Should I Buy a Vehicle With a Factory-Installed Trailer Hitch for Towing?

Trailer hitches are an essential part of any truck, and with after-market hitches it's possible to install a hitch to even the smallest car.

But which is better: buying a truck or SUV with a hitch already installed, or buying one separately and installing it yourself?

The answer has to do with how much weight you plan on hauling. For most applications, a factory-installed hitch will do fine. But if you need to haul a substantial amount of weight, then you may need to install a special class of hitch, or upgrade the one you already have.

The 6 Classes of Hitches

The different types of hitches are separated into 6 classes. The class of hitch is determined by how much Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) it can tow. The GTW is the total weight of your trailer, cargo and all.

  • Hitch Class 1: can pull up to 2,000 lbs. of GTW, and is good for things like bike racks or cargo boxes. Even small cars can handle a Class 1 hitch.
  • Hitch Class 2: can pull up to 3,500 lbs. of GTW. You'll be able to tow smaller trailers and things like motorcycles, jet skis, and small 4-wheelers.
  • Hitch Class 3: can pull up to 5,000 lbs. of GTW. You'll need a van, SUV, or truck to handle a Class 3 hitch, which is good for pulling most medium-sized trailers, boats, campers, and even some livestock.
  • Hitch Class 4: can pull up to 10,000 lbs. of GTW. We're getting into the realm of larger campers, trailers carrying livestock, and larger boats.
  • Hitch Class 5: usually max-out at 17,000 lbs. (with an added weight distribution system) of GTW. You'll be able to start hauling industrial equipment (think bulldozers) with this hitch.

Most factory-installed hitches are going to be Class 3 hitches-these hitches will be able to handle the typical demands of the most common trailer applications. Unless you plan on using your truck to pull very large trailers, boats, livestock, or industrial equipment, then your factory-installed hitch should do the trick. (And you can always ask your dealer about towing upgrades, which we'll discuss further later on.)

Should I add a Weight Distribution System?

If you plan on towing a lot of weight, then you should strongly consider adding a weight distribution system to your hitch.

Weight distribution systems can raise the amount of GTW your hitch can take-sometimes by as much as 50%. But they also serve a safety function. For example, a portion of your trailer's weight pushes down on the hitch-this is called "tongue weight." Usually tongue weight is around 10 to 15 percent of GTW, but if it's too high then it can pull the hitch too far to the ground and even lift up your front tires. This poses a serious safety threat, since you'll lose a considerable amount of breaking power and steering ability.

A weight distribution system will spread that weight more evenly across the length of your trailer and truck, effectively lowering the tongue weight.

Ask About Different Tow Package Options

Most trucks, like the popular Ford F-150, already come standard with a tow hitch. When you buy a heavy-duty truck, it's expected that you'll do at least some towing with it. But if your towing needs exceed the basic Class 3 limits, then you may benefit from an added "tow package."

For example, a custom tow package can not only increase your hitch's class, it could include an upgraded engine to give you even more power. This way you can be sure the entire truck is optimized for heavy-duty towing.

To learn more about our tow package options, give us a call today at 888-480-2945.

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