Understanding your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
Do You Have a Weight Problem?
A common theme with the modern overland/off-road vehicle is having enough gear to get you out of any situation and enough amenities with you to make camping comfortable.
This makes exploration convenient, but it comes at a cost that is often overlooked. Overall vehicle weight adds up quickly when you start piling on accessories, and the 5th generation 4Runner is no exception.
What is GVWR?
The safe upper weight limit designated by the manufacturer is known as the GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This weight rating is determined based on a number of vehicle factors including frame strength, axle ratings, braking ability, suspension ratings, to name a few.
This number is noted on every vehicle, most commonly inside the driver’s door. GVWR signifies a weight where the manufacturer believes the vehicle can perform reliability, and safely to its best ability. And insurance companies look at GVWR in determining a vehicle’s overall safety.
Whats is GVW?
GVW is the total weight of the actual vehicle, its Gross Vehicle Weight. This includes the people inside of it, the beers in the cooler (and the cooler), and anything else you bolt on/weld on/put into your vehicle. As you can imagine, this number fluctuates, but in good practice should never exceed the GVWR.
What is curb weight?
This is the weight of the vehicle, as it left the dealership, with all of the fluids topped off but no passengers. This number can vary by model and trim, but is relatively consistent between vehicles of the same model/trim. The exception to this is when a dealership adds aftermarket parts to the vehicle. Then you will have an “adjusted curb weight” that accounts for the additional parts.
When you take the GVWR and subtract the curb weight, you are left with the total payload, or the total weight you can add to the vehicle and remain under the vehicle’s GVWR.
This includes anything on/in the vehicle, including the passengers themselves. The payload, plus the curb weight equals the GVW.
Photo Credit: Joe McCormick
What does this mean?
People tend to base their vehicle capacity on what fits. This is true for bolt-on parts, how big your tires are, how much camping gear you can shove in the back, how much capacity your battery has. It’s all based on what fits.
But seldom do those who are outfitting their vehicle take weight into consideration. Personally, I only hear about someone’s vehicle weight when it hinders performance to the point of annoyance. The ugly truth is that everything adds up, from steel bumpers to the extra pair of shoes you threw in just in case. It all counts.
To help illustrate this, I have put together a list of typical additions for the “built” 5th gen 4Runner and their associated weights:
- Steel front bumper — 175 lbs
- Steel rear bumper with swing out (not including spare tire or accessories) — 200 lbs
- 10,000 lb Winch (synthetic line) — 80 lbs
- Steel skid plates — 150 lbs
- Steel sliders (with tubes) — 100 lbs
- Weight for larger tires (minus stock tire weight) — 120 lbs
- Weight for full-size spare (minus stock tire weight) — 30 lbs
- Full-length aluminum roof rack — 60 lbs
- Rooftop tent (soft) — 200 lbs
- Awning — 40 lbs
- Larger battery — 25 lbs
- Fridge + slide — 75 lbs
- Drawer system — 150 lbs
- Spare fuel (8 gal plus container) — 60 lbs
- Recovery gear/spare parts/tools — 60 lbs
- Camping gear (2 people) — 50 lbs
- Food/drink (2 people) — 30 lbs
- Water + tank (8 gallons) — 70 lbs
- Personal items (2 people) — 40 lbs
- 2 people — 320 lbs
- Total payload: 2,035 lbs
- Curb weight of 5th generation 4Runner (Trail edition, 4×4): 4,750 lbs
- GVW: 6,785 lbs
- GVWR of 5th generation 4Runner: 6,300 lbs
- Weight over GVWR: 485 lbs
- View and Download the Editable Template Here (highlight the grid, copy and paste into your own spreadsheet)
Photo Credit: Joe McCormick
The list above certainly doesn’t account for everything that goes into a build, or on a camping trip. But I think that many of these items will resonate with those who use their 4Runners for exploring on the weekend. You can see by the calculations above that with a 4Runner loaded with the above equipment will be over it’s GVWR rating by nearly 500 lbs.
As I said, everything adds up.
So you’re close to or over the GVWR. Now what?
Being close to the GVWR means that you have come close to exceeding the recommended weight of the vehicle based on those who have designed it. With the increased weight, certain aspects of the vehicle become compromised.
The most obvious ones are the stopping ability of the brakes, and the load carrying ability of the suspension. Thankfully, these can be upgraded to help with the additional weight.
Better brake pads and performance rotors can help slow things down. As for the suspension, springs with higher weight ratings, adjusted valving and upgraded bump stops will help keep the load under control. The key word with both of those statements is help. In both of those examples, even with upgrades, the vehicle is still very heavy and is prone to other problems.
Weight on the trail
Photo Credit: Joe Markarian
Weight is the enemy.
A phrase that you will hear often amongst people who push the limits of their vehicles off-road. The more weight that the vehicle has, the more weight that vehicle has to carry over obstacles, across hillsides, up and down slopes, over soft ground, and so-on.
This can affect where you go whether or not you will get stuck, and the longevity of your parts. There is a balance between enough armor, protection, recovery gear and overall weight that will make the vehicle as capable as possible on the trail. It’s also not just the overall weight that compromises capability, it’s where the weight is carried.
150 lbs worth of roof rack and accessories on it will have a much greater effect on the vehicle than 150 lbs worth of steel skid plates mounted on the belly. In general, keep your weight as low and centered as possible.
With off-road accessories, you don’t have as much of a choice in where they are installed, but for other heavy items such as water, recovery gear, parts, keep them as low and centered as you can.
The back seat footwell is a great place to keep heavy items centered on the vehicle. Keeping as much weight as low as possible will help keep your tires on the ground and moving forward.
Weight on the road
While weight carrying ability on the trail is a big focus for these types of vehicles, how it handles on the way to the trail is arguably much more important. You’ll spend 75% of your trip getting there on the pavement, and on average traveling at much higher speeds.
This is where the vehicle’s braking ability and high-speed maneuverability is crucial. If your vehicle is at or over the GVWR, give yourself more room to stop and check your brake pads more frequently than instructed by your service manual as you are likely going to wear through them faster.
Another valuable asset to vehicle safety that often gets tossed aside for gains in off-road performance is the sway bar. With a heavier load, the removal of sway bars can make the vehicle unpredictable and uncontrollable in the event of a sudden high-speed maneuver.
A functional sway bar is what the 4Runner’s traction control system is relying on and calculating for when it makes decisions on how to control the vehicle in an emergency. That reliance is escalated when the GVWR is close to or being exceeded.
Furthermore, knowingly modifying the vehicle by removing safety systems and weighing it down past its rated capacity can make you more liable in the event of an accident either in the eyes of an insurance company or worse, the law.
- Be mindful of the weight that you add to your vehicle
- Choose where to store additional weight wisely
- Maintain the vehicle, especially stability control and braking systems
- Drive accordingly for the weight that you are carrying
- Upgrade the vehicle to properly handle the weight
- Understand that upgraded parts do not mean an upgraded GVWR
- Know the limits of the vehicle (GVWR) and your total payload by weighing items individually
Hey thank you for this – great info. Can you help me understand how this all gets affected once i hitch up my CVT adventure trailer? I dont have hard numbers on it but id wager its about 3000 lbs with it loaded up. Im close to my gvwr on the 4Runner with a OME BP51 upgrade (however that helps), so im concerned that this will push me over. Appreciate any thoughts.
Are we just gonna ignore Samara Morgan in the first photo?
I mean, it only took y’all 2+ years to comment on that little easter egg 👌🏻
The best surprises need time to bake.
Curious about suggested brake upgrades. While there is practically too much info and blog threads on suspension upgrades, there is hardly anything I’ve found on brake upgrades for 5th gen 4runners. Toyota has decided to exclude the 4runner from a “TRD Big Brake Kit” for some reason, even though it seems like an obvious upgrade many would want. And I can only find a handful of blog posts for brakes that seem to be specifically made for the 4runner, with not much consensus on any particular brand of pads or rotors or even much in the way of user reviews on these things.
Hey Ryan // Brenan did an overview of the Powerstop pad and rotor upgrade on the 4Runner. You can view that article here. Another option for a true big brake kit comes from Stop Tech and their BBK for the 4Runner. It’s really expensive, but from friends who have them, they work really well! Here is a link for purchasing the Stop Techs. Hope this helps! // Max
I have 17 TRD Off Road and here is a question that is breaking my head.
If the GVWR (Gross Weight) = 6300lbs
And the Curb Weight = 4750lbs
I have 1550 lbs of payload left, right?
Now why the owner’s manual (P.462) and on the vehicle placard indicates that the total weight capacity for this vehicle is 835lbs??
What is it? 1550 or 835 ??
Hi // Sorry I didn’t get to this earlier. They’re likely accounting for cargo only in that 835 number. The remaining amount will be taken up by passengers, figure roughly 200 pounds per person. // Max
As I understand it, the number 835 lbs. includes people. I would love to learn overwise as I run “over” all the time with just two people, two kayaks and a lightweight (3350 lb.) trailer.
For basic information, the manual uses an average of 150 lbs. per passenger.
The manual in general does leave one wondering. It has a reference to 5 and 7 passengers and the overall number payload is the same.
4runners with a diff lock have 330 lbs. less payload. I assume it is the extra weight of the side steps. What else is there to eat up the payload? The TRD Off-road does have rails under the doors which I doubt are 330lbs.
Enjoyed your write-up and have shared it multiple times.
It definitely gets a bit grey when you start looking at the manual. Ultimately, I would refer to the overall GVWR of the vehicle as a guideline for maximum weight, regardless of what the curb weight is between models. Staying below the GVWR is the only “legal requirement” you have regarding weight capacity on your 4Runner.
This is a great write-up. I’ve seen so many Instagram “overland” builds that are similarly listed out to what you described above all to take it to an OHV/ORV park or a commonly run state park. I won’t lie, I’ve fallen prey to it as well but I’m trying to simplify my setup. I am probably in the process of getting rid of my soft shell RTT (although it really only weights 110lbs), down sizing to 275/70/17 LR-C tires, and sticking only with a front skid plate for now. I’ll might get one of those GFC roof top tents, only 6″ tall and weights 135lbs and can still be used as a rack. Currently doing 16 – 16.5 MPG although I live in the mountains so it’s tough on my efficiency. I could probably get to 17MPG with a few subtractions.
I think modularity is the key. As a daily driver having all that weight on the truck has to suck. Instead of going drawers, I went with a rear cargo platform with tie downs so I could put Alu-boxes in them when I needed it. I do have a fridge and slide but those are easily removable. Things like gas and water and be added only when I need it. Same with things like hi-lifts, shovels, maxtraxx, only there when I need it.
I think once I slim down the 4R, reduce some weight, and downsize tires she’s gonna run a lot better.
I am curious what hitch rack that is in the first photo at top of the page?
It’s a single, 1UP USA bike rack. In my opinion, the best bike rack out there. I will be covering this product very soon for a review! Stay tuned!
That’s a 1-UP USA bike rack. Have one and love it!!!
Great and very informative write up! I wish I knew this when I first start modding my 4Runner. We tend to forget about weight when we start adding armor, parts, bigger tires, and misc gear to our truck and how it affects overall longevity and performance. I don’t have close to as many parts as you but I could feel the car struggling with just a 1000 lbs in extra payload. Without regearing, the truck struggles on the highway and I went from 18.5 mpg to 15.3 mpg. Also the
Rule of thumb is don’t add on what you don’t need or ever plan to use. I know people reverting their truck back to near stock simply cause they can’t handle the fuel consumption and parts breaking due to weight.
Exactly! Add what you need, skip what you don’t. As built, I fluctuate between about 800 and 1,200lbs payload. 800lbs being a short solo weekend trip, 1,200 being fully loaded and supported for my wife, the dog and me. So, when adding everything up (knowing that I am adding about 10% onto every weight to be safe) I am about 300lbs under the GVWR at my MAX weight. Even with that I still average 16.6mpg over the last 55k (who says big tires are better?!). I believe that reliability and safety are paramount.
I agree. Nothing hurt my MPG more than my tires. Im only running 285 E rated tires which is around 33s and I saw a immediate drop in gas and speed. Its beefy and fun off road ,but when it goes to filling up my tank, wasn’t that fun! Thinking back, I may have went with a 275 C load rating and saved a few bucks in my wallet.