Understanding GVWR

Whether you are driving a truck or hauling a trailer, it is important to know what your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is. To make the roads safer, manufacturers have determined the GVWR for each model they sell. Knowing what yours is and how it is calculated will help keep you and other drivers from harm. It is also a significant number to know because it is used to determine your vehicle’s class. Federal regulations use GVWR to establish a range of classifications—numbered 1 to 8. If your truck’s GVWR is high enough, it will be in a class that requires you to have additional insurance and a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

To learn more about truck classification and how much various types of trucks can weigh, read our blog How Much Trucks Weigh.

What Is GVWR?

GVWR is the maximum operating weight of a vehicle. It is different from your vehicle’s weight because it defines the upper limit your vehicle can safely haul when loaded with fuel, passengers, and cargo. How much your truck weighs will change, but the GVWR is a fixed number set by the manufacturer that never changes.

GVWR is calculated by adding up:

  • The weight of your vehicle when empty
  • The weight of passengers, fuel, accessories, or anything else inside the cabin
  • The weight of the cargo or the hitch (also known as “tongue”) that connects the trailer to the vehicle

How Do I Find My Truck’s GVWR?

Because it is such a significant number to know, manufacturers have tried to make it as easy to find as possible. If you look inside your vehicle’s door frame, there should be a label inside that lists the GVWR. This information should also be in the owner’s manual. In the name of simplicity, most manufacturers also include this info online. If you choose to find out using the internet, be sure to look at the correct make, model, and year.

Is GVWR the Same as Towing Capacity?

Towing capacity is different from GVWR. While GVWR helps you know the maximum operating weight, towing capacity determines how much you can pull. If you attach a trailer, towing capacity will tell you how heavy it can be. Manufacturers will often include the towing capacity on the inside of the door along with the GVWR. If you plan to hitch a trailer, it is essential to know both. If you load your trailer to the maximum weight capacity and have many passengers, you may end up exceeding the GVWR—creating an unsafe situation.

What Happens If I Exceed the GVWR?

Exceeding the GVWR is dangerous for several reasons. Manufacturers set this number with safety in mind. Federal regulations back it. If your truck weighs more than it should, there could be severe consequences.

Some of the risks of overloading your vehicle include:

  • Damaging your vehicle - Brakes and tires are designed with the GVWR in mind. Exceeding the weight limits puts an extra strain on these parts, increasing the chance of a blowout and impacting your ability to stop safely. You can also damage the vehicle’s frame, axles, and other systems.
  • Being ticketed - If you exceed the weight limit of your vehicle, you could be ticketed. You may find yourself in even deeper trouble if your vehicle’s weight requires you to have a CDL when you don’t.
  • Causing an accident - Perhaps the most compelling reason to stay within the recommended weight range is to keep yourself and other drivers safe. When you exceed the GVWR, you are increasing the chances you will cause an accident. On top of that, some states consider this action to be criminal. If you are in an accident that causes loss of life, you could face manslaughter charges.

Other Terms to Know

While manufacturers have made it simple to know the GVWR, there might still be some calculation involved on your part to make sure you are safely within limits.

Below, we’ve included terms that are associated with determining the weight of your vehicle.


GVR stands for gross vehicle weight. It represents how much a vehicle weighs. It can sometimes be confused with GVWR, but you should think of it as how much your car does weigh instead of how much it can weigh.


GAWR stands for gross axle weight rating. Vehicles have two axles: one at the front and one at the back. GAWR is the maximum weight that can be placed on both axles. The manufacturer will also include a front rating (FR) and a rear rating (RR) specific to each axle.


GCWR stands for gross combination weight rating and sets the maximum weight your vehicle can be with a trailer attached. While GVWR puts a cap on how much the vehicle can weigh by itself, GCWR takes an attached trailer into account.

Curb Weight

Curb weight is how much your vehicle weighs without passengers or cargo. It includes the fluids necessary for operation, including oil, brake fluid, coolant, wiper fluid, and gas.

Payload Capacity

Payload capacity is the additional weight you can safely add to your vehicle’s curb weight. It includes the weight of any passengers and cargo you plan to transport.

Tongue Weight

If you are towing a trailer, tongue weight describes the weight of the part of the trailer that attaches to the hitch.

When Overloaded Trucks Cause Harm, We’re Here to Help

When truck drivers knowingly exceed the GVWR or are pressured to do so by companies, Arnold & Itkin is here to hold them responsible. A truck can cause serious injury or death when it weighs the correct amount—additional weight only compounds the potential damage. If you were involved in an accident with an overloaded truck, let us secure the justice you deserve. Our truck accident attorneys know that truck carriers and insurance companies will do everything in their power to avoid responsibility. We have a history of meeting complex challenges head-on, and we will fight for the compensation you need now and for the future.

Call (888) 493-1629 to discuss your case for free. We take every case on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t owe us anything unless we recover on your behalf.

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