RV weight basics

RV Weight Basics

Recreational vehicle weight and capacity are important to know for driving and towing safety.

  • How much does your rig weigh?
  • How much can it carry?
  • What happens if it is overweight?
  • How can you reduce rig weight?

Let’s look closer at RV weight basics.

RV Weight Capacity

A big capacity motorhome

First question is: What is your RV rig?

Obviously, the weight and capacity of a 38′ motorhome are different from an SUV towing an 18′ travel trailer.

How can you find out the weight of your rig components?

The easiest way is to look for a vehicle weight sticker in the door jamb of most tow vehicles and on the exterior side of most towed vehicles. If not there, check the vehicle owner’s manual for weights.

For motorhomes and campers, the formula for Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) − Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) − Travel Weights (fuels, water, passengers).

Basically: What was the vehicle designed to carry less the minimum it will carry equals how much more cargo (pots, pans, food, etc.) it can carry.

Exceed the manufacturer’s CCC at your own peril.

RV Towing Capacity

An RV towing capacity

RVs that are towed (travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, tent campers, etc.) add a weight burden to whatever is towing them (cars, trucks, SUVs).

Is the towing vehicle capable of safely towing the camping rig?

You need to know the total weight of the fully-loaded towed vehicle as well as the capacity of the towing vehicle.

Again, this is where manufacturer weight stickers are helpful.

In addition, coupling equipment capacity also is important.

That is, the travel trailer or fifth-wheel hitch must be rated well above the maximum weight of the towed vehicle.

RV Weight Tips

Here are some road-proven tips for making sure that your RV rig travels safely.

  • Don’t load your RV to capacity. Instead, use 80% of GVWR as the maximum.
  • Include Travel Weights accurately. Water is 8.3 pounds (3.77 kilograms) per gallon, propane is 4.2 pounds (1.91 kilograms) per gallon, real people may be larger than 154 pounds (70 kilograms) each. Don’t forget to add the weight of large pets.
  • If you take an external generator, make sure you add its approximate weight to the Travel Weight.
  • If in doubt about actual RV rig weight, take it fully loaded to a truck scale and have the weight certified.
  • Travel trailer hitch weight is important to RV safety and should be about 10% of the trailer’s weight. A 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) trailer should have a hitch weight (portion of the trailer weight transferred to the hitch) of approximately 300 lbs (136 kg).
  • Remember that the weakest link in the vehicle chain may be the safety chains. Make sure they are rated sufficiently to hold the trailer if it becomes detached from the towing vehicle.
  • Most trailers average about 250 lbs (113 kg) per foot of length. An 18′ trailer is about 4,500 lbs (2,041 kg); a 32′ trailer is approximately 8,000 lbs (3,629 kg) including Travel Weights.
  • In most states, towed vehicles above 3,000 lbs (1,361 kg) require trailer brakes.
  • Construction methods impact the weight of RVs. Some trailers are “lite” with thinner walls and more aluminum than steel, reducing total vehicle weight.
  • Make sure all tires are inspected and properly inflated prior to travel.

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Check Your Truck and RV Weight! (Video)

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