Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Will it tow my boat? Important information to know before buying a truck to pull your boat or camper

     This is the time of year that camper and boat salespeople love.  Truck salespeople don’t mind so much either.  But so many people who come in to talk trucks have no idea how to make sure they pick the right vehicle to tow their new trailer.  How can you avoid this pitfall?  Here is some information you need before you buy your new rig.

     There are several important terms to know when you truck and trailer shop.  The first is GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the trailer.  The second is the Maximum Trailer Weight of the truck.  You also need to know the Maximum Payload Rating of the truck, and the Gross Combined Weight for the truck with a trailer.  What do all of these mean?
  • Probably the most important thing to determine is how much weight you will be pulling.  This is where people have the most trouble.  Frequently, I am given the “curb weight” of the boat or camper.  The curb weight is how much the trailer weighs all by itself.  Sounds fair, right?  But then you add fuel for the boat motor, water in the live well, gear and tackle, water and waste water in the camper, groceries, luggage, or whatever else will  be in the trailer being towed, and you find yourself with less truck than you need  to pull the trailer.
  • The number you need when you go shopping for your truck is the GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the trailer.  The “R” at the end is the key.  How much is this trailer rated to weigh at its maximum, with everything in it.  Sure, you won’t have it loaded to maximum capacity all the time.  But if your truck is rated to tow your trailer fully loaded, you are good to go in any situation.  When you start looking at your new tow vehicle, come armed with the GVWR of your trailer.  A good truck salesperson will thank you.
  • When you put a trailer behind a vehicle, a portion of the weight of the trailer rests on the vehicle towing it.  As you shop for a tow vehicle, ask what the Maximum Payload Rating of the truck is.  This number will be the maximum amount of weight you can put on the truck.  This number will be used up by options on the truck, passenger weight in the vehicle, cargo in the box, cargo in the cab, and the tongue weight (or kingpin weight if you will be pulling a 5th wheel camper) of the trailer.  Make sure you will not be exceeding the Maximum Payload Rating of your tow vehicle.
  • Finally, there is a rating for how much the whole picture can weigh.  This number is the Gross Combined Weight Rating.  The weight of the truck, payload (including everything we just talked about), and the trailer altogether can’t exceed this figure, or you can have trouble either with the truck, with the trailer, or with the D.O.T. (if you get pulled over and they think you are over the maximum).
     I know this sounds like a lot to know, but you want to do it right.  If you have too much trailer for your vehicle, the trailer ends up controlling the truck, instead of the other way around.  Worse yet, you could prematurely wear out important things like suspension or transmissions if you don’t have the right truck for the job.

     Ultimately, while it is important that you, as the consumer, are educated enough to ask the right questions, it is the job of the truck salesperson to put it all together and make the right recommendation.  Don’t settle for “Oh yeah.  It’ll pull it.”  Ask some questions.  Put some numbers on paper.  Use the power of the Internet to find this information, if your salesperson isn’t savvy enough to get this information for you, and put it together so you know what you are doing.  On second thought, if your salesperson can’t do this for you, perhaps you shouldn’t be buying a truck from them in the first place.  It’s too expensive to make a mistake.
I know this is a little more technical than some of the articles we have shared together, but it is important – especially this time of year.  Got questions?  Feel free to ask.  Otherwise, happy shopping!

Mike Bidwell
Mankato Motor Co.

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