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Light Duty vs. Heavy Duty Trucks: Which Is Right for You?

If you’re comparing new pickups, you’ve probably considered whether light duty or heavy duty trucks are best for your lifestyle. We’ve listed a few pros and cons of both to help you narrow your search for the right truck.

Light Duty Trucks

Light duty trucks compose a large portion of the pickup truck market. Common light duty trucks include models such as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, RAM 1500, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.

Most shoppers who buy light duty trucks have only personal or light commercial truck needs, towing small items, for example, or hauling things such as furniture or small to moderately sized building supplies or construction equipment. Most light duty trucks have a payload capacity that ranges from 1,500 pounds to 3,000 pounds, and a towing capacity of around 12,000 pounds.

Light duty trucks are also best for those looking to use their truck around town or even in suburban areas. The reason is they’re easier to park than their heavy duty counterparts — and far easier to drive on narrow roads common to urban areas.

Heavy Duty Trucks

While heavy duty pickups are rarer than their light duty counterparts, they’re still a big portion of the pickup market. The most popular heavy duty pickups include the Ford F-250 and F-350, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 3500 and the RAM 2500 and 3500.

Many heavy duty pickups offer large diesel engines and enhanced transmissions, because these pickups are designed to tow huge loads such as large fifth-wheel trailers or medium-to-large boats. Heavy duty pickups also see much commercial use, especially on job sites where they’re required to carry large construction materials or pull heavy loads.

Heavy duty pickups can have a towing capacity well in excess of 20,000 pounds. They can also offer payload capacities well over 6,500 pounds — enough to haul virtually anything capable of fitting in the bed.

The main issue for private buyers is that heavy duty pickups aren’t easily maneuverable. That’s mainly due to their large size, as well as engines and transmissions tuned for towing and hauling. As a result, we don’t recommend heavy duty pickups unless you really need their capacities.

Which Is Right For You?

In short, a light duty truck is best for most buyers. They can haul, tow and comfortably seat several passengers. There’s also an increasing push for luxurious light duty trucks for drivers who want to combine truck capabilities and luxury equipment. But for those who need even more than a light duty truck can offer, only a heavy duty pickup can handle the job.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a multitude of magazine publications and websites, including here at Autotrader — where he launched the Oversteer enthusiast blog — along with Jalopnik, GQ, and The Week. His YouTube channel has hundreds of published videos and has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Today, Doug lives in San Diego, California, with his 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS, 2005 Ford GT, and 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.

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