How to Figure a Safe Towing Capacity for Your Vehicle


You may not realize it when you initially purchase a truck, but they can vary widely in regards to towing capacity. Almost all vehicles can tow some weight if it is operated correctly and connected to the load safely, but the safe tow capacity is still elusive for many people. Most people wouldn’t attempt to tow a heavy camper with a car or under-powered vehicle because it overloads it with too much weight.

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These extreme conditions can damage the vehicle and the towed trailer or camper, but they can also put you and other drivers in danger.

For many towers of RVs, they often don’t know how to calculate the safe weight limit of their vehicle towing capacity.

Therefore, it’s essential that you know the rules of towing for your state, the vehicle’s weight, the camper/towing item’s weight, towing specs of your vehicle, and the tow hitch/tongue weight limit.

Towing Laws

Many people don’t realize it, but each state has specific laws regarding how much weight you can tow and what vehicles are appropriate to tow trailers and campers.

Confusing Abbreviations

On every vehicle made, you can find labels that have specific vehicle data, such as the VIN, curb weight, and GVWR number.

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is on any vehicle that can tow things and trailers or towed items. It’s the maximum gross weight that this vehicle can legally tow, which includes all cargo and passengers.

This number is essential to calculate what you can legally and safely carry/tow. While it is a maximum, you should give yourself a margin of error if you plan to travel in the country or mountains.

Other abbreviations can include GCWR, gross combined weight rating, which is the maximum weight allowed of the vehicle and all cargo, including its contents and camper. GTWR stands for gross trailer weight rating and is the maximum weight allowed of the trailer itself and whatever is inside. The GAWR is the gross axle weight rating, which is the maximum weight allowed on any individual axle of the camper/vehicle being towed.

Camper/Trailer GVWR

In most cases, the number provided is the empty weight of the trailer/camper, which means there is no fluid in the tanks, no necessities, and no cargo. You can easily add up to 2,000 pounds of cargo before towing. For example, the water tank might hold 100 gallons of fresh water, which is 800 extra pounds. You can also add 500 pounds for food items, 200 pounds for linens and clothing, and all the tools needed, such as lights, hoses/connectors, chairs, BBQ grill, and much more.

Therefore, it is essential that you find the GVWR that includes all the stuff that you may take with you. If you’re unsure, you can contact the manufacturer.

Towing Vehicle Specs and Calculations

You should look at towing information about the vehicle you hope to purchase to tow the trailer/camper. Once you have the specifications of the vehicle and the gross vehicle weight rating (when fully loaded), you can easily tell if the vehicle you’ve chosen to tow the camper is sufficient.

For example, if you purchase a Fifth Wheel that is 14,000 pounds when loaded with everything you require, you need a truck that can handle at least 14,500 pounds of towing capacity. Along with such, you may over pack your camper/trailer, so you may want to add about 2,000 pounds to the vehicle towing capacity to ensure that it is sufficient.

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How to Figure a Safe Towing Capacity for Your Vehicle

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