I see this question often, and my standard reply is always, “Check your owners manual!”. While that’s the best place to start, let’s take a little trip deeper down that rabbit hole.
In “Weights and Measures 1: What’s it all mean?” we talked about all the different terms and basics we need. (If you skipped that, you may want to revisit it before falling down this rabbit hole).
So let’s say I have a nice pickup truck as my towing rig, and it’ll tow 15,000 lbs in a bumper pull configuration, or 18,000 lbs in a fifth-wheel or gooseneck configuration (more about towing types).
Great, so now I know my maximum towing weights? We can go now, right? Well, hold on a second, let’s talk about what we’re towing!
Let’s say i’ve got a 32′ Travel Trailer with a GVWR of 11,000 lbs, and it’s a bumper pull (I really do!). Ok, what else do I need to know?!?!
Well, in bumper pull configuration, my truck will tow (note the difference between towing and pulling!) 15,000 lbs, so that part’s all good!
The next part I want to look at is the tongue weight. Tongue weight is most crucial in the “Control” category of towing. If you have too much tongue weight, you’ll have a saggy rear end on your tow vehicle, and you’ll have less steering control up front. Too little tongue weight, and you’ll suffer from ‘fishtailing’ of the trailer, as well as potential slipping of the drive wheels on the a RWD vehicle.
Check out this link for lots more info on tongue weight.
I always tell people to never exceed the manufacturers tow rating because the people that designed it know the people who built it, the people that wrote the book about it, and the people that did the math to know when it’ll break. Don’t break your rig.
Once you’re all loaded and set, go get yourself a Non-Commercial Weigh so you know what you tow before you go! 🙂