How to Calculate Vehicle Tow Ratings

by Cameron Easey

Towing a trailer with a car or truck can be done by attaching it to the a ball hitch. However, just because a car or truck has a tow hitch does not mean that you can tow anything that is attached to it. There are tow limits for each type of vehicle, especially if you want to tow a heavy trailer such as a fifth-wheel trailer or camper. You can calculate vehicle tow ratings by first determining what you plan to tow with your vehicle.

Find the owners manual for your vehicle or download it from the manufacturer's website.

Look in the glossary to find the section for towing.

Find the Gross Combination Weight Rating and write this down on a piece of paper with a pencil. The GCWR is the total weight of the vehicle, including passengers, cargo and trailer that is being towed.

Determine the gross vehicle weight by weighing your vehicle on a set of scales. The gross vehicle weight is the total weight of all passengers and cargo in the vehicle.

Subtract the gross vehicle weight of your vehicle, without the trailer attached, from the GCWR. This will give you the rating for the towing capacity of the vehicle.


  • check The owners manual may already list the maximum trailer weight that can be towed with the vehicle.
  • check Look online for the GCWR of your vehicle if you cannot find the owners manual.
  • check You can find scales to weigh your vehicle at many truck stops or grain elevators.


  • close Exceeding the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle may interfere with the vehicle being able to stop correctly when applying the brakes.

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About the Author

Cameron Easey has over 15 years customer service experience, with eight of those years in the insurance industry. He has earned various designations from organizations like the Insurance Institute of America and LOMA. Easey earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history from Western Michigan University.

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