How to Choose the Right Size Trailer Hitch

How to Choose the Right Size Trailer Hitch:

Which Class of Trailer Hitch is Best Suited for You?

If you've never dealt with trailer hitches before, it can be kind of confusing. What do the different classes mean? What sizes are there, and what size do you need?The hitch class and receiver size you need depends on two factors: what you want to tow or carry, and what your vehicle can handle. (You can put the strongest hitch in the world on the back of a Ford Focus, but you're still not going to transform your Focus into a trailer-towing giant!)The quickest and easiest way to figure out which hitches will work for your vehicle is to use our fitguide. Just input your vehicle's year, make, and model, and we'll show you only the hitches that fit.But what if multiple hitch classes or sizes turn up, and you have options? What trailer hitch class do you need then?We'll go over hitch classes in more detail below, so you can confidently make the choice best suited for your vehicle and towing situation.
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What are the Different Trailer Hitch Classes?

There are a total of 5 trailer hitch classes, with Class I having the lowest capacity and Class V having the highest. Hitch classes essentially designate the hitch opening size and weight capacity. Here's a quick breakdown of the 5 hitch classes, their associated capacities, and their typical receiver sizes.
Trailer Hitch Class Capacities
Okay, great, you may be thinking. But what do these numbers actually translate to? For context, we've broken out the 5 trailer hitch classes below, including the typical tow vehicles, trailers, and accessories you'll see associated with each size.Keep in mind that you are always limited by your lowest rated component. For instance, if your hitch can haul 8,000 lbs but your vehicle can only haul 3,000 lbs, you're maxed out at 3K.*You can also check out our Tips on How to Tow a Trailer article as well as our Determining Trailer Tongue Weight article for more help towing your trailer!
KEY TERMS
Gross Trailer Weight (GTW): Weight of the loaded trailer. To determine GTW, weigh the loaded trailer on a vehicle scale.Tongue Weight (TW): The downward pressure placed on the ball by the coupler. To determine TW, use a tongue weight scale or other method described here.
Class I Trailer Hitch Receiver

What is a Class I Trailer Hitch?

A Class I trailer hitch is the lightweight champion of the 5 available classes, making it perfect for small loads like kayaks or cargo carriers. These hitches are most often found on passenger cars and smaller SUVs.Class I and Class II trailer hitches typically have a 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" receiver opening. Class II accessories will not work with Class I hitches.Max GTW: 1,000-2,000 lbsMax TW: 100-200 lbsReceiver opening: 1-1/4"
Class I Typical Loads
  • Bikes (max 2)
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kayaks
  • Canoes
  • Mobility scooters
  • Small trailers
Bicycle
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Class I Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Compact cars
  • Midsize cars
  • Full-size cars
  • SUVs
  • Minivans
Class I Tow Vehicles
Class II Hitch Receiver Size
Class I Accessory Tab

What is a Class II Trailer Hitch?

A Class II trailer hitch is just a bit heftier than a Class I hitch. Like Class I hitches, they are typically found on passenger cars and smaller SUVs. Because Class I and Class II hitch receivers are usually the same size, many people wonder if their Class II accessories will fit their Class I hitch. But alas, this is not the case!Class I hitch receivers have a built-in stopper so that drawbars and accessory shanks can only slide into the trailer hitch opening to a certain point. Class II accessories have a longer shank, so they'll run into the stopper and won't be able to slide all the way into the receiver. This is to keep you from accidentally overloading your Class I hitch with a heavier Class II accessory. On the other hand, you CAN use a Class I accessory in a Class II hitch.Max GTW: 2,000-3,500 lbsMax TW: 200-525 lbsReceiver opening: 1-1/4"
Class II Typical Loads
  • Bikes
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kaykas
  • Canoes
  • Mobility scooters
  • Small trailers
  • Small pop-up campers
  • Small boats
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Covered Trailer
Boat
Class II Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Compact cars
  • Midsize cars
  • Full-size cars
  • SUVs
  • Minivans
Class II Typical Tow Vehicles
Class III Hitch Receiver Size

What is a Class III Trailer Hitch?

Class III hitches are some of the most common due to their wide range of weight capacities (about 3,500 lbs GTW to 8,000 lbs GTW). If you want to tow a camper, you're best off sticking with at least a Class III hitch. Since this is the most common hitch size, you have way more options for everything from trailers to bike racks to cargo carriers. Class III hitches have 2" x 2" wide receiver openings. However, you can still use 1-1/4" accessories if you've got them by using an adapter.Max GTW: 3,500-8,000 lbsMax TW: 300-800 lbsReceiver opening: 2"
Class III Typical Loads
  • Midsize campers
  • Utility trailers
  • Lawn maintenance equipment
  • Bikes
  • Cargo carriers
  • Kaykas
  • Canoes
  • Motorcycles
  • Snowmobiles
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Boat
Camper
Trailer
Class III Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Full-size cars
  • Large SUVs
  • Minivans
  • Trucks
Class III Typical Tow Vehicles
Class IV Hitch Receiver Size

What is a Class IV Trailer Hitch?

We again step up the weight capacities with Class IV hitches. Like Class III hitches, Class IV hitches typically have 2" x 2" receivers. However, they come with an even beefier weight capacity (up to 12,000 lbs GTW).Class IV hitches have 2" x 2" wide receiver openings. However, if you want to use your 1-1/4" accessories with your 2" hitch, you can use an adapter.Max GTW: 5,000-12,000 lbsMax TW: 500-1,200 lbsReceiver opening: 2"
Class IV Typical Loads
  • Large campers
  • Large boats
  • Toy haulers
  • Horse trailers
Bike
Kayak
Cargo Carrier
Boat
Camper
Trailer
Large Camper Trailer
Toy Hauler
Class IV Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Heavy-duty trucks
  • Large SUVs
Class IV Typical Tow Vehicles
Class V Hitch Receiver Size
Class V Hitch Receiver Size 3 Inches

What is a Class V Trailer Hitch?

Class V trailer hitches are as big as they come. These are the heavy-duty hitches made for hauling your heaviest trailers and toy haulers. Most Class V hitch receivers have a 2-1/2" receiver opening, although some have a 2" opening, and the largest even have a 3" opening (these giants are welded to the tow vehicle's frame).If you need to carry a smaller accessory with a Class V hitch, adapters are available. (Special shout-out to our B&W adapters, which are designed with pinched ends to make lining up your pin holes effortless.)Max GTW: 10,000-25,000 lbsMax TW: 1,000-4,000 lbsReceiver opening: 2", 2-1/2", or 3"
Class V Typical Loads
  • Large toy haulers
  • Equipment haulers
  • Multi-car trailers
  • Horse trailers
Large Camper Trailer
Toy Hauler
Class V Typical Tow Vehicles
  • Heavy-duty trucks
  • Commercial trucks
Class V Typical Tow Vehicles
Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can! Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated On: 4/8/20

Questions and Comments about this Article

Steve C.

I'm looking for hitch possibilities to pull a 2 to 3 horse trailer with a 2018 Ford F150. It has a 5.5 foot bed. Looking at both gooseneck and receiver type hitches. 84438

Reply from Chris R.

For a standard trailer hitch receiver the Curt # C14017 will work really well on your F-150. For a gooseneck hitch I recommend the B&W # BWGNRK1115 , and since you have a short bed you may need to add an Extend-A-Gooseneck Coupler # BWTEXA4200 to provide cab clearance during sharp turns. 67406

Pavlo

Hey, I am a bit confused: if I don't plan to use hitch for anything larger than 4 bikes or couple of kayaks, is there any downside to buying Class I? Also, what's the critical difference between Draw-Tite and Curt and which one (brand and class) would you recommend for Mazda CX-5 2019? Thank you! 82059

Reply from Chris R.

Class I trailer hitches can only safely support up to 2 bikes, so if you plan on occasionally loading up a 4-bike rack you definitely don't want a Class I model. Even if you never plan on any "high-capacity" type applications, we also typically recommend the larger 2" receivers (which start at Class III) because it just opens the door to a LOT more accessory options (bike racks, cargo carriers, etc). Draw-Tite and Curt are very comparable. We've found that the powder coat Curt uses is a bit better and tends to last longer. For your CX-5 I recommend the Curt Class III # C13315 . 67405

Ed C.

20119 DODGEGOURNEY Looking to to tOW mall trailer to SC Any Ideas? LOOKINGhAVE 5 CATS AND DOG (LARGEONE) [email protected] tHINKING POSSIBLY TWO Y WO TRPS 81421

Reply from Chris R.

I can absolutely help you out with everything you need to tow a small trailer with your Dodge Journey. I believe you have a 2011 model but if that's not correct let me know. Starting with the hitch the etrailer # e98845 will work perfectly and for wiring I recommend the Tekonsha # 118536 as long as the Journey has the LED lights. This will provide you with a 4-Way to power the trailer's signal lights. Lastly for a ball mount the Curt # C45030 should work well. 66954

Andy

My wife and I just purchased a 2019 Buick Encore, We are confused, due to getting 2 different stories. Will we be able to tow a small trailer with our new car? and if so what size and total weight? Thank you 81360

Reply from Chris R.

I took a look at the owner's manual for your Buick Encore and it does say that the vehicle should never be used to tow a trailer. It doesn't really leave any room for interpretation, unfortunately.... 66953

Stoney K.

Will a 1and1/4 hutch work with your tilt scooter and a mobile moterized wheel chair? 80426

Reply from Jacob H.

You are going to most likely need a 2" hitch receiver to be able to haul a scooter or motorized wheel chair on the back of your vehicle. 66247

Luis T.

I have a 57 Chevy panel truck the frame is 34”wide would like a class3 hitch to fit I seen a curt number 13322 would this fit if not can you help thanks 80381

Reply from Jacob H.

We have part # C14082 confirmed to fit a 34" Chevrolet frame not confirmed to specifically fit a 1957 Chevrolet pickup. 66250

Hamid S.

Hi. I have vw tiguan 2020 RLine and I need a trailer hitch includ wiring, 7 pins mount.(class III). If you have a special staff for RL please let me know and give me a complete prices. I live in Toronto,ON,Canada. Please and thank you. 77699

Reply from Chris R.

For your 2020 VW Tiguan R-Line the Draw-Tite Class III Trailer Hitch # 76192 will work perfectly. Then for wiring I recommend the Tekonsha T-One # 118811 , which will plug in behind the rear tail lights. All pricing is listed on the product pages. 63251

Richard H.

I am really confused and desperately need some help. I have a 2017 Pathfinder S and after researching, purchased a 2014 Shasta Oasis 21ck with a dry weight of about 4100 lbs.. I have received opinions and information from every direction about what I'm able to tow and now I fear my research was all wrong and am terrified I'm stuck with a camper I can't pull. It will be ready for pickup this weekend and I have scheduled a class lll hitch installation at the local Uhaul. Can you guide me in the right direction please before I destroy my vehicles? 77197

Reply from Chris R.

Based on my research it looks like your 2017 Pathfinder has a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds - so as long as you stay under this limit once the trailer is fully loaded you should be good to go. It wouldn't hurt to verify this capacity by checking with a local Nissan dealer too (give them your VIN and they will be able to pull up all the exact specs). 62890



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