How Much Weight Can My Car or Truck Tow?

Schematic of Toyota Tundra towing Space Shuttle Endeavour

We see commercials boasting about the weight a vehicle can tow, up to and including that of a space shuttle.  But under the wild assumption you don’t need to relocate orbiters from here to there, just how much weight can your car or truck tow?

That’s going to depend on a number of factors, and the key thing to remember is how much you can safely tow without risking damage to your car or truck.  Gross trailer weight is obviously the big consideration, but a trailer’s tongue weight can’t be ignored either.  Here are some basic guidelines, but always consult your owner’s manual.

Small cars.  Subcompact and compact cars are generally supposed to haul their allotted passenger capacity, some cargo and not a lot else.  You may even notice that your car is not technically rated for towing anything.  With gas sippers, that’s not unheard of.  Still, a number of them at least allow for tow weight in the 1,500-2,000 pound range.

Mid-size, full-size cars.  A little extra elbow room inside ordinarily comes with a little extra torque under the hood, opening more tow possibilities.  Small boats or travel trailers can be towed without much drama, provided you’re talking no more than about 3,500 pounds all in.

Mid-size SUVs and trucks, minivans.  Without a mammoth vehicle, you could still have all the towing capability you’ll ever need.  A lot of vehicles in this common size are fully capable of pulling 5,000 pounds safely.  So you can rent a trailer to move your kid to college, then promptly tow the new mid-size boat or camper you buy as part of your empty-nest plan.

Full-size SUVs, trucks, vans.  The weight your car or truck can tow here could exceed anything you might attempt, but it’s good to know you have it.  At this point you’re well into the realm of double axles and trailer brakes, and that’s very good considering all the potential tonnage behind you.  It’s realistic to look at 9,000-pound capability, and when properly equipped, that number could jump to over 20,000 pounds.

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