Comparing the Big Three: Half-Ton Pickup Trucks for 2020

The truck market has grown by leaps and bounds with the full-size half-ton pickup the most popular truck segment in the America. Backed by 10 consecutive years of growth and sales of up to 2.5 million trucks in 2019, half-ton trucks are loved for their versatile functionality, cutting-edge convenience, style, speed, and technology.

In this market, most buyers are inclined to a certain brand. Indeed, the Big Three—Ford, Ram, and Chevy/GMC—carry cult followings across the United States. Whether you want a truck to help you tackle daily work chores or keep up with your weekend adventures, half-ton pickup trucks offer both the strength and versatility needed. In this article, we compare the half-ton pickup trucks produced by the Big Three in 2020, paying particular attention to key specifications including payload. We’ve endeavored to provide as much information as we can, but additional research will be still be needed as options can change the overall payload quation drastically.

1. Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 has been a full-sized favorite among millions of buyers for decades, and for a good reason. This half-ton pickup truck offers a great blend of durability, convenience features, and interior comfort. The 2020 Ford F-150 is a five-seater vehicle available in seven trims, which helps customers get a truck that suits their desires and needs. It’s the reason why it’s a favorite for hauling truck campers and a wide range of other loads.

The Ford F-150 offers exceptional towing and payload capabilities, segment-leading technology features, superb off-roading capability, and many other options. It offers a best-in-class maximum payload rating of 3,270 pounds, can tow up to 13,000 pounds, and the truck beds range from 5.5-feet to 8-feet, depending on the model you choose. Whether you’re looking for a capable work truck, a customizable truck for your adrenaline adventures, or a dependable everyday full-sized truck, the Ford F-150 offers the performance you need with its superior lineup of six engines. The payload rating, of course, depends on the bed length and other options like the engine and drivetrain. Unfortunately, the 3,000-pound payload ratings—the highest ratings of any half-ton truck—can only be obtained by getting an F-150 long-bed with a regular cab.

Engine Specs of the 2020 Ford F-150

3.5L EcoBoost  V63.0L Power Stroke Turbo DieselHigh-Output 3.5L EcoBoost V6
470 lb-ft of torque

375 hp

18 city/25 highway

13,200 lb max towing

3,230 lb max payload

440 lb-ft of torque

250 hp

22 city/30 highway

11,500 lb max towing

2,020 lb max payload

510 lb-ft of torque

450 hp

18 city/25 highway

11,100 lb max towing

1,200 lb max payload

2.7L Turbocharged EcoBoost V6  5.0L TI-VCT V8           3.3L TI-VCT V6

 

400 lb-ft of torque

325 hp

20 city/26 highway

8,500 lb max towing

2,470 lb max payload

400 lb-ft of torque

395 hp

17 city/23 highway

11,600 lb max towing

3,270 lb max payload

265 lb-ft of torque

290 hp

19 city/25 highway

7,700 lb max towing

1,990 lb max payload

Feature Highlights

  • Power running boards
  • Start/stop system
  • Front cooled seats
  • Around view camera
  • Parallel and perpendicular back-in automatic parking
  • Panoramic moonroof
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • In-Car WiFi
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Three-Year / 36K mi basic warranty

2. Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 was fully redesigned for 2019 and now comes looking even better and performing well for 2020. It’s well known for its on-road comfort and smooth ride, making long workdays or long rides much easier. With improvements all around, the Ram 1500 offers a competitive list of features, handsome looks, great towing capability, and low starting prices, even on the highest trim.

This economical workhorse offers a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds, a towing capacity of 12,750 pounds, and the truck beds range from 5.7-feet to 8-feet, depending on the model. The half-ton pickup truck offers powerful, economic diesel and mild-hybrid engines, a comfortable ride, and plenty of tech options. The choices of drivetrains and a wide range of equipment make it easy to find a version that suits off-road fun, hauling, weekend household chores, and serious towing. The payload rating, of course, depends on the bed length and other options like the engine and drivetrain.

Engine Specs of the 2020 Ram 1500

5.7L HEMI® V8 Engine with eTorque5.7L HEMI® V8 Engine3.6L Pentastar® V6 Engine With  ETorque3.0L Eco-Diesel V6 Engine
410 lb-ft of torque

395 hp

17/22 City/Hwy mpg

11,320 lb max towing

1,820 lb max payload

410 lb-ft of torque

395 hp

15/21 City/Hwy mpg

11,410 lb max towing

1,900 lb max payload

269 lb-ft of torque

305 hp

19/24 City/Hwy mpg

7,410 lb max towing

2,300 lb max payload

480 lb-ft of torque

260 hp

21/29 City/Hwy mpg

9,860 lb max towing

1,600 lb max payload

Feature Highlights

  • Start/stop system
  • In-Car WiFi
  • Android Auto
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Front cooled/heated seats
  • Integrated turn signal mirrors
  • Fog lamps
  • Remote engine start
  • 18-inch steel wheels
  • Vinyl flooring and upholstery
  • Locking tailgate
  • Rearview camera
  • Uconnect® Infotainment system with a 5-inch touch-screen display
  • Three-year/36K mi basic warranty

3. Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a great half-ton truck for anyone looking for a bare-bones work truck or something that offers more luxury. The Silverado 1500 received a full redesign in 2019, and now comes with improved body styling, a superior off-road trim package, a more functional truck bed, a longer wheelbase, and a greater choice of engine and transmission combinations.

The Silverado 1500 is a six-seater and is available in eight trim levels. It offers a wide range of choices in features, many active safety features, and optional best in class towing. The Chevrolet Silverado is an excellent half-ton with lots of customization options and great capability. The Silverado offers a maximum capacity of 13,400 pounds, a maximum payload capacity of 2,250 pounds, and the truck beds range from 5.8-feet to 8-feet, depending on which model you choose. Of course, the ever important payload rating depends on the bed length and other options like the engine and drivetrain.

Engine Specs of the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

2.7L Turbo Engine4.3L V6 Engine5.3L V8 Engine
348 lb-ft of Torque

310 hp

20 city/23 highway

7,000 lb max towing

2,070 lb max payload

305 lb-ft of Torque

285 hp

16 city/21 highway

7,900 lb max towing

2,250 lb max payload

383 lb-ft of Torque

355 hp

17 city/24 highway

11,600 lb max towing

2,180 lb max payload

6.2L Gas V8 Engine3.0L V6 Turbo-Diesel 
460 lb-ft of Torque

420 hp

16 city/20 highway

13,400 lb max towing

2,090 lb max payload

460 lb-ft of Torque

260 hp

23/33 City/Hwy Mpg

9,400 lb max towing

1,870 lb max payload

 

 Feature Highlights

  • Start-stop system
  • In-Car WiFi
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Brake assist
  • Infotainment system
  • Proximity keyless entry
  • Bluetooth
  • Remote keyless entry
  • 3-Year/36K mi basic warranty

4. GMC Sierra 1500

Also redesigned in 2019, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 features a fully-boxed steel frame and mixed material construction, with six powertrain configurations and a lighter body. The Sierra 1500 is a powerful, comfortable, and composed full-sized pickup truck with easy-to-use tech features, spacious seats, and a well-cushioned ride. The truck delivers a smooth ride, looks good inside, and provides plenty of passenger space.

If you’re looking for a handsome, conservatively styled truck, the Sierra 1500 offers strong capability and ease-of-use. The GMC Sierra 1500 features a towing capacity of up to 13,400 pounds, a payload capacity of up to 2280 pounds when properly equipped, and the truck beds range from 5.8-feet to 8.2-feet, based on which model you choose. The 2020 Sierra 1500 is available in different engines to suit your needs. The payload rating—the most important number when it comes to hauling a truck camper—depends on the bed length and other options like the engine and drivetrain.

 Engine Specs of the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500

2.7L Turbo Engine5.3L V8 6.2L V83.0L Turbo Diesel
348 lb-ft of torque

310 hp

20/19 city/23/22 highway

6,700 lb max towing

2,060 lb max payload

383 lb-ft of torque

335 hp

17/16 city/23/22 highway

10,000 lb max towing

2,280 lb max payload

460 lb-ft of torque

420 hp

15 city/20 highway

9,300 lb max towing

2,060 max payload

460 lb-ft of torque

277 hp

23/22 city/30/26 highway

12,100 lb max towing

1,830 max payload

Feature Highlights

  • ProGrade trailering
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Traction Select System
  • Bed view camera
  • Audio system integrated into the 6-function MultiPro tailgate
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Heads-up display
  • Luxurious Denali trim
  • In-Car WiFi
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Proximity keyless entry
  • Remote keyless entry
  • Bluetooth
  • Infotainment system
  • 3 Year/36K mi basic warranty

The Bottom Line

There is much to choose from when it comes to the half-ton pickup truck. Even in the lower end of the segment, you can choose from different trim levels that range from practical to efficient to, affordable to luxurious. Indeed, a closer look at the options provided by the Big Three ensures that you find something tailored to fit your specific needs. When it comes to hauling a truck camper, however, nothing is more important than the payload rating. Yes, the power and torque of the engine is also important when climbing steep mountain passes, but staying below the payload rating is what will ultimately keep you safe and your passengers safe on the road. Of course, the weak link in the payload equation is always the wheels and tires, which is why we recommend upgrading them to support more weight (a load range D tire is usually sufficient for a half-ton).

Additional Resources

Truck Camper Adventure has published the following resources to make your search for the perfect half-ton truck camper even easier:

10 Best Campers for the Ford F-150

Top 8 Pop-Up Campers for Half-Ton Trucks

Top 7 Truck Campers for Half-Ton Trucks

Top 6 Suspension Upgrades for Truck Camper Rigs

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About Mello Mike 532 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side.

5 Comments

  1. It’s nice to see specs organized in such a useful fashion. My big take away from this info is that the newer trucks seems to have been substantially upgraded with respect to payloads compared to the slightly older models. Also worth noting is that the max rated payload versions are likely to be the least optioned and lowest trim levels available for each brand and typically regular cab models in 2WD. The majority of units ordered by dealers are most often outfit to the mid level or higher trim levels and options which makes the majority of them not well suited for truck camper duty.

    As Stan noted, you recommended a one ton truck as the preferred tool for the job. Frankly I think that the 3/4 ton market has a lot of merit for those with a half ton looking to carry a TC. For example … we had a 2WD Ram 1500, quad cab with the V6 engine. As such, it had the second highest payload for Ram half tons at the time (behind the regular cab model). The capacity was 1800 lbs and I tried in vain to find a suitable match in a TC. It was a “Big Horn” model which was near the mid level range of trim levels. We paid $34K roughly for it. I actually found a new Ram 2500HD at the lowest “Tradesman” trim level in a crew cab with the big 6.2L Hemi (2WD) for $4K less money. I doubled my payload capacity to 3600 lbs and got the additional benefit of the stronger chassis and drive train including larger brakes and higher rated wheels and tires. All for less than most half tons on dealer’s lots. There are other options out there if you’re a bit creative and can do without a lot of bells and whistles.

  2. Actually, read your own advice given in a post on 2/7/14. “Get a one ton truck”. I sure wish I had seen that advice 11 years ago.

  3. None of these trucks will safely and legally haul 90% of the truck campers sold, so I don’t know why this article doesn’t state that fact.

  4. Thank you for this article. I cant tell you how many times I’ve had multiple website tabs open attempting to do this comparison to try and figure out which will work for the truck camper.

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