Of course, if you have a large RV, like a motorhome or fifth wheel, your weight is going to be higher than 10,000 pounds, and if you have a small RV, like a travel trailer or pop up camper, your weight will be less. It’s better to assume your RV is going to be on the heavier side of things if you don’t know the exact weight.
What Do All The Weight Numbers Mean?
There are a lot of different numbers when it comes to the weight of an RV. Many companies promote the dry vehicle weight, but what does that mean, and how does that affect what you can carry? Let’s clear up what the different weight listings mean when it comes to your RV weight.
Unloaded or dry vehicle weight is the weight of the trailer with nothing in it. This means no gas, water, waste, or gear. Essentially this is the bare minimum that your RV is ever going to weigh when it rolls off the production line. On average, your RV will weigh 1,500 pounds more than its dry weight once filled with gear.
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) is how much the trailer weights when full. This is the max weight of the RV carrying all of your gear. If you surpass the GVWR, it can affect the performance of the RV and or the towing vehicle. For example, it can increase the required stopping distance quite a bit. And, in some cases, insurance companies will not cover accidents if the RV is over the GVWR. It is never okay for you RV to weigh more than the listed GVWR.
Dry Hitch Weight, also known as tongue weight, is the weight of the empty RV to the trailer hitch. This is important for determining how much weight your vehicle can tow. The dry hitch weight is only applicable if you have a pop-up camper or travel trailer. Remember that your hitch weight will increase as you load up your RV with gear. When pulling a trailer, it is essential not to exceed the weight your vehicle can tow.
The cargo carrying capacity (CCC) is the maximum amount of weight you can load onboard your RV. This includes all your gear, water, gas, waste, and you! Generally, the larger and burlier your RV, the more weight and gear you can carry. If you are concerned about how much you can bring, start with your empty RV and weigh everything as you bring it on. This may seem like a tedious task, but it will help with knowing your weight in the long run.
What Class Does My RV Fall Into?
There are different RV classifications based on length, chassis type, and weight. Certain classes of RVs will be restricted in some areas. Know what class your RV falls into before hitting the road to avoid getting stuck. Consider where you want to be taking your RV and what its primary purpose will be when choosing which class to buy.
Class A RVs are the largest motorhomes with a built-in engine. These RVs have bodies that are 30 to 40 feet long and weight anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 pounds dry. Typically, class A RVs drive and look more like a bus. Class A RVs are sometimes restricted in national and other parks due to roads being difficult to navigate. Keep in mind where you want to go when selecting a class A RV.
Class B RVs are more of a camper van style. They weigh much less than other RVs at 6,000 to 8,000 pounds, and they are only about 18 feet long. These camper van conversions often have lofted fiberglass roofs to allow passengers to stand up inside. There are typically fewer restrictions for class B RVs since they are not much larger than a work van.
Class C RVs have bodies built on a truck chassis. The truck chassis is specifically designed to carry the heavy load of an RV. A truck chassis can make the RV feel more normal to drive than a class A. And, the driver and passenger doors are more accessible. Therefore getting in and out of a Class C RV is much easier, which is something we really like about our Class C. We enjoy being able to get in and out of the RV at a moments notice to take pics or video. Class C RVs have a dry weight of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds and are 20 to 30 feet long.
Travel trailers, pop up campers and 5th wheels do not have the weight of an engine and therefore weigh much less than a motorhome RV. A trailer type of RV typically weighs anywhere from around 1,500 to 7,000 pounds dry. Travel trailers and pop-ups attach to a standard trailer hitch, and fifth-wheels attach to the bed of a truck. One benefit of the fifth-wheel trailer is you get maximum space for trailer length. If you choose a travel trailer, keep in mind how much weight your vehicle is able to tow and stay below that limit.
For a fully detailed breakdown of every RV class and style check out our article called What Are RV Classes? – All Types and Styles Explained.
How To Manage Your RV Weight
When it comes to managing your RV weight, you must decide what things you need on your trip, and what you can live without. Do you need to pack for every possible scenario, or are you willing to go with the flow in order to sacrifice some weight? Try and bring only the necessities that will add value to your trip.
It’s hard to judge how much your RV is going to weigh when packing small one- or two-pound items. If you can, stop at a truck weigh station and see what your weight is. This way you’ll know if you have room to bring more along, or if you need to purge some weight.
A good rule of thumb when packing for a trip is after all the essentials are packed, something must come out when you bring an additional item in. This will really force you to think hard about how important each item is that you bring onboard.
For those fortunate to start with a completely empty RV, you can weigh each item or group of items before they go inside. This can be a tedious and time-consuming task, but it will give you a good reference of how much your gear weighs. Knowing the weight of your gear can help you decide what gets to come along and what stays behind.
Remember, under no circumstances can your weight be over the GVWR. Driving overweight can affect how well your RV drives and your insurance coverage. When in doubt, get your RV weighed.
How Does Weight Affect How Much My Vehicle Can Tow?
Travel Trailers and Pop Up Campers
If you are planning to tow a travel trailer or pop up camper you will need to know how much your vehicle can tow. Most vehicles have a sticker on the inside of the driver side door that lists the GVWR, which is maximum that the vehicle can tow.
The GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is calculated by adding the RV weight plus the passengers’ weight, plus all gear and supplies, plus any liquids. Camping World has an awesome tow weight calculator for every make and model of car and truck.
If you are planning to tow a 5th wheel the calculation is much more involved. You will need much more info to determine the maximum weight your pick up truck can pull. Luckily, Changingears.com has a terrific 5th Wheel Weight Calculator to help you figure it out.
When you visit their link it will walk you through all of the info you need to input into the calculator to determine the maximum weight fifth wheel your truck can tow.
Class A, B, and C Motorhomes
If you plan to tow a car (or anything else) behind your Class A B or C rig you have a lot to figure out. First of all, how much weight can your RV tow? And second, can your vehicle be towed with all 4 wheels on the ground or do you need a dolly to tow your vehicle? Let’s just tackle how much your RV can tow.
To figure out how much your RV can tow here is what you do:
The first thing you need to know is the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) of your RV. The GCWR is found on a sticker on your RV like the one to the right that I found on my RV. In my case, the GCWR of my RV is 20,000 lbs.
The next thing you need to do is to figure out how much your RV weighs when fully loaded with passengers, supplies, groceries, camping gear, gas, propane, water, and wastewater. The easiest way to figure this out is to load up your RV and go weigh it. My RV is always loaded with gear and camping supplies so all I need to do is fill the water tank and gas tank to get a good idea of what my RV weighs.
The tricky thing about this is that your RV will always have a different weight depending on the number of people on board plus groceries, water, wastewater, propane, etc. So, if you get your RV fully loaded with just yourself in the RV, remember to add for extra passengers when you will be towing a vehicle.
I get my RV weighed at the county dump about 20 minutes away from my house. They have a huge scale for commercial garbage trucks and they were nice enough to let me drive onto the scale to weigh my RV.
Anyway, after you know how much your fully loaded RV weighs, which in my case is 12,657 lbs then you add the weight of your tow vehicle. This total needs to be less than the GCWR of 20,000 lbs in my case. After adding, if the total pounds exceed the GCWR, you are overweight!
I want to tow my 2015 Toyota Tacoma with my Class C RV. It weighs 5600 lbs. So, 12,657 lbs. plus 5,600 lbs. equals 18,257 lbs. So, it looks like I can tow my pickup truck behind my RV.
There is just one last thing to check and that is the maximum weight my hitch can handle on my RV. Unfortunately for me – the max weight my hitch will handle is 5,000 lbs. So even though the numbers say my RV can tow my truck, the RV hitch can not.
Weight Factors to Consider When Choosing Your RV
When choosing your RV, you should consider how much it’s going to weigh. For example, some bridges roads have weight restrictions. And many people have ruined their towing vehicle’s engine towing too heavy of a load up a steep incline. Other factors include how much additional weight your RV is going to be able to carry. If you’re going to tow your RV, you should know how much your vehicle can tow safely.
I watched my next door neighbors load their travel trailer full of food, clothing, gizmos, gadgets and all sorts of stuff for hours before leaving for their vacation only to find that their SUV could barely pull their travel trailer up the driveway. They eventually had to buy a much larger, more expensive SUV just to pull their travel trailer when fully loaded.
Depending on where you want to go, some areas have vehicle length and weight restrictions. National Parks are a common place to see these limits. Since may National Parks have steep, winding roads going through them, vehicles are restricted to specified lengths and weights. Here you have two options; you can choose a smaller RV such as a class B or C, or tow your car along.
Watch out for RVs that come with all the bells and whistles. If you’re adding on heavy appliances and features you’ll have less room for weight when it comes time to pack your gear. Ask yourself, do you really need a flat screen TV mounted in your RV bedroom? Or could you save that weight and use it elsewhere. Chances are if you’re adventuring you won’t want to watch TV.
If you’re the type of person who wants to bring a lot of gear with them (think climbing, boating, biking, etc.) look for an RV with higher cargo carrying capacity. The greater cargo carrying capacity will sacrifice some of the luxury items, but you’ll be too busy using all the extra gear you brought to worry about that.
In short, when in doubt, get your RV weighed. It’s better to know your weight rather than guessing and assuming you’re under the GVWR. Commercial weigh stations at state lines or anywhere that weighs heavy loads can do this for you. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to know you RVs weight, err on the heavier side when estimating. It’s better to be safe than sorry so you can avoid getting stuck somewhere.
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