Can’t choose between a campervan and an RV? A travel trailer is like the best of both worlds. These lengthy trailers have all the amenities of the classic motorhome but without the bulk. They’re cute like a campervan but can be hitched to many trucks and SUVs. In other words, you’ll be living a great life out on the road.
Of course, there are many weight calculations that dictate which vehicles can tow a camper trailer. You wouldn’t want to find out too late that your SUV was too small to pull around a 30-foot camper trailer, would you? Certainly not.
In this article, we’ll elaborate on what each weight calculation means so you’re not put off by all those abbreviations (there are a lot of them!). We will also discuss the average travel trailer weight for many common trailer sizes, such as 20+ feet to even big, behemoth 40-foot trailers, as uncommon as these are. Lastly, we’ll offer some towing tips for a safe, happy driving experience every time you’re behind the wheel.
Let’s get started.
When it comes to hitching your travel trailer, you can’t just tow a trailer with any old vehicle. There’s such thing as towing capacity, which limits how much weight your truck or SUV can pull. It includes the following:
- Gross trailer weight (GTW): This one is pretty straightforward. The gross trailer weight is the weight of the trailer itself when empty. That’s it.
- Gross combination weight (GCW): The gross combination weight rating calculates the weight of the trailer when you put anything in it. This means everything you add to the trailer: equipment, passengers, fluids (drinking or otherwise), and cargo. You must also add the weight of your truck or SUV to the GCW as well.
- Gross combination weight rating (GCWR): The gross combination weight rating includes the total weight limit for the GCW, including both your vehicle and the travel trailer. Do not surpass the GCWR.
- Gross axle weight (GAW): If you position your fully-loaded travel trailer along one axle, you can calculate the gross axle weight. The point of this measurement is to get a weight limit for each tire. Once you have the GAW, split that number four ways to get the average tire weight for your travel trailer.
- Gross axle weight rating (GAWR): The gross axle weight rating should be made available to you by the vehicle manufacturer. This lets you know the heaviest GAW for your axles. Sometimes the GAWR is called the front axle weight rating or FGAWR or the rear axle weight rating or RGAWR.
- Payload: Your travel trailer’s payload is the recommended weight limit for cargo and all passengers. You can get this weight by subtracting the GVWR from the curb weight.
- Cargo weight: The cargo weight is the max weight limit for all items you can fit in your RV, such as gear, supplies, clothing, cooking items, bedding, and other daily items.
- Unloaded vehicle weight (UVW): Somewhat self-explanatory, unloaded vehicle weight is simply the weight measurement of the trailer as is when you first bought it. The UVW excludes extra accessories (even if these come directly from the manufacturer themselves), propane, water, and cargo.
- Dry weight: Similar to UVW, dry weight is a calculation of the travel trailer’s weight before adding extra equipment, passengers, cargo, fluids, and fuel. What makes it different than CGW is that fluids and fuel are excluded from the weight. Also, in some instances, the weight of the trailer’s batteries, fuel, coolant, oil, onboard and generator equipment fluids, and certain operational equipment are not always calculated.
- Curb weight: Think of curb weight as the opposite of dry weight. It does account for equipment fluids, propane, water tanks, and fuel tanks. This weight does not include personal cargo and passengers. In some instances, the driver weight may be added into curb weight, though.
- Kingpin weight or tongue weight: Kingpin weight, tongue weight, pin weight, tongue load…whatever you want to call it, this is a calculation of how much the trailer weighs when connected to the hitch ball. It’s often used in conjunction with the GTW and should be no more than 10 to 15% of that weight.
- Gross vehicle weight (GVW): This scale weight excludes equipment, passengers, fluid, and cargo in the total measurement of the trailer.
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR): Last but certainly not least is the gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR. This rating is the limit for both the GTW and the GVW and sometimes goes by the name maximum loaded trailer weight.
Average Travel Trailer Weight
Whew! That was certainly a lot to take in, right? While you don’t have to memorize each of those weight calculations, you should familiarize yourself with them. Being able to calculate them will make it much easier for you to find a towing arrangement that won’t bottom out your truck or SUV when you set out for your adventures on the road.
To figure out a towing arrangement that will work for you, we’ve calculated the average travel trailer weight for many common trailer sizes. These include trailers that are 20 feet to 40 feet. Keep in mind that each measurement excludes water and gear.
The 2015 Jayco Jayflight 19RD is about 20 feet long (the approximate measurement is 19 feet). This trailer weighs 3,715 pounds.
The 2017 Coleman CTS192RDWE is 23 feet and weighs 3,974 pounds. Clocking in at 24 feet exactly is the 2017 Salem Hemisphere 24BH, which is a heavy 5,118 pounds.
The 2015 Jayco Jay Flight 26RKS is 26 feet long and 5,605 pounds. Close to that size is the 27-foot 2015 Jayco Jay Flight 27RLS, which is 6,030 pounds.
The 2017 Rockwood Mini-light 2504s trailer is about 29 feet long, although it has a box length of 25 pounds. It weighs in at 4,800 pounds, which is less than the 25-foot 2017 Salem Hemisphere (5,118 pounds) and the 26-foot 2015 Jayco Jay Flight, which is 5,605 pounds.
Moving into vehicles exceeding 30 feet, the 2017 Cherokee West 274DBH weighs 7,705 pounds.
Now getting close to 40-foot mark is the 2016 Jayco Jay Flight 38BHDS, which is 7,690 pounds.
One floorplan of the 2014 Jayco Jay Flight Bungalow is 40 feet and weighs a whopping 10,495 pounds!
What to Do with This Info
Okay, now that you understand more about towing capacity and average trailer weight by feet, what do you do with all this information?
That’s a great question!
You’re going to use this info to make the most informed buying decision. You want a travel trailer that won’t weigh down your truck or SUV and make you a safety hazard to others on the road.
Even once you find a travel trailer with a weight that’s compatible with your vehicle, you then have to worry about how much it will weigh once you load it up. You’ll have to balance the items on the trailer without pushing the weight too far to one side or another.
Remember the GAWR or gross axel weight rating? This is where that comes into consideration. You can’t overload the front or the rear axle. Not only will you not be able to tow the travel trailer, but you could damage the trailer and potentially even your vehicle.
Last, but certainly not least, you can use this information to buy a trailer hitch. This is what connects your truck or SUV to the travel trailer. There are many types of hitches to choose from, which we’ll go over now:
- Weight distribution hitch: These attachments include spring rods on chains to lessen the tongue weight (which is then spread to the tow vehicle’s rear) and allow for better steering. Most RV owners choose this type of hitch for its reliability. Here`s one good hitch from Fastway with integrated sway control.
- Bumper hitch: Often made of metal or plastic, bumper hitches connect via your truck or SUV’s bumper (as the name implies). These connect to a square receiver tube. Compared to other hitch types, bumper hitches can’t tow trailers that weigh very much, which means you probably wouldn’t be able to get a trailer that exceeded 30 feet. This bumper hitch from HitchHammer is made of rubber and is pretty flexible.
- Pintle hitch: A two-part hitch system, the longer, hook-like part of the hitch is the pintle. That hook can open or close. The flat part with the ball mount, also known as a lunnete, allows you to install the pintle hitch on even dump trucks and commercial trucks. These may not look like much, but a pintle hitch is capable of pulling a trailer that weighs up to 60,000 pounds! This CURT pintle hook is a classic for a reason.
- Gooseneck hitch: With its long, angular metal frame, a gooseneck hitch connects to the rear axle. These are only compatible with pickup trucks, which is something to keep in mind. They can tow a travel trailer that’s at least 30,000 pounds, but you may want to contact your truck’s manufacturer for confirmation before trying. This double-lock
- gooseneck hitch, also from CURT, is a durable choice.
- Fifth-wheel hitch: Not too different from the gooseneck hitch is the fifth-wheel hitch. This also is used for trucks only and can connect to the rear axle by the truck bed. Ideal for car haulers, travel trailers, and bigger camper trailers, the included coupling device is the biggest difference from a gooseneck hitch. This CURT’s Spyder fifth-wheel hitch mounts to all industry-standard 5th wheel rails.
- Front mount hitch: Rising up into a sharp, squat U-shape, the front mount hitch goes around on the front of the truck or SUV rather than the back. The front receiver allows for the addition of a spare tire mount, snow plow, winch, or cargo carrier. This one from Reese is an affordable option and easy to install.. You can choose the year, make, and model of your truck or SUV for a perfect fit.
- Rear receiver hitch: Then there’s the rear receiver hitch. This is the type that most RV owners choose, and for a good reason. The design is simple, the hitch comes in one piece, and it requires no complicated installation. As the name suggests, this fits around the back of your truck or SUV. There are five classes of rear receiver hitches. The fifth class can tow the most weight and the first class the least. Here’s a class-four hitch from CURT that has gotten a lot of rave reviews.
Now that you’re ready to hit the road, here are some tips for towing your travel trailer:
- Take your turns incredibly slowly. You will have to learn how to maneuver your truck or SUV with the added length and weight of your travel trailer in the back. When you turn, you have to plan it well in advance. Give the drivers behind you plenty of notice with your turn signal.
- Speaking of maneuvering, before you leave for your trip, go to an empty parking lot and do some K-turns, parallel parking, stops, and turns. It may seem silly to almost learn to drive again, but it’s best to get used to driving with a trailer now than before you hit the road.
- It’s okay to rearrange the contents of your trailer once you embark. If you feel like the travel trailer is a little too heavy for your liking, then move some things around until you feel more comfortable.
- Make sure your hitch’s lug bolts are tight and fresh. If these loosen or start to rust, you’ll have to replace them. Experts recommend taking a break each 100-mile mark to inspect the lug nuts.
- Readjust your mirrors. You should be able to see all the way to your trailer through your vehicle’s mirrors. If you don’t have the right mirrors already installed for trailer-hitching, you might want to consider buying a fish-eye mirror to gain visual access to the sides of your truck or SUV.
- Know where you’re going before you leave. This will help you avoid any sudden turns, stops, or other issues in which maneuverability might be difficult. Also, if you have any overpasses or bridges on your route where you might not be able to fit through, you’ll know before you go so you can plan an alternate route.
- Drive slowly but still follow the speed limit. You don’t want to accelerate too much, because the faster you go, the longer it takes you to stop. Of course, you also don’t want to be sluggish to the point where you’re driving below the speed limit.
A travel trailer is like a lite RV. You can fit plenty of luxury accommodations—among them a bathroom, kitchen nook with cooking utilities, several queen or king-sized beds, a television, and sometimes even a fireplace—without the size and bulk.
That said, depending on the type of truck you have, you must choose a trailer within a certain weight limit. This allows you to safely tow your trailer. The weight capacity measurements covered in this article are good to know, as they will point you in the right direction of which travel trailer will be the best choice for your truck or SUV.
You’ll also need a hitch. There are plenty of different types of these to choose from. Some hitches attach to the front of your vehicle and others to the back. Others can pull thousands of pounds!
With all this information, you’re ready to get out there and start shopping for the best travel trailer for you. By following the tips outlined above, you’ll be a safe, conscientious driver.