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How to Choose the Right Size Trailer Hitch

How to Choose the Right Size Trailer Hitch:

Which Class of Trailer Hitch is Best Suited for You?

If you've never dealt with trailer hitches before, it can be kind of confusing. What do the different classes mean? What sizes are there, and what size do you need?The hitch class and receiver size you need depends on two factors: what you want to tow or carry, and what your vehicle can handle. (You can put the strongest hitch in the world on the back of a Ford Focus, but you're still not going to transform your Focus into a trailer-towing giant!)The quickest and easiest way to figure out which hitches will work for your vehicle is to use our fitguide. Just input your vehicle's year, make, and model, and we'll show you only the hitches that fit.But what if multiple hitch classes or sizes turn up, and you have options? What trailer hitch class do you need then?We'll go over hitch classes in more detail below, so you can confidently make the choice best suited for your vehicle and towing situation.
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What are the Different Trailer Hitch Classes?

There are a total of 5 trailer hitch classes, with Class I having the lowest capacity and Class V having the highest. Hitch classes essentially designate the hitch opening size and weight capacity. Here's a quick breakdown of the 5 hitch classes, their associated capacities, and their typical receiver sizes.
Trailer Hitch Class Capacities
Okay, great, you may be thinking. But what do these numbers actually translate to? For context, we've broken out the 5 trailer hitch classes below, including the typical tow vehicles, trailers, and accessories you'll see associated with each size.Keep in mind that you are always limited by your lowest rated component. For instance, if your hitch can haul 8,000 lbs but your vehicle can only haul 3,000 lbs, you're maxed out at 3K.*You can also check out our Tips on How to Tow a Trailer article as well as our Determining Trailer Tongue Weight article for more help towing your trailer!
KEY TERMS
Gross Trailer Weight (GTW): Weight of the loaded trailer. To determine GTW, weigh the loaded trailer on a vehicle scale.Tongue Weight (TW): The downward pressure placed on the ball by the coupler. To determine TW, use a tongue weight scale or other method described here.
Class I Trailer Hitch Receiver

What is a Class I Trailer Hitch?

A Class I trailer hitch is the lightweight champion of the 5 available classes, making it perfect for small loads like kayaks or cargo carriers. These hitches are most often found on passenger cars and smaller SUVs.Class I and Class II trailer hitches typically have a 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" receiver opening. Class II accessories will not work with Class I hitches.Max GTW: 1,000-2,000 lbsMax TW: 100-200 lbsReceiver opening: 1-1/4"
Class I Typical Loads
  • Bikes (max 2)
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kayaks
  • Canoes
  • Mobility scooters
  • Small trailers
Bicycle
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Class I Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Compact cars
  • Midsize cars
  • Full-size cars
  • SUVs
  • Minivans
Class I Tow Vehicles
Class II Hitch Receiver Size
Class I Accessory Tab

What is a Class II Trailer Hitch?

A Class II trailer hitch is just a bit heftier than a Class I hitch. Like Class I hitches, they are typically found on passenger cars and smaller SUVs. Because Class I and Class II hitch receivers are usually the same size, many people wonder if their Class II accessories will fit their Class I hitch. But alas, this is not the case!Class I hitch receivers have a built-in stopper so that drawbars and accessory shanks can only slide into the trailer hitch opening to a certain point. Class II accessories have a longer shank, so they'll run into the stopper and won't be able to slide all the way into the receiver. This is to keep you from accidentally overloading your Class I hitch with a heavier Class II accessory. On the other hand, you CAN use a Class I accessory in a Class II hitch.Max GTW: 2,000-3,500 lbsMax TW: 200-525 lbsReceiver opening: 1-1/4"
Class II Typical Loads
  • Bikes
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kayaks
  • Canoes
  • Mobility scooters
  • Small trailers
  • Small pop-up campers
  • Small boats
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Covered Trailer
Boat
Class II Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Compact cars
  • Midsize cars
  • Full-size cars
  • SUVs
  • Minivans
Class II Typical Tow Vehicles
Class III Hitch Receiver Size

What is a Class III Trailer Hitch?

Class III hitches are some of the most common due to their wide range of weight capacities (about 3,500 lbs GTW to 8,000 lbs GTW). If you want to tow a camper, you're best off sticking with at least a Class III hitch. Since this is the most common hitch size, you have way more options for everything from trailers to bike racks to cargo carriers. Class III hitches have 2" x 2" wide receiver openings. However, you can still use 1-1/4" accessories if you've got them by using an adapter.Max GTW: 3,500-8,000 lbsMax TW: 300-800 lbsReceiver opening: 2"
Class III Typical Loads
  • Midsize campers
  • Utility trailers
  • Lawn maintenance equipment
  • Bikes
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kaykas
  • Canoes
  • Motorcycles
  • Snowmobiles
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Boat
Camper
Trailer
Class III Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Full-size cars
  • Large SUVs
  • Minivans
  • Trucks
Class III Typical Tow Vehicles
Class IV Hitch Receiver Size

What is a Class IV Trailer Hitch?

We again step up the weight capacities with Class IV hitches. Like Class III hitches, Class IV hitches typically have 2" x 2" receivers. However, they come with an even beefier weight capacity (up to 12,000 lbs GTW).Class IV hitches have 2" x 2" wide receiver openings. However, if you want to use your 1-1/4" accessories with your 2" hitch, you can use an adapter.Max GTW: 5,000-12,000 lbsMax TW: 500-1,200 lbsReceiver opening: 2"
Class IV Typical Loads
  • Large campers
  • Large boats
  • Toy haulers
  • Horse trailers
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Boat
Camper
Trailer
Large Camper Trailer
Toy Hauler
Class IV Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Heavy-duty trucks
  • Large SUVs
Class IV Typical Tow Vehicles
Class V Hitch Receiver Size
Class V Hitch Receiver Size 3 Inches

What is a Class V Trailer Hitch?

Class V trailer hitches are as big as they come. These are the heavy-duty hitches made for hauling your heaviest trailers and toy haulers. Most Class V hitch receivers have a 2-1/2" receiver opening, although some have a 2" opening, and the largest even have a 3" opening (these giants are welded to the tow vehicle's frame).If you need to carry a smaller accessory with a Class V hitch, adapters are available. (Special shout-out to our B&W adapters, which are designed with pinched ends to make lining up your pin holes effortless.)Max GTW: 10,000-25,000 lbsMax TW: 1,000-4,000 lbsReceiver opening: 2", 2-1/2", or 3"
Class V Typical Loads
  • Large toy haulers
  • Equipment haulers
  • Multi-car trailers
  • Horse trailers
Large Camper Trailer
Toy Hauler
Class V Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Heavy-duty trucks
  • Commercial trucks
Class V Typical Tow Vehicles
Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can! Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated On: 4/8/20

Moses R.

11/14/2022

I have a Lexus ct200h I want to put a motorcycle with a yes I’m 800 lb trailer What type of hitch do I need

Etrailer Expert

David B.

11/15/2022

Hi Moses, I need to know what year your CT200 was made so I can get you the right hitch receiver. Do you already have a wire harness and brake controller(if applicable)?

Donald L.

8/3/2022

I have a 2014 Winnebago cambria class c MH 30j it has 5” c channel rails extended to rear it has a class 3 hitch which says not to use WD dist hitch it measures 42&1/4 inches to outside of rails do you have a class 4 hitch that would work I’m going to beef up the rails I’m gonna be pulling a enclosed car trailer approx weight 7500to 8000 lbs with a good bit of TW thanks

Etrailer Expert

David B.

8/5/2022

I have the Class V Universal Weld-on Receiver Hitch and Brackets with 3" Drop # 15901 and the Buyers Products Class 4 Service Body Short Hitch Receiver - Accepts All 2" Hitch Accessories # 3371801053 . I must say however, you need to verify the towing capacity of your RV. Adding a hitch receiver with a high weight rating will not increase the RVs capacity. You can re-enforce the frame/mounting area but it still will not increase load capacity. You need to follow the lowest rated item. These are not rated for use with a weight distribution hitch though.

Donald L.

8/5/2022

@DavidB thanks for the info I’ll check on that and get back you

Peter S.

7/1/2022

I purchased a Teske LoPro 6 ft x 12 ft ATV Utility Trailer w/ 4 in Drop Axle. Do I need a ball and hitch that is a 4 inch drop as well? I have a Dodge Durango to tow this with.

Etrailer Expert

David B.

7/1/2022

Here is a Faq that I feel will really help you out. Basically you need to get both the tow vehicle and the trailer parked on the same flat surface uncoupled. Measure from the ground up to the top of your hitch receiver opening, then measure from the ground up to the bottom of the trailer coupler. An example would be: Truck 20 inches, trailer 16 inches. You have a 4 inch difference so you need a 4 inch drop. If the trailer was 20 and the truck 16 you would need a 4 inch rise.

Jeff P.

6/29/2022

Was not an exact fit the bolt holes did not line up in the back flange area is too wide I will have to cut it to get it to fit and cut my sea channel off my old one to cradle the new one to have a good bolt fit

Etrailer Expert

David B.

6/30/2022

What did you order? What is the year make and model of your vehicle? Kinda need that info to help out lol

Jeff P.

6/30/2022

@DavidB I ordered a hitch number 41944 I just sent a text to Carol C and looks like the one I’m thinking of needing is a Kurt HC15312 frame 42 outside bolt centers 39 frame rail the holes first one from the first centerSix and three-quarter and the third one hole is 12 and 1/4 center
Etrailer Expert

David B.

6/30/2022

What vehicle though? Year make model.
See All (5) Replies to Jeff P. ∨

Dave P.

6/26/2022

question: we just got a 2022 Subaru Forester Unlimited full package, except im not going to pay $1000 for them to install a tow package, we are moving from Oregon to Ohio soon and want to tow a 4x8, 5x8 u-haul trailer, what hitch do you recommend ?

Etrailer Expert

David B.

6/27/2022

I'd probably go with this guy # C13409 . It's receiver tube opening is 2" x 2", has a maximum gross trailer weight of 3,500 lbs. Maximum tongue weight 525 lbs and it is not rated for use with weight distribution systems and has a limited lifetime warranty. You will also need a ball mount like # 989900 and if you are taveling I'd get a lock too # e98880 . If you need a wire harness here is one too # 118467 . If you have any questions about any of these let me know, I'll be here.


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