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Coastal 101

3 Steps to Know How Much your Rig Can Haul

August 28, 2021

Whether you’re towing a trailer for work, hauling rock for a weekend project, or heading out on a camping trip, it’s important to know how much your SUV or truck can tow and haul. Here’s how you can quickly estimate your payload and towing capacity and stay within your limits for added safety on the road.


Step 1: Find Your Vehicle’s Door Jam Sticker

Open the driver’s side door on your SUV or truck and you’ll quickly see a yellow sticker titled “Tire and Loading Information.” This sticker indicates the proper inflation for each of your tires (including the spare) as well as the payload capacity. The number is located near the sentence that reads “The combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed.” This number is the total possible weight of passengers and cargo in your tow vehicle, as well as the hitch weight. More on that below.

The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), which can often be found in your owner’s manual, is the total amount your vehicle can safely weigh, including passengers and cargo (payload capacity). This number varies depending on your engine, transmission, and whether or not you have a 4x4 or 2-wheel drive vehicle.

Step 2: Find Your GCWR

The GCWR stands for Gross Combined Weight Rating. This is the total amount of weight your vehicle can tow (fully loaded trailer) and haul (fully loaded vehicle). Please note: the gross combined weight of your tow vehicle and trailer must never exceed the GCWR. You will either find it in your vehicle owner’s manual or online. This number is not your vehicle’s towing capacity. To get that, you’ll need to do some math.

Step 3: Do Some Math

When you bought your truck or SUV, someone probably told you what the towing capacity was for your vehicle. However, it’s likely they didn’t have all the numbers necessary to get a real estimate. By subtracting the GVWR from the GCWR, you’ll get a conservative towing capacity.

For example, if your vehicle has a GVWR of 6,000 pounds (the weight of the vehicle, cargo, and passengers) and a GCWR of 11,000 pounds, you will have a conservative towing capacity of nearly 5,000 pounds. As long as the GVWR of your trailer (fully stocked with food and water) does not weigh more than that and your hitch class and weight distribution are good, you may be safe to tow it.

Don’t Just Hitch Up and Go

Before you load up your vehicle or tow a boat or camper anywhere, it’s important to understand your hitch weight, necessary hitch classes, and weight distribution.

The hitch weight is the percentage of the trailer weight pressing down on the back of your tow vehicle. Because that adds weight to your truck, you’ll need to add the hitch weight (tongue weight) to your possible payload capacity, which might already be maxed out with people, cargo, and more. You can often find that hitch weight rating in your trailer owner’s manual. Or you can calculate the hitch weight by multiplying the GVWR of your trailer (found in your trailer owner’s manual) by .15.

Trailer hitch classes are also important. They range from Class 1 to Class 5, with maximum capacities of 2,000 pounds for a Class 1 hitch, and over 12,000 pounds for a Class 5. Make sure the hitch class matches and exceeds the weight of your trailer. It should also work with your tow vehicle.

Does Your Truck or SUV Seem Weighed Down in the Back?

Try moving some of the cargo in the trailer to the back. You might also consider adding airbags or helper springs to your tow vehicle to raise the back of the tow vehicle. These should be installed by trained professionals.

Coastal Carries Towing Accessories

You’ll find a well-stocked aisle or two of trailer balls, hitches, and more at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal. While you’re there, check out our selection of truck boxes and camping gear to make your trip to the worksite or campsite easy and enjoyable.