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Understanding Trailer Hitch Class Ratings

draw tite trailer hitch

Trailer hitches are organized by classes, with each class rated to indicate it's maximum towing weight capacity and tongue weight. A tow hitch with a class 3 hitch rating, for example, has a towing capacity that’s higher than a class 1 hitch. Once you know how much weight your vehicle can handle and the weight of the load that you need to tow, you can choose a trailer hitch class rating that meets your needs. It’s a good idea to choose a hitch that’s rated to handle slightly more weight than you need to tow.

weight-bearing capacity

When you need to tow a trailer, whether it’s to take a boat to the lake or to move a heavy piece of equipment to a job site, there are a number of important questions that you need to ask: Can your truck or SUV handle the weight? Do you have the correct wiring harness and lights? Do you need a brake controller? Two of the most important, however, are what is the weight of your trailer and load, and do you have a trailer hitch that can handle the weight safely? Understanding what the different hitch class ratings mean will make it easier for you to pick the right trailer hitch for your needs.

Trailer Hitch Class Ratings

There are five basic classes that trailer hitches are divided into, based on how much weight they are rated to handle:

Class 5 hitches are a bit different from other hitch class ratings, as this class is not officially recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). This means that the information on how much the hitch can safely tow should be verified by the manufacturer.

It’s important to remember that your towing equipment is only as strong as the part with the lowest class rating. If you have a class 3 hitch and a class 2 drawbar, you’ll only be rated to tow up to 3,500 lbs. Make sure that you know the class ratings of all of your equipment before you tow any trailer.

Class 1 Hitch Rating

A class I hitch is only appropriate for the lightest loads, and it usually found on passenger cars and small SUVs. A class 1 hitch rating means that you can tow a jet ski, motorcycle or scooter, small cargo box, or bike rack. Even though this class of hitch has a towing capacity of up to 2,000 lbs., a smaller car may not be able to handle the additional load. Always check your vehicle’s towing capacity before you try to tow a trailer.

Class 2 Hitch Rating

With a GTW capacity of 3,500 lbs., the class 2 hitch is rated for towing light loads. Class 2 hitches are available for many cars, SUVs, and light trucks and can tow a small boat, a bike rack with several bicycles, or an ATV. Don’t forget that you’ll be towing more than just the boat; you’ll also have the trailer and accessories, as well as fuel and anything that you need for what you’re towing. If you’re near your limit with just the boat or other load, consider moving to a higher hitch class.

Class 3 Hitch Rating

Trailer hitches with a class 3 hitch rating are a great choice for most individuals who tow things like medium size campers, boats, and trailers. They are one of the most commonly installed classes of trailer hitch, so you’re likely to be able to find one for your vehicle, if it can handle the weight of a load between 3,500 and 5,000 lbs. Class three receiver hitches typically have a 2-inch receiver tube, and you’ll need to find a ball mount and a hitch ball to match your towing needs.

Class 4 Hitch Rating

Class 4 rated hitches are designed for heavy duty towing, with a capacity of up to 10,000 lbs. GTW. This size hitch typically only fits on a heavy duty truck, commercial vehicle, or motorhome. Smaller vehicles simply don’t have the capacity to tow so much weight. You may need a hitch of this class to tow a large boat or camper, or heavy construction equipment.

While class 3 and class 4 hitch ratings are separate, there are a number of hitches available from TruckSpring.com that are listed as "class III/IV". This usually means that the hitch can handle as much weight as a standard class 3 hitch when used alone. When weight distribution equipment is added, however, the hitch can handle a load above that weight class. Always make sure that you know what load your equipment can handle.

Class 5 Hitch Rating

There is no official class 5 hitch rating from the SAE, but many manufacturers make heavy duty hitches that can handle over 10,000 lbs. GTW. Hitches in this class are designed for the heaviest of loads, so they are usually only made for heavy duty and commercial trucks. Towing such a heavy load may require additional equipment, such as a brake controller.

TruckSpring.com Tow with Confidence

draw-tite trailer hitch

TruckSpring.com carries products with all hitch class ratings, so you’ll be sure to get the right equipment for your towing needs. Our experienced trailer hitch experts can help you determine which hitch you need for your vehicle, and they are available six days a week. Call 1-800-358-4751 to speak with one of our knowledgeable team members about your trailering questions and we’ll be happy to help.

Our team members can also help you find other equipment to make your towing experience safe and successful. We have tow mirrors, hitch covers, brake controllers, drawbars, and much more at a great price and ready to ship to you.

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