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Which RV Trailer Hitch Should You Use?

Trailer hitch

Hitch up a pickup truck or SUV, and you can take a boat, camper or recreational vehicle with you. If your vehicle is rated to pull, then half the battle is behind you. What still lies ahead is your correct choice of RV trailer hitch. Choosing the wrong hitch can be unsafe, possibly leading to an accident or damage to your vehicle. Here’s how to find the right hitch to get the job done.

Choosing the Right Trailer Hitch

When considering RV trailer hitches, you must first determine whether your vehicle is rated to tow. That information is found in your owner’s manual along with the towing capacity. Once you know its capacity, you can explore your hitch options, which are based on five classes ranging from Class I (lowest capacity) to Class V (highest capacity).

Three factors comprise each hitch class. The first is the gross trailer weight (GTW), which represents the weight of the loaded trailer — something you should confirm on a public scale before heading out. The second is the tongue weight (TW), which represents the downward pressure placed on the ball by the coupler. The third factor is the receiver hitch itself, specifically its inside dimensions measured in inches.

Here are the stats for each class of trailer hitch.

white pickup truck towing trailer

Class I

Typically, some small cars and utility vehicles are rated as Class I, which can pull small loads such as a kayak. Class I trailer hitches have a:

  • GTW rating of 1,000 to 2,000 pounds.
  • TW of 100 to 200 pounds.
  • 1.25-inch receiver opening.

Class II

Class II hitches are the same size as Class I but include a special accessory that allows for heavier pulling such as a small camper, boat or trailer. Class II trailer hitches have a:

  • GTW rating of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds.
  • TW of 200 to 525 pounds.
  • 1.25-inch receiver opening.

Class III

Minivans, full-size sedans, large SUVs and pickup trucks are usually Class III, which are suitable to transport motorcycles, snowmobiles, utility trailers and lawn maintenance equipment. Class III trailer hitches have a:

  • GTW rating of 3,500 to 8,000 pounds.
  • TW of 300 to 800 pounds.
  • 2-inch receiver opening.

Class IV

Large SUVs and heavy-duty trucks are ideal for Class IV hitches, which are rated to pull horse trailers, large boats and large campers. Class IV trailer hitches have a:

  • GTW rating of 5,000 to 12,000 pounds.
  • TW of 500 to 1,200 pounds.
  • 2-inch receiver opening.

Class V

Designed for an exclusive class of heavy-duty and commercial trucks, Class V trailer hitches can pull horse trailers, multi-car trailers and equipment haulers. Class V trailer hitches have a:

  • GTW rating of 10,000 to 25,000 pounds.
  • TW of 1,000 to 4,000 pounds.
  • Receiver opening of 2, 2.5 or 3 inches.

Getting Ready to Tow

Besides an RV trailer hitch receiver, you’ll need a ball mount (drawbar), pin and clip, trailer hitch ball and a wiring harness to tow a vehicle. Also, consider a hitch lock to prevent the theft of your ball mount or other accessories. Always reference your owners manual to determine the right size for equipment and accessories.

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 hitches, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

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.

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