Towing by the Numbers – RAV-4 V6 Limited and 3300 Lb. Coleman Mesa – (LONG)
First, the best advice on towing is to seek the assistance of an independent towing specialist shop. Auto dealers are usually clueless, and RV dealers may try to sell you too much RV for your truck.
I’ve got a Coleman Mesa Pop-Up, 3300 lbs dry weight, and needed to determine if I can tow it with my way cool brand new RAV-4 V6 Ltd. I have the towing package, Toyota hitch, and no third seat. I am very motivated to make this work.
I thought I’d go through how I determined if it is safe to tow by using the manufacturer’s ratings as a starting point. It’s fair to say that to be safe, you shouldn’t exceed any of the manufacturer’s weight ratings. After all, towing safety is not about engine torque or horsepower. It’s all about weight, braking, and stability.
It takes a bit of time and effort to determine if your vehicle and trailer are simpatico. A lot of people just don’t understand many of the terms that are used when talking about towing. So here are some common terms, what they mean, and how to use them.
GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)
This is the maximum weight, set by the factory, that your vehicle can weigh with all it’s cargo, fuel, passengers, options, etc. Anything that goes in or on the vehicle MUST be counted against your GVWR. You should never exceed it. The RAV-4 GVWR is located on the driver’s side door post, on a sticker. For my RAV-4, it is 4720 Lbs. For trailers, it is usually on a placard somewhere on the trailer.
This is the weight of the basic model with no options and full fuel. It does not include cargo, people, or anything else. The curb weight for my RAV-4 V6 Ltd, no rear seat is 3675 lbs. I got this number from the owner's manual. For campers, Curb weight is often called “dry weight” and can be found on a placard on the trailer.
PAYLOAD or LOAD CAPACITY (terms used interchangeably)
Payload is how much weight you can put in and on your truck. For my RAV-4, Toyota states in the owner’s manual the Load Capacity is 825 Lbs. This includes weight of passengers, cargo, and TOUNGE WEIGHT of the trailer. (more on that shortly).
TONGUE WEIGHT: The weight the tongue of a bumper pull trailer puts on the back of the truck, primarily on the rear axle. Generally speaking, tongue weight should be 10% of the weight of the loaded trailer. In other words, a 3500 lb. trailer would have a 350 lb. tongue weight.
GCVWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating) This is the manufacturer’s set weight for the maximum combined weight of your trailer, truck and cargo together. Add up the actual weight of your truck with the actual weight of your trailer, plus any cargo, and make sure it is under your GCVWR. You can usually find the GCVWR in your owner’s manual. For my RAV-4, it is 8100 Lbs.
ACTUAL WEIGHT. This is one of the most important numbers for determining your towing capabilities. Actual weight is just what it says. The only truly accurate way to determine your actual weight is to go to a truck stop or grain elevator and have your truck and trailer weighed. Before your do, fill the fuel tanks, add whatever cargo you normally carry when trailering, plus yourself and normal passengers.
Still with me? Good. Let’s do some quick math on my RAV-4 before we head to the scales.
First, Am I exceeding the LOAD CAPACITY of 825 lbs?
My 3300 lb trailer is really a 3500 Lb trailer when loaded with weekend camping gear. It has a tongue weight of 350 lbs. 825-350=475 lbs.
So I have 475 lbs for passengers and cargo.
Two adults at 170 lbs each, or 340 lbs, and we have 135 lbs left.
The two kids are 100 lbs each, for 200 lbs, so we’ve just exceeded the LOAD CAPACITY by 45 Lbs. One of the 100 Lb kids has to stay with friends, so we have 35 Lbs left over for baggage and for Fido. Fido goes to the kennel, and we’re good to go with a cooler and toothbrushes. No clothes. Sorry.
Now we’re loaded to GVWR. Will we be over GCVWR? For my RAV-4, GCVWR is 8100 lbs. GVWR is 4720. 4720+3500=8220. Whoops, I’m over by 120 Lbs. So I have to leave 120 Lbs of my 200 Lbs of camping gear behind to hit GCVWR. I didn’t even include the bikes and canoe, which are a total no go.
So, according to weight, the RAV-4 CAN NOT TOW a 3500 Lb trailer with a family of four people, and normal gear. No need to go to the scales. Darn. The '98 Jeep GC stays in the fleet until we sell the camper.
How about the 2000 Lb Pop up one earlier poster has?
Let’s assume the same 200 Lbs of gear, bikes, etc. You’d be surprised how fast it adds up. So we are at 2200 Lbs for the trailer.
First, Am I exceeding the LOAD CAPACITY of 825 lbs?
My 2000 lb trailer is really a 2200 Lb trailer when loaded with weekend camping gear. It has a tongue weight of 200 lbs. 825-220=605lbs.
So I have 605 lbs for passengers and cargo.
Two adults at 170 lbs each, or 340 lbs, and we have 265 lbs left.
The two kids are 100 lbs each, for 200 lbs, so we’ve got 65 Lbs over for baggage and for Fido. If Fido is not a Bernese Mountain Dog, this could be OK!
Now we’re loaded to GVWR. Will we be over GCVWR? For my RAV-4, GCVWR is 8100 lbs. GVWR is 4720. 4720+2200=6920. I have plenty of margin here.
So according to weight, the RAV-4 can pull a 2000 Lb Pop-Up with 4 people, camping gear, etc. Time to go to the scales and verify the nmbers.
Toyota says you need trailer brakes over 600 Lbs towed vehicle weight, and anti-sway over 2000 Lbs.
There are a lot more factors that make towing comfortable and safe, like tow vehicle wheelbase, frontal area of the trailer, aerodynamics, etc. If the basic weights don’t work out, you are at risk. It takes more to be comfortable. Trailering a boat to the local lake is a lot different than cross country towing in varied conditions. YMMV.
I hope this has been helpful.