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!
How This Towing Calculator Thinks
This calculator checks for four (4) main conditions:
- Is the loaded trailer weight greater than the maximum allowed by the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCWR)?
- Is the weight on the trailer axles greater than the total Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)?
- Is the travel trailer tongue weight greater than the tow vehicle allowable hitch weight?
- Will the hitch weight plus payload exceed the tow vehicle’s payload capacity?
Other factors are checked as well, but the calculator bases most of its estimates on these four conditions.
All four conditions are mandatory and critical!
In algebraic terms, these equations are independent of each other. Just because a travel trailer’s weight doesn’t exceed the maximum towing capacity listed on the pickup truck brochure, for instance, doesn’t mean that the pickup truck might be overloaded by too many occupants!
Even if you don’t use this calculator, you can run through these same four questions on your own.
Most RV owners know to check A) the weight of the travel trailer and B) the loaded tongue weight. But what most commonly limits your towing capacity isn’t the weight of the travel trailer itself; it’s the payload capacity of the tow vehicle!
What this calculator does not (and cannot) address is another common problem: weight imbalances. Most RVs are unequally loaded side-to-side. Many motorhomes are unevenly loaded front to back, as well. It’s not uncommon to have one side of the RV weigh several hundred pounds heavier than the other side! This can easily cause tire blowouts from being overloaded, even though the total scale numbers look safe.
This calculator also assumes you are using a weight-distribution hitch when towing your RV, if you’re towing a travel trailer. Weight-distribution hitches are required by most pickup truck manufacturers once the trailer weight exceeds 5,000-6,000 lbs. Otherwise, you’ll overload the tow vehicle rear axle and unload the tow vehicle front axle. This creates a dangerous steering and braking situation, even if the axle isn’t overloaded.
For these reasons (and many more), we advocate caution and conservation when towing an RV. Use this interactive RV travel trailer towing calculator as a tool, not a substitute for your brain!
As of January 8, 2024, this interactive RV calculator is temporarily suspended. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we hope to have the calculator back up and running soon. In the meantime, we recommend reading through the rest of the notes on this page, which may help clarify your understanding. Thank you for visiting Changing Gears.
Helpful Links and Resources
Towing is a complicated subject! Here are some resources to help you along further.
- EZ Towing Weight Calculator: For a simpler (albeit less accurate) towing weight calculator.
- Driving an RV for the First Time. You’ll learn all about height, length, width, and weight restrictions!
- How to Select a Tow Vehicle. Our basic guide to choosing a tow vehicle when towing a camper or trailer!
- Tow Vehicle Towing Capacity Charts. Straight from the manufacturers.
- Tire Reference Info. Need load index tables, speed rating tables, inflation tables or tire FAQs? Start here!
- Towing and Trailering Advice from Ask The RV Engineer.
- RV Tire Safety Advice from Roger Marble.
Limitations of a Calculator
Any calculator has real-world limitations. A calculator cannot account for:
- Road conditions
- Inclement weather
- Sleep deprivation
- Length of your vehicle wheelbase
- Mechanical degradation
- Inflation pressure of your tires
- Behavior of other drivers
- Your personal risk tolerance
- Weight imbalances
Towing an RV is safe – until it’s not. It is your responsibility for learning the in’s and out’s of towing and the limitations of YOU, YOUR VEHICLE and YOUR TRIP. Be safe out there!
This calculator makes certain assumptions about Front Axle Load Restoration (FALR)%, hitch design, and other factors that are not necessarily accurate! Therefore, the calculator may under- or over-estimate your actual towing capability. That is why weighing your RV is so critically important.
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, especially if you’re towing over 5,000/6,000 lbs.
Calculator Example (With Numbers)
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
What About the 80% Margin Rule?
The most common gut-check for towing a trailer is to assume your practical towing capacity is 80 percent of the advertised capacity.
Is this right? Wrong? Conservative or dangerous?
It’s none of those things.
The 80% rule is based on a lot of assumptions: that you’re carrying extra payload, but not too much; that the trailer tongue weight is over 10%, but not too much; that you’re ferrying passengers, but not too many …
The 80% towing rule is a good starting point. But it may be wildly inaccurate for your situation.
You may be arbitrarily limiting what you can tow!
- Or you may be over-estimating your capacities. If you’re ferrying five adult passengers with a full pickup bed, your F-150 may not be able to tow anything at all!
- That’s true for any other version of the 80% rule, like the 75% rule, 70% rule, 80% of GCVWR, etc. All of them are starting points only.
Many times, it is true that your calculated maximum towing capacity will be 60-80% of your advertised towing capacity. But you need to confirm this estimate with an actual calculation!