Trailer Hitch Classes Defined and Explained
Please refer to the following trailer hitch class information if you have questions about how trailer hitch classes are determined. When choosing a hitch, we recommend you consider your current towing needs as well as future needs. A bicycle rack today may turn into a power boat next year. If in doubt, it’s best to select a higher class.
NOTE: Always choose a hitch that is strong enough to handle the maximum anticipated total weight of the trailer but does not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle. Refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual for maximum towing and tongue weight limitations. The trailer tongue load should be kept at 10 percent of the loaded trailer weight for weight-carrying* (deadweight) trailer hitches, and 12 percent for weight-distributing** (equalizing) trailer hitches. Also, you may want need to consider vehicle modifications that might be beneficial, such as stiffer springs, air springs, overload or air assist shocks, larger sway bars or automatic transmission fluid (ATF) cooler. Such modifications may be needed on vehicles used for heavy towing or long-distance towing. You may also want to refer to the U.S. Department of Transportation web site for additional towing tips and information.
This is the lightest type of trailer hitch. A Class 1 trailer hitch can handle a gross trailer weight (GTW) of up to 2,000 lbs., and a maximum tongue weight of 200 lbs. The hitch may be a simple draw bar-type hitch or step bumper-type hitch. Other hitches may have a crossbar with a small one-inch or 1-1/2-inch square receiver, or a small 2-inch by 5/8-inch receiver. This type of hitch is often used on smaller cars, smaller pickups and smaller vans (minivans) for bicycle racks, camping racks, and light-duty towing. We sell many fine class 1 hitches as well as an economical, easy to install (do-it-yourself) Class 1 trailer hitch.
Class II hitches are for loads of up to 3,500 lbs. GTW and 300 lbs. tongue weight such as a small boat trailer, snowmobile trailer, motorcycle trailer or camper. This type of trailer hitch is appropriate for larger cars, full-size vans, full-size pickups and SUVs. Many of our class II hitches are designed specifically for your vehicle, and we have some universal class II trailer hitches as well.
Class III hitches can handle up to 5,000 lbs. GTW and 500 lbs. tongue weight. This type of hitch generally has a 2-inch rectangular receiver and is considered the "standard" type of hitch for general towing. Most of our class III hitches are designed specifically for your vehicle. There are also some universal-fit class III trailer hitches available.
Class IV hitches are for up to 10,000 lbs. GTW and 1,000 to 1,200 lbs. of tongue weight. This type of hitch is usually a weight-distributing hitch. We carry many fine class IV hitches that are designed specifically for your vehicle.
Class V hitches are for extra heavy loads greater than 10,000 lbs. GTW and more than 1,200 lbs. tongue weight. This type of hitch is usually a weight-distributing hitch. This type of hitch may have up to a 2-1/2 inch receiver with a 3/4-inch pinhole. Typical uses might be to tow a car trailer, horse trailer or unusually large boat or camper.
5th Wheel and Gooseneck Hitches
5th wheel and gooseneck hitches mount in the bed of your pickup truck.
* Dead-Weight Hitch: Or "weight carrying" hitch is the type of trailer hitch most people think of when they consider trailer hitches. It is the basic trailer hitch that provides a simple ball-and-socket arrangement to connect the trailer to the towing vehicle. Intended for (usually) lighter loads.
** Weight-Distributing Hitch: This type of hitch has an attachment that slides into the receiver to redistribute the weight on the tongue. The hitch usually has two spring bars, one for each side of the trailer, to lift and apply leverage to the tow vehicle. This redistributes weight from the rear axle to the front and improves vehicle stability while towing. Intended for heavy loads.