Sunday, December 3, 2023


Full-time RVing – Will your rig haul the weight?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Moving from a sticks-and-bricks home to an RV makes for plenty of challenges. Where will you put all your stuff? That’s a great question, but a critically important related question: Will my rig handle the weight of all my stuff? Do you know how much weight you can carry? Here’s information from the RVIA (Recreation Industry Vehicle Association):

“As another condition of RVIA membership, motorhome and trailer manufacturers must post a weight label in a conspicuous location in the vehicle’s interior. Shoppers should locate these labels for information vital to safe operation of the vehicle. The label lists weights and ratings, including the unit’s gross and unloaded weight ratings, as well as carrying capacity. The label will enable you to determine how much weight it can safely transport, including dealer-installed accessories, fuel and other engine fluids, LP gas, fresh water, passengers (for motorized RVs) and personal belongings.”

Look around your rig, open cabinet doors — do you find that “label in a conspicuous location,” that tells you what you need to know? Here’s the sad truth: On a recent visit to a RV dealer lot, we checked through many 10s of used RVs and rarely found that weight label. Why? Manufacturers are required to put the label in the rig — and we have to assume that they are — but why no labels to be found? Could it be that some RV dealers are pulling them out? Something to think about. But here’s the bottom line for you when getting ready to head out on the full-time RV lifestyle. It’s not wise, safe, or financially practical to go “over the limit” when it comes to the weight of the stuff you carry.

Sad to say, limited weight capacity for cargo is a reality for many RVers. It would seem that manufacturers, who want to build to whim and fancy, tend to stuff their units with plenty of flash and bling, and a lot of it pumps up the scale weight. One couple, shopping for a rig, found that the typical CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity — the weight of the stuff you carry) of rigs they looked at amounted to barely 2,000 pounds. With their own weight, that of their gear, pets, and a couple of extra batteries, they’d nearly double the rated capacity of many rigs.

RV manufacturers don’t exactly make it easy. As far as “shopping the Internet” for a perspective rig, you may as well forget it. There’s little information available on RV manufacturer websites to give you any sort of inkling what the cargo capacity of a perspective rig is. Sure, you’ll find the total weight capacity of the rig, but with a plethora of options, and a paucity of other weight information (maybe it’s purposeful), about the only way to know what the CCC of a rig is, is to walk onto a dealer lot and personally inspect the weight ratings paperwork, posted somewhere in each new rig. If the information isn’t posted, demand to know why. Get phony excuses, and don’t see the actual document for that specific rig, our advice is WALK AWAY.

In terms of practicality for us as RVers, when it comes to what we take with us on the road, compromise is the operating word. For motorhomers, dreams of a gas-fired rig may go up in smoke. It’s possible, depending on the design of a “desirable” rig, to work things out. One way is by weight redistribution. While the actual CCC of a given motorhome may be less than you “need,” is it possible to hitch a utility trailer to the motorhome, put the excess weight there, and still be within the total capacity of the motorhome in question?

It could mean a reevaluation of your needs. Since the carrying capacity of a motorhome includes how much fuel (both LP and engine) and liquids are on board, what would happen if you didn’t travel with everything “full up”? Some RVs are equipped with huge fresh water tanks. With water scaling in at about eight pounds per gallon, would it hurt you to throw off over 300 pounds by traveling with that 80-gallon tank only half full? Yes, if you’re boondocking, you need water. But carrying more water to your rig with a portable water tank or water bladder is possible, and taking out the waste water is a similar possibility. And while a costly choice, lithium batteries instead of flooded lead-acid batteries are certainly lighter.

You may have to change your thinking about what sort of rig you can live with. The CCC of many fifth wheels and travel trailers may give a better picture for those who really can’t lighten up the gear load and find the minuscule capacity of some motorhomes just doesn’t cut it.

As long as “splash sells,” it’s doubtful that manufacturers will build down to a standard where the amount of gear that a full-time RVer, or even a serious snowbird, will find carrying capacity is going to be anything but a matter of making tough choices.

##RVT879 ##RVDT1333

Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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randomengineer (@guest_81246)
3 years ago

The weight sticker is always on the driver side of the trailer near the front. This includes the CCC as well as estimates of CCC impact with full tank of water.

Cindy (@guest_76423)
3 years ago

We find that we often carry more than we need. We have pared down clothing over the years, as well as the food we carry. Certain high weight items are necessary – e.g. tools. But if you don’t need it, don’t carry it, and then carry even less. You’ll find you probably didn’t need it anyway.

TravelingMan (@guest_76402)
3 years ago

Total weight is important but don’t forget independent weights on each tire and pin box.

When we bought our rig, as-is, we were close to limit. Removed the 7k axles and replaced with 8k instead. Got away from electric brakes. Moved to hydraulic. Removed the 7k springs. Replaced with 8k springs. Reved the OEM suspension. Replaced with Lippert Centerpoint.

Best investment ever.

Limiting factor now the frame. No one can tell you what it is rated for…

Cindy (@guest_76422)
3 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

I’ve heard that beefing up components will not help with what the frame can handle. It also has limits and in fact is one of the main limiting factors in your trailer. Hope it works out for you.

randomengineer (@guest_81245)
3 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

And all of this means precisely zip. Get into an accident, and what’s on the sticker is what the investigators go by. Pray nobody gets hurt. If you are overweight according to the sticker, guess whose insurance is null and void? Guess who pays for the accident — out of pocket?

Bob p (@guest_76384)
3 years ago

Our 2002 Mountain Aire has the calculated weights of each full tank except gray and black tanks included in the weight table. We normally travel approximately 250 miles per day and I calculate 5-8 gal.per day water for each. Year before last we went to south Texas and we left TN with a full water tank of 75 gal. Normally we take 2 days worth to go to FL plus an extra day for emergencies. On our trip to TX the MH rode much smoother and mpg was only down by .3 per mpg. When you’re only getting 8 mpg what’s .3 mpg.

Thom (@guest_76383)
3 years ago

We have the weight sticker, easily seen.
And we can add 4000 pounds of our junk. Nice.

Donald N Wright (@guest_76371)
3 years ago

The weight decal on my Aliner was blank, neither the manufacturer or the dealer ever filled it it. I contacted the manufacturer about the weight of my popup. 1800# . does that include the dormers? No. More weight. Does that include the propane tanks? No, more weight. Does that include the Cool Cat heat pump ? No, more weight. Next time I find an Escapees rally I am getting it weighed !

Ray Leissner (@guest_62971)
3 years ago

Excellent timely article. With the predatory industry that we must now deal with, one cannot be too careful. Abuse the weight limits of the towed trailer or towing vehicle and you might find yourself at risk of nullifying your insurance in case of accident. Being able to stop safely is the goal. Ensure there is no abuse by verifying your fully loaded, road-ready rig meets specifications. Cat scales are cheap and quick and allows one to record the total weight carried by each axle, or axle group, while you sitting in the tow vehicle. Its easy and informative.

John Koenig (@guest_38185)
4 years ago

Safety and carrying capacity are primary reasons I bought an RV built on a HDT (Heavy Duty Truck) cab/chassis. My 2015 Dynamax DX3-37RB is a Class-7 Freightliner HDT with a GVWR of 33,000# and, a GCWR of 54,000#! It’s has Cummins 9 liter, 350HP diesel PULLER (which means the engine is READILY ACCESSIBLE up front) without having to disassemble the bedroom (the way a diesel pusher is set up). Unless I start an anvil collection, it would take some doing to get my RV in an overweight condition. I have had my rig “Smart Weighed” at an Escapees rally and therefore know, that I have several THOUSAND pounds of excess capacity. Quite different than a van or pick-up based standard Class-C RV where they’re easily overweight (or, so close as to have virtually NO safety margin). I looked for THREE+ YEARS to find my rig. It has the BEST floor plan I’d seen (and, in the four+ years I’ve owned it, I haven’t seen a better floor plan)! NOTHING important moves. The residential refrigerator, washer/dryer, convection microwave, propane, hot water, cold water and drain lines all stay put! With the two slides in, two drawers are blocked by the mattress. Otherwise, my rig is ~ 99% usable with the slides IN (something VERY FEW RVs can offer). Each slide has some LED lighting and a single 110VAC outlet. I believe Dynamax has “improved” later models so, the benefits I’ve listed may no longer be available.

shipp (@guest_38391)
4 years ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Do you know some one with and Anvil collection? LMAO

Cindy (@guest_76424)
3 years ago
Reply to  John Koenig

I get concerned when some of the van life people put so much wood in their van. How can it take the weight? There are limits to inside carrying capacity that I think they often over look. Tow weight isn’t the only thing that counts with a vehicle. The overall capacity, including truck bed or interior capacity, is also important.

Kristy (@guest_8750)
6 years ago

My husband and I are looking into buying a fifth wheel toy hauler. But after looking at all the maximum weight we can carry in it, we’ve figured the only “toys” we can carry are the cat’s toy mice.

Bob Gash (@guest_8588)
6 years ago

Very timely and spot-on article.

One RV magazine recently published a review of a Sprinter-based Class B coach that had a 179K MSRP.

When I reviewed the specs listing, the CCC was only 370(!) lbs.

To confirm, that’s 370 lbs. before passengers!

It’s difficult to understand how such a unit can even be offered in the RV marketplace…

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