Weighing Your Options for Your Next RV

How much does a camper weigh?

If you’re looking at RVs for sale, there are some fundamental questions to answer. First, you need to decide if you want a motorhome or travel trailer. The weight of a camper becomes a significant concern with your tow vehicle. Remember those vehicle manufacturers go through extensive testing to get to the towing capacity figure. It’s not a suggestion. It’s the limit.

For motorhomes, it’s not as critical, unless you have to keep the weight limit of the road you’re traveling in mind. However, a heavier rig is harder to handle and more difficult to get up hills, especially if you’re overloading it or towing a daily driver. After all, it all adds up and will affect your experience.

Weight Terms

There are several terms you need to understand to get a handle on the weight of an RV. First, you’ll have the unloaded vehicle weight (UVW). That’s just the RV on its own without gear, water, or anything else inside of it. That’s what the manufacturer says it is when it comes off the assembly line. It sometimes varies, depending on how they define it. You’ll also see the phrase, dry weight.

Curb weight includes the RV with everything that needs fluid of some sort, filled. Gear, people, and anything you add to it is excluded. Gross vehicle weight (GVW) describes the same rig, fully loaded. You have to balance this number with the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). That’s your upper limit if you’re towing your rig.

If you’re researching travel trailer prices, make sure to look at all of these specs to stay within the limits of what you can haul safely. Each figure gives you additional info to help you plan your trips and the cargo that you can bring along for the ride.

The maximum towing capacity is the top figure that your vehicle can haul. You’ll find it with its list of specs. It’s essential to know it so that you don’t push your ride to the limit. You’ll put more wear and tear on it and shorten its lifespan.

Types of RVs

When asking, how much does a camper weighs, you also have to consider the age of the rig, materials, and kind. The cost also plays an indirect role. Gas mileage, of course, is an essential consideration. A more expensive option may use lighter components that may come with a price, not unlike other vehicles.


Class A rigs are the big boys since they are essentially traveling homes. They are upward of 40 feet in length. Class C models are the next step down with room enough for a small family. They are a cross between a camper and a truck. Class B are camper vans, suitable for a couple to take to the road. They weigh anywhere from 3,000 to north of 10,000 pounds, depending on the amenities and HVAC system.

For example, the GVWR of an Airstream Atlas Touring Coach is 11,030 pounds. For the smaller Airstream Interstate Nineteen Touring Coach, it is 8,550 pounds. However, the industry and market are evolving. Smaller RVs are the thing now, perhaps reflecting concern about fuel economy.


The fifth wheel is the largest rig of this group. You’ll need a good-sized tow vehicle to handle one of them. The name comes from the fact that the camper rests on a hitch in the bed. Travel trailers are probably what you imagine when you hear the term, camper. They can go the gamut from a cozy home for two to a well-appointed luxury option with all the bells and whistles.

Pop-up campers are the quintessential vacation rig that is affordable and functional for small groups or families. They are lightweight, making them an option if you have a smaller tow vehicle. You’ll find them up to 24 feet in length. The top’s construction keeps the weight in check to under 3,000 pounds.

Teardrop campers are just a bed on wheels. They are a place to rest your head without a lot of extras. They typically are less than 4,000 pounds, making them an excellent choice for smaller trucks and SUVs.

An advantage that all of these towables have is their portability. All you have to do is hitch it up and go. Weight becomes a deciding factor because it affects the flexibility and versatility of using these rigs. It has also fueled the market demand for these RVs. It’s hard to argue the affordability of a campsite fee with the ability to cook meals on-site versus a hotel room and meals at restaurants.

Factors Affecting a Camper’s Weight

Amenities make a significant impact on the overall weight of an RV. If your rig has a potable water tank, you have to take into account what goes inside of it. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. That can add a lot to your load and affect your gas mileage if you don’t drain it before hitting the road again. There’s also your gear, luggage, pets—and everyone onboard.

Don’t forget fuel either. Gasoline, diesel, and propane also add to the mix. Gas, for example, weighs in at about 6 pounds per gallon. You’re talking about some serious amounts if you have a larger fuel tank. Diesel doesn’t fare much better at just over 7 pounds per gallon.

You have to put this all together to determine the total load and whether your tow vehicle can handle the demand. Give yourself some leeway since other indirect factors can also tip the scales including snow, a loaded bicycle rack, or a filled water tank. It also makes a strong argument for paying a visit to the dump station before you head home.

Everything you add to your rig contributes to the overall weight. Do you really have to have to fill your bookshelves? Is a full set of cast-iron cookware necessary? Is that TV a must-have if you can stream on your tablet if you get bored? You can always rent a bike if you need to get some exercise.

Indirect Considerations

If you’re in the market for an RV, weight may play an indirect role in the savings you might get, based on the type of RV. Both small families and couples will save more with a pop-up camper versus other kinds of rigs. Fuel economy due in part to weight is part of the mix but not the only one. Your flexibility on a destination is another significant consideration.

Keeping the Weight in Check

To maximize gas mileage, consider the biggest contributors first. You can control some things, but others are part of the mix with no wiggle room. You don’t have to figure it out to the last ounce, but you should shoot for midway and not max towing capacity when looking into how much does a camper weigh. Of course, it depends on whether you’re driving or parked at your campsite.

The question of pounds is more critical when you’re towing a camper. Limits on the road which can also affect motorhomes are typically an issue during the spring, especially if travel or weather can change street conditions or gravel thoroughfares.

On a larger scale, you can control weight and many other factors by your choice of rig. Travel trailer sales far exceed that of motorhomes by over 500 percent. Some of the reasons lie with new RV prices and the selection. If you’re shopping for a new rig, you’ll have many choices with the campers versus a coach.

You can get a well-equipped Jayco Pop-Up for under 2,000 pounds. You can score a travel trailer for under 4,000 pounds easily. The reason lies with the materials. Jayco campers use aluminum construction, which provides strength and significant weight reduction. Vintage models of towables often used heavier materials like steel, which adds considerably to the tonnage and reduces MPG.

You’ll find it helpful if you weigh your cargo at least once to see what you’re dealing with when you pack for a trip. Don’t guesstimate. Go to an RV weigh station which will give you an analysis about the distribution too for optimal packing. If anything, it’ll help prevent you from overloading it. If you haven’t used that screened-in tent the last several trips, leave it at home. Stick with the necessities.

RVs have evolved over the years to become more aerodynamic and comfortable. The materials reflect the advances in technology too. However, the final weight of a camper also depends on your choice of the gear you bring along whether you need them or not. While the pounds aren’t as critical with motorhomes under most circumstances, they fall in the deal breaker category with towables.

The weight of your camper is only the start. Your fuel, water, and add-ons can also pack on the pounds and push you to the danger zone. Think of it this way. Living in an RV no matter how long it is a lesson in economy. That means everything you bring on your trips too.