Gas Mileage (MPG) While Towing with Silverado, F150, Ram, Tundra
Why Pickup MPG While Towing?
It’s a well-known fact that Trucks don’t get the greatest gas mileage. Manufacturers recently have gone through great measures to improve this, and with pending federal laws aiming for standard MPG for light duty trucks to reach 28.9 by 2016, they still have some work ahead. People are still buying trucks to use them for work so despite recent manufacturer efforts, fuel efficiency is still an issue. Once a vehicle is fully loaded MPG rates can decrease up to 35% some as much as 45% in this user submitted Dodge Ram video. If you are taking a long trip this can be a costly factor.
We have prepared a comparison amongst the newest most popular 1/2 ton pickups regarding MPG, payload, and acceleration while loaded.
Small Engine Comparison
Large Engine Comparison
Although towing capacity was not part of the above comparison, it is important to know. You must keep your load within your GVWR and abide by the towing ratings for your vehicle. @gerrylanechevy was kind enough to provide us some comparisons between the ½ ton pickups towing capacities:
We used highway MPG as a control, it is very common for vehicles towing to drive mostly on the highway. We have obtained these MPG specs from the vehicle manufactures website and used similar engine sizes to keep it as consistent as possible.
The pickup manufacturers have kept their newest models pretty competitive when it comes to mileage and capacity, with the Ram 1500 and Silverado 1500 leading the game. In the smaller model engines they are almost equal, with Dodge ram packing a whopping 25MPG highway and the Silverado right behind at 24. The Silverado does have a great feature on the V8 called Active Fuel Management; the engine will run at 4 cylinders when you are unloaded, and on easy terrain. It switches to V8 automatically when more power is needed, this can be a game changer for someone using their truck for both daily driving and work. Even with these numbers Ford is still a fan favorite and the F150 offers an EcoBoost option to help in the fuel efficiency. Tundra has its loyal supporters as well. Many say despite the lower towing capacity and MPG the truck drives like a dream while towing, which wins it for them.
Though all of these trucks come with standard and optional features to help save gas, there is still the topic of towing. Newton’s second law of motion states that (force = mass x acceleration). This means when weight is added to a vehicle, it needs to use more power to move it. Since the power comes from your engine, the more power the engine needs to move the vehicle, the more gas it will use up. Weight is not the only thing you need to worry about affecting your mileage while towing, there is also drag. Drag is the wind that pulls on a vehicle forcing the engine to work harder to move forward. When bulk and weight is added to a vehicle drag increases, the makes it harder for a vehicle to move against the wind and uses up more fuel. This means even a small as a roof rack can decrease fuel efficiency by 5 percent. Studies show that loaded vehicles can drop in fuel efficiency anywhere from 10-35%.
Towing MPG is difficult to calculate but an important number. Many truck drivers will use their vehicles to tow or haul heavy items quite often and it is good to know what you can expect to get out of your gas tank so you can plan ahead and factor stops into your trip. To come up with our towing MPG estimates we surveyed groups of F150, Silverado 1500, Ram 1500 and Tundra drivers, we compared the difference between their normal MPG and towing MPG and calculated the percent drop. We then averaged the percent of change between each group to come up with a final percentage and decreased the highway MPG by that amount. Keep in mind the provided towing MPG is just a starting point; many factors can change this number such as driving style, terrain, weight of load and drag.
Wildsau.ca wrote a useful comparison of the Ram 1500 vs Ford F150. He told us his favorite for towing out of the two:
Pickup Acceleration While Towing
The 0-60 Test is an important one for vehicles being used while towing. When merging onto a highway in a fully loaded vehicle you want to be sure that you can safely enter traffic without causing an accident. These numbers were found in TFLTruck’s videos and were obtained using the V8 engine models. Check out the video below...
Get the Most MPG from your Pickup
When choosing a truck with good MPG in mind you have to consider how you will be using the vehicle. If you tow often than choosing either a diesel engine or a larger V8 may be beneficial. Though overall these do tend to get lower gas mileage, when loaded the stronger engines will take less power to move the weight, leading to a smaller decrease in fuel efficiency while towing. On the other hand if you will be using the truck mostly as a daily driver and for highway travel the smaller engines may be better. The new half ton series from all of the manufacturers are more than capable to tow a decent amount of weight, and if you will only be towing from time to time the overall fuel savings of the smaller engine may outweigh the extra cost of fuel for occasional towing.
If you opt for the smaller engine, or purchasing a new truck is just not in the cards at the moment there are some steps you can take to improving MPG while towing.
Suspension Add-Ons that Save MPG
Gas is not the only issue when using a truck to tow. Added weight can cause your vehicle to sag, and cause sway while you’re driving. The lessened stability of the vehicle can make it difficult to drive down the road, and having a ton of weight dragging behind you can make stopping a lengthy process. To increase vehicle stability and reduce sway you can choose to upgrade your vehicle to heavy duty shocks like Bilstein. This will improve vehicle handling on smooth roads and off road. You can also add an aftermarket sway bar such as the Hellwig sway bars. Aftermarket sway bars have a larger diameter than stock bars, and most trucks only come with sway bars in the front so adding one to the rear can help as well. These will reduce sway making the vehicle more stable and easier to drive. Releasing some of the pressure off of your springs with load support such as helper springs, air bags or Timbrens will help make your trip more comfortable as well. These will keep your bed level and reduce any sway that an unleveled bed may cause.
Towing with a pickup can be a burden on your pocket. With our evaluation of new pickups and MPG you can take a few steps towards picking the correct vehicle for you. Based on our scoring system that considers the combined MPG of the vehicles vs. the offered payload we find the Chevy Silverado 1500 to give you the most bang for your buck. The added bonus of Active Fuel Management makes either the smaller or lager options great for fuel efficiency and the dealers can’t help but brag about these great trucks.