When you're having a load towed, you need to make sure that its weight capacity does not exceed the maximum weight capacity of the towing vehicle or the trailer being used to support the load.

In the towing business, there are many different terms used to describe the various weights of a towing vehicle and trailer setup. Understanding these terms can help ensure you that you will safely and efficiently have your load properly handled. 

Below are nine important definitions to understand: 

Base curb weight

The base curb weight of a vehicle and trailer setup is the weight without the addition of any cargo. If you are hiring a towing service, this is the base point where the towing vehicle and trailer are set up but your load has not yet been added. 

Cargo weight

Cargo weight is the weight of all of the items- including any passengers- that you need to have towed. Usually, the weight of the trailer tongue is included as part of the cargo weight.

The cargo weight is the weight measurement which your professional towing service provider will be most interested in knowing regarding the load you wish to have towed. 


The payload refers to the maximum cargo weight that the towing vehicle and trailer setup is possible of transporting. 

Gross combination weight

This is the complete weight of the towing vehicle, the trailer, and the cargo load. 

Gross axle weight

The gross axle weight is how much weight is being put on both the front and rear axles when the cargo load is being transported. 

Gross axle weight rating

This is the maximum weight that both the front and rear axles of a towing vehicle and trailer setup is capable of supporting. 

Gross vehicle weight

When it comes to towing, the gross vehicle weight is not simply the weight of the towing vehicle. It is the base curb weight with the addition of the cargo weight. Therefore, this weight term has the same meaning as the gross combination weight.

Gross vehicle weight rating

This is the maximum weight that can be supported in both the towing vehicle and the cargo load. The gross vehicle weight (GVW) should not be allowed to exceed the gross vehicle weight rating or safety hazards can ensue. 

Gross trailer weight

This is the maximum weight that the trailer can reach with the cargo loaded. Any additional equipment needed to tow- including the weight of the hitch and the trailer- must be subtracted from the gross trailer weight to arrive upon the actual weight of cargo that the setup is capable of towing.