Car and Truck Loading Ramp Buyer's Guide

Ford Fusion on car ramps

Ramps may be simple machines, but when it comes to picking out the right ramps for loading a car or truck, there’s nothing simple about it. Several key variables need to be taken into account to make sure your loading experience is safe, effective and efficient.

Weight capacity

The first and foremost thing to consider when choosing a set of vehicle loading ramps are their weight capacity versus the weight of the vehicle you’re attempting to load. Vehicle loading ramps will have their weight capacity per axle readily listed. In order to figure out if your vehicle falls within that threshold, you’ll have to measure its axle weight.

Axle weight can be measured by driving the heaviest axle of your vehicle—usually the front, since it supports the weight of the engine—onto a vehicle scale. When choosing the right ramp, make sure to check the ramp’s weight rating against the heaviest axle weight of your vehicle.

Ramp length

The weight capacity of a ramp is only valid if you’re choosing the appropriate ramp length as well: the two work together to support your vehicle and ensure stability throughout the loading process.

DiscountRamps.com provides a convenient ramp calculator to make it simple to find the appropriate ramp length for your vehicle, but it’s important to understand the math behind it when it comes to safely loading it:

  • Ramp length = (Rise/((Ground Clearance)/(Wheel Base*0.5)))

The formula above accounts for potential loading accidents that might occur if a ramp isn’t long enough, including stalling and slippage on inclines that are too steep. Using this formula—or the DiscountRamps.com calculator—means learning the optimal ramp length before you buy, so you can prevent costly loading accidents.

Click the button below to use the Automobile Ramp Calculator.

Ramp width

The width of the ramps you’re using is going to dictate how much room for error you have when loading your vehicle. Measure the width of your vehicle’s tires from sidewall to sidewall (in inches) and make sure the ramps you’re buying are wide enough to allow for an extra couple of inches on either side of the tire when they’re lined up, to prevent slippage when loading.

For example, if you have standard P215 tires—tires with an 8.46” width (learn how to read a tire sidewall at Car and Driver)—you’re going to want something in the range of a 12” ramp width, giving you space to spare when you’re driving up the ramp.

Ramp surface

The surface of your ramps needs to offer traction to support your vehicle in any loading conditions—a smooth surface can create slippage even at a low incline. Two trusted ramp surfaces can be relied upon to create essential traction when loading a vehicle:

Serrated rung surface

Serrated ramp surface

This ramp surface is comprised of horizontally placed strips of metal, placed equidistant from each other for the length of the ramp. The strips themselves are serrated (like a kitchen knife) to allow a tire to properly grip the surface of the ramp and pull a vehicle forward and upward. Most ramps feature this type of surface.

EZ Traction (perforated punch plate)

EZ Traction punch plate surface

Ideal for wet or snowy conditions, perforated punch plates provide optimal traction thanks to the staggered incorporation of serrated holes into a ramp’s surface. Where other rung surfaces (such as cross bars) can cause sideways wheel slippage and spinning in wet conditions, perforated punch plates allow a tire to grip the ramp at every stage of the incline.

Connecting to the trailer

Simply having the right ramp is not enough to safely load a vehicle—the ramp itself must be secure and stable, which means having a connection to the trailer itself. Some of the connection options available on DiscountRamps.com vehicle loading ramps include:

Plate ends

Plate end ramps

Plate end ramps have a flat metal plate at the end, which rests on the trailer. Though they’re basic and adaptable to virtually any trailer, these ramps must be strapped to the trailer to prevent them from kicking out or moving apart during the loading process.

Hook ends

Hook end ramp ends

As the name implies, hook-end ramps feature a hook at the end, which locks into trailer rub rails and angle iron trailer sides. This provides a more secure connection than plate end ramps.

Hybrid ends

Hook/Plate hybrid end ramps

These ramps have a hook at the end for trailers that have an appropriate mounting point, but also feature a plate beyond that so they can still be used on trailers that a hook-end ramp can’t be mounted to.

Pin-on ends

Pin on end ramps

Ramps with pin-on ends provide the most secure connection, however they require modification of the trailer itself. Special skid seat attaching brackets must be welded or bolted to the trailer—the ramp end will sit in the bracket channel and lock in place via a large metal pin. Ramps with pin-on ends do not need to be secured to the trailer before use.

Positioning the ramp on the ground

The second part of ramp stability and security comes opposite the connection end of the ramp: it applies to the end that’s resting on the ground, or the "foot" of the ramp. This end needs to do more than offer stability when it comes to loading—it has to help facilitate ease of loading as well. Some options include:

Stub feet

Stub foot car ramps

Stub feet are ideal for larger load height ranges and offer more strength than other types of feet. They’re also the best option for flexibility and offer the most versatility among foot options. Heavier vehicles and those with higher ground clearance, such as trucks and SUVs, benefit from stub-end ramps.

Knife feet

Knife foot car ramps

Knife-end ramps converge into a natural point at the bottom, to provide a smooth transition from ground to ramp. Vehicles with little ground clearance should be loaded using these ramps to prevent damage.

Roller feet

Roller style foor car ramps

Ramps with wheel-ends are designed for car-hauling semi trailers (also called stingers). The wheels on the ends of these ramps allow them to be easily slid into the trailer’s ramp storage pockets.

If you’re planning on loading a vehicle, make sure you’re getting the right ramps for the job and leaving nothing up to chance. Consider all of the above variables when shopping and make sure to contact a DiscountRamps.com expert if you need help selecting a quality ramp. We offer a full range of vehicle loading ramp options, and even have the capability to design and build the perfect custom ramps for unique and exotic vehicles!

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