Carrying capacity is perhaps the most important consideration when choosing the chassis layout of your trailer. It is unfortunately very common for newcomers to the RV world to assume that manufacturers would build in plenty of additional capacity into every trailer they sell. Sadly, this isn’t the case. To best understand the practical impact of this, we need to first discuss some acronyms.
GVWR, and Payload – What do they mean?
You will undoubtedly hear a lot of terms and acronyms thrown around when looking at any given trailer. Although you may feel your eyes start to glaze over, you need to know the basics to make sure you remain safe. First, the “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating”, or GVWR, is the maximum amount that your trailer can weigh and still be safely towed. This means that you should never exceed this weight by overloading your trailer. This consideration is particularly important for smaller trailers because they can often have surprisingly low payloads.
The payload is the amount of “stuff” you can put into your trailer without crossing the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This includes your camp chairs, clothes, food, beer, water, and any other accessories you may be inclined to stash on your next outing. To calculate the payload, you subtract the empty trailer weight from the GVWR. This delta is the payload. For small trailers, this number is often under five hundred pounds. Put another way, a mere sixty gallons of water can single-handedly push the limits of your trailer.
Double Axles Almost Always Have Higher Payloads
Every trailer has an “axle rating”, which is the amount of weight one axle can safely support. This number can range anywhere from two to nine thousand pounds, but four thousand is a fairly common standard for a small camper. Logically enough, double the axles mean double the payload, as two four-thousand-pound axles will be able to safely support up to eight thousand pounds.
Are You a Light Packer? Be Honest
Before you purchase a trailer, it is important to be honest about how you are likely to use it. If you intend to use your new camper for the occasional weekend getaway, you might not need to put serious consideration into the payload of your camper. However, if you often load down your trailer with bikes and enough gear for weeks, then you should spend some time calculating your payload limits.
Further, full-time RVing and extended boondocking are becoming increasingly common. With the desire to stay out for longer comes the desire to have more water, food, and backup batteries. All of these things have one aspect in common: they’re heavy. This issue is compounded even more by toy hauler trailers. I’ve seen several new models of single axle toy haulers on the market. Personally, I find this to be a dangerous trend. What is the point of a toy hauler that can only safely haul five hundred extra pounds?
In summary, if you want to put a little less thought into limiting your load, opt for a dual axle trailer.