You are currently viewing Towing Hitch Classes Explained – Choosing the Right Trailer Hitch Ball Sizes

There are five different hitch classes, each of which will give you an estimate of how much weight you can tow. Class I and Class II hitches are made for light-duty towing. Class IV and Class V hitches, on the other hand, are designed for heavy duty and commercial loads.

Trailer hitch balls are available in different sizes depending on the application and the vehicle to which it will be attached. It is essential to have a trailer hitch ball installed by a qualified installer. There is no such thing as “one size fits all when it comes to trailer hitch balls.”

The trailer hitches have been defined by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) based on the trailer’s weight and the cargo and the Gross Weight Towed Weight Rating (GTWR). It is important to note that the weight a vehicle can tow is not determined by the hitch class attached to it. It is determined by the vehicle’s suspension, the engine’s horsepower, and its cooling system. The towing capacity can be found in the vehicle manual or by contacting the vehicle manufacturer. Attaching a class IV hitch to a passenger car will not make it capable of towing 9,900 pounds.

Much like in boxing, the weight class of your vehicle’s towing capability will reign supreme as you select your trailer hitch. Four different towing hitch classes are commonly used, and we’ll break those down for you.

Hitch Class 1

The first hitch class on our list is probably the most common, as found on most sedans and small trucks. Hitch Class 1 means that your car can tow up to 2,000 lbs for the GTW. What is the GTW, you ask? That would be the Gross Trailer Weight, meaning the loaded-to-the brim option. At 2,000 lbs, you aren’t going to be towing anything more heavy-duty than a motorcycle or smaller jet ski, so don’t even think of trying to hitch a trailer to this lightweight ride.

Hitch Class 2

The second class you’ll come across is Hitch Class 2, and it means that your vehicle is rated up to 3,500 lbs GTW. This is the class that most Subaru Outback models are rated at. To be specific: your Outback will range anywhere from 2,700 lbs to 3,000 lbs in towing capability. Reference your owner’s manual or contact your manufacturer to find your exact weight class. At nearly 3,500 lbs, you can hitch a smaller trailer or boat.

Hitch Class 3

Now we are into the heavy-duty section of the different hitch classes around. Hitch Class 3 puts your GTW up to a stunning 8,000lbs, which allow you to hitch fishing boats and larger trailers. If you are in this class, then you probably have a pretty rugged vehicle.

Hitch Class 4/5

The final class we’ll mention blends the 4/5 marker. At this rate, you can tow up to 18,000lbs GTW, and you can do it pretty efficiently. This is the standard class for those trucks you see hauling around travel trailers on the highway.

It is essential to ensure the trailer ball hitch is installed correctly on the vehicle to ensure safe and effective towing. It does not matter the distance a trailer will be towed. The right size hitch and installation will be the difference between successful towing and just good enough towing. The trailer hitch must be fitted to the vehicle and trailer precisely and made from quality materials. Installing a trailer hitch is not a retrofit job from whatever materials can be found in the garage or cellar workshop.

Some specifications and standards control the quality of the trailer hitch and installation. Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission V5 (VESC V5) regulation provides specifications for the weights of the four light hitch classifications, breaking strengths of hitch components, safety chain attachment procedures, and installation standards. It is unnecessary to know the regulations chapter and verse, but the trailer hitch and installation must meet the requirements. Keep in mind; each state may have standards that differ from VESC V5. Typically, it is appropriate to adhere to the most stringent regulation.

Before installing a trailer hitch ball it is necessary to know what type of load and trailer to be towed. Most trailers are utility trailers, and the load may be like tools, bicycles, camping equipment, or furniture. The trailer may also hold a boat, ski-mobile, off-road vehicle, or appliances. The limit to what a trailer will hold will be limited by the trailer’s size and carrying capacity and the vehicle’s towing capacity. When towing a trailer, it is essential to load the trailer, dispersing the contents equally. This will allow the hitch assembly to function as it should and not compromise the hitch ball integrity, trailer, or vehicle. A compromised hitch assembly, trailer, or vehicle could create an unsatisfactory safety condition.