What Makes a Pickup Truck a Commercial Vehicle?

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At first, glance, spotting a pickup that can be classified as a commercial truck feels like an easy task. There’s an almost automatic tendency to go with size and payload, especially if that pickup is being used a lot to carry different objects. 

But it’s not that simple. A lot of different factors go into determining whether an ordinary pickup can be classified as a commercial vehicle, and they’re especially important if you own a pickup and are considering using it commercially. 

So let’s take a deeper dive into the subject and do a more complete rundown. Some of what you read may surprise you, and you’ll come out the other side with a solid understanding of what basic factors are used to determine this. 

Please Note: If you are looking for anything other than my opinion, please refer to the expert for advice, as this article is only based on opinion.

The Simplest Definition

Start with the basics: In most states, a commercial vehicle of any kind is defined by three basic factors, the first of which is size. 

If the vehicle has a gross weight or a gross combination weight (i.e., when it’s carrying cargo) of more than either 10,00 pounds unloaded or 26,000 pounds with cargo, it’s considered commercial if it is used for either interstate or intrastate commerce. 

It’s also considered commercial if it’s designed to transport 8-15 passengers, which of course rules out most pickups. The third factor is whether the pickup is being used to transport hazardous materials. 

Using that as our overarching definition, it becomes fairly simple to winnow things down a little. The best way to do that is to take a closer look at who owns the pickup. 

Personal Use vs Commercial Use

Simply put, if the pickup is owned by the business, it’s automatically considered commercial. If the pickup belongs to an individual employer or employee, the issue becomes slightly more complicated, specifically because the question becomes how much the vehicle is used for work purposes versus commuting, running errands, and other normal transport.

Some of this is about insurance. In the eyes of insurance companies and how they classify vehicles as commercial or personal vehicles, the definition of work purposes is transporting equipment or goods for a business. 

Many people try to avoid carrying two types of auto policies, one commercial and the other person, so there’s a lot of jockeying for position by truck owners to end up paying as little for complete coverage as possible. 

There are also state-by-state variations in how this all works, and some of it pertains to accidents and liability, so it’s important for pickup owners to delve into the details when it comes to whether their vehicles get classified as commercial or personal. 

The Government Breakdown

The government gets in on the act, too, when it comes to classifying pickup trucks as commercial vehicles. A total of eight weight classes are used, but the important breakdown is between the first two and the third. 

Class 1 specifies a weight range of 0 to 6,000 pounds, while Class 2 goes from 6,001 pounds to 10, 000 pounds. Pickup trucks in this class may still be classified as commercial (and may even say “Not For Hire) vehicles if they’re owned by a business and used for work, but otherwise, their lighter weight prevents that from happening automatically. 

It’s landing in Class 3, which starts at 10,001 pounds, that gets a truck classified as commercial. Buyers and owners who consider or have a pickup truck with some amount of business hauling and transport in mind should be aware of the distinction. 

Pickup Types vs the Commercial Designation

One other final way to understand the designation and break all this down is to go by pickup truck types, which are broken down into light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty trucks. 

Light-duty trucks fall into the first two weight classes, and they’re essentially dual-purpose vehicles. That means the user is what determines whether the truck is classified as commercial. Models that fall into this category include the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado, and other similar vehicles.

The other two pickup categories, meanwhile, are both classified as commercial trucks because their weight starts at 10,000 pounds. They can still be used as personal vehicles, but any significant amount of usage for a business will automatically land them in the commercial category due to their weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

What GVWR means?

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum weight of the truck and everything it’s carrying. This would not include the trailer, but everything else that the vehicle contains.

What does GVW mean?

GVW stands for “Gross Vehicle Weight”. It is the total weight of the vehicle and everything it’s carrying. This includes the weight of the vehicle itself, the passengers, the cargo, and any trailer being towed by the vehicle.

Why do commercial trucks have to be heavier?

The main reason commercial trucks have to be heavier is that they are often carrying heavier loads than personal vehicles. This means that they need to be able to handle the weight of the load, as well as the weight of the vehicle itself. Commercial trucks also have to be built to withstand more wear and tear than personal vehicles, as they are often used for more strenuous tasks.


If all of this sounds confusing, there is a way to simplify it—think weight first (i.e., 10,000 pounds), then usage, and balance the two carefully to see if there’s any gray area. That gray area can get tricky in some cases, but most of the time the basic determination is fairly easy.

So with all of this information, you should now have a better understanding of what makes a pickup truck a commercial vehicle. If you have any further questions, be sure to consult with an expert or do additional research to ensure that you are making the best decision for your needs.