Travel Trailer Towing: GVWR, GCWR what does it all mean?

Choosing the right tow vehicle and travel trailer can be a big decision, based on many factors: How much space do you need? Should you choose your tow vehicle first or your travel trailer first? What is your budget? For safety reasons, you should always consider the payload capacity, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and the Gross Combined WeightRating (GCWR or GVCWR). Exceeding any of these can cause damage to your trailer or tow rig, can be dangerous, and may create extra liability. So what do all these numbers mean?

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GVWR is the total weight of your vehicle, along with everything in or on the vehicle, as well as the tongue weight of your trailer. This includes passengers, fuel, luggage, and everything else. The brakes, suspension, tires, frame, and other components of your vehicle are not engineered to exceed this number.  You can usually find this number on a sticker inside the driver’s side door.

For example: A 2 wheel drive 2011 Ford Explorer with a 3.5 L V6 has a GVWR of 6160lbs. This means the vehicle and everything in and on it needs to be under that weight. The curb weight of the SUV is 4443 lbs. The curb weight is the vehicle with absolutely nothing in it other than the fluids in the engine, and a full tank of gas. So that leaves you with 1717 lbs for everything else. If you set off with your camping trip with 4 adults, averaging 175 lbs a piece, that adds up to 700lbs. If each adult packs 50 lbs of gear, that adds another 200 lbs. For the total of 900 lbs of payload. You should probably account for another 50lbs of accessories and “random stuff” that winds up in your car, but you are still at 950 lbs and well under the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating for your SUV. No troubles here.


The towing capacity for the standard front wheel drive explorer advertised as 2000lbs But when you have an Explorer loaded up with cargo and people as well as a trailer, you need to be careful that you don’t exceed the GCWR of 6880 lbs.   If you don’t have the original documentation that came with your vehicle, you may need to contact the manufacturer.  If you have the VIN, they should be able to give you the GCWR for your vehicle.

The curb weight of the SUV is 4443lbs, and your cargo weighs 950lbs for a total of 5393lbs. This means that if you tow a 200lb trailer, you’ll be overweight by 513 lbs. Since the GVWR is only 6880, you need to lose $500 lbs somewhere. You need either a lighter trailer, or you need to lose some of your passengers!


The towing capacity of a vehicle can be confusing. The manufacturer of advertises the best case scenario of a nearly empty vehicle towing a trailer. It’s always a good idea to check the Combined Vehicle Weight Rating to make sure your vehicle can safely tow your trailer and your cargo. Most trucks and SUVs should have small sticker inside the driver’s side door panel that shows the GVWR, and GCWR. The best way to truly make sure you aren’t overloaded is to load up your rig and head to a weigh station. Weigh your whole setup fully loaded, and make sure you aren’t overweight.


If you already have a tow vehicle and are shopping for a trailer, load up the vehicle with everything except the trailer and get it weighed first.  Subtract that total weight from the GCWR posted on the vehicle, and be sure that your loaded travel trailer is under that weight.

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The light weight and towability of many teardrop trailers is on of the many reasons  campers choose teardrop trailers like the T@B and T@G trailers or even the Safari Alto  and R-Pod trailers. Some of these trailers come in at under 2000lbs, and still provide many creature comforts.    If you buy one of these little travel trailers. Be sure to visit us for your trailer covers, awnings, side tents, and more.


One thought on “Travel Trailer Towing: GVWR, GCWR what does it all mean?

  1. Great info on this page for helping people to tow safely their travel trailer. Many times I have seen unfortunate folks stopped on the side of the highway with smoke coming out of their vehicle. It’s so important to follow proper safety instructions before hitting the road.

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