RV Cargo Calculator & Truck Selector – Interactive!

The primary purpose of this calculator is to answer these two questions:

  • How large of a truck do I need to tow my trailer?
  • How does my trailer cargo affect tow vehicle requirements?

Instead, if you want to know how large of a trailer you can tow with your truck (basically the opposite of this calculator), then head on over to our Travel Trailer towing calculator or our Fifth Wheel towing calculator.

This calculator is designed for travel trailers (also know as conventional trailers) or fifth-wheel trailers, plus their sub-genres (e.g. toy hauler, fiberglass campers, etc.) All are considered towable RVs.

In the form below, enter as many pieces of information as are required. 

Our calculator updates in real-time! Play around with the sliders and watch how your cargo and tongue weight affect your maximum towing capacity.

If you are unfamiliar with the weights or abbreviations, you may want to start with Understanding RV Weights.

Want to see some examples? Scroll to or jump below the calculator!

A Working Example

Let’s look at the 2022 Grand Design Transcend Xplor 265BH conventional travel trailer.

  • UVW: 6327 lb
  • Hitch Weight: 658 lbs (aka tongue weight)
  • GVWR: 7995 lbs
  • GAWR: 7000 lbs (estimate)
  • CCC: 1080 lbs* (estimate)

CCC is usually calculated as GVWR – UVW – weight of full freshwater tank (including water heater tank) – weight of full propane tanks – SCWR (Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating).

Since it’s a travel trailer, no occupants are allowed while towing. For that matter, only certain states allow occupants with fifth-wheel towing as well!

These are the holding tank capacities (empty):

  • Freshwater tank capacity: 62 gallons
  • Gray water tank capacity: 78 gallons
  • Waste (black) water tank capacity: 39 gallons

Let’s suppose we only want to travel with the freshwater tank full!

So we’ll set the gray and black tanks to zero and the freshwater tank to 60 gallons.

  • LP “poundage”: 40 lbs (two 20-lb propane tanks)
  • Number of batteries: 1
  • Estimated Cargo: Let’s allow for 550 lbs, since we’re bringing along the mountain bikes and the camping grill setup.

The calculator tells us the minimum required towing capacity is 7,504 lbs. No big surprise there! That’s just the weight of the unloaded trailer plus its cargo. This is why, as a rule, you should always purchase a tow vehicle capable of at least towing the GVWR of your trailer.

But if we allow for a 20% safety margin – after all, you don’t want to burn out your transmission on a mountain grade! – the calculator recommends a safer minimum towing weight of 9,005 lbs.

Now, if you look carefully at the calculator, you’ll see that you’ve added 1,177 lbs of cargo, but the calculator isn’t spitting out an error message!

Why is that? Isn’t your CCC only 1,080 lbs? 

Well, RVIA rules stipulate that CCC is calculated as the UVW – wt of full freshwater tank – wt full propane tanks – wt water heater tank – wt SCWR (non-applicable for a travel trailer). It sounds convoluted, but it’s more user-friendly. The “sticker CCC” tells you how much you can add once the “usual stuff,” like fresh water and propane, is accounted for. Our calculator automatically adjusts the input CCC to account for these freebies.

That’s why the bar chart says you have 491 lbs of cargo capacity left. That means you have 491 lbs remaining until you max out your GVWR.

What happens to our tongue weight?

Our total tongue weight is estimated 1,030 lbs.*

Please understand this number is a rough estimate only! If you, for instance, mount your mountain bikes on an A-frame tongue carrier, the actual tongue weight could be much more! On the other hand, if your manufacturer placed the freshwater tank beind your rear axle, the tongue weight could be less. Again, this calculator is for educational purposes only.

At 13.7% of the gross trailer weight, that’s within the recommended 10-15% for conventional travel trailers. However, it’s more than a 1,000 lbs of hitch weight! Many half-ton trucks will have difficulty with so much hitch weight, even with a weight-distributing hitch. A 1,000-lb hitch weight plus 2-3 passengers can easily overwhelm the payload capacity of many half-ton trucks.

Payload capacity, not published towing capacity, is the number one reason RVers usually upgrade from a half-ton to a three-quarter or full-ton truck.

Which is why you should head on over to our Travel Trailer towing calculator or our Fifth Wheel towing calculator. Only by calculating how much weight you’ll add to your trailer AND how much weight you’ll add to your tow vehicle can you truly calculate the sizes of both.

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