The Difference Between Hauling & Towing Explained

Both towing and hauling are vital methods of transporting heavy stuff. But the crucial difference between the two is in how they approach the transportation itself. Each method has its unique application in daily life and occasional tasks.

The key difference between hauling and towing is that you can only haul something inside the vehicle, but when you tow something, you pull it behind the vehicle. It sounds simple enough to remember, which is great. But to a seasoned car enthusiast, there is so much more to learn from understanding this difference.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hauling is about carrying loads within or on the vehicle and distributing the weight internally. Examples include carrying items in a truck bed or inside an SUV.
  • Towing involves pulling another object behind the vehicle using equipment like tow bars, chains, and dollies.
  • Vehicles have specific limits, often given as 'payload capacity' (for hauling) and 'towing capacity' (for towing). Exceeding these can risk safety and long-term vehicle “health”.
  • Both towing and hauling require adherence to safety protocols. This includes understanding weight limits, ensuring proper weight distribution, and using the correct equipment.

Knowing how hauling vs towing actually works is important if you consider these activities. It will give you insight on how to use either method properly, improve efficiency and avoid the common problems associated with transporting weights. Because turns out that towing and hauling impact a vehicle in very different ways.

That aside, towing and hauling capacities are also strongly connected and can interfere with each other’s performance. Overloading one can lead to poor performance and even safety risks or have long-term consequences for car parts. For instance, when you already haul a hefty amount of cargo, your towing capacity immediately drops.

Towing vs Hauling: Is There A Difference?

Basically, the difference between hauling and towing is where you put the weight you need to transport. Towing involves pulling another object behind a vehicle. While hauling means carrying a load in or on the vehicle itself.

Both towing and hauling come with their sets of unique benefits and drawbacks that set them apart. Those differences are mostly associated with safety, the vehicle's capacity, and the nature of the load you want to transport.

Both methods differ in equipment as well. Towing requires towing packages, tow bars, chains, tow dollies, and flatbed trailers. And hauling might require installing roof racks if you want to haul your cargo atop the vehicle and not inside.

They also differ in how they distribute weight throughout your vehicle. When you're towing, the weight of the cargo or trailer puts a downward force on the vehicle's hitch, primarily distributing weight to the rear of the towing vehicle. This parameter is known as tongue weight.

But when hauling, the weight is typically distributed internally, either within the vehicle's cabin or on its bed. This makes your vehicle more stable and easy to handle than while towing. Because when weight is concentrated in the rear, it causes swaying.

What Is The Difference Between Hauling And Towing Capacity?

Payload capacity basically means how much you can safely haul inside your vehicle. It refers to the total weight a vehicle can carry, including all its contents, like passengers, cargo, and any additions or modifications made to the vehicle. This total weight is important as it will define how much your vehicle can safely tow.

But this is not a universal term at all. For trucks, this usually pertains to what's placed in the truck bed. For SUVs, vans, or cars, this would refer to the cargo area as well as the passenger area.

And towing capacity refers to how much weight you can pull with your truck or SUV. This weight is not added directly to the vehicle but rather is pulled behind it. They concern different things, but payload and towing capacity compete with each other.

Interestingly enough, it's possible for a vehicle to be near or at its payload capacity while still being under its towing capacity and vice versa. This is because the two capacities depend on different vehicle components and systems.

What Is Towing?


When you pull a vehicle, trailer, boat, or other items using another, typically more powerful vehicle, it is called towing. To tow anything big, you will need special equipment, like tow bars, chains, and ropes, to securely attach the towed item to the towing vehicle. 

Towing is often the only option when another vehicle breaks down, during the relocation of boats or trailers, or to transport multiple vehicles simultaneously. Nothing crazy, but vehicles like a Chevy Silverado can easily tow a few ATVs, for example.

However, not all vehicles are good for towing, while almost any vehicle can offer you decent hauling capacity. Towing is usually done with larger crossovers, SUVs and pick-up trucks. They are durable and have enough engine output to handle difficult tasks like towing.

What Are The Different Types of Towing?

Towing can differ according to a specific method or equipment used. Loads vary and so do the approaches to transporting them. Here are the four most common ways to tow with your vehicle.

Two-wheeled Tow Dollies


Here, the front wheels of the towed vehicle are placed on a two-wheel dolly, which lifts them off the ground while the rear wheels remain in contact with the road. You can only tow smaller vehicles that have wheels on their own with this method. 

Tow Trailers


Similar to the dollies, these devices usually have two wheels, but they can carry loads that have no wheels of their own. You can pull all sorts of heavy cargo with a tow trailer.

Tow Bars


You are likely familiar with this tried and trusted method of towing. A tow bar is a device that's used to connect the towing vehicle to the towed vehicle. It ensures that both vehicles move in unison when traveling. But while towing with tow bars and chains is a feasible and cost-effective method, it requires a good understanding of the equipment and safety precautions.

Flatbed Towing

This method involves using a truck with a flatbed on the back. It is good for towing things like boats and smaller vehicles. The entire vehicle being towed is lifted onto the bed, ensuring all its wheels are off the road. But you can put other things on the flatbed as well.

How To Tow Safely?


The most important thing is to understand the limits of your towing capacity and how pulling loads affects your vehicle. Towing is a very difficult task for any vehicle, even the most capable one. And you should keep in mind these key factors:

  • Never tow at full capacity and do not exceed it under any circumstances.
  • Balance the weight of the cargo or vehicle being towed to prevent swaying or tipping. 
  • Use the right equipment for your goals. 
  • Inspect your towing equipment and vehicle regularly.

3 Best Vehicles For Towing


Towing Capacity (lbs)

Payload Capacity (lbs)

Ford F-150

5,000 - 14,000

1,500 - 3,300

Chevrolet Silverado

7,000 - 13,300

2,280 - 2,543

RAM 1500

6,250 - 12,750

1,700 - 2,300

What Is Hauling?


You are hauling when you carry something inside a vehicle rather than take it in tow. It usually involves carrying loads in the cargo area of a vehicle, such as the bed of a pickup truck or the back of a van. Hauling doesn't mean pulling another vehicle, unlike towing.

The weight is distributed throughout the vehicle, allowing it to transport heavy loads safely. However, there is a limit to how much space you can dedicate to the cargo. But cargo adds a lot to the vehicle’s weight, reducing its towing capacity, decreasing fuel efficiency and promoting fast wear.

What Are The Different Types of Hauling?

Hauling can differ a lot depending on what and how you want to carry with a vehicle. The type of hauling usually depends on things like cargo properties and distance.

Heavy Hauling 

This method refers to transporting exceptionally large or heavy loads, such as construction equipment or massive machinery. Such hauling often requires specialized vehicles and permits for oversized loads. 

Hazardous Materials Hauling 

This type is all about transporting dangerous goods, such as chemicals, that demand specific safety measures. Transporters of hazardous materials often require specialized certifications and must adhere to strict regulations to not endanger other people.

Short-term Hauling

This is a very common type that involves transporting goods or items temporarily for one-time events. This is what you do when you are helping a friend move furniture, delivering items for a charity event, or relocating for a small business or event.

Bulk Commodity Hauling

This is about transporting bulk goods like grain, coal, or sand in large quantities. Or sacks of potatoes you grow on your farm.

How To Haul Safely?

Hauling puts extra strain on many vehicle systems and components. It affects the performance and life expectancy of various parts. That’s why you should be careful with what and how you haul:

Always be aware of your vehicle's payload capacity. Overloading can strain your vehicle and increase the chances of an accident. 

Use tie-downs, bungee cords, or nets to ensure items are securely fastened. This is particularly important for open-bed trucks where items can easily be blown or bounce out.

Ensure that your load does not obstruct your view or your vehicle's lights.

Some areas may have specific regulations or restrictions about hauling certain items or exceeding specific weights.

3 Best Vehicles For Hauling


Payload Capacity (lbs)

Towing Capacity (lbs)

Ford F-350

3,560 - 7,850

12,100 - 35,750

GMC Sierra 3500HD

3,900 - 7,442

14,500 - 36,000

RAM 3500

4,010 - 7,680

14,970 - 37,100

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