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2020 Half-Ton Truck Showdown Banner

BEST 2020 1/2-TON TRUCKS FOR TOWING A 5TH WHEEL

Bigger isn't always better. The half-ton lineup of 2020 pickup trucks is half workhorse, half luxury, and altogether impressive.If you have a smaller fifth wheel and plan to pull it with a half-ton pickup, you really can't go wrong. Hefty towing capacities, enviable diesel engines, better-than-ever gas mileage, and cutting edge trailer technology make 2020 a tough year to choose a favorite.To take an even deeper dive into the half-ton segment this year, we sat down with JD, producer of the popular YouTube channel Big Truck Big RV (BTBRV), to get his thoughts. Not only does JD have years of experience in the world of trailers, trucks, and towing, he's personally test driven just about every new truck on the market.Join us for an in-depth look at 2020's top trucks, including towing specs, ride comfort, engine power, new trailer technology, and more. Find out which truck impressed JD the most and which truck called to us (spoiler: we couldn't agree on a favorite!) Will our favorite truck also be the truck of your dreams, will you fall in love with JD's first choice, or will your pick be one we overlooked?Got a big trailer? Get a big truck. Check out our heavy-duty segment review here.For more information on choosing between payload capacities, gas vs. diesel, SRW vs. DRW, and more, check out our Guide to Choosing the Best Truck for 5th-Wheel Towing. You can also check out our comparison of past truck model years:

How We Rate Each Truck

We've broken out four main qualities by which we'll judge each truck: power, interior comfort, ride quality, and technology. At the end, we'll pick the overall winner. We also want to point out that certain features are, of course, only available on certain trim levels.Let's get started below!TOP 1/2-TON TRUCKS IN THE RUNNING
FORD F-150
3.0L Power Stroke® Turbo Diesel
Ford Half Ton - BTBRV
Max 5th Wheel Towing
13,200 lbs*
Max Payload
3,270 lbs*
Diesel Engine Specs
3.0L Power Stroke® Turbo Diesel
440 torque; 250 horsepower
MPG: 22 city/30 hwy
Premium Gas Engine (for Max Towing)
3.5L EcoBoost
470 torque; 375 horsepower
RAM 1500
3.0L EcoDiesel V6
Ram 1500 - BTBRV
Max 5th Wheel Towing
12,750 lbs**
Max Payload
2,300 lbs*
Diesel Engine Specs
3.0L EcoDiesel V6
480 torque; 260 horsepower
MPG: 22 city/32 hwy
Premium Gas Engine (for Max Towing)
5.7L Hemi V8 w/ etorque
410 torque; 395 horsepower
CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500
Duramax® 3.0L Turbo-Diesel
Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Max 5th Wheel Towing
13,400 lbs**
Max Payload
2,250 lbs*
Diesel Engine Specs
Duramax® 3.0L Turbo-Diesel
460 torque; 277 horsepower
MPG: 23 city/33 hwy
Premium Gas Engine (for Max Towing)
6.2L EcoTec3 V8 w/ DFM
460 torque; 420 horsepower
GMC SIERRA 1500
Duramax® 3.0L Turbo-Diesel
GMC Sierra 1500
Max 5th Wheel Towing
12,200 lbs**
Max Payload
2,240 lbs*
Diesel Engine Specs
Duramax® 3.0L Turbo-Diesel
460 torque; 277 horsepower
MPG: 23 city/30 hwy
Premium Gas Engine (for Max Towing)
6.2L EcoTec3 V8 w/ DFM
460 torque; 420 horsepower
TOYOTA TUNDRA
i-FORCE 5.7L V8
Toyota Tundra
Max 5th Wheel Towing
10,200 lbs**
Max Payload
1,730 lbs*
Diesel Engine Specs
i-FORCE 5.7L V8
401 torque; 381 horsepower
MPG: 13 city/18 hwy
*When properly equipped**When properly equipped. Gooseneck tow capacity used (no 5th-wheel capacity listed from manufacturer)
Power
Overall Winner: Chevrolet Silverado
Chevrolet comes out on top when it comes to towing capacity with a maximum 13,400 lbs. Ford is right on Chevy's heels, however, with a 13,200-lb capacity—not to mention a HUGE 3,270-lb payload. RAM and GMC are a bit lower in the 12,000-lb range for fiver towing, while the Toyota Tundra brings up the rear with a relatively unimpressive 10,200-lb capacity.Note that for all manufacturers except Ford, these ratings are listed for conventional towing, NOT fifth wheels specifically. Only Ford actually rates their half-ton trucks for fifth-wheel trailers.Every truck besides the Tundra has an available diesel engine this year, effectively bringing the Big Three on a level playing field (sorry, Toyota). So which engine is best?RAM edges out the competition in terms of torque with 480 lb-ft, although the GM twins aren't far behind with 460 lb-ft each. GM's diesel has the highest horsepower specs (277 hp), and Chevrolet pulls ahead in terms of fuel economy (23 city/33 hwy).Keep in mind, these are only the diesel engine specs—each manufacturer offers multiple gas engine configurations (save for Toyota, which offers just one gas engine). And they are impressive.The GM twins offer best-in-class horspower (420), while Ford offers the best-in-class torque (470). These are the engine options you'll want to go with to get the max towing capacity out of your truck. Toyota lags behind the rest with its single 5.7L V8 engine option, which offers 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque.
Interior Comfort & Space
Overall Winner: Ford HD
Trucks are the vehicular symbol of hard work, but for the price tag, we want a bit of luxury in our ride.RAM provides arguably the most luxurious pickup interior to date. We particularly love the RAM's black leather look, reconfigurable center console, and multiple accessory connection points. (That 12" touchscreen also makes you feel like you're in a cockpit, but we'll talk more about that later.)So RAM is rocking the interior design. As far as seat comfort, however, JD found Chevrolet and GMC had the most comfortable standard seats, with Ford and RAM tying for second place due to their lack of seat bolstering.Ford does have one wild card the other manufacturers don't, however: available Multi-Contour Seats, which include a massaging feature. These aren't brand new to the 2020 model year, but it's worth pointing them out. If you can spring for these seats (available only on the upper King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited Trims), Ford provides the most comfortable perch behind the wheel.Of course, ride comfort isn't all about the cushion under your rear end; it's also about the roominess of the cab. Whether it's just you and your partner or the whole family on the road, you need the room to spread out on long trips. All three manufacturers offer considerable space in their Crew Cab configurations, particularly when it comes to rear legroom. The RAM 1500 Crew Cab's rear bench seat even reclines by sliding forward (which the kids will love on long trips!).
Half-Ton Truck Dimensions
Ride Quality
Overall Winner: (Tie) Chevrolet and GMC HD
A major benefit of half-ton trucks is that they all ride better than their heavy-duty counterparts.However, some do stand above the rest. Ride quality is where RAM dominates. No other manufacturer has been able to compete with RAM's rear coil suspension, which provides a decidedly non-truck-like ride. Rather, it rides (as JD put it), "like a luxury sedan." The biggest downside to RAM is its lack of a telescoping wheel, which does affect driver convenience.GM's IFS (independent front suspension) also provides a smoother ride. On the other hand, Toyota has been at the bottom of the list for a few years now, and the Tundra continues to provide the least refined ride.
Technology
Overall Winners (TIE) - Ram and GMC HD
Ram 12" Uconnect Touch Screen
Ram 12" Uconnect Touch Screen
We folks here at etrailer as well as JD were impressed by the array of technological features offered this year. Pretty much every manufacturer offers a handful of similar safety features at this point, such as braking assist, blind spot monitoring options, 360-degree camera systems, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, and more. Convenient tech like keyless entry, push button start, and remote capabilities are pretty much ubiquitous as well. Yes, you'll have to pay more for these options, but they are at least available from the big 3 manufacturers.However, there are some stand-out tech features between the brands. In terms of who does it best, it just depends on what's most important to you.GMGM takes the lead as far as camera systems go, with up to 15 available cameras providing every view you could wish for. Just note that some of these are designed for conventional trailer towing, such as the industry-first "invisible trailer view," so these cameras are an even bigger deal if you tow a conventional trailer as well. Still, there are plenty of cameras to help with a fifth-wheel load, like a bed view camera to ease the hookup process.Something else we liked about the GM trucks is their integration with your trailer. The available Advanced Trailering System allows you to create and customize different trailer profiles, use built-in departure checklists, and monitor your trailer tire pressure, and more.If you plan on using your truck bed for more than just fifth wheel towing, you'll also love GMC's Six-Function Multi-Pro™ Tailgate, which can be used as a truck bed extender, load stop, step, work surface, and more. (Note that this is not yet available on the Chevy Silverado, so this is a point in GMC's favor.)Ultimately, if towing technology is what you're after, you'll be happy with a GM truck in 2020.FordThe great thing about Ford trucks is that they work hard, but they also allow you the comfort and luxury you deserve. Those Multi-Contour Massaging Seats are fit for a king—a King Ranch®, that is. JD was a fan during his test drive (although we do have to admit, the massage feature isn't for everyone—definitely give it a go before you buy.) These are only available starting with the King Ranch® trim, which has an MSRP about $24k above the base level trim. They may not be worth the extra coin on their own, but they are a nice perk of those upper trim levels.The 360-degree camera option provides a bird's-eye view around your truck for easy trailer navigation. If you know you'll also be towing a conventional trailer at some point, the Ford-exclusive Pro Trailer Backup Assist package lets you just turn a knob and let the system do its job.RAMRAM's 12" Uconnect Infotainment System is basically a tablet in your truck—it's by far the most advanced infotainment system, offering the most in terms of multitasking, accessory connection points, and user customization (plus, it just looks so sharp!).Perhaps one of the best features is the split screen view, which lets you choose two applications to keep open at once. As someone who likes to listen to music while I drive but who also relies heavily on the GPS, I love that I can have both screens up at the same time. You can even pay for food and gas from your truck using Uconnect Market. These may seem like small features in the grand scheme of trucks, but it's so often the little things that sway our decisions one way or the other.Although JD was impressed by the 12" screen (it's hard not to be), the endless navigation options can be a bit distracting on the road. After all, there's a reason we aren't supposed to text and drive—swiping through our truck's giant tablet screen is hardly better. The long list of options is great while you're parked; it's just not the easiest thing to manage via muscle memory while you keep your eyes on the road. The touch screen is available starting with the Big Horn trim, which has an MSRP that starts about $4k higher than the base model.We've gone on about the impressive Uconnect screen, but that's not the only feature RAM has to offer entertainment-seeking truck drivers. RAM also offers a 19-speaker premium audio system (more than any other truck of its class) for the Laramie®, Laramie Longhorn®, and Limited Crew Cab Models.RAM also offers a 360-Degree Surround View Camera with Trailer Reverse Guidance View, so there's no shortage of camera views here either.ToyotaToyota is unique among truck manufacturers in that advanced tech comes standard on all models. For instance, Toyota Safety Sense™ is included on every Tundra. Features include a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. A Blind Spot Monitor is available even on the base SR5. However, Toyota doesn't offer much in the way of trailer towing tech.So which truck has the best technology of the year? Honestly, it just depends on what you want most from your truck. Personally, if I was going for a daily driver and was only going to tow a fifth wheel occasionally, I'd be mightily tempted by RAM's insane infotainment setup. However, if I was frequently towing a large fifth wheel, the 15-camera setup in the GM trucks would provide me more peace of mind.
Awards & Recalls
Ford F-150
Ford Grill
Awards:
  • Vincentric Best Value in America (1/2-Ton Truck Class)
  • Kelly Blue Book - Best Buy Award
Recalls
  • Damaged Spare Tire Can Lose Air Pressure or DetachNHTSA #: 19V903000ISSUE: Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling certain 2020 F-150 trucks equipped with 17-inch spare tires. The spare tire could have been damaged when it was installed on the rim. Damage can cause tire to lose air pressure or detach from wheel, increasing risk of crash.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 33
  • Excessive Sealant Adhesive on Battery CableNHTSA #: 19V805000ISSUE: Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling certain 2019-2020 F-150 vehicles. The fastener securing the Power Distribution Box (PDB) 12V cable and Battery Monitoring System (BMS) eyelets to the positive battery terminal may loosen and affect the vehicle's systems such as instrument panel displays and braking or steering assist. The engine could also stall.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 135,725
  • Reduced Seat Back StrengthNHTSA #: 19V633000ISSUE: Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling certain 2018-2020 F-150 pickup trucks. The recliner mechanisms may be missing the third pawl required for seat back strength, resulting in a loose seat back. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) numbers 202, "Head Restraints" and 207, "Seating Systems."POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 639,137
Ram 1500
Ram Grill
Awards:
  • Consumer Guide - Best Buy Award
  • Vincentric Best Value in America - Truck Brand (RAM)
  • Edmunds Top Rated Truck
  • Car and Driver - 10 Best Cars and Trucks
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Truck of Texas
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Full-Size Truck of Texas (Ram 1500 Rebel)
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Luxury Pickup of Texas (Ram 1500 Limited)
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Best Infotainment System (Ram Uconnect System & Touchscreen Display)
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Best Powertrain (Ram EcoDiesel)
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Best Towing (RAM Rear Air Suspension)
Recalls
  • ORC May Malfunction and Disable Safety FunctionsNHTSA #: 19V407000ISSUE: Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Ram 1500 vehicles. The flash memory of the Occupant Restraint Controller (ORC) may become corrupted, disabling the vehicle's air bags and seat belt pretensioners.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 295,981
GM Silverado & Sierra 1500
GMC Sierra 1500
Awards
  • Consumer Guide - Best Buy Award
Recalls
  • Poor Alternator Connection May Cause Crash or Fire NHTSA #: 19V888000ISSUE: General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks. The battery positive (B+) cable rings may have been manufactured with excessive glue, potentially causing an intermittent electrical connection between the B+ cable and alternator.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 350,371
  • Fuel Pump Missing Pressure RegulatorNHTSA #: 19V837000ISSUE: General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain 2020 Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 vehicles. The fuel pump may be missing a pressure regulator, allowing for over-pressurization of the fuel system.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 502
  • Fire After Seat Belt Pretensioner DeploymentNHTSA #: 19V814000ISSUE: General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 vehicles equipped with carpet floor covering. When the front seat belt pretensioners deploy, hot gas may vent through an opening in the pretensioner bracket, possibly igniting the carpet.POTENTIAL # OF UNITS AFFECTED: 556,399
Toyota Tundra
GMC Sierra 1500
Awards
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Best Safety Feature (Toyota Safety Sense)
  • Texas Auto Writers Association - Best Driver Assist System (Toyota Panoramic View & Multi-Terrain Monitor)
Overall Winners:TIE: GMC Sierra 1500 & RAM 1500
In the end, we couldn't agree with JD on the overall winning vehicle. We fell for rival trucks! We'll walk through our reasoning below. You can let us know in the comments if you agree with either of us, or if you think we both chose wrong!
GMC Sierra 1500
JD's Favorite: GMC Sierra 1500 AT4
"If I was in the 1/2-Ton Market, I would strongly look at the GMC AT4 pickup due to its aggressive stance, great overall numbers, awesome camera views, and plenty of rear seat space." -JDWe have to give credit where credit is due—the Sierra 1500 is a GREAT truck. It's roomy, it's comfortable, it's smooth to drive. Plus, it has a ton of available cameras as well as that swiss army knife of a tailgate. These trucks are luxurious inside and out, and like JD, we'd be quite happy and comfortable in one.
Ram 1500
etrailer's Favorite: RAM 1500
RAM technically edged out its competition in terms of our scoring criteria, but more than that, there's just a lot to love here. The RAM's unique rear coil suspension stands above the competition in terms of providing a smooth, non-truck-like ride. The sophisticated tech setup and luxurious interior make it that much more impressive (not to mention a huge draw for long road trips).A significant portion of the vehicle industry backs us up—just check out the lengthy list of awards RAM has collected this year, from Luxury Pickup to Best Infotainment System to Best Value in America. It's safe to say that RAM is on its game, and we can't imagine anyone sliding behind the wheel and not loving it.
*Vehicle images provided by Big Truck, Big RV**Recall information provided by NHTSAStill have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
Amber S.
About the AuthorAs a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training classes for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 3/9/20

Mark M.

1/13/2022

I have a 2020 Ram Laramie 4x4 with 5.7 Hemi v8. Fabulous truck, can't imagine getting something else.. Ram rates its tow capacity at 11,400 lbs, but payload at only about 1600 lbs, and that is what has kept me from going lite 5th wheel since the hitch in the bed would weigh about that, which means I'd have to leave the driver home! So have a Jayco 31' Jayfeather travel trailer (TT) gross 7000 lbs. Traveled Florida to Oregon and back, did great all the way even through Rockies. Only problem is wind, it's tough with a TT. Any suggestions to increase the payload capacity of the truck? Also, is there a way to determine the 5th wheel towing capacity vs TT capacity?

Les D.

1/13/2022

@MarkM your observations illustrate the need for buyers to carefully consider the capabilities of their trucks before making a trailer purchase. It is an all too common situation where buyers tell us they have way too much trailer for their truck. The math for determining towing ability is the same for truck with travel trailer compared to truck with fifth wheel trailer. There is no way to increase your trucks payload capacity or its towing capacity. There are only ways to move your load around and make your ride smoother. Regarding wind and the sway conditions that come with it, the best thing you can do is purchase a hitch system with effective anti-sway measures built into it. The clear winner in that department is the ProPride system. I have attached a link below.

Mark M.

1/13/2022

@LesD You're 100% correct. When I matched my Ram with my Jayco (before buying either), they were fine, and still are. But TTs are inherently problematic with winds and even though I have a Blue Ox there's still a heightened degree of attention and constant correction while towing. So I decided to consider a 5th wheel that would work with my 1500, and there are some, but the problem became not the tow rating but the payload capacity. Considering whether it's worth it to me to upgrade to 2500 truck.

Dmitry M.

3/22/2021

All of the ratings are for sea level up to 1000 feet. I towed a 27' Jayco trailer weighing 6900lbs with my 2016 F150 3.5 ecoboost with max tow package. We went from 3000ft to 7000ft and melted a couple spark plug electrodes. Truck had 45k miles. Look in your owners manual and see a chart of towing capacities in regards to altitude, truck configuration and the like. This truck can tow 13000lbs on a flat trailer on a flat road at sea level with no passengers and no cargo. It can SAFELY tow a 6000lb camper trailer with a giant front wall at 7000feet elevation. Make sure to move your front license plate mount to allow more air flow to the charge air cooler to prevent engine torque back down. Hope this is helpful.

Darrell P.

3/3/2021

Steve G i have a 2021 ram 1500 5.7 hemi with e-torque .we have a 26 foot jayco loaded i am right at 8000 pounds and my truck pulls it great we have been on 2 trips with it and we have had no problems going up or down hills with it. but i do have a hitch leveling system and air bags and it is pretty stable even in the wind

Steve G.

2/7/2021

We have a 2020 Ram 1500 hemi, wish I had a 3/4 ton, but the deal on the 1500 was too good to pass up. We're towing a 21ft. travel trailer about 4200 dry weight, add some water and food and gear ice chest, and pumps it up to maybe 5400. That's all I would want too tow with this truck. I can't imagine towing anything heavier and feeling comfortable with it, can't believe it has a 12,500 capacity. We took a trip to Yellowstone last year from bay area, it did fine with no problems at all, had a great trip. I do notice semi trucks passing, you better be paying attention. You will need a lot of gas as I can only get about 10mi to the gallon, my buddy has the Tundra pulling a Lance trailer, he gets about the same.

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

2/8/2021

Glad to hear that you're enjoying your setup! It can be a scary thing when a semi passes you on the highway due to the way the air flows around them. If you don't already have a weight distribution system (WDS) then I highly recommend going that route. It will help to keep your OEM suspension from working really hard plus pretty much every WDS nowadays has built-in sway control that will help when a semi passes. If your setup is at that 5,400 lb mark then something like the Blue Ox SwayPro # BLU66FR would be a great option for you!

Doug H.

2/7/2021

I read your comments and agree with what you said about the dodge 1500 ram as far as comfort and performance but I have a 2016 that has more recalls ( unresolved ) and wondering if the 2020 performance is so great why can't they fix the 2016. Just thought I see if you have any comment on the subject. Great article by the way I would buy the GMC in a minute. Question about the Nissan half ton diesel? Thanks

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

2/8/2021

I would imagine it's one of those things where they are just looking to the future with their new trucks but I can't really speak for Ram - for all I know they are trying to come up with solutions still. We didn't include the Nissan line of pickups mainly because they aren't as popular or wouldn't be considered among the "best" for towing. Was there anything specific you were wanting to know about?

Drew S.

3/11/2021

@JonG I think it is worth including the Nissan Titan XD in the conversation. The XD was designed for towing and fits nicely between a 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton truck. If you want to tow a 26-30 ft travel trailer, with a family, bikes, food, and all your camping gear, a 1/2 ton is almost always at or above payload limit. It's also too light when cruising the interstate and an 18 wheeler passes you causing you to sway. Even with WDH and sway control, it is not fun to pull a trailer of that size with a 1/2 ton. But to go to a 3/4 ton in the big 3, you have to step up significantly in cost unless you are willing to sacrifice all the creature comforts and safety features that everyone boasts about in modern trucks. Also, driving a 3/4 ton truck as a daily driver isn't cheap or comfortable.
Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

3/12/2021

@DrewS Thank you for your thoughts on this! Seems like the Nissan (or at least Titan XD) pickup might be worth looking into for the reasons you stated. I'll pass this along to our help article team. Thank you!


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