Know Your Tow Vehicle

By John Tiger, Jr.
Published: Summer 2013

Got enough power to pull the boat? A little bit of math will show if you can do this safely.

Truck - Gross Vehicle WeightEveryone looks at the boat. Some look at the tow vehicle. As for the trailer? Well, that's in Section 2. But the three of these have to operate as one unit. So let's start where everything starts: with the vehicle that gets you, your passengers, the boat, and, yes, the trailer to the water

Gross Vehicle Weight

The truck's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is equal to the curb weight of the truck, plus the payload capacity. The payload capacity tells you how much the people, gear, pets, and everything else in or on the truck can weigh before the truck is overloaded.

Gross Combined Weight Rating

The truck's Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is the maximum amount of weight at which the truck can safely get moving (and stop!) The tow vehicle plus the boat/trailer combo must be added together to arrive at this weight. This number is frequently, but not always, equal to the vehicle's curb weight, plus the towing capacity, plus the weight of the driver (180 lbs.) You'll notice that this leaves no room for any gear or passengers. Therefore, don't try to exactly match the truck's tow capacity with the weight of your boat and trailer. Experts suggest that the fully loaded boat/trailer be no more than 85 percent of the tow capacity (GTWR).

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