Informational Guide

What Size Weight Distribution Hitch Do I Need?

In this guide, we answer what size weight distribution hitch do I need for towing.

If you want to reduce trailer sway, a weight distribution hitch is a must-have. However, you might be wondering – what size weight distribution hitch do I need?

In this article, we answer your top questions, including “what weight distribution hitch do I need?” 

Check out our review of the best weight distribution hitches here.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) 

The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is rated by the total weight of the vehicle. This figure includes the curb weight of the vehicle when it is empty, plus all of the passengers, fuel, and accessories. It also includes the cargo and tongue weight of a trailer. This maximum figure should never be exceeded.  

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) 

The Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) is important to know when you tow a trailer. It’s the actual weight of the fully loaded trailer, including the trailer itself. You will need to know this figure when choosing a hitch.  

Tongue Weight 

The tongue weight is the static force that is exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer tongue. If you have a 2,000-lb trailer with 1,000 lbs of cargo, the tongue weight would measure around 300 to 450 pounds, always a5bout 10-15 percent of the total.  

Learn more about how these automotive additions work in this guide.

distribution hitch

Sizing Up Weight Distribution Hitches  

  • Round Bar Hitch  
    The round bar hitch gets its name from its shape. Bars slide into the bottom of the ball mount to hold between 600 and 1,200 pounds of tongue weight. This is the best option if you travel along paved roads that are relatively even, without potholes and a lot of inclines.  
  • Anderson Hitch  
    With the Anderson hitch, shocks and chains replace the spring bars, ensuring there is no bouncing while driving. This type of trailer includes friction sway control and a nearly silent ride. You can also use this trailer for 200 to 1,400 pounds of tongue weight distribution, although some people recommend less.  
  • Trunnion Bar Hitch   
    The trunnion bar hitch is square-shaped, and you insert the bars from the side. With this hitch, you have more clearance room, which is great if you are running a trailer that is low. It's ideal for use on bumpy roads or gravel surfaces to keep the cargo safe. You will pay a little more for these, but the tongue weight is measured at 600 to 1,700 pounds.  

How To Select the Correct Hitch Size For Your Trailer? 

Which weight distribution hitch do I need? Short of using a weight distribution hitch calculator, you can quickly figure out the total in two ways.

First, look at the GVWR for your trailer and select the right hitch rating based on this number. 

If you prefer something more accurate, you can also do a small equation. Load the vehicle to its capacity and measure the weight of the trailer, cargo weight in your tow vehicle, and the trailer tongue weight. The tongue weight should be 10-15 percent of the trailer weight. If it's not, you need to rearrange the load.  

Once the cargo is prepared, add the trailer tongue weight and 1/3 of the vehicle’s cargo weight. This hitch load is the minimum tongue weight rating for your hitch. With this number, you can select the right hitch for your needs.  

As an example, let's say the trailer GVWR is 9,000 pounds, and the tongue weight is 10% at 900 pounds. The appropriate hitch for this would be a 10,000-lb model.

However, if you have a loaded trailer weighing 8,200 pounds with an actual tongue weight of 10% at 820 pounds and 1/3 of the vehicle's rear cargo weight measures 300 pounds, you might prefer a 12k hitch instead. To be safe, you should always go a little bigger than what you think you need.  

Need to set it up correctly? Read here

black weight distribution hitch

Trailer Hitch Classes & Their Capacities 

What kind of weight distribution hitch do I need? If you want to know how to choose the right weight distribution hitch, consider these trailer hitch classes and the appropriate capacities. It’s also important that you follow all recommendations set out by the vehicle and trailer manufacturers.  

Trailer Class 

Tongue Load (LBS) 

Gross Trailer Weight

Class I 


1,000-2,000 pounds 

Class II 


2,000-3,500 pounds 

Class III 


3,500-8,000 pounds  

Class IV 


5,000-12,000 pounds 

Class V 


10,000-25,000 pounds 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Does a 3,000 pound trailer need a weight distribution hitch? 

In general, if your vehicle weighs in at less than 6,000 pounds and your trailer is 3,000 pounds, you will want to use both a weight distribution system along with trailer brakes.  

Do I need a weight distribution hitch to tow a travel trailer? 

Because most travel trailers weigh more than 5,000 pounds, you will probably want a weight distribution hitch. Check with the manufacturer and read the owner’s manual if you are unsure about what’s appropriate.  

Does a weight distribution hitch reduce sway? 

The weight distribution hitch is going to create a better ride and reduced sway. You will notice less trailer movement, especially while going over bumps and when the wind hits it.  

Can too much tongue weight cause trailer sway? 

When the trailer becomes too heavy, not only can it lead to sway, but it can also cause squatting of the tow vehicle. That’s why the tongue weight should never exceed 10-15% of the trailer’s total weight.  


When do you need a weight distribution hitch? You should use a weight distribution hitch when the tow vehicle exceeds a certain weight, and you want additional sway control. By sizing the hitch ride, you have a smooth drive ahead.