Monday, June 5, 2023


Ask Dave: Why is the GVWR higher than the combined GAWR?

Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave explains weight ratings.

Dear Dave,
I have this question regarding just about every 5th wheel RV manufacturer sticker I see. Why is the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) allowed to exceed the combined weight rating of the axles supporting the 5th wheel? For example, my GVWR is 12,600, but my two axles are rated at 6,000 lbs. each. I can only surmise that the tongue weight of the 5er is always going to be supported by either the front jacks or the tow vehicle. If true, I’m curious how they arrived at the GVWR of 600 lbs. over the combined axle rating. —Ray

Dear Ray,
Excellent question and I’m glad you are paying attention to weight ratings! It is common for RV trailer manufacturers to provide a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) higher than the combined gross axle weight rating (GAWR). This is because some of the weight will be tongue weight, as you stated, and applied to the tow vehicle hitch. Typically there will be a 10-15 percent difference, which would apply approximately 1,260 lbs. in the example you provided. 12,600 lbs. x 10 percent = 1,260 lbs. This creates proper weight distribution for a better trailer towing experience.

However, this is sometimes deceiving for owners as they think the entire unit can weigh 12,600 lbs. as it sits on the scale. You still can only put 12,000 lbs. on the axles. I even recommend reducing that by 10 percent. I don’t want to be at maximum weight capacity trying to brake going down a mountain road, while driving on a hot day or when driving in the rain. Reducing your GVWR by 10 percent is, in my opinion, a safe way to travel.

Dry Weight and Cargo Carrying Capacity weight ratings

One other item to point out is most RV manufacturers don’t even give you GVWR as a listing; rather, the sticker shows Dry Weight and Cargo Carrying Capacity. Dry Weight is what the rig weighs without water, propane, and all your “stuff.” Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) is the amount of weight you can put in the rig, in theory. Again, do not overload the axles and make sure to give yourself a little buffer.

How do you know how much weight you do have in the rig? Get it weighed. The best method is to have it professionally weighed by individual wheel position, which can be done by The RV Safety & Education Foundation. It is not uncommon for units to weigh much more on one side than the other with huge slide rooms full of residential refrigerators and residential furniture. Visit the RVSEF website here.

Or get it weighed on a CAT scale

If you cannot get to a weighing location in a timely manner, then go to a CAT scale and have it weighed on platforms to ensure axle weights. Visit their website here to find the location nearest to you.

Put the front wheels of the tow vehicle on the first platform, the back wheels on the second, and the rig on the third. This will tell you the weights you need to know. Keep in mind, just because you have huge compartments all over the rig doesn’t mean you can load them up!

Read more from Dave here

Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.


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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


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8 months ago

I weigh rigs for the RVSEF at numerous rallies. Most of the 5th wheel trailers I weigh have a GVWR that is less than the sum of the GAWR! For example many triple axle toy haulers have 7K pound rated axles but the GVWR is often 20K pounds. The frame construction also contributes to this limitation. Also you will notice that almost every pickup truck from 3/4 ton and above will have a GVWR that is less than the sum of the axle ratings. Again frame construction, safety factor and legal considerations as well. It’s quite common to see trucks over their GVWR but not over on axles and this really confuses owners. I will say that dually diesel trucks rarely have this problem.

8 months ago
Reply to  Dave

Dave, I don’t understand what the GVWR of the truck has to do with the GAWR of the 5th wheel. The trailer is being towed, not carried in the bed. It seems to me that if the pin weight does not exceed the truck’s GAWR and/or GVWR, and the total weights don’t exceed the GCWR, and you’re not exceeding the tow rating of your truck, then you’re good. Or have I got it wrong?

8 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Re-reading, I see you are referring to the truck’s GAWR/GVWR, not the trailer’s. My F250’s axle’s are rated at 11,700, but the truck’s GVWR is 10,000. Thanks for the explanation, I am now a little less confused about weights!

Last edited 8 months ago by Chris
1 year ago

If you’ve got problems with CAT scale operators then get the app (“Weigh My Truck”). All you do is pull onto the scale and enter the scale number. You don’t even need to go inside to get the paperwork, its saved on the app and sent in an email.

1 year ago
Reply to  Firefly

No need to reach the button and no worry they’ll weigh before I can get back in.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

I have found that the best place to weigh our rig is an unattended truck scale. You can wiggle around and get individual wheel weights, axle weights, and even tongue weights by unhooking your trailer. But these are few and far between. We have a CAT scale near our house but it’s a pain in the butt to get the person inside to understand what you want to do (trying to talk to them with the intercom system). I end up walking across the lot and talking to them in person, then back to the scale. Even THEN, it’s a crap shoot.

Bob p
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

They are use to dealing with big trucks that need axle weights, not RVers who want to balance their loads. How many times is an RVer going to need to scale their RV? A trucker most of the time needs to scale each load unless it’s obviously a light load, so the counter person is very familiar with big trucks and truck drivers know exactly how to position their truck on the scale, an RVer can really tie up a truck scale if they’re trying to get weights to balance their weight.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Precisely why I would never go to a busy CAT scale. Even the not-too-busy CAT scale at our local Maverick station. The kid in charge of scaling is not up to the ‘challenge’ . . .

Thomas D
1 year ago

Bad thing about CAT scale is in more than one location the operator insisted that I push the button to start. Easy for a semi driver, too high up for pickup or just standing on ground..

Bob p
1 year ago

Ray answered his own question when he stated he assumed the tongue weight would be carried by the tow vehicle.

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