Tow Capacity Confusion

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RMarshallCB

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Sep 7, 2018
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Howdy folks,

First time RV'er looking to purchase my first rig so the wife and I (along with dog) can do exploring before we get settled in our new home. We plan to be full timers while we try and find our new forever home town. Now I've done extensive reading on tow capacity, GCVWR, payload, etc. and I still can't seem to wrap my head around what weight my truck is rated to pull. I've read a few other topics on the forum and so I've gone and gathered up every little piece of info I thought important to the equation.

I currently drive a 2WD '04 Nissan Titan with the tow package standard. I'd like to purchase a TT that I can tow with my current truck. I haven't been able to get to a CAT scale to weigh the truck's GVW so I'm forced to make an estimate at the time. Most the info I'm pulling from the owners manual or the sticker on my vehicle. Now the specs are:

Payload:      1570-1488 lbs. (The difference in the manual depends on the bed type, which I'm honestly not certain which I have)
Towing Cap:  9300-9500 lbs. (again the bed makes the difference)
GCVWR:      14,600 lbs.
GAWR
Front:          3300 lbs.
Rear:          3800 lbs.
Tongue Load: 930-950 lbs.
Est. GVW:    ~6000 lbs. w/ passengers + bed cap

So now the question is, what are the upper limits I can expect in purchasing my Trailer? Keeping in mind that from what I've been hearing, as full timers we can expect to carry close to an extra 1500 lbs. in cargo. Now I'd love to believe what the manual claims and operate off the assumption that towing capacity gives me the answer to my maximum safe weight, but as I understand it that isn't the case. Earlier this week we went to a dealer and I gave him the manual listed towing cap and he showed us some models, one in particular the wife and I loved, but after returning home and comparing some weights now I'm worried it'll be over the GCVWR. The rig in question is the Forest River Heritage Glen model T272RL http://www.forestriverinc.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=171&Image=5088&ModelID=2261#Main with a listed dry weight of 7300 lbs.

Anyhow, thanks for your time and I much appreciate any help I can get.
-Marshall
 
IF BUYING A TRAVEL TRAILER:
So the payload is low end 1500 lbs Add up the total weight of everything you plan to put in the tow vehicle.you, your wife, the dog, tools, adult beverage, kids. Whatever will be in or on the tow vehicle. let us assume you decide 750 lbs is the number. That leaves 750 lbs of payload 1500-750=750. Travel trailers put 10-15% of the their Gross weight on the tow vehicle (unless you will always go camping with absolutely nothing in the trailer) At 10% that 750 lbs of left over payload translates to a gross weight of 7500 lbs for the trailer.

Your GCVWR  (GROSS COMBINED VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING) is 14,600 pounds  so you take the gross weight of the trailer and add that to the gross weight (GVW)of the tow vehicle. That number should not exceed 14,600 lbs. The estimated Gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the tow vehicle is about 6000 lbs. This would allow you to tow a 8600 GROSS WEIGHT TRAILER.
more later but ask questions if anything not clear
FIFTH WHEEL HAS DIFFERENT NUMBERS
 
In simple terms, the most you can tow is the difference between the truck actual gross weight (your 6000 lb estimate) and the truck GCWR (14,600), so you are looking at 8,600 tops.  You may not enjoy driving with an 8600 lb trailer behind it, but the truck will do it.

The other limiting factor is the truck payload.  The truck has to carry the trailer tongue weight plus passengers, gear and trailer hitch.  The trailer tongue weight is 10-12 of the trailer gross weight, so we use 10% of the trailer max (GVWR) as an estimate until you narrow down your choices. 10% of the 8600 derived in the first paragraph is 860 lbs, so that plus your passengers and gear and roughly 100 lbs of trailer hitch cannot exceed your payload. Call your payload 1500 lbs, since none of these numbers are precise enough to worry about 50 lbs either way.
 
Way too much trailer for that truck.  Many try and really reach the max numbers, and I feel this exceeds the numbers, brochure says hitch weight 845lbs.  Anyways, if you max out your truck, it really stinks trying to get up that really long hill coming out of the campground, or trying to get somewhat up to speed entering the freeway, because your 04 Truck is on it's last breath, all the time.  Oh, wait until the blankedy blank pulls in front and stops, forcing you with your maxed out truck to respond.  Or the windy day, it's raining, Semi's are blowing past.  You get my drift?  So, I know you want a large enough trailer to full time in.  This is going to cause a question only you can answer.  If it was me (and seems you are willing to open the checkbook for a new trailer) I would reconsider upgrading your truck, and settle for a perfectly fine large gently used trailer.  Then you can get the size of trailer you might want.  You are a smart man coming here and doing your homework.  The RV dealer just loves to sell Trailers, could give 2 cents afterward.  If you really want to keep your truck, I would stay at 25' max, and 7000 lbs gross weight on a trailer.
 
My rule of thumb is eight.
My tow vehicle must have at least eight lug nuts per
wheel and at least eight spark plugs under the hood.
 
Really Huckleberry and Spencerpj are giving good advice. I can add two things.

1. Just because a manual shows it may tow that heavy of a trailer doing it safely and being able to come to a stop in a controlled safe manner from 55 mph is what you really need to focus on.
2. Stay at 18 foot max length and a trailer weight of no more than 5k lbs. If you want to use a 15 year old truck even if it has low miles on it.

Good luck and enjoy the adventure.
 
Thanks for all the advice folks! It's much appreciated and I have a much better picture of the overall weight equation as well as a good idea of what I'm looking for now. I can finally explain with confidence the weight issue to friends and family when they ask. Not sure about keeping length under 18 ft. I've hardly even seen any TTs that small, and we have to live in the thing so more space equals more overall mental health quality in my opinion.

In response to Arch, currently I'm living in Phoenix AZ where I sort of grew up. I came back here after my tour in the military, but the desert has worn thin on me and I'm looking to move somewhere about my childhood home of north Virginia. I figure the best way to scout out a potential place to live is to live there, so we've determined RV living is the most flexible and financially sound method of accomplishing this, being able to effectively search the whole country and everywhere in between. And as a bonus, I've always been a rambling soul and love to travel and camp so now I get to do that full time.
 

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