Before you start hauling an endless amount of cargo into a trailer or hitch up an 18-foot-long boat, it's best to know the towing capacity of your car, truck, SUV or recreational vehicle. Towing too much weight can cause a myriad of problems, no matter how big and powerful your engine is. The first thing to do is refer to the owner's manual of your vehicle, which should give you specific numbers regarding how much weight you can tow.
There are also a few definitions you should keep in mind:
Base curb weight - this is, in simplest terms, the actual weight of your entire vehicle, including all fluids (i.e. a full tank of gas, engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid and others) and any additional equipment.
Cargo weight - cargo weight includes the weight of the passengers, cargo and any optional equipment (i.e. a sunroof).
Allowable Payload - this is the maximum amount of weight, including cargo and passengers, a vehicle can carry.
Knowing how much weight your vehicle can tow will keep your ride safe and help you better prepare for loading. Once you know how much cargo you can carry, though, exactly how you place that cargo is another problem; read about proper distribution on the next page.