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What Is Towing Capacity?

By Curt Hitches:

Towing capacity is the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can tow when pulling a trailer. It is determined by the vehicle manufacturer and takes into account the GVWR, GAWR, GTW and more.

What does towing capacity mean? Very simply, it is how heavy your trailer can be.

Max towing capacity should always be observed in any towing situation. Exceeding this capacity – or towing more weight than your vehicle is rated for – is extremely dangerous. Be smart and know your vehicle’s limits!

Vehicle Towing Capacity Chart

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How to Calculate Towing Capacity

To determine maximum towing capacity, you will need to know the vehicle manufacturer’s weight ratings and compare them against the gross weight of your trailer. Most vehicles have the trailer towing capacity listed in the owner’s manual, on the driver-side door jamb or in a trailer towing capacity guide on their website. How to determine towing capacity: whether you’re looking up SUV towing capacity, pickup truck towing capacity or car towing capacity, consult the vehicle manufacturer! If the vehicle’s ratings are higher than the total weight of the trailer, the trailer is safe to tow. If the trailer weight exceeds the vehicle’s ratings, the trailer should not be hitched up to the vehicle. *Want to weigh your vehicle with your smartphone? * Check out BetterWeigh™

Find Your GVWR and towing capacity on the door jamb

How Much Can My Vehicle Tow?

Towing Capacity Examples

What is GVWR?

GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

What does GVWR mean? It is the maximum loaded weight of your vehicle (or trailer), as determined by the manufacturer. GVWR isn’t just the weight of passengers and cargo but also the vehicle itself.

The gross vehicle weight rating is all about safety. When a vehicle manufacturer rates a vehicle for its maximum weight, they are taking into consideration the suspension system, frame, axles, wheels and other components bearing the load.

GVWR vs Towing Capacity

GVWR is the maximum weight capacity of a vehicle without a trailer attached. Towing capacity, on the other hand, is the maximum weight capacity of the vehicle, specifically in terms of how heavy of a trailer it can tow.

What Is GVWR on a Trailer?

GVWR explained: gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) refers to the maximum allowable weight of any given vehicle. A vehicle may be an automotive vehicle or a trailer.

In the case of a trailer, the GVWR is the most a trailer can weigh in total, as determined by the trailer manufacturer.

What is the average weight of a trailer?

What is GCWR?

GCWR stands for Gross Combined Weight Rating

What does GCWR mean? It is the maximum weight of your vehicle with a trailer attached, as determined by the vehicle manufacturer. Combined weight means the weight of both the tow vehicle and the trailer together. It also includes any cargo or load placed in either vehicle.

The rating for gross combined weight or gross combination weight is determined for the vehicle based on the strength of its frame, suspension, axles and other towing-related components.


GVWR refers to weight capacity of the vehicle alone. GCWR, however, is a weight rating of the vehicle but takes a hitched up trailer into account. It is the maximum weight of a vehicle with a trailer attached.

What is GAWR?

GAWR stands for Gross Axle Weight Rating

GAWR is the maximum weight that can be placed on the vehicle’s front or rear axles. The vehicle manufacturer gives each axle its own rating. FR is the front rating, and RR is the rear rating.

The gross axle weight rating accounts for passengers and cargo, as well as the possibility of a trailer in tow. Exceeding the GAWR can be detrimental to the vehicle’s axles.

What is GTW?

GTW stands for Gross Trailer Weight

What does GTW mean? It is the total weight of the trailer and its cargo. It can be determined by putting the fully loaded trailer on a vehicle scale or using a trailer weight scale.

Unlike GVWR, GCWR and others, gross trailer weight is not a prescribed rating, but a descriptive measurement. A trailer may have a weight rating designated by the manufacturer. This is the GVWR. GTW, on the other hand, is the actual weight of the trailer, independent of its given rating.

The GTW should never exceed the GVWR.

Trailer Weight vs Towing Capacity

Gross trailer weight is the total calculated weight of a trailer and its cargo. GTW isn’t so much a rating as it is a measurement. Towing capacity, on the other hand, is the maximum allowable weight a vehicle can tow as determined by the manufacturer.

Learn more about trailer weight

What is TW?

TW stands for tongue weight

TW is the downward force exerted on the back of a tow vehicle by a trailer or towable load. It is greatly affected by where cargo is positioned in a trailer and is important for maintaining good control of the vehicle.

Use your smartphone to measure tongue weight! Check out BetterWeigh™

What is Curb Weight?

Curb weight is total vehicle weight

Curb weight is the total weight of your vehicle apart from any passengers, cargo or non-factory items. Curb weight does include the weight of gasoline, oil and other fluids necessary for operation.

You can think of curb weight as the weight of your vehicle, as it sits parked at the dealership.

Curb Weight vs GVWR

Curb weight is a measurement of the vehicle’s total weight – that is, without any passengers or cargo – while GVWR is a weight limit prescribed by the vehicle manufacturer.

What is Dry Weight?

Dry weight is vehicle weight without fluids

Dry weight is the total weight of your vehicle without passengers, cargo or fluids. Dry weight is similar to curb weight, except dry weight does not include the weight of automotive fluids needed for operation.

Dry Weight vs GVWR

Dry weight is a measurement of the vehicle’s total weight without any of the fluids needed for operation. In contrast, GVWR is a weight limit prescribed by the vehicle manufacturer that dictates how heavy the vehicle can safely be.

What is Payload Capacity?

Payload is the weight of your cargo

Payload capacity is the maximum amount of weight a truck or other vehicle can haul, in terms of cargo and passengers, specifically in the truck cab, truck bed or cargo area.

The payload is the actual cargo itself in the truck bed. The payload capacity is how much cargo the truck can haul in terms of weight.

Payload vs Towing Capacity

Both payload and towing capacity are maximum weight limitations determined by a vehicle manufacturer. Payload, however, is the weight limit of a truck bed and cab, while tow capacity is the weight limit for a trailer hitched up to the vehicle.

Weigh with Your Smartphone

Towing Tip!

Never exceed the weight capacity of the lowest-rated component of your towing system. For example, your trailer hitch may be rated to tow 5,000 pounds, but your vehicle may only be rated at 3,500 pounds.

Can I Tow a Trailer with My Car?

Yes, many cars can tow a trailer, as long as they have the right towing equipment and tow rating. Automobile towing capacities are rated by the manufacturer. Full-size sedans and other larger cars are often rated for some level of towing, while compact and sub-compact cars may not be.

To learn if your car can tow a trailer, refer to the owner’s manual. Whether your car is rated to tow a trailer or not, CURT likely offers a custom receiver hitch for your make and model, even if it is only used for attaching a bike rack or cargo carrier.

Find a hitch for my car

How to Increase Towing Capacity

Increasing towing capacity can be accomplished with a variety of accessories, but it is important to always abide by the lowest-rated towing component.

The best way to increase tow capacity is to purchase towing accessories that match your vehicle’s existing ratings. In other words, don’t limit your potential with a low-rated hitch or ball mount. Additionally, you may consider a weight distribution hitch as a means of optimizing capacity.

Towing Capacity FAQs

Is the GVWR the actual weight of a vehicle?

No, the GVWR is not necessarily the actual weight of a vehicle. The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is a prescribed weight limit from the vehicle manufacturer, indicating the total amount the vehicle can weigh to operate safely.

The actual weight of the vehicle should never be above the GVWR. Actual weight should always be less.

What happens if you exceed GVWR?

Exceeding the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of any vehicle may cause serious damage to the vehicle’s frame, suspension, axles, wheels and other systems. The GVWR is intended to be a maximum weight limit to protect the life of your vehicle.

Attempting to drive with an overloaded vehicle is a serious safety hazard to the driver, passengers and other vehicles on the road.

Is curb weight the same as empty weight?

Yes, curb weight is another name for empty weight. Curb weight is the weight of the vehicle in its factory condition. It excludes any cargo, passengers or aftermarket accessories.

Curb weight is the weight of a vehicle, parked in the lot of a dealership.

Does curb weight include driver?

No, curb weight does not include the driver. Curb weight is simply the weight of the vehicle in its original condition from the factory. It does not include the driver or any passengers or cargo.

How do I calculate curb weight?

Curb weight is calculated by weighing the vehicle in its factory condition. This requires the removal of all passengers, cargo and aftermarket equipment. Curb weight does include fluids necessary for operation, such as gasoline and oil.

With the passengers and cargo removed, weight the vehicle using a vehicle scale. This will give you the curb weight.

Where can I find the weight of my vehicle?

You can find the weight of your vehicle by measuring it with a vehicle scale. A vehicle scale will provide the actual, real-time weight of your vehicle.

For the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) provided by the manufacturer, this information can typically be found on the driver-side door sill, in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer website.

Information provided by Curt