Trailer Hitch Specifications

by Lorena Cassady

There are five classes of trailer hitches. All five are classified as weight-carrying, but Classes 3, 4 and 5 can be fitted with weight-distributing attachments that allow them to carry heavier loads by redistributing the hitch tongue weight. Tongue weight is defined as weight carried both on the hitch and on the rear of the towing vehicle. Class 1 and Class 2 are lighter, weight-carrying hitches. The weight rating of the trailer hitch should be greater than the loaded weight of the trailer you'll be towing, and the class of hitch you use is also dependent on your tow vehicle's capacity for weight carrying.

Class 1: Light Duty

Class 1 hitches are suitable for towing by compact, mid-size and full-size cars, mini trucks and vans, and full-size trucks, vans and SUVs. The maximum gross trailer weight for Class 1 is 2,000 lbs. and the maximum tongue weight is 200 lbs. This class of hitch typically uses a 1¼-inch square receiver opening. Some hitches in this class may attach to the vehicle bumper or trunk pan, others to the vehicle frame.

Class 2: Medium Duty

Class 2 hitches are suitable for towing by mid-size cars and full-size cars, mini trucks and vans, and full-size trucks, vans and SUVs. Maximum gross trailer weight is 3,500 lbs. and the maximum tongue weight is 350 lbs. This hitch uses a 1.25-inch square receiver opening and attaches to vehicle frames or bumpers.

Class 3: Heavy Duty

Class 3 hitches are suitable for towing by full-size cars, mini trucks and vans, and full-size trucks, vans and SUVs. Weight-carrying maximum tongue weight is 600 lbs. and maximum gross trailer weight is 6,000 lbs. This hitch uses a 2-inch square receiver opening and attaches only to a vehicle frame. Class 3 weight-distributing hitches are rated for a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,000 lbs. and up to 10,000 lbs. gross trailer weight.

Class 4: Heavy Duty

Class 4 hitches are suitable for towing by full-size cars, mini trucks and vans, and full-size trucks, vans and SUVs. Weight-carrying Class 4 hitches are rated for a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,200 lbs. and up to 12,000 lbs. gross trailer weight. This hitch uses a 2-inch square receiver opening and attaches only to the vehicle frame. Weight-distributing Class 4 hitches are rated for maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,500 lbs. and up to 15,000 lbs. gross trailer weight.

Class 5: Extra Heavy Duty

Class 5 hitches are suitable for towing by full-size trucks, vans and SUVs. Weight-carrying Class 5 hitches are rated for a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,200 lbs. and up to 12,000 lbs. gross trailer weight. They have 2.5-inch square receiver openings and attach only to the vehicle frame. Class 5 weight-distribution systems are rated for a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,700 lbs. and 17,000 lbs. gross trailer weight.

About the Author

Lorena Cassady has written professionally since 1982. She was an instructor and mentor teacher for a Bachelor of Arts in management program and has administered a home-health agency. She has been published in "Traveler's Tales" and holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from San Francisco State University. Cassady is bilingual.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera blue trailer image by Diana Mastepanova from Fotolia.com