How to Determine Your Vehicle’s Towing Capacity

How to Determine Your Vehicle's Towing Capacity

A motorhome is like you’re carrying an entire house, which ignores the need for towing a trailer. This towing vehicle can definitely pull a whole lot of various stuff from cars to cargo trailers.

Depending on size and classification, motorhomes are able to tow as much as 15,000 pounds of dead weight. The towing capacity of every recreational vehicle varies significantly by the weight of the vehicle and the size of the engine. As a general rule, class A and class C motorhomes can carry more than what a class B motorhome does.

What is Towing Capacity

Let’s learn the basics first. Towing capacity refers to the maximum amount of weight a recreational vehicle can tow when pulling a camper or trailer. This is often calculated from several factors, including GVWR, GAWR, GTW, and others, which will be discussed below. To make it simple, towing capacity is only how heavy your camper should be and you shouldn’t go beyond that.

The maximum allowable limit should be strictly observed in all towing scenarios, particularly in uphill locations and emergency cases. Exceeding the towing capacity or pulling off more weight than the vehicle can become dangerous to everyone on the road.

Vehicles and their Towing Capacity

RVs carry individual tow ratings as determined by RV manufacturers. An average class A motorhome can usually tow up to 10,000 pounds, but its towing performance will still depend on engine design and size. Some heavy-built class A motorhomes don’t even have the capacity to pull some weight due to smaller engines, especially when the rig is already full. So it’s suggested to select a class A motorhome with a maximum towing capacity of 15,000 pounds if you’re looking to tow a huge amount of trailer weight.

Concerning class C motorhomes, they can tow as much weight as class A motorhomes. This RV type falls somewhere between class A and class B motorhomes, but offers users a generous amount of space.

Class C motorhomes are designed with heavy-duty truck engines, capable of pulling up to 10,000 pounds. They are able to pull longer items, such as longboats and small cars, without violating any legal towing restrictions since class C RVs are made shorter than their class A counterparts.

A class B motorhome is designed small, compact, and absolutely cramped, suitable for short-term RV adventures. This RV type won’t be able to tow more than 5,000 pounds, so this is only good for RVers who don’t need to tow any large vehicle at the back.

How to Calculate Towing Capacity

As mentioned earlier, the overall weight of the motorhome, towing vehicle specifications, and its engine size are the three important factors when calculating the towing capacity. You have to check the weight rating of your target vehicle and compare it against the gross weight of your camper. The vehicle’s user manual will tell you the exact towing capacity for trailers and other items you want to tow.

Now, if the vehicle’s towing capacity is higher than the total weight of the camper, the camper is therefore safe for towing. Otherwise, you shouldn’t attempt to hitch the overweight trailer to the truck. A tow hitch receptacle is used to attach different forms of tow hitch connectors like ball hitch and slide-in adapters.

For everyone’s safety, never consider towing a huge camper using any underpowered vehicle because this will likely cause serious damage to the trailer and to the towing vehicle as well. Before choosing the type of RV you want, determine the following first:

  • Existing local state regulations for towing
  • Short-term or full-time RV residency
  • Towing capacity of your preferred RV according to manufacturer’s specifications
  • GVWR and true weight of the camper
  • Towing vehicle’s overall weight
  • Tongue weight capacity (referring to the load limit of the ball hitch)

In every vehicle, you may likely find a manufacturer label that will provide certain information, such as VIN (Vehicle Identification Number, GVWR number, and engine data. This means that all trailers and towing vehicles should have a GVWR number, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, written somewhere visible. Here are the common manufacturing terms you need to know in order to weigh your buying options properly:

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

GVWR is the maximum allowable gross weight of the RV, including all its contents and a total number of passengers without any attached vehicle. This information will allow users to calculate what they can “legally” tow and carry with them.

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)

GVW is the weight of the vehicle at any given time and condition, whether the vehicle is fully loaded or not.

Curb Weight

Curb weight is the weight of the vehicle when parked on a curb, regardless of the vehicle is loaded or not. This assumes the actual weight of the driver and various fluids required to keep the RV functional.

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

GCWR is the maximum allowable combined weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer, including all their contents, cargo, and the number of passengers.

GTWR (Gross Trailer Weight Rating)

GTWR is the maximum allowable weight of the trailer, including its contents. A motorhome may indicate the GTWR to help buyers identify its pulling capacity better.

GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)

GAWR indicates the maximum allowable weight on some trailer parts. A single axle of the trailer.

All trailers and campers will indicate a specific GVWR or a GTWR number to be assigned by the trailer parts manufacturer. However, most manufacturers will only show the weight of an unloaded trailer, so carefully check for its gross vehicle weight rating. Also, make yourself aware that any recreational vehicle can easily add at least 2,000 pounds of extra cargo from the following:

  • Waste water and potable water from their respective holding tanks
  • Packed food, drinks and pantry items
  • Different RV essentials like folding chairs, tables, barbecue grills, portable heaters and repair tools
  • Clothes, blankets and body warmers

Imagine adding all these up to the gross weight of the vehicle, so it’s very important to check the specifications to avoid overloading. Here’s a sample computation:

If the GVWR of the trailer is 10,000 pounds, you are only allowed to load the following:

  • Waste water and potable water from their respective holding tanks (assuming there are 100 gallons which can be converted to 1,000 pounds)
  • Packed food, drinks, and pantry items (assuming they all weigh 300 pounds)
  • Different RV essentials like folding chairs, tables, barbecue grills, portable heaters, and repair tools (assuming they will weigh 500 pounds)
  • Clothes, blankets and body warmers (additional 200 pounds)
  • Four adults with an average weight of 150 pounds

The rest of the weight will come from the empty weight of the trailer, furnitures, and other movable loads. Here, the actual trailer weight will become higher than the empty weight, so RV manufacturers have assigned a specific GVWR ensuring that you won’t exceed the weight limit. And then match your camper with the appropriate towing truck that is equipped with enough pulling power and safety accessories necessary for towing.

A towing vehicle can only carry as much weight to a certain extent, rated by the manufacturer, whether you prefer to drive an SUV, a pickup truck, or any other recreational vehicle. Road safety should form part of your driving concerns to keep everyone on board away from highway mishaps.

Written by Frederick Jace

A passionate Blogger and a Full time Tech writer. SEO and Content Writer Expert since 2015.

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