In a previous article, we covered some towing terminology to answer some questions about different technical terms we’ve thrown around. In that article, we also mentioned towing classes, or hitch classes, and how they correlate to what you can tow.
If you’re an average Joe getting ready to tow something with you own car, you’re probably going to see a lot about these hitch classes, and you’ll need to know the difference between the different levels. While you most likely cannot easily change the mount on your tow car or truck, making sure you get the correct hitch for what you’re towing is crucial.
As a quick review, here are the different hitch classes:
- Class I Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 2,000 pounds gross trailer weight, with up to 200 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class II Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 3,500 pounds gross trailer weight, with 300 to 350 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class III Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 5,000 pounds gross trailer weight with 500 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class IV Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 10,000 pounds gross trailer weight, with 1,000 to 1,200 pounds tongue weight.
Before we discuss what you can or cannot tow in each class, here is a review of some key terms you’ll see in the description of each class:
Key Towing Terms
- Gross trailer weight (GTW) is the weight of a fully loaded trailer.
- Tongue weight (TW) is the downward force on the hitch ball created by the tongue.
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is the maximum weight of a vehicle when fully loaded.
- Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is the weight of the loaded tow vehicle and trailer.
Class 1 hitches are the all-purpose, lightweight hitches designed for most every tow vehicle. They can be attached to the smallest compact car up to the giant heavy-duty trucks. If you remember from the class definition, they can tow up to 2,000 lbs GTW. Items such as jet skis, motorcycles, bike racks and cargo boxes all fit into this hitch category.
As you might expect, Class 2 hitches are more robust and durable. They can tow up to 3,500 lbs GTW, so they can tow everything from Class 1 hitches and a little more. In addition to the jet skis and motorcycles, Class 2 hitches can also manage small trailers, ATVs and even small boats. This class of hitches shouldn’t be attached to compact cars, however. They’re only designed for regular cars and up.
Join us next week as we discuss the other two levels of hitch Classes. If you’re lucky, we’ll even discuss the mythical “Class V.” Is it a real class or just made up marketing hoax?