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Old 10-23-2017, 12:30 AM   #1
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Tow Limits

New member, researching market for my dream machine - an Airstream travel trailer. Have Toyota Highlander, 5000 lb tow. Best seems to be 22FB Sport. Anything heavier may meet empty weight, but GVWR goes over. How strict is tow limit - can it be safely exceeded by several hundred pounds? By 10 percent? Or, stick rigidly under the limit? I know the rules - stay under - but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
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Old 10-23-2017, 05:14 AM   #2
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Welcome to thwe AirForums! I wish I could give you the answer you're hoping for, but I can't.

Let me paint you a mental picture, by way of answering your question… Suppose you do exceed the allowable gross trailer weight or the allowable hitch weight, or both, even by a just a hundred pounds. Now suppose you get into an accident with another vehicle, whether it's your fault or theirs doesn't matter. Now suppose your insurance company (or the other guy's insurance company) learns that you exceeded the weight limits when the adjuster (or the responding law enforcement officer) does an investigation.

Know what will happen? They'll deny your coverage, and you'll be stuck paying all bills, both for you and for the other guy, because by exceeding the allowable weight limits, you've just placed yourself at least partially at fault— even if the other guy caused the accident— and both insurance companies would rather you pay than for them to pay. Can you afford that? If the answer is yes, then by all means try it. Otherwise, it's not worth taking a chance.

In purely mechanical terms, a 5000-pound capacity doesn't necessarily mean that something will break at 5,100 pounds; capacities are set with some margin of error. But as soon as you leave your own property, purely mechanical terms aren't the limiting factor anymore; legal terms are.
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Old 10-23-2017, 05:34 AM   #3
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. . .
. . . can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Yes, temporarily, until the answer is a resounding NO, perhaps during a catastrophic failure causing a roll-over accident and loss of life.

Worst case scenario? Yes.

How much do you value your new Airstream and the lives of your family and loved ones?

If you decide to tow and disregard the tow limits please advise us, so we can avoid sharing the road with an admitted reckless driver.



PS — Welcome to the forum, and ditto to Protagonist’s more carefully crafted cautions!
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Old 10-23-2017, 11:38 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Protagonist View Post
Welcome to thwe AirForums! I wish I could give you the answer you're hoping for, but I can't.

Let me paint you a mental picture, by way of answering your question… Suppose you do exceed the allowable gross trailer weight or the allowable hitch weight, or both, even by a just a hundred pounds. Now suppose you get into an accident with another vehicle, whether it's your fault or theirs doesn't matter. Now suppose your insurance company (or the other guy's insurance company) learns that you exceeded the weight limits when the adjuster (or the responding law enforcement officer) does an investigation.

Know what will happen? They'll deny your coverage, and you'll be stuck paying all bills, both for you and for the other guy, because by exceeding the allowable weight limits, you've just placed yourself at least partially at fault— even if the other guy caused the accident— and both insurance companies would rather you pay than for them to pay. Can you afford that? If the answer is yes, then by all means try it. Otherwise, it's not worth taking a chance.

In purely mechanical terms, a 5000-pound capacity doesn't necessarily mean that something will break at 5,100 pounds; capacities are set with some margin of error. But as soon as you leave your own property, purely mechanical terms aren't the limiting factor anymore; legal terms are.
Excellent reply. All I need to know. I considered the accident factor, but did not fully appreciate the extent to which even a small excess weight would be analyzed legally. I wonder to what extent overload is intentionally or unknowingly practiced not only by a few recreational folks, but also by contractors and DIYers leaving Home Depot with an overload of purchases. I see it all the time. And no, I would never knowingly skirt the law under any circumstances, once I understand it fully. So, many thanks for the thoughtful reply, my Airstream WILL max out to no more than 5,000. And, most probably considerably less.
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:26 AM   #5
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Make sure you also look at the GCVW for your tow vehicle. We almost purchased something that was rated for 5000lbs but had such a low GCVW that once the curb weight of the car was factored in it only left 2000lbs!!
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:00 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by CV-8 View Post
New member, researching market for my dream machine - an Airstream travel trailer. Have Toyota Highlander, 5000 lb tow. Best seems to be 22FB Sport. Anything heavier may meet empty weight, but GVWR goes over. How strict is tow limit - can it be safely exceeded by several hundred pounds? By 10 percent? Or, stick rigidly under the limit? I know the rules - stay under - but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Just be reasonable. There's nothing magic about a hundred pounds over. Insurance doesn't magically disappear when someone breaks a law otherwise no one would be on here bragging about how they do 80 mph with their trailer in tow.

Try towing with the Highlander. If you don't like it, get a bigger TV. That's what I did.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:35 AM   #7
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Insurance doesn't magically disappear when someone breaks a law otherwise no one would be on here bragging about how they do 80 mph with their trailer in tow.
Bet those people bragging didn't have an accident and put their insurance coverage to the test, though…

I knew somebody, now deceased so I can mention his name (Velton Reid of Folsom, LA) who was towing a boat— a 20' Boston Whaler Revenge— that exceeded his pickup's gross trailer weight rating. The pickup was a dinky little Ford Ranger, way too small to tow a 5000-pound boat and trailer. I was riding shotgun in the pickup at the time, so I saw the whole thing. He tried to stop at a red light on a downward grade, but misjudged the stopping distance he'd need, rolled into the intersection, and broadsided a car that was coming through the intersection on the green light. When his insurance company found out he was towing too heavy, they canceled his coverage and left him with the bill for all damages. He showed me the letter the insurance company sent him, and they specifically cited his deliberate and knowing violation of the vehicle's safe towing limit as the reason for canceling his coverage. The insurance company was State Farm.

Insurance is not there to cover you against the consequences of breaking the law. They'rte there to cover you against accidents. And they figure, if you knowingly broke the law, it was no accident…
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:53 AM   #8
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There you go!
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Old 10-24-2017, 08:25 AM   #9
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Bet those people bragging didn't have an accident and put their insurance coverage to the test, though…

I knew somebody, now deceased so I can mention his name (Velton Reid of Folsom, LA) who was towing a boat— a 20' Boston Whaler Revenge— that exceeded his pickup's gross trailer weight rating. The pickup was a dinky little Ford Ranger, way too small to tow a 5000-pound boat and trailer. I was riding shotgun in the pickup at the time, so I saw the whole thing. He tried to stop at a red light on a downward grade, but misjudged the stopping distance he'd need, rolled into the intersection, and broadsided a car that was coming through the intersection on the green light. When his insurance company found out he was towing too heavy, they canceled his coverage and left him with the bill for all damages. He showed me the letter the insurance company sent him, and they specifically cited his deliberate and knowing violation of the vehicle's safe towing limit as the reason for canceling his coverage. The insurance company was State Farm.

Insurance is not there to cover you against the consequences of breaking the law. They'rte there to cover you against accidents. And they figure, if you knowingly broke the law, it was no accident…
Big difference between towing a Boston Whaler with a Ranger and going over weight by 200 pounds on a camper.

I'm glad I tow with a one ton so I don't have to listen to all the crap I heard when I had my Grand Cherokee.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:54 PM   #10
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but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Probably yes, but are you sure you want to? You may be safe, but you'll constantly be constrained: crossing the Continental Divide, accelerating away from some truck's bad merge, struggling when you should be cruising comfortably. There are lots of situations where you can operate at the margins, but when it comes to towing most will prefer a good margin between need and capability. There are plenty of risks that can't be managed well even with proper planning, why add another one if you don't really need to?

Dan
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #11
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The other issue is you seem to be thinking that the tow limit on your vehicle has a margin of safety low, when in reality it seems to be that it has a margin of sales advertising high. At some point there may be a crackdown on artificially inflated towing capacity numbers. Until then, the likely falsely high numbers is one reason one argument is not to go over 80% of the vehicle's tow rating. These are the points that I find compelling. You will surely hear an argument for towing anything you want to soon enough. These are not points I personally find compelling. :-)
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #12
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Big difference between towing a Boston Whaler with a Ranger and going over weight by 200 pounds on a camper.
Yes, it is a big difference. But the point is, your insurance company is NOT your friend. They are in business to make money, and payouts don't make money for them. So giving them a reason to leave you hanging by knowingly exceeding towing weight limits is not a risk worth taking.
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:25 PM   #13
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Debbie's brother summed it up really well for us when we last shopped a truck. He said it's not so much how much your truck can pull as it is how much your truck will stop. Yeah I know the trailer has it's own brakes, but we're talking about when things kinda go south on you. If things never went wrong we wouldn't need seatbelts and fire extinguishers, right?

We bought a little bigger (2500) truck. 202,000 miles later (over 140,000 towing miles on this setup so far), we don't mind at all it still outweighs the Airstream.
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:28 PM   #14
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Hi

Equally an issue: Towing right at the limit on a vehicle is rarely a comfortable thing. Do you *really* want to be exhausted after an hour of driving? How easy / hard it is depends on a wide range of things. Only one of those things is the weight limit. It's not going to be an "every time" sort of thing. It might be a "until I get through the next five days" sort of thing. Roads, winds, and a lot of other things all contribute.

Bob
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