Pop ups campers are incredibly lightweight, unless they’re not. Some can be deceptively heavy, somewhere in the ballpark of 3,000 pounds and up.
Consider that the average weight of a dry travel trailer is 5,200 pounds. Yes, some pop ups are comparable in weight to a travel trailer.
That begs the question then, can these heavier pop ups be pull by a car? Read on, as I will talk all about towing trailers by car in this article.
Calculating Pop Up Camper Weight
Knowing whether you can tow your camper by car begins by calculating the camper’s weight. The good thing about doing so is you often don’t have to do any of the hard work yourself. The camper manufacturer should freely provide the weight of your pop up to you. Do keep in mind that when the manufacturer lists a weight, they’re referring to dry camper weight. This is the total weight of your pop up when it has no cargo and passengers.
You will also have to know the cargo carrying capacity or CCC. We touched on this last week, but this is the weight of equipment, accessories, cargo, fresh water, and fuel. The CCC may also be provided by the manufacturer, but not always.
Then there’s the unloaded vehicle weight or UVW. This may sound like the dry weight, but it isn’t. Instead, the UVW accounts for the weight of a full propane tank, the hitch weight, and the axle weight. We discussed the UVW in more detail in last week’s round of articles on pop up campers. If you missed them, now is a good time to catch up.
Calculating the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
You’ll also have to know the gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR of your car. You may also hear this referred to as the gross vehicle mass or GVM, but it’s the same thing. The GVWR is simply the weight of the entire vehicle. In this case, that vehicle would be your car.
The GVWR includes all cargo, passengers, the driver, any accessories, fuel, engine fluids, the engine, the body of the car, and its chassis. It does not include your pop up camper. If you were to add your camper to the mix, that weight would be the gross combined weight rating or GCWR.
As you can imagine, the GVWR can certainly change depending on who and what you have in your car. You might want to calculate it as a range, then, both the lowest weight range (with the least amount of cargo and fewest passengers) and the highest (with the most cargo and most passengers).
Finding Your Car’s Towing Capacity
To determine your car’s max GVWR, you must know the towing capacity of your vehicle. This information is often provided to you by the manufacturer. If your manufacturer didn’t relay the towing capacity or if you bought a used car, head to the glove box. In there, you should have your owner’s manual. The towing capacity will be printed in the manual.
Once you know your towing capacity, the GVWR shouldn’t exceed it by more than 80 percent.
As I have mentioned in other articles, the towing capacity is often lower than what the vehicle can really handle. This is to preserve your vehicle and prevent accidents on the road. Pushing your car beyond the towing capacity will lead to brake issues, transmission failure, and engine trouble. Any of those parts failing could cost you hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to repair. It’s much better not to risk it.
You might be a little disappointed when you see the towing capacity of your car. You have to remember that you don’t have an SUV or a pickup truck. A car is not designed to tow heavy trailers like travel trailers or even heavier pop up campers. You’ll have to think lighter.
Putting It All Together
According to data from CreditDonkey, cars on average are about 2,900 pounds. That makes it very easy for you. Your pop up camper cannot be more than 2,900 pounds.
That means one of two things:
1.) If you already have a car, you’ll have to buy a smaller pop up camper.
2.) If you have a bigger pop up, you’ll need to consider a larger towing vehicle.
Now, not every car will weight 2,900 pounds. Some will be more and others will be less. Instead of assuming, you should always refer to your owner’s manual to check the weight and towing capacity.
If you need more specifics for your rig, then you can try this towing calculator from Husky Towing Products here. It’s a detailed and reliable calculator we’ve referred to before. You’ll need to know the gross trailer weight rating (GTWR), curb weight, GCWR, and GVWR of your car. Also good to know is your fuel tank size, the type of fuel you use, and your passenger count. When it comes to your pop up camper, you’ll have to input information like the gross vehicle weight and the hitch percentage.
By doing the calculations yourself, reading your owner’s manual, or using a towing calculator, you can determine whether your pop up camper is too heavy for your car to tow.
Pop up campers might be light enough that they can be towed by a motorcycle, but not all of them can. The tall, hard walls of these trailers can push their weight to the 3,000-pound threshold for some models.
Given that the average car isn’t even 3,000 pounds, you must be choosy with your camper. If you already own a large pop up, then I recommend you drive a towing vehicle commensurate to its weight. If you have a car and are browsing for a pop up, then get a smaller camper that weighs less. You’ll be glad you did!