Don’t Overload Your Vehicle: Find Out How Much Does an RV Weigh Before You Buy

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You already have a good truck, and you’ve never maxed out your vehicle’s tow capacity. Plus, you really don’t really want to buy a new car. But the more you shop around for an RV, the more you wonder how much do RVs weigh? (And will my current vehicle be able to handle the load?)

The last thing you want to do is buy an RV only to find out your vehicle can’t tow it. Besides, understanding your RV’s weight is key to keeping your family safe and keeping your vehicle in good condition.

So what does an RV weigh? Well, that depends on the type of RV and on what you intend to carry in it. 

Before you hit the road, you’ll need to know how much your RV weighs, especially if you’re traveling through areas that have weight requirements, e.g. bridges, platforms, etc. And while most RVs’ don’t require special licensing, the larger ones do have certain legal restrictions depending on what states you’re traveling through. 

First, let’s get some key terms down. That way, when the salesman starts throwing acronyms around, you’ll know what he’s talking about. Next, we’ll give you a play-by-play on a) how to determine your RV’s weight (loaded and unloaded) and b) discuss the typical weights of motorhome classes.  

Key Takeaways

  • The weight of an RV affects towing safety, performance, and fuel efficiency. Not to mention, it determines your RV’s legal compliance and can have implications on which tow vehicle to choose.
  • Managing RV weight involves packing wisely, regular weighing to ensure compliance with weight regulations, and selecting the right tow vehicle for stability.

Key RV Weight Terms

Dry weight, curb weight, gross weight, and combined weight–these are all nuanced terms. If you want a full explanation of these terms, check this out. For quick definitions of these terms, here’s the bare minimum of what you’ll need to know as an RVer.

  • Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW): The weight of your RV directly from the manufacturer. This includes engine and generator oils and fluids as well as full fuel tanks. 
  • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW): The weight of your vehicle when fully loaded.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): the maximum weight allowed for the vehicle when fully loaded – fluid, passengers, gear, and all.
  • Gross combined weight rating: the maximum weight allowed for the vehicle and the towed trailer combined.
  • Dry Weight: the weight of the RV without any cargo, passengers, or fluids.
  • Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC), indicates the maximum weight of all personal belongings that can be carried by the RV.
  • Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR): calculated by adding the Gross Vehicle Weight of the tow vehicle and the Gross Vehicle Weight of the trailer.
  • Tongue Weight (TW): refers to the force exerted by the trailer on the hitch of the tow vehicle. It maintains stability and prevents dangerous swaying during towing.
  • Hitch Weight: the amount and weight your hitch is rated to tow. The hitch weight is your weakest link. Your GVWR is irrelevant if your hitch weight can’t pull your trailer weight. 

How to Calculate Your RV’s Gross Vehicle Weight 

First, look up your GVWR in your owner’s manual for more information on your RV’s weight maximum. That way, when you figure out your GVW, you’ll know if you’re overloaded.

  1. Load up your camper for the trip – camping gear, clothes, food, propane tanks, everything. 
  2. Top off the gas tank to make sure it’s full.
  3. Visit a local weighing station (you know those places off the interstate where the semis pull off, but you never noticed before? That’s the place.) Weigh the RV.

There you have it!

After your first few outings, you’ll get a feel for how much you’ve loaded into your vehicle, and you won’t need to do it every time. But when you’re first starting out, you want to make sure you’re not overloading your RV. 

When you overload, you put a lot of stress on important parts of your RV, like the breaks. 

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The Importance of Knowing Your RV’s Weight

I mentioned why overloading your camper is bad, (you put stress on the parts, and they become unsafe or don’t last as long.) But there’s another reason you need to weigh your RV, especially if you’re looking at a toy hauler or large travel trailer.

Some states require special licensing for motorhomes over 25,000 lbs and travel trailers over 10,000 lbs. You need to know how much your RV weighs, so you can comply. 

Also, some backroads may have bridges that have maximum weight limits. You don’t wanna be the one to collapse a bridge because your RV was too heavy.

When you’re not sure about the weight of an RV, you should have it weighed at commercial weigh stations or other facilities equipped to handle heavy loads. That way, you’ll know the RV is operating within safe and legal limits.

What Is the Average Weight of an RV?

How much does an average RV weigh? That’s not easy to answer.

RVs come in all shapes and sizes. There are small teardrop trailers that weigh less than 1,000 lbs, soaking wet, and there are the 45-foot fifth-wheel toy haulers that require a tank to pull them. (Okay, maybe it’s just a F-350.)

The point is that there’s a lot of variation. 

So if you’re looking to narrow down your search for an RV by weight, here are the average weights based on type and class. 

How Much Does a Motorhome Weigh?

Motorized RVs weigh more because they have all the working components of a vehicle and the living amenities in one. But there’s still a lot of variation between the different classes.

  • Class A RVs: 13,000 to 30,000 pounds.
  • Class B RVs: 6,000 to 11,000 lbs.
  • Class C RVs: 12,000 to 20,000 lbs. 

How Much Do Travel Trailers Weigh?

Unlike their motorized counterparts, towable RVs are hitched to a separate vehicle for mobility. The average weight of trailers tends to be lighter until you get up to the toy haulers.

  • Teardrop camper: less than 1,000 to 6,000 lbs. 
  • Pop-up camper: 1,400 to 4,000 lbs. 
  • Travel trailer: 1,200 to 10,500 lbs.
  • Toy hauler: 5,000 to 22,500 lbs.
  • 5th wheel: 5,000 to 20,000 lbs.

The size and features of a towable RV significantly impact its total weight. Features such as:

  • a fully equipped kitchen
  • a fueling station
  • an extra 50-gallon fresh water tank
  • solid stone countertops

… can all increase your average travel trailer weights.  

Tips for Managing Your RV’s Weight

Now you don’t always want to be towing so much weight around. Learning how to pack helps you manage your RV’s weight and prevent overloading.

  1. Bring only what you need. You’re living in a small space, so make sure everything has a place. 
  2. Fill extra tanks when you’re at your destination. This gives your RV or tow vehicle a break from towing a fully loaded travel trailer. 
  3. Wait to stock your kitchen. Keep your camper weight down while you travel by not stocking your kitchen until you get there. 

Summary

Knowing your dry weight vs. the actual weight is important. But it’s specific to your RV and how you load it. 

And when your trip is over, and you need a safe place to store your RV, check out Neighbor.com. Neighbor is a peer-to-peer marketplace where you can find safe, affordable storage, close to where you live.

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