What is Payload Capacity? With Free Payload Capacity Calculator!

What is payload capacity?

What is Payload Capacity?

So precisely what does maximum payload capacity mean? Simply put, the maximum payload capacity of a vehicle is the total weight that a specific vehicle can carry. But there is more you should understand.

Payload capacity is arguably the most critical number to know if you will tow a travel trailer safely. Most people initially worry about the maximum towing capacity of their truck. While that certainly needs to be considered, often, you will exceed the payload capacity on most modern trucks before you exceed the truck’s tow capacity. I’ve weighed mine all out on a CAT scale.

What is included in payload capacity?

Payload capacity includes:

  • The weight of all passengers (spouse, kids, dog, etc.)
  • Total weight of any other cargo in the truck (coolers, wood, etc.)
  • The hitch weight of the trailer (found on the sticker from the trailer’s manufacturer)
  • 10% to 15% of the total weight of the cargo in your trailer (bedding, food, washer and dryer, etc.)

It is important to note that the general rule of thumb of 10% to 15% for calculating the incremental weight of the trailer’s cargo can be heavily influenced by when it is stored in the trailer. You generally want to keep gear over the axles as much as possible.

Improperly loading cargo on your trailer can increase the change of uncontrolled trailer sway. You can reduce the risk with a good sway control or weight distribution hitch. You can read more about that from these links.

Payload capacity does not include fuel. Your truck’s maximum payload capacity assumes you already have a full fuel tank.

How Much Can You Exceed Payload Capacity?

It is easy to exceed your payload capacity, but you shouldn’t. That number tells you how much you can safely carry. It considers all the stress it puts on your tires, frame, suspension, etc.

But wait! What about if I am precisely at my max payload but not over?

Look, just be safe. Pushing the limits of your truck isn’t a good idea. While it may seem fine on a flat road with perfect conditions, that may not always be true. You want some cushion in case things aren’t perfect.

Even if you add airbags or a Roadmaster Active Suspension, it does not increase your maximum payload. Although they may give you a smoother, more comfortable ride, they don’t increase load.

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Truck Payload Capacity Calculator

This simple calculator will help you determine if you exceed your truck’s ability. I’m not particularly eager to max it out, either. In this calculation, I assume 15% of the total trailer’s cargo is transferred to the truck. It is a more conservative approach.

Payload Capacity Calculator

What To Do If You're Over Your Truck's Payload Limits

Removing cargo is the simplest solution if you're over your truck's limit. You are probably stuck with your spouse and kids, but you can eliminate something. Maybe you should take all that firewood? (It isn't good to move firewood anyway.)

Another solution is to move cargo from the truck to the trailer. Assuming you haven't overloaded it, the load in your trailer has an 85% reduction in the weight it puts on your truck's capacity.

A third option is to use a weight-distribution hitch, preferably one with sway control. I filmed a video where I was able to show the impact of how different weight distribution hitches impact my track.

Check it out here:

In Conclusion

Don't overdo it. Especially when you're towing a trailer. If you're going to tow safely, you need to know your numbers. This includes other things like GVWR, GCWR, and GTW.

Happy camping! And enjoy some of my other content below.

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