Know What You Can Tow

By Tim Heintz – Southeast Regional TCT Representative and owner of Heintz Designs restoration company

Spring Camping Season is here. Be safe and “Know what you can Tow!” Here are some helpful and often times confusing terms that can help you understand the limits of your tow vehicle. When it comes to vintage trailers never assume their weights are correct from sellers or even titles…when in doubt get it officially weighed! 

RV/TRAILER DRY WEIGHT: The weight of the RV/Travel Trailer without any liquids, passengers, or cargo. Manufacturers weigh new units before shipping them to dealerships and record that weight as the Dry Weight. It is similar to Curb Weight for automobiles.

RV/TRAILER GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT: The combined weight of the RV/Travel Trailer (dry weight), plus liquids, passengers, and cargo.

GROSS VEHICHLE WEIGHT RATING: The maximum allowable weight of an RV (After packing). The Gross Vehicle Weight should not exceed the RV’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

TRAILER TONGUE WEIGHT: The weight placed on the tow vehicle hitch/bumper when the trailer is coupled to your vehicle. The tongue weight should be 10-15% of the RV / Travel Trailer’s gross vehicle weight.

VEHICLE CURB WEIGHT: The weight of the automobile without any passengers, liquids, or cargo (similar to Dry Weight for RV / Travel Trailers).

GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT: The combined weight of the automobile (Curb Weight), plus liquids, passengers, cargo, and, when towing a Travel Trailer, the Travel Trailer’s tongue weight.

Note: When towing a Travel Trailer, the entire weight of the trailer is not considered to be part of the automobile’s Gross Vehicle Weight, but the tongue weight is part of the automobile’s Gross Vehicle Weight.

GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: The maximum allowable weight of your vehicle. The Gross Vehicle Weight, which includes the Tongue Weight of the attached Travel Trailer, should not exceed your vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING: Generally, the manufacturer’s rating of the maximum gross weight limit of the loaded tow vehicle combined with the attached Travel Trailer.

VEHICLE TOW RATING: The manufacturer’s rating of the maximum weight limit that can safely be towed by your specific vehicle in normaltowing conditions. (Recommended to stay within 80% of tow rating for safety buffer) Weight is calculated by adding the RV’s Gross Vehicle Weight with the weights of passengers, liquids or cargo in your vehicle.


  1. I’m not sure how I found your article but I really do need advice.
    I did read the information about weight distribution but still am wondering.
    I have the original 1957 pickup bumper which has the trailer hitch ball hole in it. The pickup is almost finished and I’d like to tow my 58 shasta with the original one if it can be done safely. I don’t want to be like those pickups and trailers in the photos.
    If you have the time please let me know what you think.
    Thank you for everything

  2. Normally a bumper is rated at about 3500 lbs towing capacity. It is usually stamped somewhere on the bumper or possibly on a sticker. A frame mounted hitch is going to have more capacity for towing due to how it is installed.

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