The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Trailer Hitches
Eight of the top ten best-selling vehicles in Canada in the first quarter of 2021 were pickups and crossover SUVs. One attractive feature of these vehicles is their towing capacity. No matter what type of vehicle you drive, you'll probably need to tow something at some point. For work or play, towing is an indispensable feature. When it's time to look at trailer hitches, do you know what to look for? Learn about the factors to consider when choosing a trailer hitch. You'll have what you need to pick the right hitch for your vehicle.
Maximum Towing Capacity
The first step in choosing the right trailer hitch is knowing the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle. The vehicle manufacturer determines the safest weight ratings. You'll find the towing capacity listed in the owner's manual or on the driver's side door jamb. Most manufacturers also provide a guide to towing capacity on their website. The towing capacity is the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) minus the vehicle's curb weight. The GCVWR is your vehicle's maximum weight with a trailer attached, including passengers and cargo in the vehicle or trailer. The curb weight is the weight of the vehicle without passengers or cargo. Remember that the lowest-rated part of your towing system determines your towing capacity. If your hitch is rated for 8,000 lbs (3,629 kg), but your vehicle is only rated for 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg), you shouldn't exceed 3,500 lbs.
Types of Trailer Hitches
There are several common types of trailer hitches. Most of them are weight-bearing hitches. This means that the rear of the towing vehicle bears the weight of the trailer tongue. Weight-bearing hitches include:
- Rear receiver hitch
- Front mount hitch
- 5th wheel hitch
- Gooseneck hitch
- Pintle hitch
- Bumper hitch
Weight distributing hitches even out the trailer's weight between the trailer's wheels and the towing vehicle's wheels. These hitches are designed for heavier trailers.
Rear Receiver Hitch
Rear receiver hitches are the most common type of hitch. The rear receiver hitches mount to the rear of the vehicle on the frame. They consist of a square receiver tube. You can mount trailer hitch accessories and components like a ball mount and trailer ball.
Front Mount Hitch
A front mount hitch is similar to a rear receiver hitch, except you mount it in the front of the vehicle. Front hitches are useful for accessories like a winch, snow plow, or spare tire mount. You can also use it to park your trailer or get your boat in and out of the water.
5th Wheel Hitch
5th wheel hitches mount directly into the bed of a truck. They're designed for heavy-duty towing. They usually have a pivot feature that lets them absorb bumps and maneuver more easily. A 5th wheel hitch mounts over or just forward of the truck's rear axle. For this reason, people often prefer a long bed truck for a 5th wheel hitch. You can use a slider 5th wheel hitch for a short bed truck to help keep the trailer from hitting the cab.
Gooseneck hitches mount in a similar place to a 5th wheel hitch. However, you still have full use of your truck bed with a gooseneck hitch. A gooseneck hitch gives you a tighter turn radius without hitting the cab of the truck. Gooseneck hitches are ideal for towing large and bulky loads like toy haulers, flatbeds, and livestock.
A pintle hitch uses a hook and ring to connect the towing vehicle to whatever you're towing, unlike ball mounts. You can mount the pintle directly to the frame of a large commercial truck or into a mount that goes into a receiver. Pintle hitches have a high weight rating. They can tow up to 60,000 lbs (27,216 kg). They tend to be noisier than a standard ball mount, though.
Bumper hitches mount directly to the bumper of the tow vehicle. They have a square receiver tube. They give you more flexibility in the type of loads you can tow. However, you can only use them for light applications. They can only support as much weight as the bumper can.
Weight Distribution Hitch
A weight distribution hitch mounts to the rear hitch of the vehicle. It distributes the tongue weight across the tow vehicle and the trailer. Weight distribution hitches use long spring rods to leverage the connection point. They make steering easier by taking weight off the rear of the tow vehicle. They're very common with camping RVs.
If you're using a rear receiver hitch, you'll need to choose your hitch class. There are five hitch classes:
- Class 1, up to 2,000 lbs (907 kg) Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)
- Class 2, up to 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg) GTW
- Class 3, 3,500 lbs to 12,000 lbs (1,588 kg to 5,443 kg) GTW
- Class 4, 8,000 lbs to 14,000 lbs (3,629 kg to 6,350 kg) GTW
- Class 5, 16,000 lbs to 20,000 lbs (7,257 kg to 9,072 kg) GTW
The GTW is the total weight of the trailer and its cargo.
Class 1 and 2
Class 1 trailer hitches are perfect for small loads like a bike rack with a couple of bikes or a mobility scooter. Class 2 hitches can handle a little bit more, like a small boat. Class 1 and 2 hitches usually have a 1-1/4 in (3.2 cm) receiver size. Class 1 accessories will work with a Class 2 hitch, but not the reverse. This prevents people from accidentally overloading a Class 1 hitch with heavier Class 2 trailer hitch accessories.
Class 3 hitches are very common because their weight capacity includes many common tow loads. You can tow items like midsize campers, utility trailers, and motorcycles. The receiver opening for a Class 3 hitch is 2 in (5 cm) wide.
Class 4 hitches can tow loads like a large camper or boat, a toy hauler, or a horse trailer. This hitch class is reserved for trucks and large SUVs. Class 4 trailer hitches can haul more than Class 3, but the receiver opening is the same size (2 in or 5 cm).
Class 5 hitches can handle heavy-duty loads like large toy haulers, equipment haulers, and multi-car trailers. Heavy-duty trucks and commercial trucks are the most common tow vehicles. Class 5 hitch receivers usually have a 2-1/2 in the opening. Some have a 2 in the wide opening, while others have a 3 in the opening. Hitches with a 3 in the opening are usually welded to the frame of the tow vehicle.
Choosing Your Trailer Hitch
When it's time to choose your trailer hitch, the towing capacity of your vehicle and the type of towing you'll be doing are the main considerations. You'll know you're picking the right hitch when you shop with Burnaby Hitch. Our selection of hitches and accessories from top brands is sure to have just what you need. Our knowledgeable employees can sort quickly through our large inventory to help you find the right product. Call or stop in today. Let's find your towing solution.