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Unless you haul things for a living, it’s unlikely you’ve paid much attention to the weight of your vehicle. In fact, most people would be surprised to learn there are different weights for every car, including the curb weight and gross vehicle weight, or GVWR

However, these weights play a significant role in affecting the performance of your vehicle, including everything from fuel economy to acceleration, handling, and braking. That’s why J.D. Power recently put together an article clearly explaining such a heavy topic, including the different weight types, the benefits of knowing your car’s weight, and the average weight for each type of vehicle.   

J.D. Power determines the average car weight

To simplify this topic and keep it from weighing people down, J.D. Power broke vehicle weights into three classes: small, mid-weight, and large. 

Small cars are usually built for performance and designed to be as light as possible. A lighter car handles better because it can make faster transitions or changes in direction. Less weight maximizes power in the form of the power-to-weight ratio and helps improve a car’s fuel economy, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics. Colin Chapman, who founded Lotus Cars was a strong believer in the “lighter is better” philosophy, making cars like the Elan and Esprit. That philosophy is still prevalent today in cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Subaru BRZ, which weigh less than 3,000 pounds.  

Middle-weight vehicles make up the majority of vehicles and trade some lightness and maneuverability for features, room, and comfort. These vehicles are suited for the majority of drivers and can haul more people and cargo. They include everything from coupes and sedans like the Audi A5 and Toyota Camry, to SUVs like the Honda CRV or Porsche Cayenne. Typically their weight falls in the range of 3,100 to 5,000 lbs.   

Tipping the scales at the large end of the spectrum are trucks and SUVs that are intended to haul people and large payloads. They trade performance and maneuverability for outright payload and towing capacity. In this class, you’ll see vehicles like the Ford F-150 and Super Duty trucks, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, or Toyota Sequoia, which weigh in excess of 5,000 lbs. 

The small, medium, and large sizes are basic and not entirely accurate, but they provide an idea of how a vehicle’s weight affects its characteristics and intended purpose. That’s why you wouldn’t tow a 7,000-pound trailer with a Nissan Versa or autocross a Dodge Ram.    

Five benefits to knowing the weight of a car

Understanding the weight of a car is about more than just an approximate weight class. There are real benefits to knowing the weight of your vehicle using different measurements, including the five benefits listed below: 

  1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Each vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR, which is the maximum weight it can handle. Additionally, all roads and bridges have GWVR weight ratings, which is the maximum weight they can safely carry.  
  2. Auto Safety. Vehicle weight plays a critical role in vehicle safety. Simply put, the heavier the vehicle is, the better it is at absorbing crash energy, reducing the likelihood of a serious injury or fatality.  
  3. Routine Maintenance. If you work on your own vehicle, it’s important to know its weight to ensure you have the right tools for the job, including jacks, jack stands, and ramps, which have a maximum weight rating.  
  4. Fuel Economy. Increased weight reduces fuel economy by a rate of 1 or 2% for every additional 100 pounds. 
  5. Payload. Related to GVWR, knowing how much payload you can haul helps prevent excessive wear on your vehicle, especially parts like tires, brakes, suspension, engine, and transmission.  

How to find out how much your car weighs

A row of cars with similar weight
Row of parked cars | Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Every vehicle owner’s manual has a section on specifications, including vehicle weight. Additionally, that information is also provided on the sticker inside the driver’s door, either as a total weight, or weight by axle. Using this information, you can learn the following:

  • Curb weight equals the vehicle’s “empty” or unloaded weight. It includes the vehicle as it sits at the curb, with all of its features and topped off fluids, but without people or cargo. 
  • Gross vehicle weight or GVWR is the maximum safe or recommended weight of a vehicle, including the curb weight and all people and cargo onboard. 
  • Axle weight is the weight by axle of the vehicle. It’s typically measured by curb weight and GVWR. To get the total vehicle weight, add up the weight by all the axles, or multiply the axle weight by the number of axles. 

If none of that works, navigate to the manufacturer’s website and find your model and specifications. But if that doesn’t solve your problem, have your car weighed at an inspection center.


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