So you’ve decided to enter the RV lifestyle, but as you start to research, you’re a little overwhelmed by the various sizes, types, and floorplans available. Since you clicked on this article, you’re probably at the stage of figuring out what towable travel trailer options are available for your vehicle, which may have a limited tow capacity of under 2,500 lbs. When I started off RVing, I was in the same boat. I didn’t have a truck, little towing experience, and a budget that limited me to smaller RVs. Don’t worry- we’ll walk through the steps of finding the right RV for your needs and look at some of the best travel trailers out there that are small, lightweight, and under 2,500 lbs.
An important place to start this conversation is to better understand vehicle tow ratings, RV weights, and how you combine the two.
Tow Ratings and Weights
Every vehicle, whether a truck, SUV, or car, will have a specific weight that it can safely tow. It’s pretty obvious, but the bigger the vehicle, the more it can likely tow. For example, while you may be able to safely tow a small UHaul trailer with your sedan, even the smallest travel trailer will likely be too much for it. Additionally, just because you have a full-size pickup truck won’t necessarily mean you can choose any RV to tow. It will all come down to numbers and ratings; you need to know what they are for your specific tow vehicle.
Vehicle tow rating is the maximum weight a vehicle can safely pull behind it. Tow ratings are crucial, as overloading a vehicle can lead to significant damages and accidents. Thus, knowing your vehicle’s tow rating and understanding how it relates to RV weights is crucial.
Finding the tow rating of your vehicle is a straightforward process. Typically, the tow rating can be found in the owner’s manual or on the vehicle’s identification label, which is usually located on the driver’s side door jamb.
If you cannot access the owner’s manual or the identification label, you can find your vehicle’s tow rating online. In addition, most vehicle manufacturers have this information readily available on their official websites.
The next step you need to do is to calculate your vehicle’s tow rating for the trailer you want to tow
Calculating a Vehicle’s Towing Capacity
Calculating a vehicle’s towing capacity can seem like a complex process that considers various factors, including the make and model of the vehicle, its engine performance, transmission capacity, suspension system, and braking capacity. However, a lot of this will already be done for you by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Below are some steps to ensure you have all the information you need.
- Check your vehicle’s manual: As mentioned earlier, it should have information regarding its tow rating. The manufacturer usually specifies the tow rating and accounts for various factors specific to your vehicle.
- Determine your vehicle’s curb weight: Curb weight is the vehicle’s weight without any passengers or cargo. It is usually listed in the owner’s manual or can be found using a simple scale.
- Calculate the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): GCWR is the maximum allowable weight of your vehicle, including cargo and passengers, plus the weight of your trailer and its contents. You can find this value in the owner’s manual or use a GCWR calculator online.
- Subtract your vehicle’s curb weight from the GCWR: This will give you an estimation of your vehicle’s towing capacity. However, it is essential to note that this is not an exact calculation, and slight differences in the number of passengers, camping gear you are hauling, and modifications to the vehicle can influence this number.
Once you know what your vehicle can tow, it’s time to look at the weight of what you’ll be towing (your new RV).
Calculating an RV Weight
Calculating an RV’s weight can be a bit more complicated than determining a vehicle’s weight since it can be affected by various factors. However, here are a few basic steps you can follow to estimate an RV’s weight:
- Determine the dry weight: The dry weight of the RV is the weight of the vehicle without any passengers or cargo. This information can be found in the RV’s manual or the manufacturer’s website. Every RV will have a dry weight, but it will probably be listed as UVE (Unloaded Vehicle Weight).
- Consider the weight of whatever you pack in the trailer, including camping gear, clothing, food, bedding, etc. Also, don’t forget water and propane tanks: Water and propane tanks can significantly impact an RV’s weight. For instance, a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.3 pounds, and large propane tanks can weigh over 30 pounds when full.
- Add the weight of your belongings, water, and fuel to the RV’s dry weight. This will now give you a new weight, which you should use to determine your tow capacity.
- Also, remember that all RVs will have a total weight of what you can pack. This is the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and includes the UVW and maximum capacity of items you can carry in the RV.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to consider hitch weight: Hitch weight is the weight of the trailer that presses down on the hitch of the towing vehicle. Generally, hitch weight should not exceed 15% of the RV’s total weight. Therefore, it is necessary to calculate the hitch weight in your estimation.
It’s important to note that these steps only provide an estimated RV weight. To ensure accuracy, it is recommended to use a certified commercial scale. It is also recommended to check the maximum allowable weight of the RV and ensure that you do not exceed it to avoid any accidents or legal issues.
When selecting an RV or trailer, it is vital to ensure that its weight does not exceed your vehicle’s tow rating. For example, if a vehicle’s tow rating is 5,000 pounds, it can only tow an RV or trailer weighing a maximum of 5,000 pounds. It is essential to note that exceeding the tow rating puts you and your passengers’ safety at risk and voids your vehicle’s warranty.
Who are Lightweight Travel Trailers For?
Have you ever considered exploring the country but didn’t want to spend much money on flights and accommodations? Investing in a travel trailer might be the solution you’re looking for. However, selecting the correct type of trailer for first-time RV owners can be pretty intimidating. For those looking for something lightweight and easy to tow, a travel trailer under 2500 lbs is a great option. But before making that final decision, let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of travel trailers under 2500 lbs.
If you’re a first-time RV owner looking for a lightweight and easy-to-tow travel trailer, one under 2500 lbs may be an excellent option for you. While they have their benefits, they also have their downsides. It’s essential to carefully consider your travel and living needs before deciding. Overall, they are an affordable and travel-friendly option for those looking to experience road-tripping without breaking the bank. With proper care and planning, you can make the most of your travel trailer under 2500 lbs and create lasting memories with your loved ones.
Towing Lightweight Trailers with an SUV
Choosing an RV is exciting and fun, but making informed decisions is essential before you hit the road. By knowing your SUV’s tow rating, space requirements, fuel efficiency, driving experience, and quality/safety concerns, you can select an RV that will help create lasting memories but do so safely. But where do you begin the process of selecting an RV? Here we offer several tips to help you choose an RV you can tow with your SUV and enjoy your travels.
Selecting a tow vehicle
If you already own a tow vehicle, such as a truck or SUV, this decision is already made for you. However, if purchasing a new vehicle and an RV is in the cards, you’ll have a few more decisions to make. The first thing to remember is that not all SUVs are made alike. Some will be more capable at towing and designed for heavier loads. While the engine size is critical, it’s not the only thing to consider. Many factors determine a vehicle’s tow rating, such as the engine performance, transmission capacity, suspension system, and braking system. Rather than trying to calculate all of this yourself, begin your search by looking at ratings determined by the manufacturer.
Also, towing under your vehicle’s maximum weight rating is preferred. If you constantly tow to its maximum ability, you will stress your engine, transmission, and brakes much more. Therefore, I always suggest towing about 25% below the maximum rating to preserve the life of your vehicle. A short list of some of the best SUVs for towing is listed below:
10 Capable SUVs with Good Towing Capacity
|Best Mid-Sized SUVs for Towing||Properly Equipped||MSRP|
|2023 Hyundai Palisade||5,000 lbs||$37,950|
|2023 Ford Explorer||5,600 lbs||$38,355|
|2023 Kia Telluride||$5,500||$37,255|
|2023Toyota 4Runner||5,000 lbs||$40,890|
|2023 Subaru Ascent||5,000lbs||$44,695|
|2023 Dodge Durango||8,700 lbs||$40,645|
|2023 Jeep Cherokee||7,200 lbs||$42,830|
|2023 Nissan Pathfinder||6,000 lbs||$36,535|
|2023 Chevrolet Traverse||5,000 lbs||$34,520|
|2023 Honda Pilot||5,000lbs||$35,950|
Selecting an RV
Finding the perfect small-sized travel trailer may seem more like an art than a science. It ultimately comes down to your tow vehicle, RV weight, preferred interior space and floor plans, standard features, and personal preferences. Below are a few tips to help you with this decision-making process:
1. Know your SUV’s tow rating
The first step in choosing an RV is understanding your SUV’s tow rating – how much weight it can safely tow. This information can typically be found in your owner’s manual or by contacting the manufacturer. You’ll also want to know the towing capacity for your model make, year, and trim, which can vary. The RV you select should weigh within that rating.
2. Determine how much space you need
Before investing in an RV, you’ll want to consider how much space your family needs. Consider your sleeping and living arrangements, including your required storage. Travel trailers come in different sizes and configurations. Be sure to select an RV that can accommodate everyone along with your camping gear.
3. Think about fuel efficiency
One advantage of towing with an SUV is the potential for better fuel efficiency. However, be aware of an RV’s impact on your SUV’s MPG, as this can significantly impact how much you spend on gas during your travels. Selecting an aerodynamic and lightweight RV well-suited for your SUV’s towing capabilities can make your trips enjoyable and economical.
4. Consider the driving experience
Driving an SUV with an RV in tow can be a new and exciting experience, but it’s essential to be aware of the differences in handling between your regular ride and your towing vehicle. RVs with heavier weights, larger dimensions, or higher profiles can impact the driving experience, so be sure you are comfortable with how the RV feels on the road. Always take a test drive and practice maneuvering the RV in an empty parking lot before venturing on the open road.
5. Quality & Safety
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the overall quality and safety of the RV you purchase. RVs are a long-term investment, so thoroughly research the make and model you are interested in, read reviews, and check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure no issues or recalls. You’ll also want to research safety features such as RV-specific brakes, sway control, and stabilization.
Advantages of a travel trailer under 2,500 lbs:
- Affordability: One of the most significant advantages of owning a travel trailer under 2500 lbs is that they are relatively affordable. They offer a great option for those who want to take extended road trips without breaking the bank. Moreover, they have lower maintenance costs than motorized RVs.
- Easy to tow: This type of trailer is easy to tow, even with smaller vehicles. They are also easier to park and maneuver compared to larger trailers, making them an ideal option for those new to towing.
- Fuel efficiency: Travel trailers under 2500 lbs have a smaller size and weight, translating to a more fuel-efficient journey. This means that you can travel longer distances without worrying about fuel costs.
- Costs: Small trailers will be significantly less expensive than larger travel trailers. Budget shoppers may appreciate the benefit of the low prices afforded by a small RV.
- Used vs. New: Buying a new travel trailer will always be more expensive than a used one. However, many campers will upgrade to a larger rig at some point, so you can usually find great deals on smaller used travel trailers.
Disadvantages of a travel trailer under 2,500 lbs:
- Limited space: Travel trailers under 2500 lbs lack the space larger trailers provide. They have limited living areas and storage space, which can be challenging if traveling with a larger group or having a lot of gear.
- Comfort: Another disadvantage of having a travel trailer under 2500 lbs is that it can be less comfortable than larger trailers. They are not designed for extended periods and lack the amenities of full-time living quarters.
- Fewer features: These trailers have fewer features than larger trailers, meaning you may miss out on amenities like a large kitchen area, entertainment area, or a spacious bathroom. You will likely only have a cooktop and (no oven), a smaller dining area, and a smaller kitchen sink. Also, many units with air conditioning will have window-type units instead of a roof-mounted option.
Top Small and Light Travel Trailers under 2,500 Lbs
The following best lightweight travel trailers weigh around 2,500 lbs but added features, and your cargo can increase these weights, so use this list as a general guide to finding the best option for your particular needs. Also, adding optional equipment will increase these weights.
Forest River R-Pod RP-171
Are you looking for a hassle-free way to escape on a weekend getaway? Look no further than the RP171, a compact and lightweight trailer weighing just 2500 lbs and measuring slightly over 18 feet long. The RP171 has everything you need for a comfortable camping experience, including sleeping space for up to 4 people, a TV, a two-burner cooktop, a refrigerator, a furnace, an air conditioner, a convection microwave, and a wet bath. Its compact size, and comprehensive features make it the perfect choice for those who want to enjoy nature’s beauty without sacrificing the comforts of home, including a queen size bed.
The RP171 boasts impressive features, including a hitch weight of 340 lbs and UVW of 2,714 lbs. With an exterior length of 19′, height of 9′ 7″, and width of 96″, this trailer is both compact and spacious. Its freshwater capacity of 30 gallons, along with the 30-gallon gray and black water tanks, provide ample supply for an extended camping trip. Additionally, the RP171 can be outfitted with an optional R-dome awning, adding extra space by converting your outdoor area into a place to hang out.
- Hitch weight of 340 lbs
- UVW of 2,714 lbs
- CCC of 1,126 lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 19′ in length, 9′ 7″ in height, and 96″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 30 gallons
- Gray water and black water tanks with a capacity of 30 gallons each
- Optional (R-dome) awning size.
KZ Sportsmen Classic 130RB:
The KZ Sportsmen Classic 130RB is a compact, lightweight travel trailer providing an excellent camping experience. The trailer has an Unloaded Vehicle Weight of 2,350 lbs and a Dry Hitch Weight of 270 lbs, making it easy to tow. Its Cargo Capacity is 450 lbs with a 2,800 pounds GVWR. The exterior dimensions of the trailer are 16′ 9″ in length, 84″ in width, and 107″ in height (without A/C).
The KZ Sportsmen Classic 130RB offers unique features and standard options like a three cubic feet refrigerator, a 6-gallon LP water heater with DSI, and a 20-gallon freshwater capacity. In addition, this small trailer has a wastewater capacity and gray water capacity of 26 gallons each and an LP gas capacity of 20 lbs. It also has a 10′ awning, which provides ample shade for outdoor activities. The interior height of the trailer is 78″, and it is equipped with a furnace that provides 20,000 BTUs of heat. The KZ Sportsmen Classic 130RB runs on 15″ tires, making it a comfortable ride on any terrain.
- Hitch weight of 184lbs
- UVW of 2,500 lbs
- CCC of 752 lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 16’6″ in length, 8′ 1″ in height, and 7′ 11″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 10gallons
- Gray water capacity of 30 gallons, Black Water 5 gallons
Jayco Jay Flight 145RB
The Jayco Jay Flight SLX 154BH travel trailer is a compact and lightweight trailer that provides all the essentials for your camping trip [. It has a dry hitch weight of 250 lbs and an unloaded vehicle weight of 2,810 lbs (some older models (if you find one used) can be found with a weight under 2,500 lbs). The 145BH trailer measures just 18′ 0″ in exterior length, 9′ 2″ in exterior height, and 7′ 1″ in exterior width, and has a comfortable interior height of 6′ 6″ in the main area. It also features a 10′ 0″ awning so that you can spend more time outside.
This Jay Flight trailer has a 20.0-gallon fresh water tank, a 19.9-gallon gray water tank, and a 19.9-gallon black tank capacity. Yes, you have a bathroom. In addition, it can sleep up to 4 people and has a well-equipped kitchen. Overall, the Jayco Jay Flight SLX 154BH travel trailer is an excellent option for a compact and lightweight trailer with all the necessary features for a comfortable camping experience. Jayco has also been in the RV business for a long time, so you can take stock of their ability to produce a good quality trailer. For more space, you may also want to check out the 19-foot model if your tow vehicle can handle it.
- Hitch weight of 250 lbs
- UVW of 2,810 lbs
- CCC of 790 lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 18′ in length, 9′ 2″ in height, and 7′ 1″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 20 gallons
- Gray water capacity of 19.9 gallons, Black water capacity of 19.9 gallons
Travel Lite RV Rove Lite 14BH:
The 2023 Rove Lite Ultra Lightweight Travel Trailer is a fantastic option for campers looking for space and light weights. This is the lightest travel trailer on the list. This trailer is incredibly lightweight and easy to tow with Hydro-Lite sidewalls and 13″ custom lite-weight aluminum wheels. In addition, it has a 2500 lbs GVWR, electric brakes, and rear stabilizer jacks to keep you comfortable at the campground.
The Rove Lite14BH features LED running lights, on-demand tankless water heater, a well-equipped kitchen with a single-bowl stainless steel sink, a high-rise faucet, a solid-surface kitchen table, and a pantry. The trailer also has wood grain cabinetry, a 12volt 3.3Cu ft refrigerator, and a 2-burner stainless steel stovetop. It also comes with a 20,000 BTU furnace; You will also have a wet bath with a shower, foot flush toilet, and 12V power vent.
The 2023 Rove Lite Ultra Lightweight Travel Trailer features soft shades and curtain valances, 200-watt solar panels, a 20# LP gas tank, a detachable 30 amp power cord, and a monitor panel. In addition, the Tuson sway control ensures a safe and comfortable ride, while the 10GL fresh/30GL gray/5GL black water tanks ensure all your water needs are covered. Overall, the Rove Lite Ultra Lightweight Travel Trailer is an excellent option for a comfortable and lightweight travel trailer.
- Hitch weight of 270lbs
- UVW of 2,080 lbs
- CCC of 450 lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 16’9″ in length, 78″ in height, and 84″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 20gallons
- Gray water capacity of 26 gallons
Riverside RV Retro 165
The Riverside Retro 165 Travel Trailer is a compact, lightweight camper with a vintage 1950s style. It comes in various sizes, and the exterior has a classic or teardrop trailer shape that provides a kick of nostalgia with smooth curves. In addition, the Retro RV has a vibrant and fun interior with black and white checkerboard flooring, aqua, red, or seafoam green dinette cushions, and birch wood covering the interior walls and cabinetry.
Inside this smaller trailer, you’ll have access to everything you need for camping, including a capable kitchen, bathroom, and even a queen bed. This fun and unique RV will harness the days of camping 50 years ago but with modern conveniences and a lightweight that you can tow with many SUVs. It has an overall length of 16’4″ and a total dry weight of 2600 lbs.
- Hitch weight of 300 lbs
- UVW of 2,600 lbs
- CCC of 1,200 lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 16′ 4″ in length, 6’3″ in height, and 7′ 6″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 36 gallons
- Gray water capacity of 32 gallons, Black water capacity of 17 gallons
Forest River Flagstaff E-Pro E15TB
The Flagstaff E-Pro 15TB is Forest River’s smallest walkable travel trailer. When they designed it, they used a lot of creativity to figure out how to pack a lot of key features in a small footprint. As a result, Forest River describes it as their “Swiss Army Knife of RVs.”
The Flagstaff E-Pro travel trailer is a small camper with a double bed setup that can be converted into a king bed, a full bathroom, a TV, and an awning. It has a hitch weight of 357 lbs, UVW of 2,667 lbs, and a CCC of 1,210 lbs. The camper is easy to tow, and most tow vehicles can handle it. It has a freshwater capacity of 31 gallons, gray and black water capacities of 12 gallons each, an exterior length of 16’4″, an exterior height of 10’3″, and an exterior width of 92″. The awning size is 10′. Add solar panels to this trailer, and you’re ready for off-the-grid remote camping. Who said lightweight campers have to be boring?
- Hitch weight of 357 lbs
- UVW of 2,667 lbs
- CCC of 1,210lbs
- Exterior dimensions of 16′ 4″ in length, 10’32” in height, and 92″ in width
- Fresh water capacity of 31 gallons
- Gray water capacity of 12 gallons, Black water capacity of 12 gallons
Travel trailers under 2500 lbs are perfect for first-time RV owners, especially if you already own a tow vehicle. They are lightweight and compact and include many amenities that make your camping trip comfortable and enjoyable. If you are looking for a perfect travel trailer, consider the models listed above. However, these are just a few of what’s available. Also, don’t be afraid to look at used options. Smaller RVs make them easier to inspect and ensure they’re in good shape.
All of the suggestions provided pack a lot of different features into a little trailer and a small living space. Also, remember that you can usually upgrade from a standard model to gain more flexibility for camping (off-road tires, solar panels, outdoor kitchen, etc.) Just be aware that anything you add will add extra weight to the RV. Getting a travel trailer under 2500 lbs allows you to have an excellent experience on the road without breaking the bank.