The vehicle and trailer weight numbers will always fall under one of two categories; actual weights and ratings. Actual weights are the measured weights of the vehicle. Keep in mind that factory quoted weights may be estimates. Ratings refer to the limits placed on the vehicle and these are never to be exceeded.
We all know that one of the main things you have to take into consideration when buying or owning an RV is its weight. Your RV’s weight determines how much it can tow and what roads it can travel on. But what about the weight of your RV when everything is packed up and you’re ready to hit the road? That’s something not a lot of people think about, but it’s actually just as important! In this blog post, we’ll go over the different weights and terminologies you should know.
Making Sense of RV Weights
These two weights are often mixed up which causes confusion, so it is important to understand the difference. There are important terms to get familiar with when it comes to understanding the weight and rating of your RV.
- Gross Vehicle Weight: The GVW is the weight of a fully-loaded vehicle with all fluids, cargo, and passengers on board. If your RV consists of more than one unit (a trailer you are towing), then the GVW is only part of the overall weight. This number is important so you can determine if you are within the manufacturer and legal limits. While you can get estimates for this number, the more accurate approach is to drive on a scale.
- GVWR: The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum number that the GVW should never exceed.
- Gross Trailer Weight: The GTW is similar to the GVE but refers to the trailer. Because GVW can be applied to both the vehicle and trailer, this term is used to speak of the trailer only. When you have a trailer connected, a portion of the weight is transferred to the towing vehicle. When not connected, the weight of the trailer rests on its tires. If you need to weigh your trailer without the tow vehicle, make sure the entire unit is on the scale, including tires or jacks.
- Gross Combination Weight: The GCW is the real weight of the full vehicle plus the trailer, with all cargo, fluids, and passengers loaded. The best way to get this weight is by using a scale, either with the whole package on the scale or by adding up the components. If you opt to weight the components separately, make sure they are loaded exactly as they will be when traveling.
- GCWR: The Gross Combination Weight Rating is the maximum number that the entire package (tow vehicle and trailer) should never exceed.
- Gross Axle Weight: The GAW is the actual weight that is placed on a single axle. So long as the vehicle is well-balanced, this will be evenly distributed across all tires on the axle. The GAW must be within both the axle weight rating and the tire weight ratings. By dividing the GAW by the number of tires on an axle, you can get the weight placed on each tire.
- GAWR: The Gross Axle Weight Rating is the maximum number that the GAW should never exceed.
- Tongue Weight: This refers to the weight pressing down on the hitch ball. This should always be 10-15% of the GTW. You will add this to your GVW.
- King Pin Weight: The actual weight that pressed down on the fifth wheel hitch and you want this to be 15-25% of the GTW. You will add this to your GVW.
- Curb Weight: This is the actual weight of the vehicle with all fluid tanks full but before cargo and passengers. Manufacturers define this differently so take care as you need this weight to calculate others. Some definitions will include the driver or optional equipment.
- Dry Weight: This is the weight of the vehicle or trailer with all standard equipment, no fuel or other fluids, and no passengers. Again the manufacturers can define this differently so be careful when performing your calculations.
- Unloaded Vehicle Weight: The weight of the vehicle as produced at the factory. It will include a full engine, fuel tanks, and fluids. Check the manufacturer guides because some will weigh each unit to determine this UVW, and others only provide estimates per model.
- Cargo Weight: The cargo weight is the actual weight of all items plus the Curb Weight. This will also include the personal cargo, optional equipment and Tongue or King Pin Weight. You use this number to figure out how much you can safely pack in the RV, such as clothing, books, cleaning supplies, hiking gear, bikes, and food.
- Payload: This is a weight rating which is the maximum weight that cargo plus passengers should never exceed. To calculate this, subtract the Curb Weight from the GVWR.
- Actual weights and weight ratings are essential for RV traveling to keep you and your family safe. Take note of the definitions that apply each time you travel. To make sure you get accurate calculations, use a scale and the weight calculator so you can enjoy safe and happy travels!
Factors Affecting RV’s Weight and How They Impact Its Performance
The weight of an RV is important to ensure not only the safety and comfort of the vehicle but also in order for it to function properly. There are a number of factors that affect the total weight of your unit and how these factors impact its performance.
Weight of the Vehicle
The first weight you need to account for is the weight of the tow vehicle. The type of vehicle that you will be using to pull your RV determines not only what kind of trailer or unit you can attach, but it also affects its performance. For example, if the towed vehicle is too heavy it might have trouble getting up to speed, it might break more easily on rough terrain, and braking might become an issue.
Weight of the Trailer or Unit
When you are looking at different types of RVs to buy, pay close attention to the weight of the unit itself. This is also known as dry weight, which is just what it sounds like: the weight of the unit before it is filled with fuel, water, and other items such as passengers or cargo.
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
One of the most important factors in an RV’s weight is its GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum weight that an RV can weigh when it is fully loaded with items including the vehicle itself.
This weight includes not only the dry weight of the unit but also everything inside of it, all water tanks, your stuff, clothing, kitchen supplies, food, passengers, and so on.
Tongue or King Pin Weight
Additional weight you need to account for is the Tongue or King Pin Weight. This weight represents how much extra cargo and passengers add to the vehicle’s GVWR. You must remember that this number takes into account anything loaded in the RV including water tanks, propane tanks, and so forth.
The RV’s towing capacity is important not only for choosing the correct vehicle but also because it helps determine what types of weights you can pull. The towing capacity is dependent on its GVWR, tongue weight, and how much the towed unit weighs.
Tips for Reducing the Weight of Your RV Without Sacrificing Comfort or Functionality
Sometimes it can be difficult to find an RV that fits into your budget or traveling style. Even if you are working within a specific amount of money, the weight of the unit is important for two reasons. First, lighter units are easier to tow, increasing gas mileage and reducing wear on the engine. Second, they are not as strong so there is a chance that they might not make it over rough terrain or up steep hills.
Before you sacrifice any aspects of your RV such as comfort or functionality when choosing a lighter unit, consider the following tips:
1. Remove Any Excess Cargo
This is common sense. Some items such as spare tires, extra propane tanks, and tools may add weight to your RV so take out anything you do not need or will not use such as heavy-duty tools for camping. Downsize your stuff. Get rid of everything you have not touched for over a year. You can keep these in the trunk of your car you tow while traveling. Empty your water and sewage tanks before traveling. You won’t believe how much lighter you will be.
1. Opt for Newer Models
If your RV is older, it might have some heavy appliances such as stoves and ovens and can add up to several hundred pounds. Newer models will have more lightweight appliances such as induction stovetops and microwaves that weigh less than in older units.
2. Downsize Your Unit
Sometimes you may not need a large RV to keep yourself comfortable. Or you are towing and your towing capacity is not enough. If you are traveling with only one partner or alone, consider downsizing your unit to a camper or a truck camper. These smaller units can weigh significantly less and still provide the basic necessities such as sleeping space, cooking area, hot water supply, and places for food storage.
3. Upgrade Your Tires and Rims
Upgrading your tires and rims to lighter models will increase fuel efficiency and reduce weight so you can tow longer and further than you could before. You should also install lightweight alloy wheels which are not only stronger but lighter than steel or plastic wheels. If your current tire size is not available in the lighter alloy wheels, you can get them re-sized for even more weight reduction.
5. Choose a Lightweight Trailer
When buying a used RV, inspect the trailer for damage such as rust or corrosion. These types of issues can add lots of extra weight to your RV. When buying new, check your RV weight and ratings before you make the purchase.
6. Invest in a High-Quality Roof Rack
If you pull a camper with a truck, consider installing a roof rack that can be great to use for sports equipment like surfboards or bicycles. You can even use it for other cargo. Investing in a high-quality roof rack is smart because it will be lightweight and sturdy so you can attach all of your extra gear.
7. Look at Other Upgrades That Are Lightweight
Other light-weight upgrades may include self-leveling jacks, LED lighting inside and outside of your RV, insulation to help with heat and weather, and removing the TV aerial.