The Right Weight – Matching Your Truck with a Trailer

If you already own a pickup truck, you are halfway toward having a great vacation duo – a truck and trailer. By purchasing a camping trailer that you can pull with your existing truck, you can get more use out of your current vehicle and enjoy memorable vacations with the whole family. Trailers are less expensive than motorhomes, so this option is a great way to get into the RV world for a lower upfront cost. Also, by traveling with a trailer, you can always detach at the campsite and you will have your truck free to explore the area around camp.

Be Sure Your Truck (or SUV) Can Handle the Weight of Your Trailer
Be Sure Your Truck (or SUV) Can Handle the Weight of Your Trailer

Of course, it is important to pick a trailer that your truck is capable of pulling. The size of trailer that you can purchase will depend on the towing capacity of your pickup truck. Buying a trailer that is too large for your truck is a mistake you certainly don’t want to make, so be sure to do plenty of research on this point before signing on the dotted line.

Understanding the Payload

You have likely heard the term ‘payload’ before, even if you weren’t sure exactly what it meant. Payload refers to the total weight that your truck can handle, minus the weight of the truck itself. If you were to load down your truck with more weight than the payload indicates, you could quickly run into serious trouble. Once you know what your truck’s payload is, you can then go shopping for a trailer with a specific number in mind.

Tongue Weight is the Key

You don’t need to think so much about the overall weight of the trailer as you do the ‘tongue weight’. The tongue weight is the amount of weight that the trailer is placing on the back of your truck. Since the trailer has its own wheels, it is supporting much of its own weight. However, where the truck and trailer are connected at the hitch, the weight of the front part of the trailer is being supported by the truck. Again, you don’t want to ask your truck to support more than it is capable of, so it is crucial that you know exactly how much weight you can take.

In general, you can expect the trailer to put up to 15% of its total weight down onto your truck. So, take the overall weight of the trailer and multiply by .15 – that is the amount of weight that your truck will be bearing as you pull the trailer down the road (roughly). If that number doesn’t put you over your total payload (while also considering your other cargo), you should be able to safely operate the trailer with your truck.

This is a serious decision, and you need to make sure you get it just right. If you aren’t confident enough to calculate these numbers on your own, work with an expert at the RV dealership to decide if your truck can handle a specific trailer. You can create a dangerous situation out on the road if you attempt to haul a trailer that is too big for the truck you are driving. Play it safe, error on the side of caution, and only hit the road when you are sure you have done the math correctly.

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