An RV carefully checked for appropriate RV load being towed by an SUV.

Understanding RV Load Limits to Avoid Overloading Your RV

Overloading a car is uncommon. The space in your passenger vehicle will naturally limit you from overloading your vehicle – unless you are the Beverly Hillbillies. But simply because your RV has seemingly limitless space does not mean it has limitless capacity. You want to be safe and make the most of your RV space. Let’s take a look at RV load, limits and how to avoid dangerous situations from an overloaded RV.

The Difference Between Weights & Rating

There is a fair amount of confusion regarding the difference of these two items and how they are related to your RV load. Weights are the measured weight of a vehicle. This can change based on fuel, passengers and cargo. Ratings are the maximum limit of weight allowed as determined by the manufacturer based on design. They cannot be changed.

There are different measurements for an empty trailer, a loaded trailer, and trailer/tow vehicle combinations. Going over the maximum rating with the actual weight is dangerous. Therefore it is important to know and understand what the weights and ratings mean. Even though it can begin to look like someone spilled the Scrabble pieces, we will review and explain the terms.

Important RV Load Terms

Gross Vehicle Weight / Rating

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating for vehicles and RVs (they each have their own GVWR) is the maximum total weight a manufacturer designates. It includes the weight of the vehicle itself, fuel and passengers. It also includes the trailer from rear to front, including any weight from the hitch or anything being towed by it. So a vehicle should never exceed its GVWR; no exceptions. It is the most general of ratings not to exceed.

It may not be apparent right away, but overloading will lead to general damage to the RV/motorhome and possibly the tow vehicle. Exceeding your RV load over time may cause damage to the suspension, frame, hitch, brakes and engine. Being overweight also increases the difficulty of maneuvering your trailer due to the extra mass. Safety is always important, but when you exceed the GVWR it becomes a major concern.

The heavier the load, the longer braking time you will need and the more strain on your brakes. If you are found to be overweight in the case of an accident, the police and your insurance company will not likely look on you with favor.

Gross Axle Weight / Rating

Gross Axle Weight Rating designates the maximum weight allowed on each individual axle. The GAWR is important to keep in mind when loading your vehicle. You can be under the GVWR, but if you overload an individual axel with an unbalanced load, you can do serious damage to your vehicle.

Load carefully to be sure you are balanced as well as within the overall weight limit.

Gross Combination Weight / Rating

The Gross Combination Weight Rating refers to the limit for the combination of weight between the tow vehicle and towed vehicle. If you are using an RV trailer or a motorhome with a towed vehicle it is a number you need to know and adhere to.

Consider both the dry weight (weight without cargo, passengers, fuels or fluids) of the tow vehicle and the fully-loaded weight. When you know the GCWR for your tow vehicle, it helps you find the ideal RV. You may be able to go with a luxury model or you may need a smaller model based on the capacity of your tow vehicle.

Tips for Loading an RV

Travel Light

While your RV is about comfort on the road, you don’t need every comfort of home if your RV isn’t built for it. The fewer items you bring, the easier it is to avoid RV load issues. Seemingly little things can add up. Do you need to pack stoneware or could you use paper plates? Maybe a waffle iron isn’t necessary, you could use your skillet for pancakes as well as other meals. The price you’ll pay for exceeding your RV load limit by lugging around your own firewood far exceeds the $4 or $5 it will cost at the campground.

Balance Your Packing

Remember that GAWR means you can’t overload one side of the RV. Once you determine a place for storing items that distributes the weight evenly, stick to it. It will keep you balanced and add to your efficiency because everything will have its place. If you’re packing for a long-term vacation and bringing more than usual, remember to spread it out for a safe RV load.

Don’t Stack Too High

Pictures on the internet of overloaded vehicles stacked comically high may be amusing, but an RV in motion doesn’t bode well for tall stacks of items. Hopefully you weren’t planning to stack a dozen kayaks on top of your RV. While you may not be one to pile things on top of your RV for travel, how you pack inside your RV is important as well.

Tall stacks of dishes, pots and pans, even books and games can be a serious danger to your RV – or people in the back when driving a motorhome. A sudden stop can send these items flying if they aren’t secured. War and Peace may look innocent enough on a shelf until it is hurled at 60 mph through your RV at the TV screen, passenger or driver.

Know your limits and your RV load. Pack light, safe and secure. Balance your belongings and your time and have fun on the road for years to come.

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Find Your Next RV – Contact RV Wholesale Superstore

Ready to hit the road in a new or used RV? The professionals at RV Wholesale Superstore are here to help you find the perfect RV for you and your family. Visit us in-person at 5080 W. Alexis Road, in Sylvania, OH or call us at (866) 640-9871


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