The ABCs of Towing a Trailer: Know Your GVWR and GCWR

When horse owners decide to transport their horse for a short or long distance trip, they tend to focus on choosing the most suitable trailer to buy or rent. Of course, since the safety and comfort of the horse are a primary concern, the choice of trailer is key. That said, one of the biggest mistakes people make is neglecting to also consider the tow vehicle they intend to use. The safety and general well-being of your horse, vehicle driver, and passengers, as well as others on the road, depend on choosing a vehicle that can support the combined weight of your trailer, horse, passengers, and equipment. The key metrics to consider to ensure you have the correct trailer / tow combination are the GVWR trailer and the GCWR tow vehicle.

GVWR trailer

If you’ve already chosen a trailer (or already own one) and are ready to choose the right towing vehicle, you need to know how much your trailer weighs. More specifically, you need to know the GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the vehicle. The GVWR, which is usually printed on a sticker on the inside door of your trailer, represents the manufacturer’s recommended capacity or maximum total weight of the trailer and whatever you are hauling in it. Importantly, the trailer should never be loaded beyond the GVWR.

Why use the GVWR as the weight metric that will help determine the tow vehicle you use, even if you never intend to load the trailer to its full capacity? Because that will help give the driver a margin of safety in light of the uneven distribution of a horse’s weight (they are heavy on top) and the changing weight that results from the fact that it will be live loaded.

GCWR Tow Vehicle

Now that you know the weight of your trailer when it is full, the second key metric that is important is the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of your tow vehicle. Similar to the trailer’s GVWR, the tow vehicle’s GCWR represents the maximum recommended weight that a vehicle can safely pull, which includes the weight of the vehicle itself, its passengers, and its cargo, including the fully loaded trailer.

As a result, the GCWR of your tow vehicle must be greater than the weight of the tow vehicle, plus the GVWR, or the maximum total weight of the fully loaded trailer. In other words, as the required trailer weight increases and the number of horsepower it is pulling, the vehicle’s GCWR should increase as well. Let’s say, for example, your horse trailer’s GVWR is 7,000 lbs. And you’re considering a 5,000 lbs. Pickup truck like the Chevy 1500. You’ll need to make sure the vehicle has a GCWR of at least 12,000. pounds. Of course, the closer you think you actually will be to the 12,000 lb limit, the more likely you should consider the next truck size. The additional cost of approximately $ 3,000 should pay for itself with less wear and tear on the vehicle over time.

It’s also important to take into account the terrain you expect to ride the most frequently. Driving in the mountains, for example, is difficult on the climb, but even more difficult on the brakes on the way down, so it is better to have a significantly higher truck capacity if you plan to drag your horse in the mountains frequently. Also note that depending on the weight of your trailer, you may be able to use an SUV or other light truck, unless you are hauling a gooseneck trailer, which requires a pick up truck or larger unit with a platform for the gooseneck hitch.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to be conservative and choose a more powerful towing / towing capacity combination than you think you’ll need. The bottom line is that maneuverability and the ability to accelerate and / or brake without difficulty can be the key to an enjoyable ride, to be sure, but more importantly, it can also be the difference between life and death on the road. .