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Curb Weight vs Gross Weight: There’s More to the Scene

Curb Weight vs Gross Weight
Written by Nick Steiner

It’s so easy to define curb weight and gross weight but some factors also need to be considered, such as Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, Gross Combined Weight Rating, Gross Trailer Weight, Trailer Weight, and more.

Here is all you need to know!

Curb weight

Curb weight, also known as kerb weight or empty weight is the weight measurement of a car with all the factory equipment and consumable liquids like fuel and coolants.

If a vehicle displays 1000 lbs as its curb weight, this means the vehicle weighs about 1000 lbs before you start loading it with passengers and cargo.

Usually, 90% fuel is considered included in the curb weight and in European countries, 165 lbs extra is added to the curb weight as the driver’s weight.

How to calculate curb weight?

How to calculate curb weight

**Photo courtesy: TPCE Mech Books

Curb weight is the condition you get your car in from the showroom. You can weigh your car before you add any accessories to find out the curb weight since it isn’t usually displayed on the car or the manual.

Another way to measure is to subtract the available payload from the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). You’ll find both of those as stickers on the door. You can also find the information on the manufacturer’s website.

For example, if your GVWR is at 5000 lbs, and the available maximum payload is 3500 lbs, then the curb weight/kerb weight of that vehicle roughly will be = (5000-3500) = 1500 lbs.

Gross weight or gross vehicle weight (GVW)

Gross weight or gross vehicle weight (GVW)

**Photo courtesy: TPCE Mech Books

This is the weight of the car when it is filled with passengers, payloads, and all other essentials (equipment and consumables). To put it simply, it is the amount of the highest load your car can carry safely.

The GVR of any car keeps changing as the number of passengers and the amount of payload keeps changing. GVR is especially important if you have to carry a heavy payload around or need to drive your car through rough terrains.

How to calculate gross vehicle weight

The simplest way to determine your car’s gross vehicle weight is to use a vehicle scale. Simply go to a weighting station with your car full and measure the GVR for that particular time.

Your GVW will change as you let more passengers or cargo in or out of your car. You can also add the payload to the curb weight of your car to get the GVW.

A soft reminder, the GVW of your car should never exceed the GVWR provided by the manufacturer.

Curb Weight vs Gross Weight: Differences

Carb weight refers to your vehicle’s weight when there is no payload or aftermarket equipment installed. European manufacturers also include the driver’s weight into the curb weight.

The biggest impact of curb weight is on the fuel economy. Lightweight cars have better fuel economy and control for a smooth riding experience. This also comes in handy when you want to tow or ship your car.

On the contrary, gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross weight refers to the weight of the car including the weight of the passengers, cargo, fuel, transmission fluid, and other consumables. Some people also call it the gross curb weight.

Unlike curb weight, GVW will vary depending on the payload. You may not have control over the curb weight but can change the GVW as per your need. Just be careful that the amount doesn’t exceed the GVWR provided by the manufacturer.

Here is the simplified chart showing the key differences between curb weight and gross weight of your car:

Aspect Curb Weight Gross Weight
Refers to The weight of only the car, excludes any additional items The current weight of your car, including all the payload
Fuel count Counts only 90% into the weight Counts all the fluids in your car
Indication Standard weight of the car Actual weight of the car
Relation with safe driving Not related It’s essential to maintain for a safe driving

Other Weight labels and rankings explained

GVWR

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the amount of maximum load your car can safely carry around. It is the maximum your car can weigh including all the equipment, consumables, passengers, driver, and the payload/cargo.

GVWR is related to driving safety and you should never carry more weight than the GVWR of your particular car. You can find the GVWR on a sticker placed at your car’s driver-side door jam.

GVWR on a trailer

Just like a car, the GVWR of a trailer indicates the maximum allowable weight of your trailer. The manufacturer of the trailer will determine the GVWR and place it on a sticker usually found on the door side of the trailer.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

Gross Combined Weight Rating is the amount your car should weigh with a trailer attached. This includes the weight of the tow vehicle, the trailer, the passengers, and the cargo.

The manufacturers determine the maximum weight your car can carry safely based on its frame, suspension, axles, and other towing-related components. The GCWR will determine the total towing capacity.

GVWR vs GCWR

GVWR refers to how much your vehicle can weigh alone, without any trailer attached. On the flip side, GCWR displays the maximum weight your car can safely carry around with a trailer attached.

GAWR

This is the maximum amount of weight a single axle of your car can carry safely. This includes the weights of the passengers and payload of your car and the trailer if you have any.

Both your front axle and rear axle will go through several trials and the manufacturer will declare how much your individual axles can carry. The rating for the front axle will be shown as FR and the rear axle will be RR.

Putting more weight on an axle than its recommended GAWR will put more strain on your axle and the suspension system than they can handle. This is dangerous, especially if you regularly drive around with heavy payloads.

GTW

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) refers to the total weight of your trailer, all payload and equipment included. This is a descriptive measurement and should never exceed the GVWR. You can easily find the GTW using a vehicle scale or trailer weight scale.

If the trailer is empty, the weight of your trailer will also refer to Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW). There is also cargo capacity that dictates how much weight your trailer can carry safely.

Trailer Weight vs Towing Capacity

The Trailer Weight (GTW) just showcases how much your trailer weighs. This will change every time you pack/unpack payloads and take passengers.

On the other hand, towing capacity is the maximum amount of weight you can safely tow with your vehicle. This is determined by the manufacturer and is essential for safer driving.

TW

Trailers are usually connected with the tow vehicle with a kingpin/shaft/hitch. The amount of weight your trailer puts on the kingpin/shaft/hitch of your tow vehicle is called the Tongue Weight (TW). The number fluctuates between 10-15 percent of the trailer’s total weight.

Many trailers come with max trailer weight printed on the trailer. If not, you can also find that by subtracting your car’s GVWR from the GCWR. Now take 10-15% of that and you got the tongue weight. Remember, TW will add to your car’s payload.

Dry Weight

The dry weight of a vehicle is similar to its curb weight. The difference is, dry weight does not include any fluids across the vehicle. This is the car’s weight excluding the passenger, the payload, and the fluids like fuel, coolants, engine oil, and transmission fluids.

Dry weight mainly comes in handy when cars are shipped across the globe.

Dry Weight vs GVWR

Dry weight is the weight of your vehicle without all the cargo, passengers, and necessary fluids. Nowadays, dry weight measurements have become a bit cold-shouldered since they can mislead people easily.

On the contrary, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum limit of weight you can safely carry with your car. This is determined by the manufacturer and controls how heavy your car can be without any safety concerns.

Payload

This is the maximum amount of weight your car can haul in the form of cargo and passengers. All the weights you carry on your vehicle’s seat, roof, or trunk bed will be considered as payload. You can find the maximum payload limit on the sticker at the driver-side door jam.

Payload vs Towing Capacity

Both payload and towing capacity indicates the maximum weight you can safely carry around.

However, payload showcases how much weight your car can carry whereas towing capacity refers to the weight limit of the trailer hitched up to your vehicle.

Here is a chart for those who want a nutshell view of all the weight labels:

Label

Elaboration

Description

Curb Weight Curb Weight Total weight of your empty vehicle
GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating Maximum loaded weight on your vehicle
GCWR Gross Combined Weight Rating The maximum amount your vehicle can tow
GAWR Gross Axle Weight Rating Maximum weight each of your axles can support
GTW Gross Trailer Weight Total weight of your trailer
Dry Weight Dry Weight Total weight of your vehicle without any consumable fluids
Payload Payload Total weight of your cargo and passengers
TW Tongue Weight Total weight at the coupling point

Why you should care

All the weight ratings and limitations are there for your protection. Added or unbalanced weight can become dangerous on the road, especially if you are carrying an RV or a heavy payload around.

It’s easy to lose control of your car or your trailer on the road if you overstuff your car with payloads. This is crucial for heavy drivers since they have to transport heavy items across a great distance.

We strongly recommend you check out all the weight ratings before you start towing with your car or decide to buy a trailer unit. If you get involved in a crash weighing over your limits, not only that can turn fatal, your insurance can get negated and you can also receive a big penalty.

It’s not about how well you can tow weights around. It’s more important if you can break all those weights without crashing. That is why knowing about all the weight labels is crucial for a safe journey, better fuel economy, and long-lasting suspension.

FAQs

1. Does curb weight include the driver?

Ans: Not Everywhere. It depends on the manufacturers across the globe. For example, in the USA the curb weight doesn’t include the driver but in the European Union, an additional 165 lbs (75Kg) is added to the curb weight as the driver’s weight.

2. Is GVWR The Same As Curb Weight?

Ans: No. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the max limit of the weight your car can safely carry around whereas the curb weight refers to the initial weight of the car straight from the factory.

3. How Do I Know How Much Weight My Trailer Can Hold?

Ans: That’s your trailer’s holding/load capacity. You can easily get the amount by subtracting your trailer’s weight from the GVWR of your trailer. You’ll find both of them printed on a sticker/plate attached to the trailer.

4. Does GVWR Include Trailer Weight?

Ans: Not always. While some manufacturers include trailer weight into the GCWR, most others don’t. If you want to figure out your trailer’s weight, the easiest way to do that is to subtract the curb weight from the gross combined weight rating (GCWR).

About the author

Nick Steiner

Nick has been a car nut for his whole life as far as he can remember. His father was a car dealer who used to change and repair his cars himself. As a result, Nick had the opportunity to get around all sorts of cars and learned to get his hands dirty repairing vehicles from an early age.

Nick is a great fan of Japanese quality and German preciosity. His deep passion lies in older models that he believes have a flair that takes him back to his childhood. He also loves their durability and reliability when compared to the modern models.

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