Towing Your RV – Getting to Know The Basics

Once you’ve decided to camp with a towable camper—travel trailer, fifth wheel, toy hauler, etc.—there are some terms you need to learn before towing your RV.

In most cases, your tow vehicle and RV will have specific weight ratings. Be sure to consult the specifications for both to make sure you are towing safely.

Here’s a quick video explaining the basics of RV weight ratings:

RV Towing Terminology

Keep these towing terms in mind when you’re researching how much your vehicle can tow, consult our Towing Guide or your nearest Camping World RV specialist before finalizing your choice.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

GVW is the combined weight of your RV or tow vehicle and all cargo loaded in. This includes passengers, tank fluids, and all your RV and outdoor essentials.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

GVWR is the maximum weight the vehicle can handle safely. Both your tow vehicle and your trailer will have a GVWR.

When looking at GVWR, be sure to take into account the weight of the vehicle itself, all passengers, the gear and supplies loaded inside, and fluid weights in holding tanks.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

GAWR is the maximum amount of weight each axle is designed to support—including the weight of the axle itself.

It’s important to note that GAWR assumes the weight is balanced on both sides of the axle—which is where knowing how to load a travel trailer properly comes into play. It is also why many trailer owners employ weight distribution hitches to distribute weight more evenly across the front and rear axles of their tow vehicle.

Here’s a quick video with tips for loading a trailer safely:

Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)

GCWR is the combined weights of your tow vehicle, trailer, and all camping gear, passengers, or towing accessories loaded into both. Basically, it’s the weight of everything moving down the road.

This is important in regards to the braking systems on your vehicle and trailer. Staying within the weight ratings for both vehicles will ensure that your brake controls can slow your whole camper down appropriately.

Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW)

UVW is also known as dry weight for RVs and curb weight for tow vehicles. It is the weight of your trailer without fluids, supplies, or gear. UVW is most helpful when calculating how much you can safely load into your towable RV.

Tongue Weight

Tongue weight is the amount of weight placed on the hitch when the trailer is coupled to your vehicle. As a rule, tongue weight should never exceed 10-15% of a trailer’s gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Loading your trailer properly is the best way to ensure that your tongue weight falls within the acceptable range. Additionally, making adjustments to your weight distribution hitch can also increase or decrease tongue weight.

Check out this video with tips for adjusting your weight distribution hitch:

Tow Rating

Tow rating is specific to your tow vehicle. It is the manufacturer’s rating for the maximum weight your vehicle can tow safely. Your tow rating can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Once you find it, you will use it as a threshold for safe towing.

The weight of all cargo and passengers in your vehicle combined with your RV’s GVW must remain below the tow vehicle manufacturer’s tow rating. It is also advisable to keep that combined weight below approximately 80-90% of your tow rating. This will reduce unnecessary stress on your vehicle.

Hitch Ratings

Every component of your trailer hitch—receivers, hitch balls, drawbars, etc.—has a weight rating. These are common failure points if you’re exceeding the specified weight ratings for any of your hitch components.

Where to Find These Ratings


Most of these ratings can be found on the vehicle identification label. On tow vehicles, this is normally on the driver’s side door. On trailers and RVs, it is generally found on the exterior wall on the driver’s side. If you don’t find the ratings you’re looking for at these locations, it’s best to consult your owner’s manuals.

This may seem like a lot to take into account, but your local Camping World RV Specialist is ready to help make sure you’re in spec. Contact us today to find the perfect towable camper for your vehicle and to discuss RV financing.