By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Moving from a sticks-and-bricks home to an RV makes for plenty of challenges. Where will you put all your stuff? That’s a great question, but a critically important related question: Will my rig handle the weight of all my stuff? Do you know how much weight you can carry? Here’s a lift from the RVIA (Recreation Industry Vehicle Association):
“As another condition of RVIA membership, motorhome and trailer manufacturers must post a weight label in a conspicuous location in the vehicle’s interior. Shoppers should locate these labels for information vital to safe operation of the vehicle. The label lists weights and ratings, including the unit’s gross and unloaded weight ratings, as well as carrying capacity. The label will enable you to determine how much weight it can safely transport, including dealer-installed accessories, fuel and other engine fluids, LP gas, fresh water, passengers (for motorized RVs) and personal belongings.”
Look around your rig, open cabinet doors — do you find that “label in a conspicuous location,” that tells you what you need to know? Here’s the sad truth: On a recent visit to a RV dealer lot, we checked through many 10s of used RVs and rarely found that weight label. Why? Manufacturers are required to put the label in the rig — and we have to assume that they are — but why no labels to be found? Could it be that some RV dealers are pulling them out? Something to think about. But here’s the bottom line for you when getting ready to head out on the full-time RV lifestyle. It’s not wise, safe, or financially practical to go “over the limit” when it comes to the weight of the stuff you carry.
Sad to say, limited weight capacity for cargo is a reality for many RVers. It would seem that manufacturers, who want to build to whim and fancy, tend to stuff their units with plenty of flash and bling, and a lot of it pumps up the scale weight. One couple, shopping for a rig, found that the typical CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity — the weight of the stuff you carry) of rigs they looked at amounted to barely 2,000 pounds. With their own weight, that of their gear, pets, and a couple of extra batteries, they’d nearly double the rated capacity of many rigs.
RV manufacturers don’t exactly make it easy. As far as “shopping the Internet” for a perspective rig, you may as well forget it. There’s little information available on RV manufacturer websites to give you any sort of inkling what the cargo capacity of a perspective rig is. Sure, you’ll find the total weight capacity of the rig, but with a plethora of options, and a paucity of other weight information (maybe it’s purposeful), about the only way to know what the CCC of a rig is, is to walk onto a dealer lot and personally inspect the weight ratings paperwork, posted somewhere in each new rig. If the information isn’t posted, demand to know why. Get phony excuses, and don’t see the actual document for that specific rig, our advice is WALK AWAY.
In terms of practicality for us as RVers, when it comes to what we take with us on the road, compromise is the operating word. For motorhomers, dreams of a gas-fired rig may go up in smoke. It’s possible, depending on the design of a “desirable” rig, to work things out. One way is by weight redistribution. While the actual CCC of a given motorhome may be less than you “need,” is it possible to hitch a utility trailer to the motorhome, put the excess weight there, and still be within the total capacity of the motorhome in question?
It could mean a reevaluation of your needs. Since the carrying capacity of a motorhome includes how much fuel (both LP and engine) and liquids are on board, what would happen if you didn’t travel with everything “full up”? Some RVs are equipped with huge fresh water tanks. With water scaling in at about eight pounds per gallon, would it hurt you to throw off over 300 pounds by traveling with that 80-gallon tank only half full? Yes, if you’re boondocking, you need water. But carrying more water to your rig with a portable water tank or water bladder is possible, and taking out the waste water is a similar possibility. And while a costly choice, lithium batteries instead of flooded lead-acid batteries are certainly lighter.
You may have to change your thinking about what sort of rig you can live with. The CCC of many fifth wheels and travel trailers may give a better picture for those who really can’t lighten up the gear load and find the minuscule capacity of some motorhomes just doesn’t cut it.
As long as “splash sells,” it’s doubtful that manufacturers will build down to a standard where the amount of gear that a full-time RVer, or even a serious snowbird, will find carrying capacity is going to be anything but a matter of making tough choices.