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How Big a Travel Trailer Can an F-150 Pull? [Towing Capacity]

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Eager to get on the road and experience the travel trailer lifestyle but can't afford a heavy-duty pickup to tow a travel trailer with? You may be wondering about the real towing capacity of a light-duty truck like the Ford F-150.

Is the F-150 be a good option for towing a travel trailer? And if so, what size travel camper should you be shooting for?

The F-150 can tow up to 13,200 lbs with the right trim level and tow package. However, when it comes to towing a travel trailer, most (but not all) F-150 models can safely pull a camper that's under 6,000 lbs.

Depending on a few factors that we'll get into later, some F-150s can safely tow a travel trailer that weighs up to 7,000 pounds.

Have you heard higher figures thrown around by a salesperson? Don't be fooled.

In theory, an F-150 with the Supercrew Cab (i.e. heavier and longer) coupled with a Max Trailer Tow Package, has a maximum towing capacity of 13,200 lbs. However, that would mean towing with an empty truck - with no passengers (other than the driver) or any gear.

The Ford F-150 - magnificent as it is - has a limited towing capacity in the real world. If you're planning on getting a trailer that weighs over 6,000 lbs (gear included), you should consider getting a larger truck that has a higher payload capacity.

This post was originally posted in July 2018. We've updated it and revised the information to match the 2020 Ford F-150 versions.

A red Ford F-150 parked outside a home, How Big a Travel Trailer Can an F-150 Pull? [Towing Capacity]

The towing capacity of an F-150 pickup truck

There is no single number that represents the towing capacity of a Ford F150. Just how much your F-150 can tow depends on several factors:

  • Engine
  • Axle ratio
  • Truck weight
  • Truck length (determined by the type of cab and length of the bed)
  • Whether or not you have a towing package.

If you look at the very detailed brochure of the F-150, you'll see that there's a big long table for towing capacity. So, how much weight can an F150 pull?

Whoa, lots of numbers!

Let's make things a bit easier.

On the low end, an F-150 with a 3.3L Ti-VCT V6 engine generating just 290 horsepower and 265 torque, with a regular bed and short cab, is limited to the 5,000 maximum towing range. That's not much if you want to pull a travel trailer behind you.

On the other side of the spectrum, the same truck with the 3.5L V6 Ecoboost engine generating 375 hp and 470 torque, with a SuperCrew cab and a longer bed - along with a robust towing package - can tow over 10,000 lbs.

We're going to break down each of the factors in great detail in this post. You may want to grab a coffee - this isn't a short post, but it's important if you plan on towing any trailer with your truck.

Is it just the Ford F-150

Well, it really isn't. It's about the F-150 range of trucks, also known as lightweight or half-ton trucks.

Other trucks in the same category include:

  • Ram 1500
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • GMC Sierra 1500
  • Nissan Titan
  • Toyota Tundra

In short, a half-ton truck is one that can take on a payload of approximately half of a ton. And as we explained here, the payload has a direct effect on towing. And just as a side note, these days, half-ton trucks have higher payloads that go beyond the half-ton point.

2020 Red Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck at a Ford dealership

The payload is about how much you can load on the truck itself - regardless of towing. So why would it even be relevant to the weight of the trailer?

Well, it's relevant for two reasons: the issue of tongue weight and the issue of your total weight (truck, hitch, and trailer).

Tongue weight

Tongue weight is the amount of pressure (weight) the hitch puts on your F-150 truck (or any other towing vehicle). Clearly, that amount of pressure will depend on how much weight you're towing as well as weight distribution within the trailer.

The more weight there is and the more of that weight is in the front of the trailer (closer to the hitch), the more tongue weight you have.

Tongue weight is a good thing - to a degree. It's good because it makes your entire setup much more stable.

Driving with a trailer that's too light or one that has too much of the weight closer to the rear could mean you're not getting enough tongue weight. That is a major reason for sway - the greatest fear of truck drivers that tow trailers.

Read more about tongue weight and how to measure it in our post about towing capacity.

You can weight the tongue using one of these -

See this trailer tongue weight scale on Amazon.

Back to towing capacity.

In order to tow safely, Ford recommends a tongue weight of 10%-15% of the overall trailer weight (that's trailer + gear). Experienced RV'ers suggest sticking to the 12%-15% range for a safer towing experience.

The question is - is 12% of your trailer weight (your optimal tongue weight) something that can be easily factored into your payload?

With an average payload capacity of around 2,000 pounds, and assuming you need at least 1,000 lbs for passengers and gear, that leaves you only 1,000 lbs for your tongue weight before you exceed your overall payload capacity.

If that's 12% of your trailer weight, we're already talking about a limit of  8,333 pounds in trailer weight, regardless of your suggested towing capacity "on paper".

We'll get back to tongue weight and payload later on, as we look at the actual specs of various Ford F-150 models.

Payload affects your weight limits

The Gross Vehicle Weight is the measurement that takes into account everything that you get on the road. That's your truck's dry weight + actual payload + hitch + trailer. In the end, that number should not exceed your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR.

A word about the alternative: Heavy-duty trucks

Naturally, the larger trucks can tow more. 3/4 ton and 1-ton pickups are known as heavy-duty trucks. These beasts of vehicles were made to take on heavy loads, both in carrying capacity (payload) and in towing capacity.

To quote Joe Bruzek from Cars.com -

Higher classes and payloads are made possible by heavier frames and stronger suspensions, brakes, engines, or a combination thereof. This beefier construction helps a lot in towing a trailer as well, with tow ratings that easily outperform the lesser light-duty pickups.

That's why an F-450 or a Chevy Silverado 3500HD are heavy-duty trucks. Not only do they have a higher payload, they can also tow heavier loads.

That doesn't mean the half-ton or lightweight trucks can't tow a travel trailer. They certainly can.

And in order to get some real-life figures, we're going to take the F-150 and see just how much it can actually tow when a travel trailer is concerned.

Towing a travel trailer?

If you plan on towing a travel trailer, that matters.

Towing a 5th-wheel is different from towing a travel trailer. With a 5th wheel, you get what's known as a gooseneck hitch. Part of the towed unit sits on top of the truck's bed making the whole rig very stable.

It's almost as if they become a single unit in terms of weight allocation. This is better for two reasons:

  1. The truck gets to do the heavy lifting with its bed - just as it was designed to do.
  2. In windy conditions, the 5th wheel is very securely attached to the truck so there's a lot less sway.

This is why the same truck can tow a heavier 5th wheel than a trailer. In the manufacturer's charts, you'll see that gooseneck towing (i.e. 5th wheel) gets higher maximum weight towing ratings than just trailer towing.

Read more: Types of RV's

So, what's the real towing capacity of an F-150?

Ford takes pride in the F-150 being "Best in Class" where it comes to towing capacity.

But just how much can an F-150 pull?

Ford F-150 displayed at ford dealership

The answer is not that simple.

Types of F-150 pickup trucks

Parking lot of F-150 pickup trucks

When you talk about a Ford F-150, you're talking about several possible models. In 2020, Ford offers these trucks in several basic configurations -

  1. XL
  2. XLT
  3. Lariat
  4. King Ranch
  5. Platinum
  6. Limited
  7. Raptor

Basically, the XL is the most basic model while the Limited edition comes with all possible bells and whistles. The rest offer combinations of systems and features, either as standard or optional.

he Raptor is up with the Platinum and Limited but has better offroad abilities (including a more powerful engine).

These specific models also have different features that affect the truck's towing capacity. With Ford, you can mix and match many of the options, so it's important to be aware of them. They are:

  1. Engine strength
  2. Axle ratio
  3. The length of the truck
  4. the weight of the truck
  5. Payload

Let's look into each one in more depth.

1. Engine strength

Ford car engine

The stronger the engine, the higher the towing capacity. A stronger engine provides more horsepower and - more specifically - more torque.

There are several types and sizes of engines available in the F-150. The strongest one is the 3.5L V6 Ecoboost engine.

This is a powerful gas-driven engine that generates 375 HP at 5,000 rpm. Even more importantly for towing, it can generate torque of 470 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 rpm.

That is actually more torque than an F-250 generates with its 6.2L V8 engine!

Note that this is the standard engine of the F-150 Platinum and Raptor but not the other F-150 models! You can absolutely buy even an F-150 XL with the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine but it's optional for all other models other than the Limited or Raptor.

In fact, in a Raptor, you have the High Output version of this engine for even more torque. The Raptor's High Output 3.5L EcoBoost V6 generates a staggering torque of 510 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 rpm and a total of 450 horsepower! Which is great for its off-road abilities.

Click here to read more about the 2020 F-150 Raptor.

2. Axle Ratio

Axle ratio is very important for providing torque. And torque matters when you're towing. Torque is the force that gets the wheels of your trailer (and your truck) moving when the light changes from red to green.

Once in motion and at full speed, torque doesn't really matter anymore, until you need to brake using the force of your engine.

Anyway, let me give you the "axle ratio for dummies" explanation.

So, the engine creates energy. That energy makes the driveshaft rotate very fast. The energy from the driveshaft is then sent to the axle (either one or two - depending on whether it's a 2WD or 4WD).

What the axle does is determine how many times the wheels will actually turn using that energy. The slower they'll turn - the more energy goes into every turn and the stronger the pull of the truck. The faster they go, then the less energy is put into each turn of the wheel.

If you're hauling/towing a relatively small weight on the road, faster movement at the same energy investment will get you rolling faster with less fuel. That's a good thing!

However, if you're towing or hauling a heavyweight, you need the wheels to move just a little bit slower and use that excess force to pull more weight.

The number of the axles ratio looks something like 3.15. That's the number of times the driveshaft turns for each single turn of the wheel. The higher the number, the slower the movement and the more force goes into each turn of the wheel.

Or in other words, for towing - you want a higher axle ratio. For better fuel economy (when not towing) a lower axle ratio is better.

3. Length and weight of truck

Actually, make that length and weight of truck vis a vis length and weight of trailer.

We're talking very simple Newtonian physics here. When you have a towing vehicle and a towable hitched together, they're going to affect each other. The faster you go, the stronger the effect.

Making a turn or driving through wind is when you might get into trouble.

Since you're in control of the towing vehicle's behavior,  you basically want that vehicle to "take the lead" as far as the forces of physics are concerned. That means that for maximum control, you need the towing truck to be as heavy and as long as possible.

Imagine a huge heavy truck towing a lightweight small towable. Clearly, if there's sway, it's the towable that's going to take the brunt of it. The truck will remain stable.

On the other hand, imagine a super heavy long trailer, towed by a small lightweight truck.

In this unlikely scenario, any sway from wind or from just about anything else could easily throw the towing vehicle out of course. And once that happens and the driver loses control, the towable follows. Bad, bad situation and why you should never pull above your towing capacity.

In a pickup truck, the weight of the truck that matters for towing purposes is the GCWR or "gross combined weight rating". Basically, that's how much weight your truck can take in payload and its own weight. Get to know how much a Ford F-150 weighs.

As for the length of the truck, it's a question of the type of truck cab  plus the length of the bed (box). Here's how long a Ford F150 truck is.

Back to the F-150 -

King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models are available only in the crew cab configuration, making them by definition the longer of the F-150 trucks. They also have longer beds by default.

Having said that, you can definitely order a basic F-150 XLT with a crew cab and a long 8ft bed.

5. Payload

Yes, back to payload again!

Remember the tongue weight that we discussed earlier in the post? Now it's time to bring it all together.

Payload is the total maximum weight of the driver, passengers, gear and a full tank of gas. In other words, the amount that you can put on or inside of your truck itself (regardless of towing) on top of the truck's own dry weight.

When you're weighing the amount of pressure your trailer hitch puts on the truck, that number factors into the overall payload capacity also.

For example, let's say your tongue weight is 450 lbs. If your truck's payload is 1000 lbs., then you only have 550 lbs. left to load the truck. That 550 lbs is what you have now for the driver, passengers and gear.

If you go over that, then you exceed your overall payload because of the tongue weight.

Ford takes great pride in the payload capacity of the F-150:

Reducing weight is an effective way to increase payload. And that’s what resulted from cutting the weight of the F-150 body with high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy. Greater strength with less weight helps achieve a best-in-class* payload rating in F-150 models.

So, what's the actual payload capacity of an F-150

It varies quite significantly. What's more, you can get payload packages that add to your payload in almost every model.

At the lower end of the F-150 payload scale you'll find the following combination:

  • The 3.3L gas engine
  • 4WD
  • Supercrew cab

An F-150 truck with those specs has a payload of 1,700 lbs.

For top payload capacity you'll need the following configuration:

  • 5L V8 gas engine
  • 2WD
  • Regular cab

With these specs, your F-150 payload is going to be 3,270 lbs.

As you can see, that's almost double the payload, which means you get more room in terms of adding heavier tongue weight and consequently, a heavier trailer.

Click here to see Ford's gross combination weight guide.

The Towing Package

A Ford F-150 truck and Lance travel trailer are pulled to the roadside in the mountains

Last, but certainly not least, we have the towing package.

What's a Ford Towing Package?

Essentially, it's an enhancement of the truck that includes the towing hitch itself, as well as several elements that increase towing capacity as well as ease of towing.

Ford Ranger Wildtrack off road pickup car with air intakes and a white caravan trailer

Ford offers several types of towing packages for the F-150 trucks. The basic ones are included in some of the models "off the shelf" but most need to be pre-ordered.

Let's take a look at what these packages include and what they provide you with.

Class IV Trailer Hitch

This is Ford's basic towing package. It's included as a standard feature in the Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited models and it's optional in the XL and XLT.

Towing capability:

  • Up to 6,000 lbs. with the 3.3L Ti-VC  T V6 and 2.7L EcoBoost engines
  • Up to 7,000 lbs. with the 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L V8 engines

This package includes:

  • 4-pin/7-pin wiring harness
  • Class IV trailer hitch receiver
  • Smart Trailer Tow Connector

Trailer Tow Package

This is an upgrade to the Class IV package, adding an auxiliary transmission oil cooler and an upgraded front stabilizer bar. This package is a standard feature in the Raptor model and optional in others.

Towing capability: Up to 11,100 lbs

This package includes:

  • 4-pin/7-pin wiring harness
  • Class IV trailer hitch receiver
  • Smart Trailer Tow Connector
  • Auxiliary transmission oil cooler
  • Upgraded front stabilizer bar

Max. Trailer Tow Package

This ultra package is for heavy-duty towing. It can only be used with the stronger  3.5L EcoBoost engine and either a 3.55 electronic-locking rear axle or an 3.73 one if you also have the Heavy-Duty Payload Package.

Towing capability: Up to 13,200 lbs (!!)

This package includes:

  • 4-pin/7-pin wiring harness
  • Class IV trailer hitch receiver
  • Smart Trailer Tow Connector
  • Auxiliary transmission oil cooler
  • Upgraded front stabilizer bar
  • Engine oil cooler
  • 36-gallon fuel tank
  • Trailer brake controller
  • Upgraded rear bumper

And whichever towing package you choose, you can also add the Pro Trailer Backup Assist system with a trailer hookup lamp.

Read more: Best Ford F150 Tow Mirrors (By Year of Truck Make)

But remember payload and tongue weight!

If you plan on loading the truck itself with even more heavy gear, you'll be eating into your payload capacity, which could dramatically decrease your range of towing capacity.

Measure your tongue weight and make sure to keep it between 12% and 15% of your trailer weight. In some F-150 models - mostly the heavier 4WD - that could significantly limit your towing capacity.

Also, the one rule of thumb everyone keeps repeating is to tow under your maximum towing limit. It's just so much safer and reduces sway issues, especially with a light-duty truck as your towing vehicle.

Which is why with most F-150 models a good weight for towing would be in the 6,000 lbs. range and no more than that. With some configurations, you can push that limit up to the 8,000 lbs. range, but you probably shouldn't for safety reasons.

Let's wrap up. I'm going to write a separate post reviewing the kind of trailers that are actually in the 5K lbs range, just to get a feel of what kind of travel trailer RV's we're talking about - even when towing with one of the more basic F-150's.

In the end, despite the impressive numbers in Ford's tables, it's their footnote at the bottom of the same page that counts the most -

Towing Notes:

Maximum loaded trailer weights shown. Do not exceed trailer weight of 5,000 lbs. when towing with bumper only. The combined weight of the towing vehicle (including options, hitch, passengers and cargo) and the loaded trailer must not exceed the GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Trailer tongue load weight should be 10-15% of total loaded trailer weight. Make sure that the vehicle payload (reduced by option weight) will accommodate trailer tongue load weight and the weight of passengers and cargo added to the towing vehicle. The addition of trailer tongue load weight, and the weight of passengers and cargo, cannot cause vehicle weights to exceed the rear GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) or GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). These ratings can be found on the vehicle’s Safety Compliance Certification Label.

That's a lot of text in small-print so we hope the way we explained in this post helps. If you found this post helpful please share it around! There are many new owners of Ford F-150 out there and it's good to spread the message about safe towing.

And if you own a light-duty truck and used it for towing, we'd love to hear about your own experience too. Just leave us a comment below.

Know more about the Ford F-150 here:

How Much Does A Ford F-150 Really Cost?

What’s the Average Gas Mileage for a Ford F-150 Truck?

Can You Plow with a Ford F150?

Ford F150: What Are the Common Problems?

 

Dalton

Friday 5th of November 2021

I put this EAZ LIFT 48069 Elite Kit on my F150 and 7500-pound travel trailer. It lifted the back end of my truck about 2". I definitely notice when the anti-sway is on at highway speed. It is solidly built as it allows our pickup and camper to be attached firmly. I do not have to worry about falling off, passing a tighter turn, and how my pickup holds the camper as the sway control bar solves the problem. It has a friction bar that helps prevent squeaking sounds when making a sharp turn.

Dalton

Tuesday 9th of November 2021

I highly recommend using this Travel Trailer Hitches as it functions as intended. It is easy to install and fast as the instructions on the user guide is very straightforward and easy to follow. It makes towing a camper easy as if you are not towing at all and it will ensure that we will have a smoother journey every time we use this.

Brian

Friday 19th of March 2021

Thank you for the well written article, it’s definitely one that’s easy to understand. I noticed in section 5 (payload) you included a full tank of gas as part of the max payload capacity. Is this correct? It’s been my understanding that a full tank of gas is included in the curb weight of the vehicle and therefore not considered part of the max payload.

Doug

Friday 5th of March 2021

My 2015 F-150 Platinum with 3.5l EcoBoost and Max Trailer Tow Package (11,200 rated capacity because it's the long bed, 4x4, supercrew) pulls quite well. Most of this article has focused on travel trailers, but I've been using mine for 5th wheel pulling. I made a few modifications to make it pull heavy trailers better. A direct frame attached hitch (B&W Gooseneck under bed hitch with the B&W Companion 5th wheel hitch that plugs in the place of the gooseneck ball), and a set of 5,000 lb rated air bags to level the truck back out when the payload is put on it, and heavy duty shocks to deal with the higher effective spring rate when the airbags are aired up. Given this setup, a 10,000 lb fifth wheel trailer is no problem at all.

Data

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Buying the 2021 Ford F-150. My boat trailer has electric brakes vs the older surge brakes. Does the regular towing package have the electric brake actuator or do I have to go to the Max trailer package to get that? thanks in advance.

Randy

Saturday 24th of October 2020

If only - If only I found this article before buying. I very ignorantly purchased a 2017 F-150 Lariat 3.5 Litre V-6 with Ecoboost 3.55 Axle ratio electronic lock RR axle with the Class IV Trailer Hitch (Towing Capacity up to 7,000 lbs). Could I add an upgraded front stabilizer or even an auxiliary transmission oil cooler to increase the towing capacity for the truck I already have?