Vehicle Towing Capacity Guide

If you live in America, it's likely that at some point you've seen a truck commercial with Sam Elliot's voice-over. Under current law, each commercial that features his drawl must also include details about the capacities for towing and payload as well as offroading. This is captivating and has helped sell many trucks in recent decades.

While Sam Elliot is a great American actor, his math speech in those commercials can be confusing to anyone trying to understand what all the numbers mean. A big number often thrown around when discussing trucks is their towing capacity. However, how much power do you actually need and how are those numbers determined?

What is Towing Capacity?

Towing capacity is the maximum weight your truck can tow without damaging the suspension, frame, or voiding the warranty. In other words, it's the amount you're able to hook up to your truck without fear of breaking something and ending up on an internet fail reel.

How Do You Calculate Towing Capacity?

To find your truck's towing capacity, simply take away the curb weight from the GCVWR. This is now the max amount your truck can tow.

What Is GCVWR?

The GCVWR, or "gross combined vehicle weight rating", is distinct from the GVWR. The GCVWR takes into account not only the pickup truck's GVWR but also the trailer's GTWCR.

What Is GVWR?

GVWR stands for gross vehicle weight rating, which is the maximum poundage that your truck can handle before everything starts breaking.

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum allowable weight of your truck, and it includes the trailer hitch. To determine the GVWR, manufacturers test the structural elements like suspension components, tires, wheels body and frame. Check your glove compartment for the owner's manual to find the truck's GVWR number; it should be on either a B-Pillar or Vehicle identification plate. If you can't locate it there, look up t he manufacturer's website. As for locating the trailer's GVWR number, check online with the manufacturer or reference its manual.

What Is Curb Weight?

The curb weight of your truck is the full weight of the vehicle without anything inside or on it, including you, your family, pets, and any luggage or recreational gear you normally bring with you. However, all necessary fluids that keep the truck running smoothly are included in the weigh -- such as gas oil and radiator fluid.

To discover your truck's curb weight, look in the glove box for your manual or check the manufacturer's website.

Why Is Towing Capacity Used?

In other words, towing capacity is crucial for truck owners because it determines if they can bring their boat or racecar home without having an accident and going viral on Twitter.

If you overload your truck, it puts stress on different parts of the car. For example, the frame and suspension can buckle or fail. Also, when there's too much weight in the front end from a heavy load, your steering and brakes won't work as well.

It would be impossible for Timothée Chalamet to tow two Chicago Bears' linebackers across a basketball court on rollerblades-- his back would break. On the other hand, Dwayne Johnson could do it with no problem while wearing Under Armour sneakers. That's because the difference in towing capacity ratings between something like the Ford Ranger and Ford F-250 is just as large.