Trailer towing capacity

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Trailer towing capacity is a serious consideration. Each different type of trailer has a limited capacity. To ensure durability and longevity of your towing vehicle and safe travels in general, know your trailer’s limits.

Manufacturers can provide you with information on the towing limits of your particular trailer. For additional assistance we have compiled this guide to help you understand the weight rating terms. We’ve also outlined some of the basic limits of the more general types of trailers.

Talk the talk: Understanding the acronyms

When reading your manufacturer’s trailer towing capacity guide, you may notice the following acronyms. These terms describe weight collectively for different combinations of trailer, tow vehicle, cargo and passengers.

GVWR: This stands for gross vehicle weight rating. It denotes the maximum a vehicle can weigh when it is fully loaded with people and cargo.

GCWR: Is the gross combined weight rating. Itrefers to the maximum amount the tow vehicle and trailer together can weigh when fully loaded.

GTW: Is short for gross trailer weight. This is the weight of the trailer and the load. This can be measured by putting your fully loaded trailer on a vehicle scale.

TW: Stands for tongue weight. This is the amount of the trailer weight that is placed on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler.

Understanding load capacity

The maximum towing capacity for each type of trailer or caravan is outlined by the manufacturer. Size and length can give an indication of a trailer’s load capacity, but there are other factors that have an impact on towing capacity.

To give you a better idea, we have put together these general tips on capacity for the major trailer types. This should not be used to replace information supplied by the manufacturer of your trailer or caravan. Make sure you find out the exact towing limit of both your tow vehicle and your trailer before you load up.

Utility trailers

A utility trailer with a single axle will most likely have a different load capacity than one with a tandem axle. For example, a small single-axle trailer may only be able to haul a load in the low 100kg range, whereas a tandem-axle trailer of a comparable size could potentially carry double this weight.

Boat trailers

Generally, the smaller the boat trailer the less it can carry. However, don’t use this as your only gauge. Whether it is made for an aluminum or fibreglass boat, be sure to choose a trailer that can carry the weight of your particular boat.

Recreational vehicle (RV) trailers and toy haulers

RV trailers are made to carry motorcycles, all terrain vehicles (ATVs), personal watercrafts and snowmobiles. They are usually equipped to carry the average weight of either one, two or four of these vehicles.

Toy haulers are basically RVs with space, and usually a ramp, to load motorcycles, ATVs and other types of ‘toys’. Again, the length and size of the hauler will determine its capacity, and this can vary dramatically – so always check first.

Livestock and horse trailers

Livestock trailers have a variable load capacity depending on their size and the type of hitch – whether it be a bumper or gooseneck pull – but can potentially carry thousands of kilograms to allow for several animals. Horse trailers, like toy haulers, are generally made to carry either one, two or four horses and therefore the load capacity will vary accordingly.

Campers or caravans and 5th wheel trailers

The range of campers and caravans is vast. Sizes, shapes and lengths are diverse, therefore load capacities vary for each type. It is best to find out your caravan’s specific load capacity and then do some reading on weight distribution as there are many aspects to consider to get the balance right.

The rule is here is to always check load capacities to ensure your trailer is fit for both your intended purpose and subsequent load, remembering to consider the weight of your trailer too. Knowing and respecting your limits will not only ensure safe and legal passage for your cargo, it will also make the drive easier on your trailer and tow vehicle. Learn your loading capacity and never be tempted to overload – it’s just not worth the risk.

Find out more about capacity and weight distribution in our articles about understanding trailer mass and how to set up a weight distribution hitch.


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