Towing and Hitches
Hookin' You Up
A Picture Guide for Choosing the Right Hitch for your Ride & Task
Factors in Selecting Your Hitch
Selecting the right hitch actually has to do with several key factors:
How much can your vehicle tow?
How much weight do you want to tow?
What kind of trailer you are going to pull?
We'll start with the factor that is hardest to change: your vehicle. To find out your vehicle's maximum towing capacity in weight consult your owner's manual or your dealership. Here's a quick guide (may vary depending on your vehicle):
Subcompact & Compact cars can only use Class 1 hitches.
Full-Size automobiles can use Class 1 and Class 2 hitches.
Crossovers can often use Class 1, 2, and 3 hitches.
1/4 Ton Trucks, SUVs, and Minivans can be equipped with Class 2 and 3 hitches.
1/2 Ton, 3/4 Ton, and 1 Ton Trucks can rock Class 3, 4, and 5 hitches.
Once you know the vehicle, you can decide what type of trailer you need depending upon what you plan on hauling and how heavy it is going to be.
Class 1 Hitches
Class 1 Hitches are the lightest weight and can carry the lightest loads. Typically, you will find these hitches on smaller cars, often used to transport bikes on bikes racks, small pop-up campers, and even a single jet ski on a small trailer. If you have a truck, chances are this is NOT the kind of hitch you are in the market for. Most hitches in this class have a receiver tube that is 1 ¼" by 1 ¼"; however, some may even come equipped with a fixed tongue for a specific trailer or (as in the image) something stationary like a bike rack. While these hitches are typically rated to tow up to 2,000 lbs. please note that not all hitches are rated the same just because they are in the same category or class. Also, just because a hitch is rated to 2,000 lbs. doesn't necessarily mean your car can handle that. Always check your owner's manual or contact your vehicle's dealer first to figure out how much your car/truck can tow. If your subcompact car can only handle up to 1,000 lbs. when towing, then it won't matter that you have a hitch rated for 2,000 lbs. Comprehende? Another way to think of this is you should always go with the lower rated number. For instance, if your car can tow 2,000 lbs. but your hitch is only rated for 1,000 lbs., then using that hitch and that car, you shouldn't attempt to tow anything over 1,000 lbs. Also note that most hitches are custom made for your vehicle, so don't go borrowing your buddy's hitch receiver. Get your own, even if you are borrowing his boat for the weekend.
Class 2 Hitch
These hitches are a slight step up from Class 1 and are typically capable of towing up to 3,500 lbs. One of the most versatile classes of hitches, Class 2 can be mounted on anything from a Full-sized sedan to an SUV, many Crossovers, Minivans, and even smaller Pickup Trucks like 1/4 Tons. These hitches share the same receiver tube size with Class 1 hitches: 1 ¼" by 1 ¼". So keep this in mind, as the size of the receiver tube does not necessarily tell you the class of hitch installed. Class 2 Hitches can be used to haul anything from a large bike rack to a smaller trailer that might carry something like firewood or a small off-road bike or jet-ski. Keep in mind, just as we said before, that just because a Hitch is a Class 2, doesn't necessarily mean it is rated to handle 3,500 lbs. That's just the typical rating. Double check your own hitch just in case. Furthermore, make sure you vehicle is rated to handle that much gross trailer weight (or G.T.W.) before you try to tow anything. Several of our hitch pictures, including the Class 1 above and Class 2 shown here, are provided by Curt MFG, credited to their even more thorough Curt MFG Hitch Guide, which may shed additional light on the world of towing. We sell Curt Hitches as well as a number of other excellent brands.
Class 3 Hitch
One of the most common hitches, the Class 3 has a larger receiver tube opening--a 2" by 2"--allowing it to tow larger capacity trailers. If your half-ton or larger truck came with a hitch from the dealership, chances are this is the class of hitch it already has installed. When in doubt, consult that manual or contact your dealer. Most Class 3 hitches can handle upwards of 8,000 lbs., but again hitch ratings can vary. Class 3 Hitches can be equipped on most larger Pickup Trucks and SUV's and even some smaller Trucks, Minivans, and even a few larger Crossovers. These size Hitches can be used to haul a number of trailers, including many sizes of speed boats, bass boats, smaller horse trailers, flat bed trailers, and more. But keep in mind if you are hooking a trailer up to your hitch to haul something, whether a vehicle or large equipment, you need to check the weight rating for your vehicle, your hitch, and even your trailer. If what you are trying to tow is too much weight for any of those ratings, you should not attempt to pull it. Safety first! However, many Class 3 Hitches can be used alongside a weight distribution system to allow your vehicle to tow upwards of 12,00 lbs. Unless you are hauling some serious construction grade machinery, chances are a Class 3 with a weight distribution system will be more than enough for you. However, some larger campers, life-stock trailers, and farm equipment trailers may also require a bit more bulky hitch. Hence, we have Class 4 and 5 Hitches.
Class 4 Hitch
For those extra big trailers and campers, a Class 4 Hitch may help you tow larger loads. Capable of handling up to 10,000 lbs. without a weight distribution hitch, 14,000 lbs. with one, these bad boys can pull most non-commercial trailers and equipment. Class 4's are always mounted to the vehicle itself, providing secure towing ability. Class 4 hitches have the same size receiver tubes as Class 3's: 2" x 2". If you are looking to upgrade from your stock hitch, a Class 4 is likely your next step up. However, if you really need to haul a super large camper or trailer or construction grade equipment, you may need a Class 5 or even a 5th Wheel.
Class 5 Hitch
These Class 5 Hitches are the heavy weight of the towing world--able to haul truly massive loads. Some of these Hitches can carry upwards of 20,000 lbs. But read carefully as others are only rated for around 16,000 lbs. This class can be extremely varying as each company makes a different rated Hitch and if you get a hitch with your trailer, it may well be considered a Class 5, but it may only be rated to handle the trailer you bought it with. Always consult your manual for your vehicle and the information on your hitch before attempting to haul anything that might be anywhere near your weight limit. We highly recommend that once you step up to a Class 5 Hitch you add in a weight distribution system. While it may not actually allow you to haul any extra weight, you will likely need the Weight Distribution to help balance out and even distribute the weight of what you are hauling. Some Class 5 Hitches have the same size tube opening as Class 4's and 3's--2" by 2". However, the heavier weighted hitches in this class are often equipped with a 2 1/2" by 2 1/2" tube opening.
Goosenecks & Turnoverball by B&W
The Ultimate in Towing if you absolutely need to have access to your entire Truck bed but also need to tow upwards of 30,000 lbs., the Gooseneck, or, specifically shown here, B&W's Turnoverball Hitch is perfect for the job and up to the task of hauling the most heavy of loads. These Hitches have a ball that is either removable or flippable so that when you aren't towing your trailer, you can lay whatever you'd like in your bed. Need to haul drywall? No problem. Flip the ball receiver and you can lay it flat. Ready to tow? Flip it back and hook up your trailer. If you need to haul commercial equipment, a really big camper, a large livestock trailer, or even a multiple vehicle trailer, you really can't go wrong with one of these. If you're just hauling a little pop-up camper or a flatbed trailer with a lawn mower on it, this might be overkill. As shown in the picture though, this product by B&W is just that versatile. You could still have a Class 3 or 4 or even 5 hitch attached at the back of your Pickup for when you need to haul something smaller and still want full access to your Truck bed. While some Goosenecks require some serious welding, another great thing about B&W's Turnoverball is that it mounts to existing holes in your truck's bed, so the only hole you'll need to cut is a 4" diameter one for that ball receiver. Truly the ultimate in towing if you want to still have the option to have full-access to your truck's bed when you need it.
Not worried about having full-access to your Truck's bed? Planning to often be towing a large trailer maybe hauling major farm equipment? Check out a 5th Wheel Hitch. CURT's Q25 5th Wheel Hitch, used in this picture, is about as heavy duty as they come. It can handle up to 25,000 lbs. If you are looking to move heavy machinery or even farm equipment, a gooseneck or a 5th Wheel is a great option to consider. Both are mounted typically right above or slightly in front of your rear axle and capable of towing the maximum amount of what most Trucks can handle. Again, make sure your Pickup Truck is actually rated to handle that much weight before you attempt to haul anything that large. Always double check before heading out. CURT's 5th Wheel Hitches are really top of the line. If you want to haul the maximum amount of weight for your truck, you can't go wrong with a 5th Wheel from CURT.
While this is just an introduction to Hitches, you are likely ready to start browsing. If you know what you want to haul, what your vehicle can handle, then now you should know which Class of Hitch you want. If you are looking for an even more in-depth guide, both CURT and B&W have some excellent tools to aid you in selecting the best hitch for you. But this quick picture guide should be more than enough to get you started!
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