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What’s a Dualie?

You’ve heard the term many times. Here are a few quick facts about the popular six-wheel pickups.

KJ JonesAuthor

To those who aren't familiar with dualies ("dually" is the more popular but incorrect spelling), in a nutshell, they're the unconventional-looking pickup trucks with four rear tires ("dual rear wheels," per manufacturers' order guides) that are used for towing large trailers or hauling heavy payloads down the road. However, despite their utilitarian/work purpose, today, dualies are sometimes purchased and driven solely for the sake of having a very impressive vehicle to drive between Points A and B (simply showing off).

This is because from a visual perspective, Ram, Ford, and GM dualies—regular-, extended-, or crew-cab—are arguably the best-looking/"coolest" rigs in the pickup game, provided they're not battered, bruised, and beaten to death. The fender-covered rear wheels, stance—slightly raked, or leveled (four-wheel drive)—and sound of a diesel engine underhood really make dualies stand out as the cr me of the heavy-duty-truck crop.

A dualie (also called a "1-ton") pickup is typically a manufacturer's 3500 Series truck that features heavy-duty frame enhancements, springs, shocks, and brakes, plus either a big-block gas or uber-torquey diesel engine. They're also known as 1-ton trucks because of their ability to haul more than 2,000 pounds (1 ton) in the bed and tow what today seems like astronomical amounts; for example, a regular-cab, 6.7L Power Stroke diesel-powered version of Ford's 2020 F-450 tugs 37,000 pounds with ease.

How Dualies Work

Dualies are equipped with heavy-duty rear axles that, depending on truck brand, are roughly 4 inches wider than those beneath single-rear-wheel trucks. This wide rear track basically helps support and evenly distribute the weight of a payload, and it stabilizes the vehicle.

Depending on drivetrain (engine/transmission/rearend gearing), dualies typically are capable of towing trailers weighing more than 20,000 pounds (fifth-wheel horse- or car haulers, RV campers, flat-deck machine carriers, etc. ), which is where nomenclature gets a bit tricky. As we noted earlier, the term "1-ton" often is used to describe or reference a dualie. Conventional thought could lead one to believe that a truck's payload threshold is 2,000 pounds. The facts are, dualie (as well as single-rear-wheel 3500 Series/"1-ton" trucks) are capable of carrying double that amount. The only true way of knowing a weight maximum is by referencing a manufacturer's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or payload rating for a specific truck.

As it is with any truck, there are pluses and minuses, pros and cons, benefits and detriments to owning a dualie. Here are a few that we think are important:

Pros of Owning a Dualie Truck:

  • Greater payload and towing capacity
  • Increased stability (especially when towing fifth-wheel trailers)
  • You're King (or Queen) of the road, whenever you're behind the wheel

Cons of Owning a Dualie Truck:

  • More expensive (to purchase) than single-rear-wheel trucks
  • Consume more fuel than single-rear-wheel trucks
  • Wide rear fenders make parking difficult
  • Uncomfortable ride (unloaded)

We believe buying a dualie primarily depends on necessity. If you need a rig that's ready to work hard and pull big-time weight, a diesel-powered six-wheeler is probably your best option. However, in today's truck-buying space and given the way that manufacturers deck dualies out with accessories and features that are far removed from a truck's utilitarian purpose, purchasing a dualie for daily general use is now an accepted practice for those who can afford to do so.

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