RV Weight Beginner’s Guide
This is possibly the most important part of RVing, understanding your weight limits and what all of the different terms mean. I would strongly recommend not taking your RV anywhere until you have a decent understanding of the weight of the RV.
Why is it Important to Learn About RV Weight Limits?
Each RV has their own limitations on weight, if you go over the limit you can have some major problems. To me, safety for my family is my #1 priority, and being overweight needlessly puts them and others in serious peril. Many people who have their RV’s over the rated weight limit do so unknowingly.
The heavier you are also has impacts on you financially, which for us was a major reason to go as light as we can, I will explain in more detail at the bottom.
It seems very complicated at first but I will break it down into easy to understand segments, because when I bought my RV in August 2017 I had zero understanding on this and couldn’t find any decent all inclusive resources on the topic that were easy to understand.
There are a few important phrases to learn:
- Maximum towing capacity
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
- Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
- Maximum available gross combined weight rating (GCWR)
- Occupant and cargo carrying capacity (OCCC)
It’s also important to know how much the common liquids weigh:
- Water – 8.3lbs per gallon
- Diesel Fuel – 6.6lbs per gallon
- Gasoline – 6.3lbs per gallon
- Propane – 4.2lbs per gallon
What is the Maximum Towing Capacity?
This is the absolute heaviest thing your RV is able to safely tow. As in the picture above it says my class C is able to tow 7,500lbs, however before you take that as law you must check your hitch to be sure. When I looked at my hitch it has a separate label on it saying that the hitch only has a towing capacity of 5,000lbs.
So while my RV can tow more, my hitch can’t, if I were to tow 7,500lbs anyway chances are I would be ok, at least for a little while. But being that far over (50%) will definitely over stress it and at some point it will probably fail. That would be one potentially costly mistake and could seriously harm someone. In order for me to utilize the full towing capacity I would have to upgrade my hitch, however I do not find it worthwhile.
What is the Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity and what does it mean?
This is a bright yellow label usually inside a cabinet or in my case inside my drivers door. This lists how much your RV can carry as far as supplies and people/pets. The OCCC is just the GAWR minus the total unloaded weight of the RV which is how much the vehicle weighs with all of the engine fluids (fuel, oil, transmission fluid, etc…) but not anything considered cargo. The water tanks are calculated as cargo which draws into the total amount of stuff you can bring. Water is heavy, is about 8 lbs a gallon.
For some reason the manufacture has the dry weight listed which is the weight of the RV without any fluids, but when I calculated my GVWR minus the dry weight (14,500)- (12,170) I got 2,330. After roughly taking out the engine fluids I was left with right around the weight listed on the OCCC which was 1,903lbs.
In my case, my OCCC is 1,903lbs which is the total amount of stuff I can bring. This includes everything, from propane, to our cat, to our socks, but most especially our water. Trust me, it’s very easy to go over this limit, my 1,903lbs weight limit gets sucked up by our water tank which accounts for 19% of our total cargo weight capacity (367lbs). Then you add in myself and wife and cat and that’s another couple hundred pounds and we haven’t even loaded anything yet and we are already over 500lbs!
The good news is for us is that we definitely won’t have 1,400lbs in cargo but you still need to be mindful of everything and when in doubt go lighter.
The Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity is the most useful for easily figuring out how much stuff you can bring. This way it lists exactly how much you can bring without doing any calculations. So make sure you locate and read yours.
What Does Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) Mean?
The gross vehicle weight rating is how much the RV can weigh, this is all inclusive of everything from the front bumper to the hitch. It is important, especially for us because tongue weight (weight on the hitch) counts for GVWR. This is important because my dirt bike which I am hoping to bring weighs 400lbs which would count for our GVWR.
For our motor home our gross vehicle weight rating is 14,500 lbs.
It’s very important to know how much your vehicle can weigh and I would strongly recommend you weigh it after you have everything loaded just to make sure you’re good.
What Does Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) Mean?
The gross axle weight rating is how much weight can be over one axle. This is usually more complicated than the average person needs to worry about, however this is the maximum weight per the manufacturer that the axle is designed to carry. The rear axle usually has a higher rating because it carries more stuff, especially in larger coaches.
What Does Maximum Available Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) Mean?
This is one of the more important ones to know, but it’s also the simplest. The maximum available combined weight rating is the heaviest the RV can be in total. This means everything including the tow vehicle and the stuff in the tow vehicle. For us, we had a total weight limit of 22,000lbs. Thats pretty heavy!
How to figure out your RV’s maximum weight limit:
For some reason, and maybe yours will be different but I was unable to find our RV’s GCWR anywhere on any label however, it’s very easy to figure out.
You take your GVWR and add in the maximum towing capacity.
In our case we had a GVWR of 14,500 and a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 which equals 22,000 total.
I wanted to check online just to make sure, and it was. Never hurts to double check and I would highly recommend it. Just google: ”your-rv-here specifications” and scroll through till you find it.
How Weight Affects your RV and Finances
The heavier you are, the more wear and tear your RV will experience. This is especially true with the engine, every bit of weight you add reduces your fuel economy and adds more stress to the engine. Now since you have a motor home and not a vehicle this isn’t as large as a problem as it would be in a car, but it is something to consider. Especially when talking many hundreds or even 1,000lbs of extra weight.
This also bodes true for the RV itself, smaller RV’s are lighter and tend to get better gas mileage than larger ones.