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Trailer Hitch Classes and Weight Capacity Comparison

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Comparison of Class I, II, and III Trailer Hitches


Today we're going to cover a common question, what does class I, II, and III mean and what does it mean to my vehicle. We're going to go through them all and show you what the differences are, some are subtle and some are rather apparent. Basically, we'll make it easier for you. We're going to start off with this example here which is a class I hitch. Class I means this hitch is good for trailers up to 2000 pounds. What we're going to show you over here is the sticker which shows the different weights and capacities involved. We'll show you what those mean. As you can see by the sticker here, were going to show you some notes on it, these stickers will apply to any class hitch that you come across. Once you figure out what this means, you're home free. Starting here at max gross trailer weight which shows 2000 pounds.

Starting here at “ max gross trailer weight” which shows 2,000 pounds. That means the total weight you can pull with your trailer. That means, if your trailer is 500 pounds then you have got 1,500 pounds of weight to put on it and that is the safe capacity for this hitch. Moving over to the next number where it says “ max gross tongue weight” and it shows 200 pounds there. That tongue weight means that the force that actually pushes down on the hitch ball itself in the vertical force. That limits it to 200 pounds which is traditionally about 10 percent of the total trailer weight. Okay just those two notes right there apply to any hitch that is out there. The only thing that changes is the capacity of the hitch and the weight of the trailer itself. Okay now we are going over the detail the receiver tube on the Class I receiver hitch. You may think it is not a big deal, actually there are a couple of distinguishing marks about them. One is pretty much aesthetics and and the other one is actually a technical safety reason. 01:46

As you see on the front of the hitch here there is nothing around it. It is just a plain steel and that is it. All of the major manufacturers will build the Class I hitch just like that. That always shows that it is going to be a Class I receiver just by glancing at it. Okay the next detail is for safety. This looks minor but it is there for a reason. If you can see this, there is a little dent in here for a punch. Basically what that does is it forces the steel to go inside the receiver tube and there is a reason for that. The reason is for instance that you have got a ball mount laying around and you want to use this on your brand new hitch. Well that ball mount may be from a Class II receiver hitch which we will talk about next. Basically that is a ball mount with a higher capacity. The idea is that you do not want to forget that you have a lower capacity hitch and install a higher capacity draw bar. What happens is that stop prevents you from putting that draw bar into it. We can show you what happens. As you can see we installed it all the way. You can see just a slither of the original ball mount hole. That means you can not put the pin in there and that keeps you from putting an over sized draw bar into an under sized hitch. It is there for your protection. This actually applies a lot in bicycle racks and other cargo carriers too. Also the Class I hitches you mainly find those in applications such as smaller vehicles and some compact vehicles and that pretty much covers the details of a Class I receiver hitch. We will go ahead and move on to the Class II receiver hitch. Moving on to the Class II receiver hitch. We will cover some of the weights on the sticker and cover a couple of differences on the receiver tube itself. Again we will cover the numbers on the sticker here too. You see here it says” weight carrying ball mount”. That means just the hitch itself, just the ball mount going into the receiver hitch in the ball, that is what we are talking about right there. You see this where it says” weight distribution”, that is a separate device that allows you to carry heavier weights. That really does not apply to Class II receiver hitches. Again by itself the hitch the greater for it is 3,500 pounds. That is the total weight. Again say your trailer is 500 pounds, you have got 3,000 pounds of capacity trailer left over and also the tongue weight is listed at 300 pounds and again that is the weight being pushed down on the ball itself. That is about 300 pounds. A little bit under ten percent and that is about the going rate of what a trailer hitch will ride. Usually about ten percent or a little bit less up front. And on the details on the Class II receiver hitch there are not too many different details on it as compared to a Class I. Basically all of the Class II have a ring around the edge of the hitch so at a quick glance you will know you are dealing with a Class II receiver hitch. The steel on the Class II have a little bit thicker gage than the Class I and essentially the dimensions are going to be the same, both 1-1/ 4 obviously. Those are really the only main differences. Just heavier steel and heavier capacity. Shapes in the hitches are different. The hitches are usually designed to fit specific vehicles. Where as so each vehicle is going to be different. The shape of the hitch is going to be different every time. We are showing just basic examples here. Okay Class II receiver hitches can be found on a variety of vehicles. Most of the time you can find them on full sized cars, some mid sized cars like Sedans and they are very common for that application actually you can find these on mid size SUVs, but the thing you will not find these on typically will be full size SUVs and full size pickups. Generally that is the realm of the Class III. And that is pretty much it to cover in Class II receiver hitch. We will go ahead and move on to the next size which is the Class III. 05:14

Moving on we are going to show you Class III receiver hitches and the differences that lie within those. Traditionally a Class III receiver hitch is good for trailers up to 5,000 pounds and 500 pounds ton weight. There are a few different variances from that and we will show you that here in a second. Okay again we are going to start off with stickers and show you the differences. As you can see here max gross trailer weight on this hitch is 5,000 pounds like we discussed and the ton weight is going to be 500 pounds also. Again about 10 percent of your trailer weight. Now on the other side here on the Class III you will see the weight distribution and what that is that specification for when you use a specific device that goes between the truck and the trailer that takes up the ton weight. What that does is that distributes the trailer weight between your truck and your trailer and allows you to carry a heavier weight. As far as the Class III hitch is concerned that actually increases the weight that the hitch can handle. So in this instance this only goes up to 6,000 pounds. 1, 000 pounds more and 600 pounds, 100 pounds more in tongue capacity. On different vehicles that can change. Some will be 7,500 pounds, 8,000 pounds, even 10,000 pounds in the Class III hitch. Those will all vary within the Class III hitch. As you noticed the weight distribution capacities do vary again that is basically going to depend on the vehicle itself. The heavier the vehicle the heavier the weight distribution capacity that is available. The Class III receiver hitch will always traditionally be 5,000 pounds by itself and of course there are a couple of other options or exceptions to the rule. Some mid size SUVs will have a two inch receiver available for them but those will be extensions just like the Class II which means they will have a two inch receiver but only rated for 300 pounds tongue weight and 3,500 pounds trailer capacity. Again usually on that one you will not find a weight distribution specification for those hitches. Mainly it is there because a lot of two inch receivers accessories are available out there and they will go good with those particular vehicles. It is a little confusing but go through the hitch guide and we can tell you exactly what you can do with your vehicle. 07:12

To cover some of the aspects of the Class III receiver hitch it is a traditional two inch receiver that is industry standard. Basically those are going to be made out of thicker material than the other previous two classes the other thing is that you will see variances in the cross tube. In this example here we have a round cross tube and other examples that will be out there are square tubes. When you are looking at a hitch you might hear something about the cross tube whether it is a round tube or a square tube one being stronger than the other. Up to a certain capacity or structural I should say, yes the round tube is a little bit weaker than the square tube but again that is in applications and that does not really even involve towing. Those are structural applications and stress going in different directions. You can go up to I believe 10,000 pounds for a round tube hitch. Traditionally after that square tubes mainly take over. As long as you know the basics of the weight capacities of the hitch you can figure out exactly what you need for your application. These rules will apply to all three classes and even fours and fives that are mainly reserved for heavy duty towing. One final note about the hitches and this applies to all classes of hitch. You definitely want to see what the capacity of the vehicle is yourself. Some vehicles will have differences engines and transmissions combinations. Each will have there own limited capacities. If you can not find it in your owners manual what you need to do is take your VIN number and take it to your dealer ship they can type it in and tell you what your car can and can not do. That covers the basics of a Class I, II, and III hitches.

Questions and Comments about this Video

At the first glance I can easily find a Class 1 hitch for my Mini. I own a 2005 Mini Cooper S and cant find a hitch Part Number and costs.Can you help?Mark

comment by: - 9/28/2012

138

Mark, Due to the center exhaust setup on the 2005 Cooper S, there is not hitch available. There are hitches for the non-S models since the exhaust is over on the passenger side. The exhaust tips and routing on the 2005 Cooper S models prohibits a hitch from being safely secured to the vehicle and not to mention the heat from the exhaust could damage the accessories used with the hitch.

Patrick B - 9/28/2012
36

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Hello there, am getting my 2008 toyota tacoma 4 wheel drive v-6 motor ready for towing, so i looked up towing package for my tacome and it said i need to get a class 4 trailer hitch for it. The trailer i plan on getting is 26 ft gvwr is7,500 hitch weight is 580lbs ,so ive had a T R D STEVES super charger put on and a engine oil cooler put on and my truck came with a transmission cooler all ready installed and the air bags are next to be put on, so my question to you folks is do i need a class 4 hitch put on my tacoma truck? the trailer is going to come with a easy lift hitch.o-ya its an automatic.

comment by: orin - 1/23/2013

895

The hitches available for your 2008 Tacoma have a weight capacity of 5000 GTW and 500 TW. Those numbers can be increased to 5500/550 with the addition of a weight distribution system. There are no hitches available for the 2008 Tacoma to support that trailer load. Keep in mind, even with the upgrades you have made, you will still be limited to the towing capacities outlined in the owner manual of your Tacoma. The towing ratings are based upon more than just the motor performance and suspension.

Patrick B - 2/4/2013
564

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Help Articles about Trailer Hitch

Trailer Hitch Installation Tips


What Do I Need To Tow A Trailer?


Trailer Hitch Classes Review


Trailer Hitch Types Review


Specialty Trailer Hitch Review


Trailer Hitch Receiver Sizes


Tips on How To Tow a Trailer


Types of Bumpers


Rust Prevention


Towing a Trailer with a Jeep Wrangler


How to Clean Weld Nuts for the Installation of a Trailer Hitch


How to Correct Noise from Exhaust Rattling Against a Trailer Hitch


Determining Trailer Tongue Weight




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