How to Weigh a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel RV
by Steven Fletcher
For safety and to prevent unnecessary damage, you need to know the weight, of your travel trailer or fifth wheel RV.
Every RV Fifth Wheel and Travel Trailer has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating... the maximum weight including all supplies and passengers which the trailer can safely carry. RV manufactures will list the GVWR on a sticker somewhere on the RV. But unless you know the actual weight of the RV you can't calculate the amount of passengers and supplies you can carry and still be under the GVWR.
You can't rely on the manufacturers brochure or other source to tell the actual weight of your RV. Manufacturers are often optimistic about weight and seldom factor in options like air conditioners, generators, extra batteries, awnings etc. which can add hundreds of pounds to the rig.
With travel trailers and fifth wheels you will also need to know the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of the tow vehicle. That's the maximum weight the tow vehicle can pull plus it's own weight including fuel, cargo and passengers.
For example, your pickup truck fully loaded with fuel, cargo and passengers weighs 6,500 pounds. If the truck has a GCWR of 15,00 pounds you can safely tow an 8,500 pound trailer. Understand it doesn't matter at this point that your trailer may have a higher GVRW. You can only tow up to 8,500 lbs. Also know that the GCRW for a truck may be significantly different depending on if you are towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Typically, the GCWR will be higher for fifth wheels.
To get a true weight for your tow vehicle and towable RV you need to find a drive-on public scales. A town of any size should have a public scale. Look under public scales in the phonebook yellow pages.
They are most often found at truck stops and moving and storage companies. Don't be intimidated by all the 'big rigs', most scales welcome RVs. If you don't find a listing call a local trucking company and tell them what you need. If they don't have a scale they can probably refer you to one.
Recreational Vehicle Weight Related TermsGross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Amount the Recreational Vehicle may weigh when fully loaded.
Tow Rating Weight a tow vehicle can tow. This figure may
vary depending on the vehicles equipment, such as a manual or automatic transmission and whether it is equipped
with four-wheel drive.
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) Permissible combined weight of the tow
vehicle, rv travel trailer, passengers, equipment,
fuel, etc., that the tow vehicle can handle.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) Weight a single axle can carry.
Here's how to find all the necessary weights for a tow vehicle/trailer combination.
You will need to weigh the tow vehicle separate from the trailer but if the scale is some distance from where the trailer is stored take the trailer with you and unhitch in the scale yard or nearby.
With full fuel tanks and typical passenger load aboard weigh only the tow vehicle.
To properly weigh the trailer your propane tanks should be full. If you plan to travel with fresh water onboard the fresh water tank should also be filled to the level at which it will be when traveling.
Hitch up the trailer and go back to the scale. Drive on just far enough that only the tow vehicle (still with full fuel and passengers) is on the scales and get a weighing. This weight minus the tow vehicle's weight equals the hitch weigh.
The tongue weight of a travel trailer the range of 10% to 12%. For a fifth wheel, the hitch weight should be more in the range of 20% of the fifth wheel's weight. Of course, at no time should the weight exceed the tow vehicle's maximum rating.
Now drive the tow vehicle and trailer fully onto the scale to get the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight. This weight minus the tow vehicle weight equals the trailer weight. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (from the manufacturers sticker) minus the trailer's wet weight equals the amount of supplies and personal gear you can load.
If you have dual axles on the trailer you can get a weight for each one by stopping with the first axle on the scale and getting a weight. Then drive all the way onto the scale.
Weigh masters are accustomed to this procedure and as long as you discuss what you're trying to accomplish they will work with you.
By the way, you don't need a certified weight. Truckers need this to get paid but of course you don't and a certified weight would probable cost you more.
The last time I had my rig weight at a commercial scale the weigh master was an RVer and since I didn't need a certified weight he didn't even charge me. You probably can't expect to get weighed for free but I doubt it will cost more than $10 to $20.
Since it is easy to under estimate the weight of all the stuff that accumulates in an RV it's a good idea to weigh the trailer again after it's loaded and ready for travel.