Raising Your Truck’s Payload: Is It Possible?

CAT Scale - Payload - Truck Camper AdventureWhen it comes right down to it, the pickup truck is built to really do one thing–haul cargo. Yes, some people use them to tow, but hauling cargo is a pickup truck’s raison d’être. The ability to haul cargo is measured by a truck’s payload rating which tells you how much weight you can safely haul without damaging your pickup truck. The problem is that most payload ratings are limited. You can never have enough. One question I often get asked and see on the forums is if there is anyway to increase it? That’s a good question and one I’ll examine in this article.

First, it will help to understand how a truck’s payload is determined. Truck manufacturers typically employ a simple formula by taking the truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and subtracting the truck’s curb weight from that figure. For example, the GVWR of a 2011 F-250 is 10,000 pounds. If you subtract the curb weight of the truck, which is 6,686 pounds, from this figure you get a net figure of 3,314 pounds. This is the truck’s official payload. The payload rating for your truck can be found either on a placard located on the driver’s side door pillar and on a payload certification form found in your truck’s glove box. The payload includes not only the amount of weight that can be put in the bed of your truck but also includes the weight of the passengers and gear you may be carrying in the cab. It all counts.

Payload and Tire Loading Door Pillar Sticker
According to this door pillar sticker, the payload for this truck is 3,314 pounds.

If you need a large payload to haul something like a truck camper then you need to take a hard look at options. Yes, having a shiny, new diesel engine underneath that hood is great, but consider how much more weight that will place on your truck’s frame and how much that will reduce your truck’s payload. For instance, the 6.7L Ford Powerstroke diesel weighs 1,100 pounds wet compared to Ford’s 6.2L Boss V8 gas engine which weighs nearly half that at 600 pounds. And if you’re considering getting four-wheel drive, think again. That feature, while great for driving on rough roads, sand, and snow, isn’t so great for your payload rating. The typical four-wheel drive will add another 400 pounds of weight to your truck. The same applies to other nice-to-have options like steel wheels, a crew-cab, a super hitch and a winch; all of these add capability but reduce payload.

So how does one increase the payload of a truck? The most obvious way is to remove items from your truck like the tailgate (these usually weigh around 90 pounds), the rear seat, using lighter wheels and tires, etc. Removing items from your truck will increase its payload, but you can only go so far in removing things before you’re left with a bare-bones pickup truck. In spite of removing such items, however, the certified payload rating set by the manufacturer won’t change. The rating exists for safety because if you exceed it, components will eventually wear out and break. These components include things like the truck’s frame, the axles, the leaf springs, the brakes, and the wheels and tires. And while some shops claim they can increase your payload, only truck manufacturers can certify or re-certify the payload rating of their trucks.

While exceeding the GVWR/payload rating isn’t advisable, there is one little-known trick employed by more savvy and knowledgeable pickup truck owner’s to squeeze out even more cargo hauling capability out of their trucks. This involves the truck’s Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR). The GAWR’s listed on each truck’s payload sticker are greatly limited by the OEM tires. If you research the actual GAWR’s with the axle manufacturer you’ll probably be surprised to learn that you have several hundreds, if not thousands, of additional pounds of cargo carrying capacity. This is especially true with the rear axle. You can tap into this additional capacity by simply buying better tires with higher load ranges. Going this route, however, comes with a dual warning: one should never exceed the real GAWR’s of your axles nor should you ever exceed the weight ratings of your tires.

Ford's GAWR and Tire Loading Sticker
Ford’s GAWR and Tire Loading Sticker
Firestone Air Bag
A Firestone Ride Rite 2535 Air Bag.

In spite of payload limitations, there are some other things that you can do to make your truck ride and handle better. Better wheels and tires with higher load ranges, an additional leaf spring, Torklift Stableloads, Timbrens, air bags, better shock absorbers, and a rear sway-bar are all great improvements, depending on your situation. But there’s always a catch with suspension modifications like these. Adding them may improve the performance and ride of your truck, but they may also reduce the payload of your truck and may make the ride of your truck much harsher when unloaded. In life there’s always some give and take, owning a pickup truck with options is no different.

In order to accurately determine where you stand when it comes to payload, you should take your fully loaded truck and camper to a local CAT scale. In addition to the entire vehicle, weigh each axle. That way, you’ll get an accurate picture where you stand with respect to not only the GVWR, but also the front and rear GAWR’s for your truck. Like most truck camper owners, you’ll probably be surprised at the results. Many owners are overweight.

So what’s the bottom line? If you find that you still need more payload and you aren’t comfortable driving the truck you have, sell it and buy the truck that you should have bought to begin with. For those who own truck campers, that usually means buying a one-ton pickup like the Ford F-350, Chevy 3500, or Ram 3500. Depending on cab configuration, drive train, and rear axle configuration (DRW or SRW), a one-ton can net you a payload between 3,800 and 6,200 pounds. Going this route may cost you a little more, but in the long run will save you money and regret.

Profile photo of Mello Mike
About Mello Mike 302 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, has restored several Airstream travel trailers, and currently owns a 2013 Ram 3500 and a 2016 Northstar Laredo truck camper. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.

48 Comments

  1. I have a question:
    My truck sticker says:
    1992 ford f-250
    Engine 7.3 IDI diesel banks turbo
    GVWR : 8800 lbs
    Rear GAWR : 6084 lbs w LT235/85R16E tires, 16X7K rims @ 80 psi cold
    Front GAWR: 3965 lbs w LT235/85R16E tires, 16X7K rims @ 51 psi cold
    Trans code: E (automatic)
    Axle code: C5 (10.25 limited slip w/ gear ratio = 4.10)
    Springs code: K5A

    OK, my tires are NOT the ones listed on the sticker. My tires are:
    LeftFront: MAX = 3042 @ 80 psi cold
    RightFront: MAX = 3042 @ 80 psi cold
    Total front axle = 6082 lbs

    LeftRear: MAX = 3415 @ 80 psi cold
    RightRear: MAX = 3415 @ 80 psi cold
    Total rear axle= 6830 lbs

    The tires I have now doubled my front axle rating and added 800 lbs to the rear.

    Here’s my question. I ALREADY bought a TC, bc the seller stated my truck was more than enough. Is it? I dont have scales nearby and want to travel a 7 hour drive. The TC dry weighs 1895 lbs.

    DID the tires increase the payload? And from what you know about truck curb weights, am I overweight on the rear? Am I ok to head out or do I need two new rear tires with higher ratings? I dont know what the rear of my truck weighs. Im almost certain the tc puts me over GVWR according to the sticker, BUT…the sticker also says “with xyz tires.” Well I have BETTER than “xyz tires.” Sooo, help? Thanks.

    • What’s your truck’s payload rating? If it doesn’t say anywhere then you’ll need to figure it out on your own. To get your payload, all you need to do is take your truck to the scales to get your truck’s weight, then subtract your truck’s weight from your GVWR. Until I know your payload I’m not comfortable giving you a good answer.

      Having better tires certainly helps, but without the numbers I asked for, I’m not comfortable giving you a definitive answer.

      • Sorry to take so long replying.

        My truck has a camper package of 2085lbs.

        ALSO…I just put brand new tires on all the way around so ignore my above tires. The new tires are: LT235/85R16H tires (yes H, not E – that is not a typo) 14ply steel sided, 4000+lbs load capacity EACH at 80psi cold (can be filled to 110psi)

  2. Hi again mike,
    Looking for clarification on the previous comment that says people have had insurance denied due to the loading issue….how well do we know that? And how often has this occurred? It seems like voided insurance would be highly dependent on the specifics of the case. And how often does the insurance company weigh the vehicle after an accident…although if you have weighed it beforehand then there is some “evidence” but if, like you say, stay under the GAWR it would actually help you in an insurance claim.
    Thanks,
    tom

    • It’s based on anecdotal evidence only, there are no statistics on this. However, common sense dictates that you stay within the specified limits provided by the manufacturer. As long as you aren’t grossly negligent then I wouldn’t worry. Most truck camper owners are overweight by a few hundred pounds.

  3. My 2013 f150 crew cab says “your pickup not recomended for carrying a slide in camper”
    does that mean my truck insurance is void if I get into an accident, even if I have a very small slide in popup truck camper.
    That meet all load capacity requirements front axil rear axil and total weight!.

  4. Hi Mike,
    Well, I bit the bullet and am getting the BFGoodrich AT KO2 E rated tires so that should solve that issue. But in reading more of the stuff on your site (wonderful BTW!) I see that this journey may not be over yet….sounds like shocks might be the next issue. The truck (2015 Ram 1500 ST, 4WD) says it has heavy duty shocks, but do I need more than that, e.g., the Bilstein 4600s?
    Also, suggested in that article was something about upgrading the brakes…is it really necessary to go that far? And how would you do it anyway?
    Thanks, Tom

    • Hi Tom,
      I wouldn’t spend any more money until you first drive around with your new camper. You could end up wasting a lot of money on things you don’t even need, unless you were one of those winners of the Powerball lottery, lol.

  5. Hi mike,
    here is another issue….when you get to the 3500 range at least for RAMs, you can quickly get to greater than GVWR = 12,000…at least for my Safeco insurance it is not covered!

  6. Hi Mike, I am not getting something here.
    (1) The comment above suggested that the axle and wheel weight should be subtracted from the carrying capacity which makes total sense…how come that is not the case? Does the manufacturer already account for that?
    (2) If the manufacturer puts on the underrated tires, why is there not an offset if you put on E tires?
    (3) Why is the total of the axle ratings (e.g., 3900 x 2 = 7800) more than the GVWR (e.g., 6900)?
    it all seems a bit mysterious, but your comment about accidents is the one that scares me the most…since we already bought the truck and camper as recommended the camper guys, turns out if you just go by the GVWR it is overloaded (7200 vs 6900 rating) before we get our junk in it?

    • Hi Tom,
      Yes, truck manufacturers already take the wheel weights into account.

      The two GAWRs when totaled often exceed the GVWR. It’s just the way it works out. This is one way where you get additional capacity.

      The only real way to get a clear picture of where you stand is to take your rig to a CAT Scale and get it and both of your axles weighed. The weight on the rear axle is the key since it will be bearing most of the weight of your camper.

      • I did get it weighed at the port of Oakland, but not whole, but on a split scale that measures each axle load separately; they added them together to get the total. This included one passenger (I forgot to get in!) all fluids; i.e., water and propane, two bikes on front, some tools, but not all our camping gear. The Results: Front =3400, rear = 3800, the RAM 1500 GAWR = 3900. So this sounds like I might be ok, as long as I can keep the added weight for our camping gear near the front??

  7. Need some advice!! Have a 2014 Ram 4×4 SB. 20 in. tires w/load range posted at 2500 lbs. GVWR is 6350. GAWR is 3900 front/3900 rear per sticker. Looking at TC with weight of 1500 though 1340 limit posted on door sticker. Am I safe here?

    • You should be okay, Bob. Your tires provide you with even more load capacity (5,000 pounds) than your rear axle’s GAWR (3,900 pounds). But the only real way to tell if you’re safe is to take your rig to the scales.

      • Hmmmm, you have a point, Dan. If his limit is 2,500 pounds per tire, then, yes, he would be okay. That would be 5,000 pounds for the rear axle, but I read his limit was 2,500 pounds. Hopefully, Bob can clarify.

        • Couldn’t be 2500 pounds total or the curb weight of his truck would exceed that (I’m sure my daughters little VW weighs more than that).

  8. First, Thanks for your great article!
    We have a 2008 F250 SuperDuty 6.4L Diesel Crew Cab with 6.75 bed and are looking to get a 5th wheel. Our front GAWR is 5,600 and rear GAWR is 6,100 while the GVWR is at 10,000. That would give 1,700 lb GAWR "headroom".
    Today I weigh the truck fully fueled with two adults – front 5,140 rear 3,460 – total 8,600.
    The 5th wheel hitch (pin) max weight would seem to be 6,100-3,460 or 2,640 by using the rear GAWR which is a lot more than 10,000-8,600 or 1,400 by GVWR,

    As long as I keep under the GAWR what other things should I pay attention to? Springs? Tire rating? etc.

    Thanks again for the article – it along with comments have been quite helpful.

    • As long as you're below your tire and GAWR, you should be okay, but I would wait until you get your rig before making any suspension mods. If you experience rear sag then I would get another spring or a set of air bags.

      Good luck!

    • Thanks for the reply! – I checked the tire rating Michelin LT275/65R20 load rating E which gives 7,500 per axle when inflated to 80lbs so the GAWR is the limiting factor.

      Thanks again!

  9. Great site! I need help understanding how you apportioned the payload between front and rear axles after you totaled the GAWRs? Also, I have seen conflicting info regarding whether the GVWR sticker on my 2006 F250 SD 4wd 141" 6.0 diesel includes or excludes passenger weights? Thanks for your insight.

    • You'll need to first take your truck to the scales and get it weighed total, then with each axle individually. Once you do this load the camper back up and take it back to the scales doing the same thing again. Your payload can then be determined by subtracting the truck's weight from your GVWR.

    • You have a GREAT site…my compliments! I appreciate your attention to operational safety when it comes to matching a camper and pick-up – my question has to do with matching these two units. While I understand your advice to Jaysee, driving the camper and truck to a certified scale to better determine the GAWR weight apportionment, what advice do you have for someone (like me) who has yet to purchase the camper but has a pickup (on order) and wants to determine how the apportioned weight might impact the GAWR? I have the following truck on order; 2014 RAM 1500 Crew Cab 4X4 with a 5’7” box, 3.21 rear axle ratio, 4-corner air suspension, a GAWR of 3,900 lb front and 3,900 lb rear and a GVWR of 6,900 lb giving an additional 900 lb of increase over the GVWR. The 350 lb of increased weight distribution in your example is split roughly 70/30 front to rear. What might be a good rule of thumb for someone who does not (yet) have the ability to weigh his truck axles with and without the camper? Since I am in the early stages of looking at various types of campers, understanding the additional weight apportionment will help narrow down the choices while keeping the truck/camper combination operating within safety margins. BTW: The 2014 RAM 1500 Base Weight/GCW/Payload/Trailer tow chart lists the following: 1,510 lb payload (payload is rounded down to the nearest 10 lb) and base weights of; 5,384 lb total; 3,115 lb front and 2,269 lb rear. Thanks for the insight.

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for the compliments. There really isn't a rule of thumb since each truck and camper is different. Is there a reason why you are going with a 1/2 ton? Not much payload with that truck and that will limit you to a pop-up, basically.

    • Yes, the ½ ton does come with some inherent limitations, not the least of which is the camper selections that will match-up with the GVWR/GAWR on this type rig. As is the case in many things, it was a compromise. While I would have preferred the ¾ ton from a hauling standpoint, I plan to do more off the beaten path camping, hunting and fishing and I like the pop-up camper’s lower height and lighter weight to access these more remote areas. Could the ¾ ton access these same remote areas when equipped with a pop-up? Yes, but with an additional cost. The pop-ups I’ve looked at thus far come in at around 850 lb dry weight and when additional options are added along with the associated gear I’d probably be looking at something around 1,500 lb to 1,800 lb. The GVWR for the RAM I have on order is 1,510 lb but the GAWR adds another 900 lb over the GVWR. Does this provide enough of a safety margin from a load perspective?

    • Ah, okay. Sounds like you have a popup in mind, so you'll be okay. The extra GAWR capacity in the rear will come in handy just keep those figures in mind when you load it up for camping. You may want to stiffen the rear suspension with an extra leaf spring and you'll definitely want to ditch the passenger tires and put on a good set of LT all-terrain load range E tires.

    • As I’m new to matching a pop-up camper to a pickups payload capacity, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t exceeding the rigs capability and judging by the additional 900 lb GAWR “headroom” it looked to me like I was still within the safety margin. Thanks for the second set of eyes. Yes, I will be watching the additional weight as I gear-up and once I have the camper loaded I plan to make a trip to the local certified scale. The rear suspension on the RAM is a coil spring/shock set-up but I’ve ordered it with the 4-corner air suspension option to compensate for hauling any additional weight in the bed. As for the tires, yes, a set of good load range E all terrain tires will be added as the sweetest “honey holes” are seldom next to the road

  10. Hi Mike, I read the article, expecting you learn what work you've done on your F250, but nada. Just wondering if you kept your F250 stock or if you've added some well thought out options. Thanks!

    • I walked out and looked at the sticker in my '08 6.4L crew cab long bed … a sickening 2337 lbs. I wouldn't have thought it so low before looking and reading the sticker. Good article Mike … even if it brought me the bad news. At least I am informed now. Don't have a camper yet and not sure what I can haul safely now. Have to work on it.

    • Its not all bad. Absolutely love the truck. So, I am now informed and will make appropriate choices on camper and options. Thanks for creating this blog. -FBTX

  11. Mike;
    I like your articles & check your blog every once in a while. Don't have a Truck camper, yet. Many choices & decisions. I'm looking for small one & will also upgrade my truck to a 3500 DWR or 350/450 DRW by the time next August gets here.
    Presently have a Dodge 2500 diesel 4×4. Still looking but please keep up the info rolling in.
    DaMonsta & DaNomad (in San Antonio TX for now).

  12. Hi Mike,

    Love your Site.
    Believe GVWR= "Gross Vehicle Weight "Rating""

    Bought a 3500 Dodge with duals in the back, although duals do not do much for the GVWR except stability. My camper is as wide as the duals anyways, don't let any one convince you to get an SRW vehicle. Learn how to change the DRW tires before you really have to. It handles like an SUV. I am close to pushing my GVWR. I have not had it on a scale yet. I am not to worried, unless my insurance company can weight it after an accident. Got the Firestone Airbags also (Dual Adjust) and that helps also.

    John

    P.S. Made it to Havasu City in June when it was 118 Degrees. Glad I had installed my Polar Cub. It was well worth the money all this summer.

    • Good thoughts, John. Duals definitely provide greater stability and usually more payload. For those who like to get off the beaten path, however, duals aren't a great option. Oh, and thanks for noticing the "rating" error. I correctly that.

  13. For decades with off-road vehicles the axles have been strengthened to take the stress by the use of a truss. If I was running with 90% or more of the axle's rated load capacity there is little reserve if I were to take a bad bounce or hit a deep pothole in the road. A truss would be added insurance.

  14. Choosing a small or medium sized truck or commercial vehicle can be a complicated exercise, this guide can help you consider the things you should look at in striving to choose a truck that both suits your needs and provides the best fuel economy.

  15. The amount of weight a truck can haul is much greater than what it can carry in the bed. The latter is the payload and it is a function of the load capacity of the axles, rims, tires, and springs. If the truck has a rear axle that is rated at 7000 lbs. and the rear of the truck when empty weighs 3000 lbs. as verified at a public weigh scale then the potential payload is 4000 lbs. regardless of the manufacturers payload statement. At this point if the truck has a payload rating of 2500 lbs. then the 1500 lb. difference is a function of the rims, tires, and springs, and any or all of these can be easily changed to handle more weight.

    SuperSprings can provide from 1400 to 2800 more pound of load carry capacity. The same 17" rims can be used with the stock tires that provide 6400 lbs. of support at the rear or changed to tires that provide 7500 lbs. of load capacity with the same rims.

    • Hello Mike!
      I read with interest your article on “Raising Your Truck's Payload”.
      If I may comment. Some observations & research that I have done has led me to believe that this GVWR & GAWR to a large degree (not completely, but to a large degree) is a red herring.
      Let me say up front that obviously you would NOT want to put a triple slide 6000+ lb TC on a SRW truck. And I am excluding half ton trucks. Hopefully that is obvious.
      Let me review the difference between the ¾ ton & full ton trucks.
      If you were to compare part for part
      Tires (which is one of – if not the weakest link)
      Frame
      Brakes
      Axle
      Suspension (here is the difference between ¾ ton & full ton trucks)
      Engine
      Transmission
      The ONLY difference that you will find between the ¾ ton & full ton trucks is the suspension and the badge on the truck body that read 2500, 3500 F-250, F-350 etc.. THAT`S IT! A full ton truck VS a ¾ ton with the same axle ratio will give you a 1000lbs more of payload. And often when you visit these full ton trucks on the dealer site they do not even have the top rated tires. To my knowledge the best E rated tire is 3750 lbs. Most full ton trucks are 3645 lbs. Go figure!
      The GAWR is simply the total of the tires rating. If the truck has a 6100 lb GAWR. I bet you the original tires were rated for 3050lbs each. What does that tell you?
      Bottom line, trading up or concerning yourself with the should I upgrade to a full ton from a ¾ ton (because of payload concerns) is a waste of time. Just beef up the suspension & confirm tires can handle the load. Whatever upgrades (sway bar, stable load, air bags, shocks etc..) you have to do to your ¾ ton you will have to do to your full ton truck. Having said that, if you are in the process of getting a new truck anyhow, and you have a TC, sure get a full ton. Price difference is small. But if you are happy with your ¾ ton. Keep it!
      Mike, what say you?

    • Dear Anonymous,
      What you say is true. The BIG weakness in the GVWR equation is the tires. If you already own a 3/4 ton, and it has the same build as a 1 ton, then you could simply upgrade the tires. Those are some big ifs, though. Unfortunately, if you happen to get into an accident and you're over your payload, then you can get find yourself on the losing end of an insurance claim. Some TC owners have found their coverage voided because they were overloaded. It's a big risk. It's up to you, if it's really worth it. Like I said in the article, just buy a one-ton if you're buying new and save yourself the hassle.

  16. When you go to a scale, maybe the weight of the wheels on each axles should be subtracted to determine the weight carried by each axle. The weight shown by the scale should be used to determine that you have not over loaded the tires/rims.
    Heavier wheels will change the braking and steering characteristics – adding more stress due to the increases angular momentum.

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