Does towing capacity include the weight of the trailer? 

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Does towing capacity include the weight of the trailer?  We will explain what towing capacity is, how to find the weight of a trailer and why it is important to respect the towing limit of a vehicle. 

Does towing capacity include the weight of the trailer? 

No, the towing capacity of a vehicle does not include the weight of a trailer. For example, a car’s towing capacity can be 3,500 lbs, while your trailer (loaded) can weigh a maximum of 1,500 lbs. 

The towing capacity of your car is the maximum weight it can carry without causing dangerous conditions or damaging the vehicle. Exceeding the manufacturer’s stated capacity can damage the motor, transmission, wheel bearings and axle and void any warranties.

Your car’s manual is the first place to look when determining towing capacity. You can also check the label that is visible on the driver’s door when you open it. If none of these options is available, there are many websites that provide information on towing capacity.

What is a car’s Gross vehicle weight?

You will also need to determine the gross vehicle weight of your car, which includes the vehicle weight plus passengers and luggage. In the case of towing, you will also need to calculate the weight of the trailer tongue you will be using. The total weight of the car, tongue, passengers and luggage cannot exceed the gross vehicle weight, which is also found on the driver’s door label.

How is the towing capacity of a car determined? 

A car’s towing capacity is the difference between the total mass on the ground (the maximum laden weight) and the tare (the empty weight).

The maximum permissible value of the towable mass is limited by the ratio between the total laden mass of the trailer and the total laden mass of the tractor, making up a set of vehicles.

This ratio – rounded to 220 lbs – must not exceed 1.45 if the vehicle complex is equipped with a continuous and automatic braking device, 0.8 if the vehicle complex is not equipped with a continuous and automatic braking device. automatic and 0.5 in cases where the towed vehicle is not equipped with a braking device.

The pick-ups with a high load capacity are suitable for those who often carry heavy but not necessarily bulky objects. To load a car correctly you must be filling the body only with useful objects (useless ones only increase the weight of the vehicle and, consequently, consumption) and order them to prevent them from wandering around the loading area.

Why shouldn’t the towing capacity of a car be exceeded?

If you exceed the towable weight, you risk fines and other penalties. In the event of an accident, the insurance can for example avoid or reduce coverage in the event of non-compliance with the towable weight. Too heavy trailers negatively affect driving and increase the risk of accidents. The engine, gears and brakes can also be severely damaged by heavy trailers.

If exceeding the maximum load capacity of your car, in addition to the fact that the chances of accidents increase and we would not make the most of our vehicle one hundred per cent, we could have problems such as:

  •  Failures in the braking system
  •  The car will not have the same speed as usual
  •  The stability, agility and balance of the car decrease
  •  There will be more gasoline consumption.

When cars are used very frequently to transport a large load of weight, the state of the mechanics is affected in aspects such as:

  •  The tires
  •  The suspension
  •  Break system
  •  Motor
  •  CO2 emissions increase.

How much does my trailer weigh?

If you want to know specifically how much your trailer weighs look for the VIN under the frame of your trailer. The VIN sticker will also specify the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), meaning the empty weight of the trailer. 

In the table below you can see how many lbs the average trailer weighs, depending on the type of trailer.

Trailer Weights

Trailer TypeAverage Empty Weight (lbs.)Empty Weight Range (lbs.)GVWR (lbs.)Average Load Capacity (lbs.)
Canoe / Kayak Trailer200100 to 400200 to 800200
Jet Ski Trailer300100 to 500800 to 3,0001,500
Motorcycle Trailer500300 to 8001,300 to 3,5001,900
Fishing Boat Trailer600200 to 1,100900 to 6,0002,700
Tow Dolly600400 to 8003,000 to 5,0003,400
Small Open Utility Trailer700300 to 1,1001,000 to 3,0001,800
Small Enclosed Utility Trailer1,000400 to 1,8002,000 to 7,0002,200
Teardrop Trailer1,700500 to 3,2002,000 to 4,000700
A-Frame Camper1,7001,200 to 2,3002,500 to 3,6001,200
Car Trailer1,9001,500 to 2,8006,000 to 15,0007,100
Large Boat Trailer2,2001,100 to 4,4005,400 to 34,40011,400
Pop Up Camper2,3001,400 to 3,0002,700 to 4,0001,100
Large Enclosed Utility Trailer2,700900 to 5,2003,000 to 10,0004,400
Small Travel Trailer2,8001,200 to 3,9001,900 to 4,500800
Small Horse Trailer2,9002,300 to 3,9007,000 to 8,0004,300
Large Flatbed Trailer3,000500 to 7,7002,900 to 26,0007,400
Dump Trailer4,5001,100 to 10,1003,000 to 30,00012,400
Large Travel Trailer6,7004,500 to 8,7006,300 to 10,5001,600
Gooseneck Flatbed Trailer7,2004,700 to 10,40015,900 to 36,00016,000
Large Livestock Trailer7,3004,200 to 10,90014,000 to 24,00011,400
Toy Hauler7,6003,600 to 11,40014,700 to 22,50010,300
5th Wheel Camper12,7005,000 to 16,00017,000 to 20,0006,000

How do I estimate the weight of my trailer?

Well, it’s very simple: we prepare everything for the trip, fill the tanks (diesel and water), seat all the passengers and go to a public weighbridge.

If we go over the above figure, something will have to be given up.

It will be difficult to choose, we know, but the fines are often high, not to mention the risks that this entails for our safety and that of others!

The use of a hitch, the mass of which is calculated separately from the main body of the vehicle, could be a tip to consider, without prejudice to the larger dimensions and possible driving difficulties.

Another method not to make a mistake could be as follows: go to a technical control with a full tank of fuel and all the crew on board, before adding what we want with us for the specific trip we are going to undertake.

In our motorhome, therefore, everything that we never remove must be present because it is essential.

The difference between 3700lbs and the weight returned to us by the detector will tell us how much residual load margin we still have. This way, we won’t have to waste time unloading what we had previously stored.

Obviously, in all cases, before leaving, you must check that you have not missed the calculations, by visiting the weighbridge again.


Knowing how much your trailer weighs is essential for safe towing. Most of the recreational vehicles offered for sale have a GVWR of fewer than 3.5 tons (light commercial vehicles). Consider taking light materials on board, and renting accessories (such as bicycles or other sports equipment, for example) at your vacation spot, to avoid adding them to the payload.

Our final advice: Take it easy; the behaviour of your vehicle will be different when you have a caravan in tow. This is true for when you accelerate, brake or turn at a junction. That is why it is important that you take everything very calmly. We can summarize it as going slower, and being more methodical and aware when driving. Don’t rush, enjoy the views, and stay safe.

Please feel free to get in contact, should you have any comments or questions about the content. 

FAQ on Does towing capacity include the weight of the trailer? 

Can you increase a car towing capacity?

You cannot increase your car’s towing capacity unless you plan to re-engineer the vehicle. Cars are designed with a specific towing capacity in mind, and some have no pulling weight at all. Increasing the towing capacity of your car means going over the recommended limit. 

What happens when you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity?

When you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity you bring a series of consequences for your card, such as engine overheating; tire failure, overloading the drivetrain, CO2 emissions increase among others. 

What percentage of max towing capacity is safe?

A percentage of 80% or 75% of max towing capacity would be safe and recommendable. 

How do you know if you tow too much weight?

You know you are towing too much weight when the rear of the truck will appear hunkered down and the front end will feel light.

How do you know the weight that is carried by a vehicle?

There are all kinds of scales to know the weight carried both on the shaft and the lance. They exist from scales for the wheels to scales for the lance, passing through wheels that have the scale incorporated.


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!