Types of trailer hitches, and what trailer hitch you need.
There are lots of trailer hitches out there, and looking for the right one can be intimidating.
- Class 1
- Class 2
- Class 3
- Class 4
- Class 5
- Bumper hitches
- Front mount hitches
- Weight distribution hitches
- 5th wheel hitches
- Gooseneck hitches
- Pintle hitches
No kidding! The list is huge.
To make it a little easier, we are laying out exactly what most buyers use a given trailer hitch for.
Class 1 receiver hitches
The most common type of hitch is a receiver hitch. It’s designed to mount onto the frame of the vehicle and provide a tube to insert a rack or other insert. Receiver hitches are vehicle-specific. So if you have a 2012 mazda 3 sport, it likely requires a different hitch than a 2016 sedan.
A class 1 hitch comes with a 1 ¼ inch receiver opening and can carry up to 2,000 lbs of weight.
It is often installed on passenger cars and small crossovers to carry bikes and tow very small trailers.
Class 2 receiver hitches
Class 2 hitches also use a 1 ¼ inch opening, but can handle loads up to 3,500 lbs.
Vehicles capable of towing more (as per manufacturer standards) but still within normal family roles, like minivans, full sized sedans and mid sized SUVs, often benefit from these.
You are going to find class 2 hitches towing tin boats up north to the cottage or small, two wheel cargo trailers moving the kids to university for the first time.
Class 3 receiver hitches
The receiver tube opening is now 2 inches, and the carrying capacity expands to 8,000 lbs, depending on the vehicle.
Most pickup truck and full sized SUV owners opt for this hitch because the weight capacity lines up well with the vehicle manufacturer recommended towing capacity.
Class 3 hitches can hold the weight of your waterskiing boat or handle a two bedroom apartment-sized U-Haul, fully loaded up.
These hitches can also combine with a weight distribution system to add additional towing capacity, up to 12,000 lbs.
Class 4 receiver hitches
The receiver tube of a class 4 hitch is 2 inches, compatible with weight distribution systems and can hold up to 10,000 lbs.
You can these hitches to carry a mid-sized mobile home when your family wants to hit the road or a boat with seating for 12ish people. Like the class 3 hitch, you can upgrade with a weight distribution system and expand towing capacity to around 14,000 lbs.
Class 5 receiver hitches
The boss of receiver trailer hitches, the class 5 comes with a 2 or 2 ½ inch opening and can carry as much as 20,000 lbs.
If you own a commercial truck or full sized pickup and plan to tow construction equipment or other seriously heavy gear, this is your receiver hitch.
The towing capacity of a class 5 isn’t really boosted by a weight distribution system, but it can help level out the vehicle under heavy loads.