What is GVWR? Why is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating Important?

What is GVWR? You’ve seen it on that sticker on your driver’s side door or read it in the specs of your vehicle. But maybe you have no clue what it is. You’re not alone. If you’re like a lot of our Central Illinois drivers, you may be asking, “What does GVWR mean on my truck?” It stands for “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating,” and it’s an important number to know, especially if you haul heavy loads with your vehicle.

What is GVWR?

GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. It is the maximum loaded weight of your vehicle (or trailer), as determined by the manufacturer. GVWR isn’t just the weight of passengers and cargo but also the vehicle itself.

What is GVWR

The gross vehicle weight rating is all about safety. When a vehicle manufacturer rates a vehicle for its maximum weight, they are taking into consideration the suspension system, frame, axles, wheels and other components bearing the load.

Why is GVWR Important?

There are several logistical and legal implications for trucking companies regarding GVWR, meaning it’s essential that you know and abide by the limits.

  • Trucks above specified gross vehicle weights require drivers to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
  • Vehicles above certain GVWRs require additional insurance.
  • Overloading can damage the suspension, wheel bearings, and steering system, increasing the likelihood of a breakdown.
  • Exceeding weight limits puts pressure on the entire truck, causing metal fatigue that will ultimately reduce a vehicle’s lifespan.
  • Ticket fines for exceeding GVWR limits can add up to thousands of dollars.
  • Truck handling is reduced when a truck is overloaded, impacting the driver’s ability to brake and maneuver properly, and increasing the risk of an accident.
  • If overloaded trucks are involved in an accident, you may face criminal charges.

How Does GVWR Relate to Towing Capacity?

GVWR and towing capacity may seem similar, but they should be considered differently. The GVWR helps determine tow capacity because a truck can only tow as much as its rating permits.

But remember that only the vehicle’s weight, fluids, cargo, and passengers contribute to the gross vehicle weight rating. Conversely, total towing capacity (GCWR) refers to how much weight a vehicle can pull with a separate trailer attached behind.

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Fleet managers need to be aware of both limits if they are to avoid exceeding either parameter. To determine the maximum tow capacity for each semi truck in your fleet, you’ll need to know each truck’s weight rating and compare them to the gross weight of each respective trailer.

From there, it’s pretty straightforward. If the manufacturers’ weight ratings are higher than the trailer’s total weight, it’s safe to tow. If the trailer weight exceeds the manufacturer’s rating, it’s not.

Finding the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

There’s no formula to determine GVWR as the chassis manufacturer always sets maximum limits. Because it is such a significant number to know, it’s common practice to make GVWR details as easy to find as possible. You’ll find them in a variety of locations, including:

  • The owner’s manual
  • On the driver-side doorjamb
  • In the towing capacity guide on the manufacturer’s website

How Do You Calculate Your GVWR?

Simply put, your GVWR is the total weight of the vehicle plus the total amount of cargo weight it can safely carry. However, you usually don’t have to calculate this by hand. The easiest way to determine your GVWR is to consult your owner’s manual or the vehicle itself. The manufacturer sets the GVWR based on the components that went into the vehicle at the time of construction.

What is GVWR

Generally, you can find your GVWR listed on one or more points on the vehicle. You may find it on your vehicle’s driver’s side door, for example. On an RV, you will likely find it on the weight sticker attached to your RV somewhere.

If you can’t find your GVWR, check out any documentation you may have received about the vehicle or trailer. Or you can visit the manufacturer’s website. Keep in mind that many variables effect GVWR and not all vehicles of the same type have the same rating. Axle changes, engine differences and many more things will effect it, so just because you find the same vehicle, don’t expect the GVWR to be the same.

What Happens If You Exceed Your GVWR?

It’s crucial to not just know the meaning of GVWR but to know the actual number for your vehicle. You risk serious trouble for your tow vehicle or yourself if you exceed it. Slightly exceeding your GVWR will lead to worsened handling and an increased risk of an accident.

If you’re significantly over your GVWR, your vehicle may show very visible signs of struggling. For example, slow acceleration, sagging springs, poor shifting, and high engine temperatures. These could damage the engine, suspension, or other systems.

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Can you get a ticket for being over GVWR?

Some states will issue a ticket to a private owner who is noticeably exceeding the weight limits of their vehicle. However, private vehicles are not required to be weighed and it’s unlikely that you will get a ticket. For commercial operators yes tickets can and are regularly issued. This includes semi-trucks, buses, and any other heavy-hauling vehicle. These vehicles are required to weigh regularly and meet the limitations of the vehicle and road.

You can also get a ticket if you are operating a vehicle with a weight limit beyond what your driver’s license is rated for. Most private driver’s licenses will have a weight limit on the license. To legally operate heavy equipment you usually need a license to prove you know how. These are usually commercial driver licenses or CDL’s.

Below is a shot of my license that says I can legally operate a vehicle up to 26,000 lbs or any RV (which is good because our motorhome weighs 50k!) In some states, you need a special license even to operate a heavy motorhome. It’s important to know your local laws when hauling heavy.

Can I Change My Vehicle’s GVWR?

The manufacturer sets your vehicle GVWR. Therefore, there’s no easy, legal way to change it. However, you can modify certain elements of your vehicle to increase your performance under high payload or cargo capacity. But remember, this does not change the official or legal weight ratings of the vehicle, despite better handling. If you cause an accident, you would still face repercussions if overweight.

The only legal way to change your GVWR is to appeal to a highway transportation board or the association for work truck industry but these are primarily for commercial vehicles. Private vehicles are almost never granted an updated GVWR even if significant modifications were made.

What’s the Difference Between GVWR, GVW, and GCWR?

While these terms may all appear similar, they represent three separate concepts that are critical to understand for safe towing.

Again, the meaning of GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is the maximum loaded weight at which your vehicle can safely operate. Your GVW (gross vehicle weight) measures how much of a load your vehicle is under currently. It includes the total weight of your tow vehicle, passengers, and items you’re transporting.

What is GVWR

GCWR stands for gross combined weight rating. In addition to your GVW, this measure considers the weight of any trailer you’re hauling. It also includes the weight of the contents of the trailer. This is the maximum weight at which your vehicle will operate safely. It includes the full weight of your tow vehicle, passengers, cargo, trailer, and trailer contents.

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GCWR is a crucial concept for RVers to understand. It indicates how big of a trailer you can tow with your truck or SUV and how much stuff you can keep in the trailer.

Other Towing Terms You Should Know

GVWR is not the only towing-related terminology you need to know. For your peace of mind, let’s look at the meaning of terms similar to but different than GVWR.

  • GAWR = Gross Axle Weight Rating. This refers to the maximum amount of weight you can safely place on each axle.
  • GTW = Gross Trailer Weight. Your GTW is the total weight of any trailer you’re towing, plus the weight of anything inside.
  • Curb Weight: Your curb weight is the weight of a vehicle with no passengers, contents, or trailers attached. This measurement includes the weight of gasoline and similar necessary fluids and equipment.
  • Dry Weight: In contrast to your curb weight, your dry weight is the weight of a vehicle without gasoline or other fluids.
  • Payload: Your payload denotes the amount of weight carried by your vehicle above its curb weight. This category would include you, all your passengers, and any items they’re carrying, or you’re transporting.
  • Tongue Weight or Pin Weight: indicates the weight put on your vehicle’s hitch from the tongue or kingpin of any trailer you’re towing. Too little tongue weight can lead to dangerous swaying. However, too much can damage your tow vehicle or make it difficult to control.


Is GVWR the same as towing capacity?

GVWR and towing capacity may seem similar, but they should be considered differently. The GVWR helps determine tow capacity because a truck can only tow as much as its rating permits. But remember that only the vehicle’s weight, fluids, cargo, and passengers contribute to the gross vehicle weight rating.

Is the GVWR the actual weight of a vehicle?

No, the GVWR is not necessarily the actual weight of a vehicle. The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is a prescribed weight limit from the vehicle manufacturer, indicating the total amount the vehicle can weigh to operate safely.

The actual weight of the vehicle should never be above the GVWR. Actual weight should always be less.

What happens if you exceed GVWR?

Exceeding the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of any vehicle may cause serious damage to the vehicle’s frame, suspension, axles, wheels and other systems. The GVWR is intended to be a maximum weight limit to protect the life of your vehicle.

Attempting to drive with an overloaded vehicle is a serious safety hazard to the driver, passengers and other vehicles on the road.

Above is information about What is GVWR? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Other towing terms you should know. Thank you for reading our post.

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