Differences Between Chassis Cab & Pickup Trucks

A chassis cab truck, also referred to as a cab and chassis, is a commercial vehicle based on, but very different than your average pickup truck. A chassis cab is generally a no "bells and whistles" truck with less aesthetically pleasing features and available options than a pickup, but is built with specific capability and service duties in mind.

Class 2 - 5 trucks (GVWR 8,500 lbs - 19,500 lbs) are typically classified under two categories; pickups and chassis cab trucks (sometimes also referred to as cab and chassis). A chassis cab truck is generally sold as an incomplete vehicle that is prepped and prepared to be upfitted with the bed/equipment of your choice. An upfitter is a third party whom installs and/or modifies a chassis cab truck for its intended service. Flat beds, service/utility bodies, bucket truck bodies, etc are typically installed by an upfitter after a chassis cab is purchased, although original equipment manufacturers do often offer limited upfit services. When purchasing a chassis cab, you essentially walk away with a truck that is sans pickup box and nothing more than bare frame rails.

A pickup is your standard, run-of-the-mill truck equipped with a pickup box/bed and requires no upfitting after purchase. Pickups are used in both commercial and non-commercial applications; you may commute in your pickup and haul your toys on the weekend, but very few of us buy a chassis cab to drive for anything but occupational needs. Pickups are versatile and multi-purpose in this manner. A chassis cab is classified as a commercial or fleet vehicle by most OEMs. A chassis cab truck often, with exceptions, will have many distinct features and/or alterations than a standard pickup; they include:

Frame rails - the frame rails on a chassis cab truck are typically much different than that on a pickup. Behind the cabin, pickups tend to have curved frame rails that play a pivotal role in the ride quality and weight distribution of the vehicle (your pickup frame likely has a hump above the rear axle). On the contrary, chassis cab trucks feature straight frame rails of a standardized size that matches the most common upfit equipment produced. By doing so, upfit packages are compatible with all manufacturers and thus not brand/model specific. On the contrary, a Chevrolet pickup box will not fit onto the frame of a Dodge or Ford.

Optional equipment - a chassis cab truck may feature optional equipment that is not available on pickup models. Examples include dual alternators, snow plow prep packages, PTO compatibility (this option has become somewhat standard on pickups in modern times), interior choices (such as rubber flooring in place of carpet), and additional options that may be necessary and/or convenient for upfitting.

Reduced engine power - chassis cab trucks almost always have lower power ratings than a pickup, though they bear the same engine as their counterparts. For example, a 2016 chassis cab Ram 3500/4500/5500 was offered with a 325 hp version of the 6.7L Cummins while the pickup version produced up to 385 hp. The difference in torque, 750 lb-ft vs 900 lb-ft, was even more substantial. This practice promotes longevity and theoretically increases fuel economy potential, both of which are extremely important in a commercial environment.

High GVWR and payload - if you seek a truck with the highest trailer tow rating, a pickup is almost always the most viable option. However, if you require a high GVWR and subsequently a high payload, the chassis cab is specially tailored to your needs. You'll find that the available payload packages for a chassis cab truck are significantly higher than that of a pickup. On the contrary, a chassis cab lacks the maximum tow capability of a pickup. For example, a 2016 Ford F-350 pickup can tow up to 26,500 lbs, while its chassis cab counterpart is only rated for 16,600 lbs. The lower engine power of a chassis cab plays a role in its max trailer tow rating.

Spring rate - once again playing into the role of maximizing payload, a chassis cab and pickup truck feature an entirely different rear (and sometimes front) spring setup. Inspect that rear spring pack of a pickup and chassis cab and you'll find that the chassis cab has a significantly stouter rear suspension with a beefy set of leaf springs. A pickup is designed with versatility and comfort in mind, where as a chassis cab is specifically engineered to carry a payload at all times. As a result, a pickup gives you a smooth ride while an unloaded chassis cab will not.

Larger fuel capacity - Chassis cab trucks typically, or historically at least, have been available with relatively large fuel tank capacities. This is not true in every instance, however you won't find a single 50 gallon tank in a pickup, but you can in certain chassis cabs.

High GAWR - While manufacturers are installing impressively large axles on pickups today, you may find that chassis cab trucks feature ridiculously enormous rear ends. This is largely related to the fact that they favor a higher payload capacity. Recall that these trucks are designed for upfitting, and the various body configurations that are mounted to these vehicles are potentially heavy. A big rear end is necessary to endure these conditions.

Chassis Cab & Pickup Truck Comparison

Ram 3500 pickup

Ram 3500 CC

GM 3500 Pickup

GM 3500 CC

Ford F-350 Pickup

Ford F-350 CC


385 hp

325 hp

397 hp

397 hp

440 hp

300 hp


900 lb-ft

750 lb-ft

765 lb-ft

765 lb-ft

860 lb-ft

660 lb-ft


14,000 lbs

14,000 lbs

13,025 lbs

13,200 lbs

14,000 lbs

14,000 lbs


39,100 lbs

30,000 lbs

31,100 lbs

31,100 lbs

35,000 lbs

24,500 lbs

Max payload

6,720 lbs

6,990 lbs

5,587 lbs

7,075 lbs

6,682 lbs

7,221 lbs

Conv. trailer wt.

18,000 lbs

18,000 lbs

20,000 lbs


19,000 lbs

15,000 lbs

5th wheel trailer wt.

31,210 lbs

22,770 lbs

23,200 lbs


26,500 lbs

15,000 lbs

Note that actual payload depends on upfit equipment and cab configuration. Comparison based on 2016 model year trucks.