Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

How GVWR Affects Cargo Hauling Capabilities

Semi-truck loaded with household stuff
Seiko Uchida / EyeEm / Getty Images

Manufacturer specification charts include an automobile's gross vehicle weight rating — usually referred to as its GVWR. The GVWR is an auto's maximum safe weight that should not be exceeded. Weight calculations include curb weight, additional equipment that's been added, the weight of cargo and the weight of passengers... everything is considered to determine if the GVWR has been exceeded. A few facts to keep in mind:

  • GVWR does not reflect an auto's actual weight — it's a limit.
  • Actual weight is referred to as the gross vehicle weight or GVW, and it changes every time you put something into the auto or take something out of it, from passengers to luggage. Towing a trailer increases the GVW by the amount of weight that's attached to the hitch, not by the entire weight of the trailer.
  • An auto's GVWR never changes.

Be Sure to Consider the Truck's Axle Rating to Make Sure Weight is Distributed

In addition to the total gross vehicle weight rating, you must also consider the per axle rating. Let's say your pickup truck weighs 5,000 pounds and has a GVWR of 7,000 pounds. That means you can add 2,000 pounds of people (and other cargo). But that extra 2,000 pounds needs to be somewhat distributed.

If you load 2,000 pounds of cargo at the rear of the bed, behind the rear axle, it will raise the front of the truck, making it difficult to steer — because there's not enough downforce on the front wheels to give them grip. In addition, if you load cargo that way, you'll run a high risk of damaging the rear springs, rear axle, bed and perhaps even the truck's frame.

Let's try another scenario — you put 2,000 pounds in the cab and maybe add on a front mount winch or plow. The truck will be difficult to steer in that type of situation, too, because it's dealing with way too much downforce on the front wheels, possibly causing damage the front suspension.

Either of those scenarios could also damage the tires due to overload. The ideal loading method is to distribute that 2,000 pounds as evenly as possible between the front and rear axles. Carrying cargo in a distributed manner allows the front and rear suspension (and the tires) to spread the load more evenly.

Auto manufacturers calculate every type of load rating for a reason. They know what the materials and components can handle and they don't want you to damage your truck or have an accident.

Surpassing the GVWR Is Safety Hazard

An extra load is put on systems when a vehicle is loaded down enough to take its weight beyond its GVWR. The brakes must work harder, and might not even be able to stop the car or truck efficiently. Tires could blow and suspension might be compromised — many components can be pushed beyond their limits when the GVWR is ignored.

The GVWR can usually be found on either the driver's door jamb or on the door's frame.