- You have a SUV, truck or van
- You are just starting your RV search
- You want to be safe and stay within your limits
More times than not, the single most important limiting factor is your truck's available payload. Payload is the difference between the maximum your truck can carry minus the weight of the truck. Generally the payload plans for a 150 pound driver and a full tank of fuel. The "rest" of your driver, all passengers and everything you carry eats into this payload number. Whatever is left over is what you can use for tongue weight for bumper-pull trailers or pin weight for fifth wheels. We'll talk more about all of these things later.
There are 2 ways to approach the "What can I tow?" question and both revolve around the weight of your truck and the things in it. For trucks about 2005 and newer, you should have 2 different stickers on the truck - usually on a doorjamb. See below for my stickers from my 2012 Dodge Ram 3500 with dual rear wheels:
|Weight Ratings Limits|
|Cargo Carrying Capacity Sticker|
Approach #1 - Weight Ratings and Getting Weighed
- Your driver
- Your passengers (with infant/child seats, booster seats, etc.)
- Any food, snacks and drinks
- Any games, toys, activities and diaper bags for the kids
- Guides, maps, travel directories
- Firewood, generators, camping chairs, tables, and other supplies
- And, of course- your hitch
By far, this is the best method as it takes all of the guess work out of play.
Use This Calculator To Crunch Your Scaled Weight Numbers
Approach #2 - The Cargo Carrying Capacity
Use This Calculator To Add Up Your Weights Against the Cargo Carrying Capacity
Ok, now I know my payload - what does it mean?
For bumper-pulls, you're generally targeting 13% to 15% of the camper's total weight to make the RV behave best. For fifth wheels, you'll generally find 20% - 25% of the camper's total weight is pushing down in the bed of the truck.
Use My Towing Planner to Make this Easier
Which Trailer Weight to Use
(Note, many manufacturer's websites aren't as up-to-date or filled-in as we'd like. Many times, they show "TBD" for the GVWR but do show values for the "unloaded vehicle weight" and "cargo carrying capacity". You can deduce the GVWR by adding these two values together.)
To calculate the tongue weight, you should take the GVWR and multiply it by .12 and .15 and that is your range of what your tongue weight could be, at most. Note, my calculators do this for you.
To calculate the pin weight of a fifth wheel, you do the same only with different multipliers. You should take the GVWR and multiple it by .2 and .25 and that gives you your range. Note, my calculators do this for you.
You need this tongue/pin weight number to be less than your vehicle's remaining payload.
I have blogged about helping my father-in-law figure out the real towing capacity of his Toyota 4Runner. Read now...