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TOPIC: What size of boat can I tow with my truck?

What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 26 Aug 2017 14:58 #1

  • Bruce55
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I have a 2013 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SL 4x4 with a V6 4.0 L engine that has 261 HP, 280 LBS torque. Been told it can tow up to 6,500 LBS.
What size of fiberglass boat can I tow with my truck?
What size aluminum boat can I tow with my truck?
I want to know what kind and size of runabout I should be looking for so I can get back out on the water.
I would like if possible to put in a port a potty, maybe sleep on it & go on 100 mile cruises. Am I dreaming too much? Thank you for your time.

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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 26 Aug 2017 16:20 #2

  • green650
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You'll have to look in your owners manual. Your vin plate doesn't show the tow ratings.
But if your estimation of 6500 is correct, you could look at 2252's. Mine had a marine head with tank, not a porta potty.
Maybe a 2452, those might be too heavy. Definitely not a 28 footer.

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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 26 Aug 2017 16:27 #3

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Looking online reviews shows max at 6500 pounds. Crew cab and 4x4 usually reduces the max due to the extra weight. My ford manual shows different towing capacities for every body configuration and engine drivetrain combination.

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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 26 Aug 2017 17:12 #4

  • Solandri
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There are a lot more numbers to consider than just your tow rating.

The tow rating is a combination of what your vehicle can pull, and the strength of the tow hitch receiver hardware.
  • A vehicle which with a powerful engine but a crappy hitch receiver will have a low rating.
  • Likewise a vehicle with an oversized receiver but weak engine will have a low rating.
  • Best case is when the two are matched well.
  • Truth be told, there's always a safety factor built into this so you can in theory exceed your tow rating, but your insurance will probably not cover you if you do so and get into an accident.
  • Be aware that often the max tow rating cannot be achieved unless you have an optional transmission cooler installed. This is often included with the tow package, but not always (not everyone tows a heavy trailer). If you have an aftermarket tow hitch installed, you definitely need to check with your manufacturer to see if you need this.
So in a nutshell, the weight of your boat (loaded) + trailer should not exceed the vehicle's tow rating. The tow hitch and ball you buy should be equal to or stronger than the tow rating.

There's also a tongue weight limit. This is the maximum downward weight which should rest on the tow hitch ball on level ground.
  • The number is based on the strength of the tow hitch receiver hardware and its length (actually, total length from rear axle to the tow ball).
  • Buried somewhere in the manual or the documentation is a limit for the maximum distance from the tow ball to the hitch pin. If you exceed that, the manufacturer's stated maximum tongue weight is out the window.
  • The tongue weight matters more for travel trailers which load up propane tanks and batteries near the tongue. But it can also be a factor in boats with a poorly matched trailer.
  • Too much tongue weight can not only break the hitch receiver, it can cause loss of control of your truck (the front wheels get lifted so you lose steering control).
  • Too little tongue weight is disastrous as it'll cause the trailer to sway.
The generally accepted tongue weight for safe towing is 8% (Europe) to 10% (U.S.) of the trailer + boat weight. Up to 15% is generally considered safe. Try to stay close to these percentages or you can experience sway or loss of control while towing.



Then there's GVWR, gross vehicle weight rating. This is the maximum weight (downward force) the vehicle itself can support. Based on your pic, yours is 5815 lbs.
  • A) Look up the curb weight of your vehicle and model. This is the weight of it empty, with full fluids (including full tank of gas).
  • B ) Add the weight of all the people riding inside and any cargo you're also carrying.
  • C) Add the tongue weight of your loaded trailer (search online for a trick to measuring tongue weight using a bathroom scale, a couple bricks, and a 2x4).
  • There's also a per-axle rating called a GAWR - gross axle weight rating. This is something you have to consider if you have an unbalanced load (payload all near the back, or all near the front), as then the weight is predominantly resting on one axle.
  • Often but not always, the GVWR is simply the front GAWR + rear GAWR. If this is the case (it's not for your truck), you have to try to make sure your payload is more or less centered. When towing a heavy boat, this can mean having to put cargo in the front passenger seat. A weight distribution hitch can counter this effect, if your hitch receiver hardware is rated to take one.
The sum of A + B + C cannot exceed your GVWR. If you do, you can damage your tires or suspension, and vehicle control may be degraded. And again, your insurance may not cover you in the event of an accident.

The trailer itself has its own GVWR and (if tandem or triple axle) GAWRs.
  • Subtract the weight of the trailer from its GVWR. That's the heaviest boat weight you can put on the trailer.
  • If the weight of the trailer + fully loaded boat exceeds the GVWR, then the trailer is too small and you need a bigger, stronger trailer.
  • If the trailer is a tandem or triple axle, then it'll also have GAWR. Though since the axles are right next to each other, trailer GVWR is almost always the sum of the individual GAWRs.
  • If a tandem or triple axle, you have to make sure the tow hitch ball is at the proper height. Somewhere on the trailer it'll tell you ideal range of heights, like 16-20 inches. This is crucial to distribute the load evenly over the axles. Failure to do so can cause sway, and can damage the trailer since you're probably exceeding a GAWR.
Look up the boat's dry weight in the manufacturer's specs, add the weight of the engine(s) (if not included in the dry weight), add the weight of a full tank of fuel (gasoline is about 6.3 lbs per gallon), add the weight of a full water tank (water is 8.34 lbs per gallon), add the weight of batteries and other stuff that's always aboard the boat, add the weight of all the other stuff you've thrown on the boat like fishing poles and ice boxes. Aluminum or fiberglass doesn't matter, only the weight.

The total is your boat's weight. Add it to the trailer weight and the total cannot exceed the trailer GVWR. This is also the weight you use (boat + trailer weight) for the vehicle's tow capacity calculation. Dialing in the tongue weight (by choosing a correct trailer or modifying the winch position so the boat is not too far forward, too far back) helps stability and prevents sway. If the boat exceeds the trailer's GVWR, your boat insurance may not cover the boat if you get into an accident while trailering. Unknown what your car insurance will do.

Edit: For a 6500 lb tow capacity, you're probably looking at about 24' as a max boat length. But it varies by manufacturer (some build more robust, heavier boats) and type of boat (a skiff or center console weighs a lot less for the length than a cruiser). A trailer with a 6500 lb GVWR will weigh about 1200 pounds, leaving you about 5300 pounds for the boat + stuff, which probably puts you around 4200 pounds for the boat + engine (no fluids)

Edit edit: Typos and clarifications, added a bit more info.
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Last Edit: by Solandri.

What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 26 Aug 2017 20:06 #5

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Solandri, that's about as comprehensive and succinct explanation I've seen anywhere! About two months ago, I was going through the same process (but actually in reverse since I already had the boat and was looking for a tow vehicle) and it took me a couple hours on the internet to piece together all the factors you've put in one place. Coincidentally, I started with a boat weight (including fluids and gear) around 4500 and ended up with a tow vehicle with a 6500 capacity, which only leaves a couple hundred pounds in buffer. I still haven't purchased a trailer, but the 1200 you cite is around the weight of the trailer my dealer suggested.

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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 04 Sep 2017 11:53 #6

  • LazyCrusr
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Solandri wrote: There are a lot more numbers to consider than just your tow rating.

The tow rating is a combination of what your vehicle can pull, and the strength of the tow hitch receiver hardware.

  • A vehicle which with a powerful engine but a crappy hitch receiver will have a low rating.
  • Likewise a vehicle with an oversized receiver but weak engine will have a low rating.
  • Best case is when the two are matched well.
  • Truth be told, there's always a safety factor built into this so you can in theory exceed your tow rating, but your insurance will probably not cover you if you do so and get into an accident.
  • Be aware that often the max tow rating cannot be achieved unless you have an optional transmission cooler installed. This is often included with the tow package, but not always (not everyone tows a heavy trailer). If you have an aftermarket tow hitch installed, you definitely need to check with your manufacturer to see if you need this.
So in a nutshell, the weight of your boat (loaded) + trailer should not exceed the vehicle's tow rating. The tow hitch and ball you buy should be equal to or stronger than the tow rating.

There's also a tongue weight limit. This is the maximum downward weight which should rest on the tow hitch ball on level ground.
  • The number is based on the strength of the tow hitch receiver hardware and its length (actually, total length from rear axle to the tow ball).
  • Buried somewhere in the manual or the documentation is a limit for the maximum distance from the tow ball to the hitch pin. If you exceed that, the manufacturer's stated maximum tongue weight is out the window.
  • The tongue weight matters more for travel trailers which load up propane tanks and batteries near the tongue. But it can also be a factor in boats with a poorly matched trailer.
  • Too much tongue weight can not only break the hitch receiver, it can cause loss of control of your truck (the front wheels get lifted so you lose steering control).
  • Too little tongue weight is disastrous as it'll cause the trailer to sway.
The generally accepted tongue weight for safe towing is 8% (Europe) to 10% (U.S.) of the trailer + boat weight. Up to 15% is generally considered safe. Try to stay close to these percentages or you can experience sway or loss of control while towing.



Then there's GVWR, gross vehicle weight rating. This is the maximum weight (downward force) the vehicle itself can support. Based on your pic, yours is 5815 lbs.
  • A) Look up the curb weight of your vehicle and model. This is the weight of it empty, with full fluids (including full tank of gas).
  • B ) Add the weight of all the people riding inside and any cargo you're also carrying.
  • C) Add the tongue weight of your loaded trailer (search online for a trick to measuring tongue weight using a bathroom scale, a couple bricks, and a 2x4).
  • There's also a per-axle rating called a GAWR - gross axle weight rating. This is something you have to consider if you have an unbalanced load (payload all near the back, or all near the front), as then the weight is predominantly resting on one axle.
  • Often but not always, the GVWR is simply the front GAWR + rear GAWR. If this is the case (it's not for your truck), you have to try to make sure your payload is more or less centered. When towing a heavy boat, this can mean having to put cargo in the front passenger seat. A weight distribution hitch can counter this effect, if your hitch receiver hardware is rated to take one.
The sum of A + B + C cannot exceed your GVWR. If you do, you can damage your tires or suspension, and vehicle control may be degraded. And again, your insurance may not cover you in the event of an accident.

The trailer itself has its own GVWR and (if tandem or triple axle) GAWRs.
  • Subtract the weight of the trailer from its GVWR. That's the heaviest boat weight you can put on the trailer.
  • If the weight of the trailer + fully loaded boat exceeds the GVWR, then the trailer is too small and you need a bigger, stronger trailer.
  • If the trailer is a tandem or triple axle, then it'll also have GAWR. Though since the axles are right next to each other, trailer GVWR is almost always the sum of the individual GAWRs.
  • If a tandem or triple axle, you have to make sure the tow hitch ball is at the proper height. Somewhere on the trailer it'll tell you ideal range of heights, like 16-20 inches. This is crucial to distribute the load evenly over the axles. Failure to do so can cause sway, and can damage the trailer since you're probably exceeding a GAWR.
Look up the boat's dry weight in the manufacturer's specs, add the weight of the engine(s) (if not included in the dry weight), add the weight of a full tank of fuel (gasoline is about 6.3 lbs per gallon), add the weight of a full water tank (water is 8.34 lbs per gallon), add the weight of batteries and other stuff that's always aboard the boat, add the weight of all the other stuff you've thrown on the boat like fishing poles and ice boxes. Aluminum or fiberglass doesn't matter, only the weight.

The total is your boat's weight. Add it to the trailer weight and the total cannot exceed the trailer GVWR. This is also the weight you use (boat + trailer weight) for the vehicle's tow capacity calculation. Dialing in the tongue weight (by choosing a correct trailer or modifying the winch position so the boat is not too far forward, too far back) helps stability and prevents sway. If the boat exceeds the trailer's GVWR, your boat insurance may not cover the boat if you get into an accident while trailering. Unknown what your car insurance will do.

Edit: For a 6500 lb tow capacity, you're probably looking at about 24' as a max boat length. But it varies by manufacturer (some build more robust, heavier boats) and type of boat (a skiff or center console weighs a lot less for the length than a cruiser). A trailer with a 6500 lb GVWR will weigh about 1200 pounds, leaving you about 5300 pounds for the boat + stuff, which probably puts you around 4200 pounds for the boat + engine (no fluids)

Edit edit: Typos and clarifications, added a bit more info.


WOW - Tons of useful info there and what a Terrific Post !!

I can't believe but I do have a small addition to it and that is: what are the roads like in your area? Around here in the Adirondacks we have hills, big hills in places and that really tests the pulling power and stopping power of your vehicle. I suppose that in flatter states this is no matter, but it surely is around here!
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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 04 Sep 2017 14:00 #7

  • carguy
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How often and how far will you tow? If it's twice a year, a few miles in and out of storage, you can really push the limits. If you tow often, long distances, lots of hills, I'd back way off the tow limits. Stopping power becomes a big safety feature.

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What size of boat can I tow with my truck? 04 Sep 2017 18:59 #8

  • captharv
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My 2001 2452 weighs out at 7600 at the county scales, with a 825# aluminum trailer.
Hint: go to the dealer for your car and they can tell you what was put in it at the factory and tow capacity. Just because that make/model of truck CAN be set up to tow that much does not mean YOUR truck is. You are looking for words like: Heavy duty tow package, etc.
Now that said, the differences are usually in the axle ratio, transmission, engine cooling.
My tow vehicle is a 2003 Expedition. 5.4 4X4 with the heavy duty package rated at 8600 4x4, 8900 4x2. I tow my boat at highway speeds and the temp gauge does not go up. I run at 55-60, turn on the air and listen to the stereo. On occasion, on a long tow, I'll drop a dvd onto the rear seat player and let the wife watch a movie. Of course, here in FL we have no big hills to climb..
Note: I highly recommend brakes on ALL wheels, even though some states only require 1 axle.

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Captharv 2001 2452
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