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Old 07-19-2018, 01:37 PM   #1
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Towing capacity and cargo capacity

From reading the posts for the last 3 or 4 years it seems many, especially new to RV folks, confuse towing capacity and cargo capacity.

In my minds eye, when I see towing capacity.. I see big red wagon, with a wheel at each corner (hay wagon), that is towing capacity. Just like your little red wagon it had very little weight on the handle (tongue)...

Cargo capacity is how much you can load in your RV...

Cargo capacity on your vehicle, determined by the drivers door jamb sticker, is how much weight you can add to your vehicle. This includes passengers, any added truck enhancements (covers hitch, steps etc) and the weight of the tongue of your fully loaded RV.

There is a huge difference and in most cases towing capacity is the least important number as the cargo capacity of your vehicle will be typically reached long before your towing capacity is reached.

The mfg will publish limits for different uses...pulling a hay wagon with almost zero added weight to the vehicle is vastly different than pulling a loaded RV with 12% to 25% of it's weight added to the vehicle. They publish these "ratings" for a reason, some legal im sure, but mainly for safety issues. Axles etc can only carry so much weight.

Please chime in if my perception of these are incorrect. I await the intelligent posts....and the no so

Happy Camping everyone.
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:03 PM   #2
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snip....... cargo capacity of your vehicle will be typically reached long before your towing capacity is reached.....snip
I would agree.

Bob
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:06 PM   #3
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Totally agree, especially for half tons, you run out of payload long before you hit your tow ratings. Especially with a crew cab truck that has four people in it, a generator and firewood in the bed.
My family, firewood, generator and bicycles add 900 lbs to my truck before I even attach the trailer, and that's ankther 800lbs tongue weight or so.
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:06 PM   #4
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You’re right. That’s how a Toyota Tundra can “tow” the space shuttle
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:18 PM   #5
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A common misconception, and one I fell victim to when I bought our first trailer. I thought "Towing capacity" was everything. And really, I should've known better.

It turned out that most of the time I wasn't over my cargo capacity anyway, but I was right up against it, and I'm sure there was a time or two I was over. And the overall towing experience, and all the worrying I did after I found out greatly detracted from what should have been a very fun and exciting time.

Went to the school of hard knocks, learned the truth, took a little bath on a trade-in for a bigger truck. Good news was I slept A LOT better after; I got enough truck to never have to worry about it again. Worst news is that DW still reminds me of the oversight every chance she gets, and that was almost 5 years ago.
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:37 PM   #6
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In my search for a tow vehicle I found that payload or cargo capacity in many cases turned out to be the limiting factor. I'd find a vehicle with a nice max. towing number but the payload numbers meant that if you towed a trailer close to the maximum and had to carry passengers you were close to exceeding the maximum payload. The actual numbers for a particular 1/2 ton truck...

Maximum trailer weight: 9,140
Maximum payload: 1,610
Tongue weight (12.5% of Max. Trailer weight): 1,142
Four passengers (4x150): 600

Even with an otherwise empty truck and considering 12.5% of the max. trailer weight as your tongue weight you'd be over the payload limit simply by carrying four adult passengers.

If you knocked the trailer weight down to 8,000 lbs (1,000 lbs tongue weight) you're just barely under the payload limit if you carry four passengers and no gear.
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Old 07-19-2018, 03:04 PM   #7
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Also, I have been chastised on this forum for generalizing 1/2T vehicles as being incapable in many cases. For the record, I don't care one iota what class of truck it is, numbers are numbers. Period.

Get the numbers, scale the rig, compare the numbers. It's really that simple regardless of what badge is on the fender.

And sometimes being JUST under the max capacities just isn't good enough. Sometimes it is for some users. Again though, numbers do not lie.
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Old 07-19-2018, 06:16 PM   #8
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Also, I have been chastised on this forum for generalizing 1/2T vehicles as being incapable in many cases. For the record, I don't care one iota what class of truck it is, numbers are numbers. Period.

Get the numbers, scale the rig, compare the numbers. It's really that simple regardless of what badge is on the fender.

And sometimes being JUST under the max capacities just isn't good enough. Sometimes it is for some users. Again though, numbers do not lie.
Yeah, modern half tons trucks are amazing machines, and have capabilities that would make most 3/4 tons from even a short time ago blush, BUT, like anything, it has limits and like anything, when near those limits, you need to be very careful to understand what you are doing and to set things up well.

I've towed reasonably heavy with a few different half tons, and the biggest drawback for me has been the fact that it takes more time and effort and messing around to make everything feel right, whereas the same trailer behind a 3/4 ton truck is much more forgiving.

An educated person, who takes their time, should be able to safely tow right up to max rating with any vehicle. However, that description doesn't work for everyone.
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Old 07-19-2018, 07:27 PM   #9
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Something I did not see in this thread is wind resistance. A tow vehicle that can pull a pop-up may not pull a standard trailer simply due to wind resistance. A standard trailer can work for a truck that cannot pull a much taller 5th wheel. My Jeep instruction book actually talks about wind load as a part of the tow capacity calculation.

Not sure I have ever seen this factor as a major item to include in what you can/should tow.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:20 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by GrumpyDad View Post
Yeah, modern half tons trucks are amazing machines, and have capabilities that would make most 3/4 tons from even a short time ago blush, BUT, like anything, it has limits and like anything, when near those limits, you need to be very careful to understand what you are doing and to set things up well.

I've towed reasonably heavy with a few different half tons, and the biggest drawback for me has been the fact that it takes more time and effort and messing around to make everything feel right, whereas the same trailer behind a 3/4 ton truck is much more forgiving.

An educated person, who takes their time, should be able to safely tow right up to max rating with any vehicle. However, that description doesn't work for everyone.
Yup, exactly. If I'm somewhere flat, and never tow over 55mph because of towing speed regulations, my 1/2T GMC would probably have been fine. But I'm out here in TX where EVERYTHING is a LONG way away, and towing at 55 could get you killed in some places. We have extreme heat, hills, bad roads, etc... I also had ambitions of going cross-country, and our family was growing. So, for MY situation at the time, a 3/4T suddenly became a requirement. I started to look at 1/2T that could do the job, and the only ones that could make the numbers at the time simply couldn't be found. But I could find dozens of 3/4T trucks in all manner of configuration, color, option package, etc. So really the choice was simple. Not quite so simple any more as 1/2T class trucks are becoming more capable, and most importantly, more plentiful.

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Something I did not see in this thread is wind resistance. A tow vehicle that can pull a pop-up may not pull a standard trailer simply due to wind resistance. A standard trailer can work for a truck that cannot pull a much taller 5th wheel. My Jeep instruction book actually talks about wind load as a part of the tow capacity calculation.

Not sure I have ever seen this factor as a major item to include in what you can/should tow.
In my experience, wind resistance is only mentioned in the mid-size SUV and small truck segments. I've never seen a published wind resistance recommendation on a full-size truck. But you're absolutely right about the differences. Towing 9,000 lbs of bricks on a tandem axle flat-bed is a completely different ball game than towing the same weight in a travel trailer.
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