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Trailer Hitch Classes: How to Choose the Right One

Black SUV towing a trailer in the desert

If you tow often, a trailer hitch serves an essential purpose. This device is attached to the vehicle that’s doing the hauling, and it directly connects the tow vehicle with the trailer that’s being pulled. Because there are different trailer hitch classes, it’s important to choose the right one for the job.

How Do Trailer Hitch Classes Differ?

There are five classes of trailer hitch: Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV and Class V.Pickup truck with trailer hitch

Hitch classes differ in their maximum weight capacity and the size of their receiver openings. They also differ in how much trailer tongue weight they can handle. (Tongue weight is the amount of downward force the trailer tongue places on the hitch.)

A trailer hitch may be weight-carrying or weight-distributing. With a weight-carrying hitch, the weight being towed is placed mainly on the hitch and the rear of the tow vehicle. A weight-distributing hitch spreads the weight across the trailer tongue and the tow vehicle’s front axis. This allows it to accommodate the heaviest towing tasks.

Class I

This hitch class is typically used with cars and small crossovers, and it allows the vehicle to tow up to 2,000 pounds. Made for light-duty use, this trailer hitch is weight-carrying with a 1.25-inch receiver opening. A Class I hitch has a maximum trailer tongue weight of 200 pounds.

Class II

Designed for moderate-duty applications, a Class II trailer hitch is typically used with cars, crossovers and minivans. This hitch is weight-carrying and has a 1.25-inch receiver opening. Typically, a Class II hitch tows up to 3,500 pounds and accommodates a maximum trailer tongue weight of 300 pounds.

Class III

A Class III hitch is generally used with crossovers, full-size SUVs, vans and trucks, and it has a 2-inch receiver. Class III hitches may be weight-carrying or weight-distributing: Weight-carrying Class III hitches usually tow up to 6,000 pounds with a maximum trailer tongue weight of up to 600 pounds, and a weight-distributing Class III hitch can tow up to 10,000 pounds with a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,000 pounds.

Class IV

Class IV trailer hitches are used for heavy-duty applications, and they’re usually paired with large pickups and full-size SUVs. These hitches have a 2-inch receiver opening, and they may be weight-carrying or weight-distributing. A weight-carrying Class IV hitch tows up to 10,000 pounds and accommodates a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,000 pounds. Weight-distributing Class IV hitches usually pull up to 14,000 pounds with a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,400 pounds.

Class V

Used for towing the heaviest loads, Class V trailer hitches are often used with large pickups and full-size SUVs. They have a 2.5-inch receiver opening and can be weight-carrying or weight-distributing. Weight-carrying hitches in this class generally tow up to 12,000 pounds with a trailer tongue weight of 1,200 pounds. Weight-distributing Class V hitches can pull up to 17,000 pounds with a trailer tongue weight of 1,700 pounds.

To help facilitate safe, hassle-free towing, choose the hitch that best suits your needs. To do so, determine how much weight you’ll be towing and what vehicle will be pulling the load. From there, it’s only a matter of installing the trailer hitch, and then you’re off to the races.

Check out all the trailer hitches available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on trailer hitch classes, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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