What Is Towing Capacity? What Does This Mean For You?

  • Towing capacity is the maximum quantity of weight a vehicle is able to tow in order to be able to pull a travel trailer.
  • Towing capacity is a vehicle manufacturer specification (Tow Rating) that determines the maximum gross weight that a vehicle is enabled to haul.
  • What is the towing capacity for me? How heavy my travel trailer can be to be pulled by the vehicle
  • The gross weight of the RV is the addition of the dry weight + weight of the passenger + cargo + fluids.

Also called maximum towing capacity, it normally relates to the action of pulling the weight of a vehicle that can be an RV, a vessel, or a tractor.

The towing capacity is determined as a manufacturer specification, and it is printed in the manufacturer manual provided with the acquisition of the vehicle.

GROSS WEIGHT OF THE RV (GROSS TRAILER WEIGHT) = TARE WEIGHT (Weight of the empty RV) + NET WEIGHT (weight of the full water tanks, passenger and cargo)

To define the towing capacity, the manufacturer evaluates the configuration of the suspension, the ratio of the gear, the transmission model, and the size of the engine, to name a few.

Elements of the Towing Capacity

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

gvwr towing capacity

Gross Trailer Weight

gtw towing capacity

The Gross Combined Weight Rating In The Determination Of Towing Capacity

The key factor to analyze the towing capacity is to know the GCWR, which is the Gross Combined Weight Rating.

To know this GCWR, you have to look in the frame or in the jamb of the door of the driver. The jamb is the surface where the body of the vehicle connects with the door. In the jamb or in the frame of the door, you will see a sticker, which is the manufacturer specification where he accurately is stating the towing capacity of the vehicle.

So this GCWR you will retrieve from the sticker is the maximum amount that the vehicle plus a fully loaded RV can weigh. Taking that value, you subtract the Gross Vehicle Weight, which is the dry weight (called also tare weight or curb weight) + plus fuel, passengers and the cargo loaded. The result of this simple operation will be the maximum weight that the vehicle is enabled to accommodate, what is the towing capacity.


Where To Find The Towing Capacity of Your Vehicle?

See the little sticker that is right inside of your driver’s side door threshold on modern vehicles in the picture below.

That sticker is designed to tell you specifically what the payload capacity in your vehicle is. This calculation is based on the trim and body configuration of that specific vehicle.

The aforementioned calculation is also taking into account your tire size what that means is that you could have a pickup truck that is a one-ton dually pickup truck that looks identical to your neighbor´s one-ton dually pickup truck. But that sticker could have a different number for both of your trucks: mainly because every feature you have that he does not have or vice versa, takes away from your vehicle’s end payload capacity.

That sticker is key to know the towing capacity of your vehicle.   Basically, the remaining payload capacity you have left accessible for your vehicle. That definition takes into account just about every possible feature or addition you can add to your vehicle: whether you have a different wheel and tire size, whether you have a higher trim leather package or a navigation system versus your neighbor´s. Those additional features and amenities will all subtract. This means that while towing capacity is a key factor, is not the only one to be considered.

towing capacity

Effects of the Analysis Of The Towing Capacity In RVs 

The accuracy of the calculation of the camper weight vs the towing capacity is crucial as it affects the handling of the towing vehicle, the braking distance, and it can damage the transmission or the drivetrain.

The braking distance is not completely related to weight. It is the distance that the vehicle will travel after the driver applied the braked until it comes to a stop. This is also affected by the friction between the surface of the road and the tires, the speed of the vehicle, the air resistance, and the camper weight.

Braking Weight Transfer And Towing Capacity

When the towing vehicle breaks, the towed vehicle has a tendency to continue moving forward because of inertia. This is known as weight transfer to the front in case of deceleration. Also in the case of curves, the vehicle can dangerously shift outward.

There are trailer brakes and they can be installed and used. Just bear in mind that these trailer brakes will not improve your towing capacity, only the handling of the RV

What is Braked Towing Capacity? Braked towing capacity is the gross maximum weight allowed for a vehicle to tow, when the towed vehicle, for example, a pop up camper, a travel trailer, or a fifth wheel, has its own braking system. The unbraked towing capacity is normally much less than the braked one.

When driving with a trailer, be sure to allow enough stopping and following distance and show some patience when passing a slow vehicle. If other vehicles are moving faster, then be sure to be gracious so that they can pass you easily. Other than that, make sure you do not pull in where it is not possible to see out and also be sure to use a trailer lock.

Considerations In the Analysis Of The Towing Capacity

It is vitally important to know how much weight or load your vehicle is capable of towing. This is something you need to know before you actually start towing. Exceeding the manufacturer’s towing capacity can make driving unsafe and you could even end up damaging the engine on your vehicle. Worst still, excessive load can lead to transmission failure and it could also damage the rear axle and the breaks of your vehicle may also fail. It would also lead to voiding your manufacturer’s warranty.

  • The type of vehicle influences the towing capacity:  Keep in mind that AWD and 4WD vehicles do not have a high towing capacity. Pickup trucks also do not have a high towing capacity. So, be sure to check the owner’s manual of your vehicle to know how much load it is designed to tow.
  • Aggregate Vehicle Weight Assessment: Aggregate Vehicle Weight Assessment is the maximum amount of load your vehicle can safely tow. Exceeding this load can lead to engine failure, transmission failure as well as brake failure.
  • Aggregate Combination Weight: Aggregate Combination Weight is the load of your vehicle plus the total trailer load. This number has to be less than the Aggregate Combination weight rating of your vehicle.
  • Aggregate Combination Weight Rating: Aggregate Combination Weight Rating is the maximum load of your vehicle and the RV that is to be towed. The load also includes the heaviness of passengers, luggage and any other material. When the combined towing setup is more than the aggregate combination weight rating, you will be risking engine and transmission as well as brake failure.
  • Aggregate Axle Weight: Aggregate Axle Weight is the weight that will be placed on the fore and aft wheels of your vehicle.
  • Aggregate Axle Weight Rating: Aggregate Axle Weight Rating is the maximum weight that you can put on the fore or aft wheels of your vehicle. Exceeding this weight can result in dangerous driving conditions and it can also cause damage to your vehicle. So this is not just about towing capacity, but also about your safety.
  • Weight capabilities: After you become accustomed to the weight capabilities of your vehicle, and the standard towing capacity, you will need to spend time finding out more about the weight of your RV or trailer. You can find out this weight by consulting the trailer/RV’s VIN plate.
  • The tow hitch: In order that a vehicle is able to tow a recreational vehicle, it is needed a device called tow hitch that is adhered to the chassis of the towing vehicle. When buying towing equipment, you need to be sure you are buying the right type of hitch. There are a number of options to choose from. In addition, you need to understand how much trailer weight and tongue weight is allowed. Weight carrying or WC is a term describing the basic ball mount and coupler. Once you have determined the towing capacity of your vehicle and you know the total weight of the trailer or RV, you need to learn how to choose the right hitch. When buying a hitch, you need to keep in mind that it pays to have excess capacity. It is best to talk to a dealer of trailer hitches to find out more about the best available hitch designs. Dealers will know which hitch works best with which vehicle. When choosing a hitch, keep in mind that some of them are discreet and are hidden under the bumper of your vehicle. Others are more noticeable and will not be hidden from sight.
  • Safety chains: Second, make sure of crossing safety chains in an X pattern. In the unlikely event that the hitch comes adrift, the trailer truck or RV will not fall to the ground. Instead, it will drop on to the chains and will give you better control as well as reduce damage.
  • Tire pressure: When taking the RV or trailer out on the road, make sure you keep the tires properly inflated. It is important to check the tire pressure from time to time and also ensure the tires are inflated to the recommended pressure. Follow what is indicated in the label with the recommended tire pressure
  • Inspect your trailer before departure:  Be sure to walk around the trailer to inspect the hitch and wires as well as the tires. Also, make sure the nut on the bottom of the hitch ball is proper and also make sure the hitch pin and its hairpin are also properly holding the drawbar on.
  • Tiedown tightening: No matter how securely you tie down the load, you must make sure that the tie-downs are properly tight. It makes sense to stop after every ten miles to make sure the load is properly fastened.
  • Conserve gasoline: Also related to the towing capacity. Dump the wastewater tanks prior to embarking on a trip and also before returning. If you are in an RV rental, the dealer can empty the wastewater tanks at a price according to the rental agreement. Nevertheless, having the wastewater tank empty will help a lot to improve your towing capacity.
  • Brake functioning: You need to make sure the brakes are properly functioning. One way of checking that the brakes are working is by holding the brakes on for up to ten seconds after which you should pull over and ensure that all the brakes are heating equally.
  • Local towing statutory limits: Despite the towing capacity of your vehicle, there are limitations in different states about how much weight you can tow.  Whether you are planning on towing a small weight, or even if you need to tow a high amount, you need to know the rules in your state for towing. The good news is there is a very little divergence in state rules across the Nation.

Towing Capacity In Some Well-Known Vehicles

The sport utility vehicles (SUV) mean at the same time comfort and strength. They merge powerful engines and a chassis that resembles a small truck with the amenities and space for seating that adapts to a large family.

What I have noticed, is that in the last years, many SUVs have lost a good part of their initial strength, as manufacturers are moving SUVs more towards city cars and abandoning gradually that strength of a mini truck.

Most people equate large towing capacities with trucks and large-sized SUVs. However, these days, there are many sedans and wagons as well as crossovers that are offering high towing capacity. Here is a look at the towing capacity of some well-known vehicles.

The strongest I found in the market is the Ford Expedition. Let´s see below all these major models covering 2017 to 2019

2019 Volvo S90

This is a vehicle that is capable of towing between 3400 and 4850 pounds. It does this thanks to its turbocharged engine that is able to displace 2.0 liters and at the same time delivers 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. An S90 owner can safely tow any RV that weighs up to 4000 pounds.

2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a vehicle with an excellent towing capacity. It is able to tow more than 4400 pounds of weight and it does this thanks to its 240-horsepower engine that delivers a nice 250 pound-feet of torque. It also has an outstanding Trailer Stability Assist feature that always ensures you are able to tow your vehicle with maximum control.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

Most Cherokee models are designed to tow about 2000 pounds of weight. However, the 3.2-liter V6 Jeep Cherokee is designed to tow up to 4500 pounds of weight. It is a nice vehicle to drive with a trailer attached to it, and it can tow in unchartered territory as well.

2019 Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is a vehicle that is designed to tow weights of up to 3500 pounds. The nice thing about attaching your trailer or RV to this vehicle is its sprightly handling and its Trailer Towing Package.

2019 Lincoln MKC

The Lincoln MKC is not only a very nice-looking vehicle but it is also designed to tow weights of up to 3000 pounds. Its engine delivers 240 horsepower that easily tows weights of up to 3000 pounds.

2019 Dodge Durango

This SUV is designed to offer not just a comfortable ride but also it is able to tow trailers of up to 7400 pounds of weight. If you choose the Durango equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 engine, then its 350-horsepower engine that delivers 390 pound-feet of torque will easily pull trailers of up to 7400 pounds.

2019 Land Rover Range Rover

This handsome SUV is designed to excel at off-road driving and in addition, it is also able to tow weights of up to 7716 pounds. The supercharged 5.0-liter engine delivers excellent horsepower and fuel efficiency making it a great option for towing your RV.

2019 Toyota Land Cruiser

This vehicle from Toyota has an impressive maximum towing capacity of 8100 pounds. It is however not very fuel-efficient and delivers just 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

2019 Nissan Armada

The Nissan Armada has a 5.6-liter engine under the hood that delivers outstanding horsepower that gives this vehicle the capacity to tow up to 8500 pounds of weight.

2019 Lincoln Navigator

This is one animal of an SUV that is capable of towing up to 9000 pounds. it is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers a modest 15 mpg fuel economy in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

2019 Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition 2019 is designed to pull a lot of weight. In fact, it has a towing capacity of up to 9200 pounds making it one of the best towing vehicles. It also comes with an optional Heavy-Duty Trailer Towing Package.

Conclusions About Towing Capacity

Before addressing towing capacity requirements, it is important for you to look at a few other important factors. The distance you plan on traveling and the conditions along your route will affect your towing needs. If you are planning on towing your RV for small distances and to a remote location where roads are generally not paved, then your needs will be entirely different than if you were towing your RV down a freeway.

Keep in mind that your RV has its own set of characteristics and capabilities. Thus, you may need different kinds of equipment to tow the RV safely and in accordance with the law. Before you actually get stuck with towing capacity requirements, you need to know a little about different trailer hitches and connections. You also need to know how much load your vehicle is able to tow. Be sure to also pick the right hitch and hitch ball and also learn how to wire up your vehicle and the RV properly.

Towing Capacity Chart

The following towing capacity chart depicts the towing capacity classified by year, by make, and by model making it easier to find the maximum towing capacity of your desired vehicle.

As you analyze the chart, you have to consider that any equipment as the one you carry in toy haulers, the weight of the passengers you will carry and the calculated weight of full water tanks must be added into the final equation.

Anthony Foxx

I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.