Friday, May 1, 2009


GVWR, UVW, SCWR, CCC… UGH and GRRR. Taking our self-imposed cram course in Buying an RV in 2002, these acronyms made my head spin.

Don’t overlook them. These numbers are important, both for your safety and for your maintenance and repair budget. Ignore them at your peril - no kidding!

Every motorhome, new or used, will have a sticker similar to this one somewhere in the rig. Ours is on the inside of a cabinet door in the bedroom. If you can’t find it, make the salesperson show it to you (or ask the current owner if you are buying from a private party). Don't take the salesperson's word for it, and don't trust what is printed in a glossy brochure. Find and study this sticker.
The two most important numbers here are the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and the Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC).

Start with the GVWR. You know the signs posted on bridges showing the bridge weight limit? The signs you blithely ignore cruising in your car? You can’t ignore them in your RV! You will be in a vehicle that might weigh 10 TONS, or MORE.

The GVWR is the maximum allowable weight of the fully loaded rig. This means EVERYTHING! Fuel (diesel or gas, and propane). A full tank of fresh water and anything in the gray and black water tanks. You. All your food, and personal belonging, and clothes. Books. Tools. The weight of the hitch on the back. Your pets. EVERYTHING!

You CAN go over this weight - you will have the space, and no one will stop you. If you do, every part of your rig will be stressed: axles, wheels, tires. Brakes. Suspension. The engine. This will cost you, perhaps in repair and maintenance, perhaps in safety - likely, both. You really don’t want to go there, so know the GVWR and pay attention.

The next number you want to understand is the CCC, the Cargo Carrying Capacity. This is how much “stuff” you will be able to haul around with you.

To figure out the CCC, subtract these things from the GVWR:

The UVW (Unloaded Vehicle Weight) - the weight of the unit as built at the factory, with full fuel tanks, engine oil and coolants. This is the weight of a “stock” rig - no options have been added by the dealer, and it includes only the fluids required to power/move the rig.

The weight rating sticker will show the size of your fresh water tank in gallons. (In the photo, you can see that I wrote 100 in black marker - our rig was modified to hold 100 gallons of fresh water rather than 85, so we adjust accordingly.) That number, multiplied by 8.3 pounds (the weight of a gallon of water), is subtracted from the GVWR.

The sticker also shows the size of your propane tank, and the weight of a full tank. Again, subtracted from the GVWR

The SCWR (Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating) is the manufacturer–designated number of sleeping positions (in our case, 2) multiplied by 154 lbs. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!! Do you weight 154 pounds or less? I don't, and neither does Odel. Two individuals weighing 154 pounds or less… hmmm. That could be my 5' 2" mother and my skinny teenaged nephew. We’ve seen travelers with DOGS that weight more than 154 pounds.

So, the GVWR minus the weight of the “stock” rig, the fresh water, the propane, the small/slender/fit individuals that will be sleeping in the rig…

That leaves the official CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity). The weight of everything you add to or carry in the rig needs to be stay within this number.

Have a chest-style refrigerator/freezer in your basement? That’s about 90 pounds. How about a stacking washer and dryer? Pushing 250 pounds. Does your rig have sliding trays in the bay? Add the weight of those.

Your books. Lawn chairs and outdoor tables. BBQ grill. Golf clubs. Computer and printer. Your pots and pans, crockery, all the canned goods you have in the pantry, and the beer in the refrigerator. Your clothes and shoes. Your files, and magazines. Maybe you're planning on solar power... what will your solar panels weigh? What are your hobbies, and how much does all that stuff weigh? Do you have a heavy, multi-drawer tool chest? And… do you weigh more than 154 pounds?

This is how Scoopy stacks up:
GVWR: 31,000 lbs.
Less UVW: 25,000 lbs.
Less 100 Gallons Fresh Water x 8.3 lbs/gallon: 830 lbs.
Less 18.8 Gallons Propane x 4.5 lbs/gallon: 85 lbs.
Less SCWR (2 x 154 lbs.): 308.Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) - 4,777 lbs.

That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? And it is. A large CCC was high on our priority list.

We have weighed our rig three times, twice on truck scales and once to weigh the actual weight on each wheel/axle position. We weigh in around 1000 pounds under our GVWR when we are fully loaded - and by that, I mean we are on our way to a boondocking rally and have just fueled up. We'll have the full fuel tank and all our usual “stuff”, plus 100 gallons of fresh water in the tank (we normally travel with it about 1/3 full) and 4 or 5 gallons in bottles, two refrigerators (yes, we have a large chest refrigerator in the basement) packed with food and beverages, the freezer crammed with goodies. Extra wine is stashed under the bed, along with canned goods and grains. Our gray and black water tanks are empty (which could add another 800 pounds if they were full).

We have the chest refrigerator, the stacking washer and dryer and the sliding trays in the basement that I mentioned. Those are all options, not included in the UVW. They add up to around 500 pounds. That means that all our stuff, all Luna’s stuff (and 13 pounds of cat), and our excess “personal” weight adds over 3,000 pounds - and we don’t have any hobbies that require heavy equipment.

The take-away message here: Before you fall in love with a rig, take a peek at the Motorhome Weight Information sticker. It can be a shocking eye-opener.

1 comment:

  1. Laurie, This is such valuable information! Thank you so much.
    When you're checking your routes and campgrounds, does something tell you if there is a bridge that won't carry your weight? What happens if you're on a less traveled road and you come to that 5 ton bridge? That's only 10,000 lbs and your vehichle weighs more than that. Do you have to back up?
    Does the weight affect the size of the towed vehicle?