How Much Can I Tow?
Determining how much you can tow begins with vehicle manufacturing details and trailer tow ratings. Each model will have a different tow rating. First, you need to know what information you are looking for. There are a lot of tow ratings and acronyms, and it can seem complicated to figure out. Let's break it down and start with the three most important capacities: tow capability, The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and The Gross Combined Weight Rating.
How Much Can My Truck Tow?
The tow rating is the maximum weight your vehicle can tow. It is determined by the manufacturer and based on your truck’s (or other vehicle's) engine power, transmission, axle ratio, wheelbase length and whether it is all-wheel, two-wheel or four-wheel drive and can be found in your owner’s manual. By rule of thumb, vehicles with 2WD will have a higher towing capacity than vehicles with AWD or 4WD because 2WD vehicles are lighter with fewer drive shafts. While tow rating gives you the maximum weight you can tow, it is always a good idea to cut 10-20% off of that rating to help your vehicle account for wind and terrain and ensure that you can maintain controlled steering and avoid excessive trailer sway.
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum weight that the tow vehicle (i.e. your car or truck) can carry when it is fully loaded. It is important to note that this rating includes everything in your vehicle, even passengers and fuel. This is also determined by the vehicle manufacturer and can be located in your owner's manual.
The Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is the maximum combined weight of your towing vehicle and what is being towed (i.e. trailer and contents). Again, this weight includes all contents including passengers, fuel and all contents being hauled. Weigh your vehicle with everything that you're going to carry (yes, passengers and all) with your loaded trailer attached but off the vehicle scale. This will give you the GCWR.
Next, using the same setup you used to find your GCWR, add your trailer with all of its contents onto the vehicle scale to get your Gross Combined Weight (GCW). The GCW cannot exceed your GCWR.
How Much Can I Tow with My Trailer?
When it comes to your trailer, or what you are towing, you need to think about the Gross Trailer Weight and Gross Tongue Weight.
The Gross Trailer Weight is the weight of your trailer with everything loaded up. In other words, the total weight that you are going to tow. Manufacturers will list the weight of the empty trailer so you need to factor in whatever you are hauling and add together, or use a vehicle scale to determine the weight of your load.
Gross Tongue Weight is the weight that will be exerted at the hitch and ball coupling point between your towing vehicle and trailer. You want this to be around the 10-15% range of Gross Trailer Weight. Towing supply shops will often have tongue weight or vehicle scales to help you figure this out, and there are also plenty of tips to help you choose the right hitch.
It is important to determine your maximum tow capacity and full load weights before you hitch up and set off. Exceeding the maximum thresholds can result in severely reduced fuel efficiency, damage to your vehicle and coupling point and even a loss in steering ability and road accidents.
Before you set out, make sure that you’re covered when towing a trailer and ensure your know what your policy covers and what is excluded. Talk to your insurance broker about this; they can provide you with the necessary information and answer any questions you might have.