Earlier in the month we talked a bit about choosing a tow vehicle for your tiny house. In determining what truck is right for you, it’s equally important to know your tiny house or RV’s overall weight and tongue weight. It’s also key to getting the right hitch. The illustrations below will tell you which type of hitch corresponds to your particular overall weight and tongue weight. First though let’s dissect what a tow hitch actually is.
A tow hitch (or tow bar) is a device attached to the chassis of a vehicle for towing. It can take the form of a tow ball to allow swiveling and articulation of a trailer, or a tow pin and jaw with a trailer loop—often used for large or agricultural vehicles where slack in the pivot pin allows similar movements. Another category is the towing pintle used on military vehicles worldwide. But that is a lot more than we need to know.
In North America the vehicle attachment is known as the trailer hitch. Trailer hitches come in two main configurations: receiver type and fixed-drawbar type. Receiver-type hitches consist of a portion that mounts to the frame of the vehicle that has a rearward-facing opening that accepts removable ball mounts, hitch bike racks, cargo carriers, or other hitch mounted accessories. Fixed-drawbar hitches are typically built as one piece, have an integrated hole for the trailer ball, and are generally not compatible with aftermarket hitch accessories.1 A trailer hitch typically bolts to the chassis of the vehicle. In North America there are a few common classes: I, II, III, IV that are defined by the Society of American Engineers.2
Class I — Up to 2,000 pounds towing capacity, 200 to 250 pounds tongue weight
Class II— Up to 3,500 pounds towing capacity, 250 to 350 pounds tongue weight
Class III (Round)— Up to 6,000 pounds towing capacity, 350 to 600 pounds tongue weight
Class III (square)— Up to 6,000 pounds towing capacity, 350 to 600 pounds tongue weight
Class IV (square)— Up to 10,000 pounds towing capacity, 600 to 1,000 pounds tongue weight
Class IV (weight distribution) — Up to 10,000 pounds towing capacity, 600 to 1,000 pounds tongue weight
Class V (5th wheel) — Up to 25,000 pounds towing capacity, fifth wheel/gooseneck
Class V (gooseneck) — Up to 25,000 pounds towing capacity, fifth wheel/gooseneck
Whatever tiny house you design or build or whatever camper you choose to tow you should know what kind of trailer you have, its weight, its suggested method of towing, and its hitch needs. Otherwise you could risk damage to your hitch, your two vehicle, or your house itself!