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If you look under your pickup truck’s flatbed, chances are you will find a receiver in there. But, do all vehicles come with hitches, or only a few select models and have them?
Hitches are an integral part of a vehicle and are used for towing different objects or cargo. Most pickup trucks, like the beloved Ford F-150, usually come with a standard tow hitch. However, not all pickups come with hitches once they leave the showroom.
Before you buy a pickup from a car dealership, there is one crucial question you need to ask. And that’s, does the car have a tow package or not?
Most pickup trucks come with a factory-installed class 3 hitch, which has a load capacity of 5,000 pounds. However, if you need something that can pull something heavier, the best option is to buy them as part of the tow package. Another option you can do is to buy the towing accessories and have a mechanic install it for you.
What is a Tow Hitch?
A tow hitch is a device that is connected to the chassis of a car for pulling. It can have different forms such as a ball, a pin, a hook, and a pintle. In the US, it’s more commonly referred to as a trailer hitch.
There are two types of tow hitches: a fixed drawbar hitch and a receiver-type hitch. Fixed-drawbar hitches are built as one piece and have a custom hole where the trailer ball goes. Because of its design, they are often incompatible with most aftermarket hitch devices.
On the other hand, a receiver-type hitch is often mounted on the rearward-facing opening, which is attached to the frame of the vehicle. It can be paired with a variety of other mounts such as cargo carriers, ball mounts, hitch bike racks, and other mounted accessories.
Five Different Classes of Hitches
There are six different classes of hitches based on the amount of load they can tow. They usually are grouped based on the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) they can pull. This measurement includes the weight of the cargo and trailer combined.
Hitch Class 1 can tow up to 2,000 pounds, such as cargo boxes and bike racks. Even small cars, like compact hatchbacks, can pull this amount of weight.
Hitch Class 2 can pull objects of up to 3,500 pounds like small All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), motorcycles, and jet skis. These hitches work well with large sedans and compact crossovers.
Hitch Class 3 can tow cargo of up to 10,000 pounds, such as medium-sized trailers, campers, and even boats. These hitches usually go with SUVs and vans.
Hitch Class 4 can pull a heavy load of up to 10,000 pounds, such as tiny houses on wheels, large campers, huge boats, and livestock carriers. Several midsize and full-size pickup trucks have these hitches as standard equipment.
Hitch Class 5 can tow up to 20,000 pounds of load, especially when paired with a weight distribution system. With this hitch, you can even drag industrial equipment like bulldozers. There are two types of Class 5 Hitches the XD for ordinary SUVs and trucks and the CD for chassis cab trucks.
Many of the factory-installed hitches in pickup trucks either have Class 3 or Class 4 hitches.
Main Types of Hitches for Pickup Trucks
Because of the numerous trailers and objects you can tow today; there are several types of hitches designed for specific jobs. These hitching systems can be separated into two categories: in-bed hitches and bumper-pull hitches.
In-bed hitches are mounted on the flatbed of the pickup trucks. Meanwhile, bumper-pull hitches are usually placed under the flatbed. Below are the main types of hitches.
- Adjustable Ball Mount Hitch
- Bed-Mounted Hitch
- Bumper-Pull Hitch
- Chain-style Hitch
- Fifth Wheel
- Fixed Ball Mount
- Rigid-Bracket Hitch
- Pintle Hook
- Weight-Distribution Hitch
Standard bumper-pull hitches usually range between $200 and $800. On the other hand, in-bed hitches are much more expensive. Gooseneck goes for $400 and $850, while fifth wheel hitches are sold for $600 to $2,400.
Buying a Brand New or Used Pickup Trucks
Most brand new pickup trucks have towing package options. The great news is that car dealerships offer a competitive price almost similar to those you will get on the aftermarket. You also get to choose the type of hitch you need, especially the load capacity of the towing rig.
The advantage of buying a towing package with a new pickup is that it’s manufactured to match the vehicle’s capabilities. This means that they have carefully considered the type of towing rig with the design of the frame, engine, transmission, brakes, electrical system, etc.
On the flip side, buying a used pickup truck lessens the chances that it is equipped with a hitch. However, there are specific truck models that are known for their high torque output and towing ability. As such, the seller might even consider keeping the hitch and towing package.
Furthermore, not all pickup truck models are optimal for towing things. Hence, they don’t necessarily require a hitch and towing package, whether they are brand new or used. Trucks like the Nissan Titan Pro 4X and the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon are better known for their off-roading capability.
Aftermarket Towing Options for Pickup Trucks
If your pickup doesn’t have a hitch installed, you can buy wiring and towing packages from your manufacturer or a car accessories shop. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) tend to have towing packages that are just as good, if not better, than what most auto manufacturers produce.
On the other hand, if you need hitches and wires with a higher gross weight capacity of more than 10,000 pounds, then the aftermarket is the best place. For example, the Dodge Ram 2500 truck has a factory-made hitch that can pull 12,400 pounds. Compare that with OEM Reese’s Titan hitch, which can pull an upward of 18,000 pounds GTW and has a 2,000 pounds tongue weight.
To give you a better perspective, let’s say you bought a Ford F150 with a towing package it will have the following:
- A class 4 Trailer Hitch
- Smart Trailer Tow Connector
- Auxiliary Transmission Oil Cooler
- Front Stabilizer Bar
- 4-Pin or 7-Pin Wiring Harness
With this setup, the Ford F-150 can tow up to 13,200 pounds. This tow package comes standard with the F-150 Raptor and is an option for the pickup’s XL trim.
Not all pickup trucks are given hitches, as standard equipment. So, before you buy a brand new or used pickup truck, check first if it comes with a towing package. Finally, make sure that the hitch’s load capacity is compatible with the gross weight of the trailer and the cargo.
If I am not towing anything, is it still legal to keep the hitch on my truck?
Yes, it’s perfectly legal to drive a vehicle with the hitch still attached even though you’re not pulling anything. What might be illegal, though, is that you have multiple hitches that can block the visibility of your license plate.
Do rental pickup trucks have hitches?
Most rental trucks don’t have any hitch. Furthermore, most rental contracts prohibit the renter from installing a bumper hitch on the unit. In short, you can’t rent a pickup truck to replace the service you usually get from U-Haul.
Can you still pull a trailer without using a hitch?
For safety purposes, it’s always recommended that you use a suitable hitch. However, you can still pull a bumper style trailer with ropes or cables, albeit only for a short distance. In most states, it’s illegal to tow a trailer without the recommended towing rig.