The primary purpose of this calculator is to answer the question: “How heavy a travel trailer can I tow?”
This calculator is designed for travel trailers (also know as conventional trailers), towed by a ball hitch, either weight-carrying or weight-distributing.
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? Jump below the calculator!
What About Our EZ Towing Calculator?
Are you looking for a quick n’ dirty answer to your towing questions??
We put a lot of work into the Trailer Towing Calculator (below), our 5th Wheel Towing Calculator, our Cargo & Truck Selector, and our other calculators.
But we get it … sometimes you just want a back-of-the-envelope solution.
Well, there’s no getting around the fact that accurate answers require accurate information.
But if you just need a towing gut-check, check out our new EZ Towing Calculator.
Even if you don’t own an RV (or tow vehicle), you can get all the information you need online. If you have the data from your tow vehicle door jamb stickers or trailer VIN sticker, even better. And you only need four inputs!
… Need a Better Towing Hitch?
So … you’ve probably realized by now that you need a weight-distribution hitch.
A simple ball hitch simply puts too much weight on the rear axle of your tow vehicle. A weight-distributing hitch helps equalize that weight across the front axle of your tow vehicle and the axle[s] of your trailer.
In fact, most truck manufacturers require weight-distribution hitches to achieve maximum towing capacity.
A Working Example
In this scenario, you know quite a bit about the truck. Also, since buying the vehicle, you have installed a heavy toolbox in the bed, increasing the truck weight by almost 1,000 lbs.
Because of this, the calculator found the GVW to be the most restrictive number and reduced the maximum trailer weight accordingly. Let’s see how.
Example: Using a hypothetical truck similar to the 2005 Dodge RAM 1500, regular cab, 4×4, 5.7L HEMI Magnum V8 engine:
- Tow vehicle GVWR: 6,350 lbs
- Tow vehicle GCWR: 14,000 lbs
- Tow vehicle TC (Advertised): 8,900 lbs
- Tow vehicle RGAWR: 3,900 lbs
- Tow Vehicle HWR: 1,000 lbs
- Tow vehicle GVW: 4,845 lbs
- Tow Vehicle Cargo: 1000 lbs
- Tow Vehicle Passengers: 1 (Driver)
Calculated Maximum Trailer Weight: 3,550 lbs
As you can see, the calculated result of 3,550 lbs is significantly lower than the maximum specified by Dodge at 8,900 lbs!
In fact, the calculator even tells you that the GVWR is to blame. In other words, you’re maxing out your tow vehicle’s maximum allowable weight before anything else!
The large difference is because the manufacturer ratings use the truck weight with standard equipment and driver only. Options and cargo add to the truck weight, reducing towing capacity.
What’s the difference between TVTV, GVW, UVW and curb weight?
These numbers all measure the weight of a sitting truck at different conditions.
- Curb weight is the weight of a tow vehicle with all optional equipment included and all operating fluids (oil, gasoline, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc). Dry weight is simply curb weight minus the weight of the operating fluids. Curb weight is sometimes called empty weight.
- GVW and TVTW are very similar! GVW stands for Gross Vehicle Weight. It measures the weight of a tow vehicle simply as it sits, without any other conditions. Tow Vehicle Towing Weight is the GVW of a tow vehicle as outfitted for towing, for instance, with a receiver, ball mount and tow ball installed. In accordance with SAE J2807, we use the term TVTW.
Neither of these two measurements include the driver, passengers, or any cargo payload.
It is critical that you weigh your tow vehicle in its TVTW state. You should not rely on factory curb weights! There only way to know your TVTW weight is to weigh your vehicle with a vehicle scale. In all likelihood, there is a vehicle scale near your area, as they are required for the transportation industry.
When you weigh your vehicle, you can also weigh the FGAW (Front Gross Axle Weight) and RGAW (Rear Gross Axle Weight). This is especially important if you’ve installed aftermarket equipment such as a toolbox.
Knowing your RGAW is critical for measuring maximum payload and hitch weight capacity. In fact, you should also weigh your setup with your trailer coupled. That way, you can confirm that the RGAWR of your tow vehicle is not exceeded.
Our calculator does not permit the below scenarios. This is why all input information is required for accurate results.
What I only know the truck’s GVW and GCWR?
A common “mistake” – albeit one made intentionally by RV salesman and truck manufacturers – is to calculate maximum towing capacity simply by subtracting the weight of the truck from the combined vehicle weight rating.
This is a best-case scenario!
- This assumes a stripped-down tow vehicle with no mods or optional equipment, a 150-lb driver (thanks for rubbing it in, guys!) and no onboard cargo.
- This also assumes that perfect mechanical reliability and performance (yeah, right!).
- It even assumes that the trailer brakes do 100% of the RV braking work, which isn’t the case for older or unadjusted brakes.
A similar mistake, although more conservative, is to subtract the truck GVWR from the GCWR. This assumes that the truck is fully loaded, and therefore reduces the towing capacity by 1:1.
On the face of it, this looks more conservative. However, it’s NOT. A fully loaded truck – that is, when the passengers and cargo equals the payload capacity – can’t tow anything. Not a pound. Because any additional weight would overwhelm the tow vehicle GVWR!
What if I only know the hitch maximum tongue weight rating?
Another common error is to assume that the hitch weight rating of the truck is the limiting factor and to base the maximum trailer weight solely on it.
- Maximum hitch weight = 500 lbs
- Assumed tongue weight percentage = 15%
Maximum trailer weight = 3,333 lb!
In fact, in this scenario, the above calculation has put us well over the 1,700/2,900 lbs (manual/auto transmission) specified as the maximum trailer weight by Chevrolet for this sample vehicle.
Nor does this back-of-the-envelope calculation factor in the effect of payload. While the 15% tongue weight percentage is more conservative than the 10% standard, this still isn’t an accurate assumption.
For instance, if you’ve loaded so much cargo into the truck bed that you have only 200 pounds of payload remaining, your maximum trailer weight would be just 1,333 lbs at a 15% tongue weight!
Speaking of tongue weights, no, a weight-distribution hitch does not allow you to tow more than the factory or recommended weight! It redistributes a portion of the tongue weight to the tow vehicle front axle and the trailer axles, reducing the amount seen by the tow vehicle rear axle. The exact redistribution ratio varies by tow vehicle geometry, trailer geometry, and hitch calibration and setup.
These scenarios illustrate that relying on too little information may cause you to exceed manufacturer ratings. On the other hand, providing the calculator with all relevant weight numbers will produce accurate results