you dig deeper into the elemental parts of the truck. The best way to determine the quality of any vehicle is to examine its mileage (read more about pickup mileage on, "What’s Considered Good Mileage for a Used Pickup?"). Do this according to your specific use for the truck; if you intend on driving or towing over long distances, ensure the car has a lower mileage.

The truck’s tire tread also matters a lot. Find out how much tread is left on the tires, and how long you should give them before replacing them. Looking into the treads beforehand prevents any unprecedented investments in the future.

3. Assess the Truck’s Towing Capacity

Ensure the truck you have in mind has just the right towing capacity and horsepower. Some of the factors that may affect the towing capability of a truck include:

  • Type of trailer
  • Suspension
  • Chassis
  • Transmissions
  • Type of engine
  • Load and tire ratings
  • Class and hitch type
  • Axle ratios 

Inquire about the capacity of the truck and whether it can satisfy your specific towing requirements. Also, ask about the kinds of available axle configurations and layouts. 

Choose the ideal layout based on the terrain you’ll be riding on, frequency of travel, and the distance you’ll be covering.

4. Determine the Truck’s Tow Packages

There’s a lot to gain when you come across a used vehicle with a comprehensive tow package. 

When looking for a favorable tow package, consider the types of loads you’ll be hauling. If you expect to be transporting heavy loads – e.g., cars, boats, building materials, etc. – a tow package will ensure better performance in each trip you make. 

Trucks equipped with a tow package are more fit for towing than those without. For instance, the higher gear ratio in the package will boost the wheels' torque and reduce wear and tear on the transmission and engine. 

Before buying the truck, understand how the available tow packages will impact its abilities. Find out the average capacity once the package is outfitted into the truck. 

5. Think about the Long-Term Financing Options

When you find the right truck for your towing needs, start planning for a long-term investment. This includes insurance, upgrades, and ongoing costs. 

As you shop around for a quality used truck, do the same for insurance. Insurance rates vary significantly from one provider to the next. That’s why you should take this step and explore all the available insurance options. 

Inquire about the truck’s warranty. Often, dealerships provide extended warranties on their vehicles. This kind of coverage can eliminate the financial burden that comes with buying a used truck. 

Should I Buy A Truck That Was Used For Towing?

The real question is, “Why shouldn’t you buy a truck that was used for towing?” These trucks are some of the best, used types you’ll ever find in the truck market today. Provided you use the guidelines provided above, you can find a quality truck to satisfy all your towing needs.

However, it’s worth noting that those trucks used for heavy towing might not serve their purpose adequately. The truck’s mechanical parts, transmission, and engine are probably worn down from the weighty objects it was used to haul. This may lead to huge financial problems in the future.

To put this into perspective, if you pay 3,000 bucks for such a truck, the amount you’ll pay for a rebuilt transmission might cost over double what you paid for the truck. To avoid this, check the truck’s trailer hitch and opt for the one with zero or minimal scuffs or scrapes.

If possible, hire a mechanic to inspect its towing capability before making your purchase.

To find out more about buying a used pickup, read, "Buying a Used Truck? 5 Essential Things You Must Consider."

What Size Truck Do I Need to Pull 12,000-lbs?

A used 2018 GMC Sierra 1500 full-size pickup is just what you need to tow this kind of weight. In fact, with an impressive 12,500 tow capacity, you can pull literally anything (well, anything within its capability) with this ¾ ton truck.

The Sierra comes with a crew cab complete with a short box in a 2WD configuration. Under the hood, the truck has a 6.2-liter V8 plus a 3.42 axle ratio. This full-size pickup provides an extensive list of towing features and configurations that make it possible to achieve the 12,000-lbs towing capacity.

It’s impossible to tell how much a used 2018 GMC Sierra can fetch in today’s car dealerships. Even if it might be a top-dollar price, at least you can rest easy knowing that you’re paying for a towing powerhouse! 

What Trucks Can Pull 15,000 Pounds?

We recommend these powerful pickup trucks that each come with a standard towing package:

2017 Ford F-450 Super Duty

The towing capacity for this hauler stands at an impressive 32,500-lbs. This is made possible by the optional 6.7-liter turbo-diesel V8 that produces 440-hp and 925 lb-ft of torque.


Ford F-250 Super Duty

Second on the list is the Ford F-250 that can tow a maximum of 18,000-lbs thanks to its powerful 6.7-liter diesel V8.


Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

The Silverado comes fitted with a 6.6 V8 Duramax turbo diesel engine that boosts its towing capacity to a maximum of 18,100-lbs. 


Other trucks you should consider include Ram 2500, Ram 3500, GMC Sierra 3500 Denali HD, and the Ford F-350 Super Duty.

What Is The Best Used Truck For Towing?

The best used truck for towing can be narrowed down to three major options: the Dodge Ram 3500, Ford F-350, and the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD. Of these three, the Chevy Silverado 3500HD takes the cake.

A used 2019 Chevy Silverado is the ultimate work truck that features incredible performance features and towing capabilities. This beast is fitted with two, heavy-duty powertrains that each offer a 6-speed automatic transmission. It has a towing capacity that ranges between 14,200 (standard engine) and 23,100 pounds (Duramax engine). 

The Chevy 3500HD features 5,761 pounds worth of payload capacity. If you’d like to get the job done, we suggest getting a good deal on a used Chevy Silverado 3500HD. 

What Size Truck Do I Need To Pull A Camper?

Campers come in a variety of weights and sizes. Luckily, there’s a suitable pickup truck size for any and every camper out there. Here’s a list of the truck sizes along with their appropriate camper sizes:

  • Compact/Mid-Size: Their towing capacities range from between 3,500 and 7,700 pounds. They’re great for towing small campers. 
  • Full-Size: These trucks come packed with lots of torque for pulling mid-size campers. The maximum towing capacities for most, full-size trucks ranges from 9,740 to 13,200 pounds.
  • Heavy-Duty: Otherwise known as three-quarter-ton trucks, these machines are perfect for huge, fifth-wheel trailers. They offer pretty impressive towing capacities of between 13,000 and 18,500 pounds. 
  • Ultra Heavy-Duty: These monsters have a jaw-dropping towing capacity of between 20,000 and 32,000 pounds. Despite their might, they’re not all that great on the road (most of them anyway). 

Recommended Mid-Size Truck: GMC Canyon (max. towing capacity: 7,700 pounds)


Recommended Full-Size Truck: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (max. towing capacity: 12,200 pounds)


Recommended Heavy-Duty Truck: Ram 2500 (max. towing capacity: 17,980 pounds)


Recommended Ultra Heavy-Duty Truck: Ford Super Duty F-350 (max. towing capacity: gooseneck/fifth wheel: 32,000 pounds)


What Size Truck Do I Need To Tow A 5th Wheel?

You’ll need a ¾ ton truck (at minimum) to tow an average 5th wheel. A one-ton truck with an eight-foot bed is the most suitable since it can handle that extra weight. Experts say vehicles such as the F150 have the ability to pull a fifth wheel, but it seems rather unlikely. The bigger the truck size, the bigger the towing capability.

Fifth wheels generally weigh approximately 2,000 pounds. A practical rule of thumb is to have the truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceed the trailer and the truck combined. 

For instance, if you have a Ford F250, the GVWR should weigh more than the truck, trailer, and tongue weight (TW) combined (TW typically capable of holding up to 25% of the trailer's loaded weight). When you’re on the road, you want to control both the trailer and truck, not the trailer controlling you and the truck.


When searching for a used pickup, don’t fall for the attractive price and beautiful paint job. Be wise and critical in your thought process, and ensure you perform your thorough inspection. If you follow the tips provided on this post, we’re positive you’ll land on the best-used pickup truck for your towing needs!

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