utility trailer weights

When it comes to trailer construction, trailers made from aluminum tend to be lighter than those made from steel. Additionally, utility trailers designed to carry heavy loads will generally be heavier than those that are not. But with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which trailer is right for your needs. Otherwise, you may end up with a trailer that is too difficult to tow or one that is not capable of hauling your desired load.

To help you choose the right utility trailer for your needs, we have put together a guide covering everything from trailer weights to towing capacity. We'll also provide some tips on maximizing the use of your trailer, no matter what you are hauling. See our article on the best utility trailers in the USA.

But first, here are terms you ought to know before diving in further;

Understanding Weight Capacity; Common Terms

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is the maximum weight that a vehicle can safely hold. This includes the "curb weight" (empty weight) of the car, its occupants, and its cargo. When towing, it is essential to know the limitations of your car, so always keep the GVWR in mind as you're loading up.

It's important to note that the GVWR does not include the weight of any trailer. If a trailer is in tow, the trailer's tongue weight counts against the vehicle's GVWR. This is something to keep in mind when calculating how much weight the vehicle will be carrying. It's also important to note that the GVWR includes the weight of all fluids in the vehicle, such as gasoline and engine oil. Be sure to take this into account when loading up your truck.

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Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)

The GCWR is an important rating for any vehicle used for towing. It represents the vehicle's maximum weight and its attached trailer, and it must never be exceeded.

This number is determined by the manufacturer (such as DK2 Detail trailers) and takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the vehicle's structure, engine, and brakes. While the GCWR may seem like a relatively simple concept, it significantly impacts the safety of both the vehicle and its occupants.

Exceeding the GCWR can put undue stress on the vehicle's components, leading to a breakdown or even an accident. For this reason, it's important always to know what your GCWR is and to make sure that you never exceed it. If you're not sure about your GCWR, consult your owner's manual or ask your dealer for more information.

It is also relatively easy to calculate the GCWR.

First, simply find the GVWR of the vehicle. This can usually be found in the owner's manual or on a placard (sometimes located on the doorjamb). Next, add the GVWR to the trailer's weight when fully loaded to its listed capacity. The resulting number is the GCWR. As long as this number is not exceeded, towing should be safe and easy.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

This is the maximum weight that a single axle can safely support. When carrying a well-distributed load on two axles, the load weight distribution is usually equal on each axle. That means each axle supports about 50% of the total weight loaded on the trailer.

This safety consideration is also important for the tow vehicle. If the GAWR of the tow vehicle's axle is not high enough, then the trailer could cause problems while being towed. To avoid this, it is crucial to ensure that the GAWR of both the tow vehicle and the trailer are compatible with your intended use.

Tongue Weight

The downward pressure applied to the back of a tow truck by a trailer or towable load is known as tongue weight. It's significantly influenced by where goods are placed in a trailer, and it's critical for maintaining reasonable control.

The maximum tongue load is the maximum amount of weight that a trailer hitch can hold.


trailer hitch tongue weight

Payload Capacity

Many people confuse payload capacity with towing capacity when choosing a utility trailer. Payload capacity is the amount of weight the vehicle or trailer can safely carry without damaging the suspension, tires, or other components.

Payload capacity is determined by a number of factors, including the frame's strength, the type of suspension, tire size, and braking functionality. Note: While some tandem axle trailers are equipped with an independent braking system, overloading a trailer can be detrimental to towing safety.

If you plan on carrying a lot of weight, it's essential to ensure that your truck or trailer has a high payload capacity.

Otherwise, you risk damaging your vehicle or even getting involved in an accident. As a result, it's essential to know the payload capacity of your vehicle before heading out on the road.

Towing Capacity

The towing capacity of a vehicle is the maximum amount of weight a car can tow. This includes both the weight of the trailer and its contents. Pulling too much weight can lead to a number of problems, including decreased fuel economy, damage to the vehicle's suspension, and even loss of control if the trailer starts to swing side by side.

The towing capacity should generally be higher than the load capacity because the tongue of the trailer adds extra weight to the equation. This will keep you on the safe side in case you have to account for errors in your calculations.

Utility Trailer Weight by Trailer Type: How Much Does It Weigh?

How much does an ATV trailer/Motorcycle trailer weigh?

The empty weight of an average ATV hauler trailer ranges from 600 to 1500 pounds, while the maximum allowable cargo load usually is around 3000 pounds. An average ATV tow-behind trailer weighs between 400 to 800 pounds when empty and can carry up to 2000 or 3000 pounds depending on the model.

How much does a gooseneck trailer weigh?

The weight of an empty gooseneck trailer can vary greatly depending on the size and construction, but they typically weigh between 2500 and 7,000 pounds. However, longer and broader gooseneck trailers can weigh up to 10,000 pounds or more.

How much does an enclosed gooseneck weigh?

The weight capacity of an enclosed gooseneck trailer is often more significant than that of a towbar attached trailer. It'll weigh between 3,000 to 5,000 pounds, depending on the size.

How much does an enclosed car trailer weigh?

An enclosed trailer weighs significantly more than an open vehicle trailer. The weight of an 8.5x16 unloaded car trailer ranges between 2,500-2,800 lbs with a load capacity of about 4500 to 7200 pounds.

How much does a 5x8 aluminum trailer weigh?

The average weight of a 5x8 aluminum cargo trailer is about 350lbs.

What is the maximum weight capacity for a single axle trailer?

Most trailer axles (individually) can carry between 1,000 and 10,000 pounds. You can reasonably estimate the axle's average load capacity by measuring the axle or axles' diameter. Here is a quick reference list for different diameter-sized axles and the estimated maximum weight capacity per axle. If your trailer has multiple axles, you'll need to multiply the per-axle load capacity by the number of axles to get its overall combined weight capacity.

  • 1.5-inch diameter axle - 1000 lbs

  • 1.75-inch diameter axle - 2,000 lbs.

  • 2.375-inch diameter - 3,500 lbs 

  • 3-inch diameter - 6,000 lbs 

  • 3.5-inch diameter - 8,000 lbs

  • 4-inch diameter - 9,000 lbs

  • 5-inch diameter - 10,000 lbs

Safety tips for towing a fully loaded trailer

Distribute weight evenly.

At least 60% of the total load weight should be placed in front of the axle. Ensure everything is balanced from side to side and well tied down to prevent load shifting during transit, especially when braking or turning.

Know your weight limits.

Check the maximum payload capacity of your trailer, and make sure not to exceed it. Also, make sure not to exceed the capacity of your trailer hitch and the maximum towable weight your car can pull.

Properly inflate the tires

Your tires should be in good condition and properly inflated. Overinflated or underinflated tires can lead to a blowout or multiple blowouts. If traveling over a long distance, make sure to check the wheel bearings as well.

Expect changes in handling

Your car's braking, steering, and overall handling will change when towing. With a longer and heavier vehicle combination, you will need more space to stop and turn. Don't take corners too tightly; otherwise, you might run your trailer over the curb or hit other cars or obstacles next to you. You might need to invest in towing side mirror

Drive slower than usual, avoid tailgating and give yourself plenty of time and distance to brake and turn. Also, avoid sudden lane changes and pay more attention to what's going on a little farther down the road than you would typically.

Upgrade your transmission protection

Towing causes extra strain on your car's transmission. This causes intense heat build-up, which can lead to premature transmission failure.

If you'll be towing regularly or for long distances, ensure your cooling system is up for the task. You might consider upgrading your transmission cooler or installing an auxiliary external transmission cooler. We recommend using high-end synthetic lubricant with high heat resistance. This will help your transmission run cooler, shift better and last longer.

Double-check everything

Before hitting the road, make sure your trailer is correctly connected to your car, the load is well fastened, and all the car and trailer lights are working. A few planned stops to check on the trailer and load are always a good idea when on the road.

If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to tow a loaded trailer safely. Just remember to use common sense, drive slowly and carefully, and don't exceed the weight limits of your car or trailer. Happy trails!

Utility Trailer Weights; FAQs

How should weight be placed in a trailer?

By loading heavier items in the front and lighter, smaller goods near the rear, you can avoid the dreaded trailer swaying or any shifting caused by crosswinds or uneven terrain. The same applies even to closed cargo trailers.

Sixty percent of all the cargo should be placed in the front of the trailer, and the remaining weight placed to the rear of the axle.

How close to payload capacity is safe?

Exceeding your trailer's payload capacity can have several severe consequences. First of all, it's essential to maintain control of your trailer at all times. If it's overloaded, it can be challenging to maneuver, which can put you and other drivers at risk. Additionally, an overloaded trailer is more likely to experience problems like flat tires or broken axles.

Keeping your payload below the maximum capacity can help keep your car and your trailer safe on the road. Ideally, you should never come within 10% of the total capacity, just to be safe.

Should a trailer be level when towing?

Properly leveling a trailer is essential for safe and efficient towing.

An uneven trailer can cause several problems, including poor braking, reduced ground clearance, and excessive sway. Uneven tire wear is also a common issue with trailers that are not level. By leveling your trailer, you can improve its towing performance and prevent costly damage to the tires. In addition, a well-leveled trailer will be more stable on the road, making it easier to control.

Whether you're hauling a heavy load or just taking your camper out for a weekend getaway, taking the time to make sure your trailer is level is worth the effort.

The Takeaway

First and foremost, know your trailer. Understand its capabilities as well as the limits. Second, be smart about loading it. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for GVWR. Third, always use caution when towing; drive safely and within the speed limit. You can rest assured that your utility trailer will serve you well for years to come – safe and sound when you do all of these things.