One of the most important question you should ask when shopping for a recreational vehicle is, “What RV Can I Tow?” With safety being a significant factor, it is in your best interest to answer this accurately. Never commit to purchasing an RV until you have a satisfactory answer.
All reputable RV Dealers will tell you what your truck or car can tow. If they cannot tell you, this is a good sign that you should shop elsewhere. However, even if they can tell you, it is always advised that you educate yourself. There have been unfortunate stories where people have bought a travel trailer and were unable to tow it safety with their current tow vehicle. This was after they were advised not to.
There are a few terms that you need to know. These terms can be very confusing, because they look very similar. Let’s break it down in an easy to understand way.
GVWR = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
Maximum weight of the vehicle or trailer in addition to any thing loaded (passengers, luggage, supplies, etc). [Vehicle Weight + Load = GVWR]
GAWR = Gross Axle Weight Rating
Maximum load on one axle (assuming weight distribution is same on each axle).
GCWR = Gross Combined Weight Rating
Maximum weight of combination of vehicles. [Tow Vehicle + Trailer = GCWR]
- Hitch Ratings: Hitch ratings involve two ratings called Tow Ratings and Tongue Ratings.
- Tow Rating: Maximum weight of trailer in tow.
- Tongue Rating: Maximum vertical hitch load that the trailer can impart to the tow vehicle.
What RV can I get?
At the front of every travel trailer or fifth wheel is a small rectangular sticker that gives you all the information you need about the weight of the camper you want to haul. Find the GVWR and take note of the weight. When shopping for a camp trailer always assume GVWR when matching it to your truck or car. In other words, assume that you need to tow with the camper loaded.
There are many thing to take into account. Consider that you have to fill LP tanks, load your luggage. If you have a toy hauler, you will also have the weight of the ATVs and possibly an extra fuel station.
You will save yourself time and disappointment by setting your expectations on the RV that is right for you.
Armed with your RV GVWR and along with the make and model of your tow vehicle head over to www.trailerlife.com where they have all the recent and past tow ratings for nearly all trucks sold in the Unitd States. Find your particular tow vehicle on the chart. This chart will tell you how much trailer (GVWR) in pounds you can tow.
What Tow Vehicle do I Need?
This is similar to the method above, only in reverse. Visit www.trailerlife.com and find the GVWR of your trailer or fifth wheel. Once you have found this, find the corresponding required tow vehicle you need. Take note of truck you want before you go to your local Ford or Chevy dealer.
The GVWR and GAWR are generally listed on a sticker on the door frame of the truck. As you shop for the truck make sure you pay attention to the axle weight (GAWR). If you plan on hooking up a fifth wheel and most of the weight is near the pin, then you may need a larger truck. Also, take into account the weight of the hitch you will need to install. Always give yourself a “safety” zone when it comes to the overall weight. Always over estimate.
An Easy Formula
Here is an easy way to calculate your tow capacity.
Trailer GVWR – [10%] – [400-600lbs/adult] – [100-200lbs/child] = Unloaded Trailer Weight
- Take for example, a 10,000 lbs rating with a family of four.
- Subtract 10% for safety. Now you have 9,900 lbs.
- Subtract 1,200 lbs for two adults. Now you have 8,700 lbs.
- Subtract 400lbs for two children. You now have an unloaded weight of 8,300 lbs.
- You want to look for a trailer that weighs unloaded about 8,300 lbs.
As always, consult a RV professional before buying a truck for towing an RV. You can find a more exhaustive guide in the trailer guides provided at Florida Outdoors RV Trailer Guide Page.
If you have any questions, leave your comments below!