Kurt Verlin
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Quick Guide to RV Weight Ratings

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Tow hitch ball
Photo: Alan Levine via CC

If you’re one of the many people going camping in an RV this summer, the following are a few weight-related terms you may want to know. Recreational vehicle manufacturers use various different weight ratings to describe their products and knowing what these mean can help you make a better purchase as well as avoid a nasty surprise when you first hitch up your trailer.

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  • Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW): This is the total weight of the RV as it comes out of the factory, including fluids like coolant and engine oil. It also includes full fuel tanks but not fresh water or any dealer-installed accessories.
  • Net Carrying Capacity (NCC): The maximum weight the RV can carry, including fresh water, personal belongings, and occupants — but not including the RV itself.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): The maximum weight limit of the RV. This is essentially the sum of the UVW and NCC.
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): The maximum weight each axle assembly can carry. This is important to know because even if you load your RV to be under the GVWR, you may still exceed the GAWR depending on how the weight is distributed.
  • Hitch Weight (HW): Also known as tongue weight, this is the weight your hitch must be rated to carry when you hook up your trailer to your tow vehicle.
  • Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): This is the big number you should never exceed when everything is added up. It includes all fluids, occupants, cargo, and any vehicle you may be towing with the RV.

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Current or prospective RV owners must consider one or more of these ratings at various times. For example, when shopping for a towable RV, you should ensure your pickup truck has a maximum towing capacity greater than the GVWR. When loading the RV, you should take the NCC and GAWR into account. And when using a motorhome to tow another vehicle, you’ll need to consider its GCWR first.