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Towing Capacity Guide - Chapter 4

Towing Capacity Guide - Towing 101 - CURT

What Is Towing Capacity?

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!

To get fast, accurate vehicle and trailer weights displayed on your smartphone, check out our BetterWeigh™ mobile towing scale.

How to Calculate Towing Capacity - Jeep Camper

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 towing capacity guide on their website.

How to determine 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.

How Much Can My Vehicle Tow?

A vehicle can only tow as much weight as it is rated for by the vehicle manufacturer, whether it is a pickup truck towing capacity, SUV towing capacity or other vehicle towing capacity.

Manufacturers, including trailer manufacturers, typically provide a number of different weight ratings that are designated by various acronyms.

GVWR - Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

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.

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.

GCWR - Gross Combined Weight Rating

What is GCWR?

GCWR stands for gross combined weight rating. What does GCWR mean? It is the maximum weight of your vehicle with a fully loaded trailer attached, as determined by the vehicle manufacturer.


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.

GAWR - Gross Axle Weight Rating

What is GAWR?

GAWR stands for gross axle weight rating. It is the maximum weight that can be placed on your front or rear axles. The vehicle manufacturer gives each axle its own rating. FR is the front rating and RR is the rear rating.

GTW - Gross Trailer Weight

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.

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.

TW - Tongue Weight

What is TW?

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

Need help measuring tongue weight?

Curb Weight

What Is Curb Weight?

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

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.

Dry Weight

What Is Dry Weight?

Dry weight is the total weight of your vehicle without passengers or cargo. Dry weight is similar to curb weight, only 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 capacity is the maximum amount of weight a truck can haul, in terms of cargo and passengers, specifically in the truck cab and truck bed.

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 towing capacity is the weight limit for a trailer hitched up to the vehicle.

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?

Can I Tow a Trailer with My Car?

Many cars are rated to tow a trailer, having a tow capacity provided by the manufacturer. Full-size sedans and other larger cars often have some towing capacity, while compact and sub-compact cars may not.

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 vehicle
Truck Towing Travel Trailer - Increase Towing Capacity

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 towing 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 increasing your towing capacity.

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.

Flatbed Farm Truck - What is GVWR Trailer?

Towing 101 Table of Contents