How to Weigh a Travel Trailer Like a Pro


CAT scales or Certified Scales are specialized truck scales found at truck stops and other locations meant for weighing commercial trucks and RV’s. It is critical for RVers towing travel trailers to use CAT scales to determine the weight and balance of their rigs. Knowing the weight of each axle and the tongue weight bearing down on the tow vehicle helps ensure safe handling, sufficient towing capacity, and adherence to GVWR limits. Weighing your travel trailer provides peace of mind that you are within the set weight limits and are not risking a catastrophic mishap due to being overweight.

According to an article on RV Weighing from, current prices for CAT Scale weigh-ins are $12.50 for the first weigh, $3 for a reweigh, up to a maximum of $21.50 per 24 hour period at the same location.

Find a CAT Scale

The first step is to locate a certified scale that can accommodate your rig. CAT (Certified Automotive Transport) scales are specialized truck scales found at many truck stops, moving companies, grain elevators, and other commercial weighing facilities.

CAT scales have long platforms that allow an entire semi-truck or trailer to fit on the scale. This is important when weighing a travel trailer, because you need to weigh the entire rig all at once. Regular scales like those at the DMV are not long enough to weigh a truck plus trailer.

Do an online search for “CAT scale near me” or check apps like TruckMap to find the closest certified location. Call ahead to confirm they can accommodate your total length and have availability for recreational weighing. Many truck scales are open 24/7 for convenience.

Prepare Your Vehicle and Trailer

Before heading to the CAT scale to weigh your travel trailer, you’ll want to prepare your vehicle and trailer properly to get accurate weights. This involves loading the trailer as if you were going camping so all tanks are filled and belongings are loaded.

Fill your fresh water tanks, including the trailer fresh tank, trailer gray tank, and trailer black tank if equipped. Top off your propane tanks as well. Having water in the tanks will provide a real-world weight for when you are actually camping. Drain and dump all tanks before weighing so you start with empty tanks.

Load the trailer with everything you would normally take camping – outdoor gear, bedding, pantry items, clothes, etc. You want to simulate real-world, loaded conditions. Don’t forget smaller items like tools, generators, and anything else you’d normally bring.

The goal is to weigh the fully loaded trailer as you would be traveling down the road. This will reveal the true tongue weight and weight distribution on the axles, which is important for understanding if you are exceeding any weight limits and how to adjust the load if needed. Take the time to properly load up so your weight measurements reflect reality.

Once fully loaded, do a walk around inspection of the trailer and tow vehicle. Make sure everything is properly hooked up, lights are working, and tires are inflated. When you feel confident everything is ready, head to the nearest certified CAT scale to get weighed.

Pull On and Get Weighted

Once you have pulled up to the scale platform, it’s time to drive your entire vehicle onto the scale. This includes your tow vehicle and the attached trailer. Make sure that all wheels of both the tow vehicle and trailer are fully on the scale platform before stopping.

An attendant will likely ask you over an intercom how you want to be weighed. Tell them you need the gross vehicle weight, which includes everything. They will run the weighing and print out a weight ticket for you. This is the total weight of your combined tow vehicle and trailer.

According to CAT Scale’s website, “When weighing your motorhome and tow car, the motorhome must be completely on the scale and it is best if you position the steer axle (front wheels) of the tow car just at the edge of the scale” ( Make sure your setup matches this.

Once you have your gross vehicle weight ticket, pull forward off the scale so you can prepare for the next weighing.

Unhook Trailer and Re-Weigh

After getting the total weight of the tow vehicle and trailer together, the next step is to unhook the trailer and weigh just the tow vehicle by itself. This will allow you to determine the actual weight of the trailer by subtracting the weight of the unloaded tow vehicle from the total weight.

To do this, simply unhitch the trailer and pull forward, leaving the trailer behind. Drive the unloaded tow vehicle onto the scale by itself and get a new weight. Make sure no other passengers or cargo are in the vehicle when weighing, so you get an accurate tare weight.

It’s important to weigh the tow vehicle separately, as the trailer weight will be needed later to calculate your load distribution and ensure you are within the vehicle’s tow rating. This step provides key data to properly load your trailer. As CAT Scale states, “Knowing accurate weights is crucial to safe towing.”

Weigh Trailer Separately

Once you have weighed your truck and trailer together, the next step is to disconnect the trailer and weigh it by itself. Here is the process:

  1. Park your truck and trailer in a spot that allows you to easily unhitch the trailer.
  2. Unhook the trailer from your truck. Make sure to use wheel chocks to keep the trailer in place.
  3. Carefully pull your truck forward, leaving just the trailer sitting on the scale pads.
  4. Have the weighmaster weigh just the trailer by itself and provide you with the weight.

This will give you the actual weight of the trailer without the truck attached. Having this separate trailer weight is important for knowing the trailer’s load and tongue weight and how it impacts the total gross vehicle weight.

Analyze the Weights

After getting the weights for both the tow vehicle and trailer separately, as well as the combined weight, it’s important to analyze the measurements. Compare the gross combined weight of your tow vehicle and trailer with the GCWR (gross combined weight rating) specified by the manufacturer to make sure you are not exceeding the max capacity. The GCWR is the maximum allowable combined weight.

Additionally, compare the individual axle weights with the GAWR (gross axle weight rating). The GAWR is the maximum weight an axle can safely carry. Make sure you are not exceeding the rating for any single axle. Also check that your trailer and tow vehicle tires are rated for the measured tire loads. Exceeding tire load capacity can lead to blowouts and dangerous handling issues.

If any of your weights exceed the set capacities and ratings, you will need to adjust your load and remove items from the vehicle or trailer to bring it within safe limits. This may involve moving heavy items like batteries or propane tanks towards the front of trailers to better distribute the load.


Adjust Load if Needed

If the CAT scale results show that your trailer is overloaded or the weight is improperly distributed, you will need to adjust the cargo load to balance the weight properly. The most common issue is having too much weight in the rear of the trailer, which can negatively impact handling and braking.

Start by removing any unnecessary or non-essential items from the rear of the trailer. Heavy items like tools, generators, propane tanks, and cases of food and beverages are common culprits. Move these forward towards the hitch to better balance the load. You may need to do some reorganizing inside the trailer as well.

If you are still over your trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or individual axle limits after moving items around, you’ll need to offload cargo until you are within a safe range. Oversized propane tanks, water tanks, or storage cases are items that can sometimes be downsized. Get rid of anything you don’t really need.

Re-weigh after each adjustment to see the impact on your weight distribution. It may take some trial and error to find the optimal balance. The goal is to get all axle weights and the total weight within specified limits. This ensures safe handling and braking, reduces wear, and keeps you legal.

Consider Regular Weigh-Ins

It’s important to weigh your trailer regularly, as weight distribution changes over time. Things shift while driving, you add new gear, or remove things – this all impacts weight balance. Experts recommend weighing your rig at least once or twice per year to get updated weights.

Checking the weight distribution lets you make adjustments as needed. For example, you may need to transfer items to better balance the load. Catching any major changes early on helps maintain safety.

Many owners find it convenient to weigh their trailer after loading up for a big trip. This confirms everything is loaded evenly before heading out. Some public scales allow free reweighs within a certain timeframe after an initial paid weighing.

While requirements vary by state, most recommend weighing travel trailers annually. This helps you stay within safe gross vehicle weight and axle load limits over time. Consistent weigh-ins can prevent dangerous overloading situations.

Stay Safe on the Road

Proper weight distribution in your travel trailer is critical for safety on the road. An overloaded or improperly balanced trailer can lead to dangerous swaying or fishtailing, making the rig difficult to control. According to this source, overloading puts more strain on the tow vehicle’s chassis, suspension, tires, and brakes. It also affects your ability to start, stop, turn, and change lanes safely.

Data shows that many RV accidents are caused by issues related to improper weight distribution and overloaded vehicles. According to this analysis, an overloaded trailer can lead to jackknifing, rollovers, and loss of control. Distribute weight evenly from front to back and side to side in your trailer. Regularly weigh and balance the load to stay within your vehicle’s tow rating and tire load capacity.

Driving safely with a properly weighted trailer takes extra care and attention. But taking the time to weigh and balance your load can prevent accidents and make your travels more enjoyable.

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