Knowing your vehicle’s weight is important, as you never want to overload it. A heavily burdened vehicle is more difficult to control, and that can lead to accidents. A vehicle’s payload rating indicates how much passenger and cargo weight it can handle. Knowing the various weight ratings, including the difference between curb weight vs. gross weight, is critically important before you tow.
Automotive manufacturers gauge curb weight by measuring the total mass of the vehicle. If you shop for a vehicle and review the specifications, you’ll typically find a weight range spanning several hundred pounds. The difference includes added equipment such as a larger engine, an automatic transmission, safety features and other items.
Your particular vehicle’s curb weight and suggested tire pressure is listed on the placard affixed to the inside of the driver’s door jamb or on a sticker inside the glove box. Your owners manual will likely contain that information as well.
Beyond curb weight, manufacturers typically also list a vehicle’s payload capacity. This figure varies, especially in pickup trucks, and the drivetrain type (rear- or four-wheel drive), engine and cab size are important determining factors. The payload considers the weight of the passengers and all cargo inside the vehicle as well as in the trunk or truck bed and on the roof. To calculate your vehicle’s current payload correctly, you need to include the weight of the fuel in the tank and any accessories you may have added such as a bed cap or toolbox.
For example, if a vehicle has a payload rating of 900 pounds and seats five, you don’t want four other burly passengers weighing at least 200 pounds with you. Adding any cargo increases payload; by going over the limit, additional pressure is placed on the chassis, affecting the suspension system and tires. This can lead to control issues including a blowout or reduced control while cornering.
What Is Gross Weight?
The gross weight is the curb weight plus payload. It’s often represented by the letters GVWR for gross vehicle weight rating. When examining the placard with the curb weight and payload information, you’ll see two additional numbers that represent the gross axle weight rating (GAWR). This is the maximum weight you can safely place on each axle. The two combined GAWR numbers are often greater than the GVWR, but that doesn’t mean you should go above the GVWR. Instead, you should distribute weight evenly to not exceed GVWR.
Another weight factor to consider is towing weight, which represents the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can safely tow. The tow ratings depend on a variety of factors, including the cab style, engine size, transmission, bed length and the equipment used for towing, such as a ball joint or a hitch fixed to the truck bed. The towing details are also included in the manufacturer’s specifications.
Visit any manufacturer’s website to find details about your vehicle. The specifications listed are for the current model-year, while information about older model-year vehicles is typically found on the company’s media site.
Check out all the cargo products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on curb weight vs. gross weight, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Matt Keegan.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.