How RV Towing Regulations Work

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RV Towing Laws by State

Hey, pardner! If you're crossing state lines, you'd better familiarize yourself with different regulations for towing!
Hey, pardner! If you're crossing state lines, you'd better familiarize yourself with different regulations for towing!
Rob vanNostrand/iStockPhoto

You could be in for a big surprise when you cross state lines in your brand-spankin'-new RV and find it's too tall to comply with the laws of the state -- in which you've been pulled over. If you're lucky, you'll meet a friendly state trooper who lets you off with a warning. At worst, you could face a fine or possibly jail time, depending on the mood of said officer. The best way to get around this situation is to familiarize yourself with the towing regulations of all of the states you intend to pass through.

Quick, what do Texas and Washington have on common? They're the only two states that require coaches with vehicles in tow to observe a speed limit of 60 miles per hour [source: Hitch Me Up]. In general, many states set a speed limit of 65 for coaches with vehicles in tow; others set a limit of 55 mph. This is a good example of how towing regulations can change when you cross state lines, and why you should be aware that they often do.

Another regulation that can vary wildly by state is the maximum allowable weight for what you're towing -- be it a car or a trailer. Some states rely on the federal bridge formula -- that calculates the amount of weight based on how much is carried per axel. Other states have their own determinations. Colorado allows a gross vehicle weight of 54,000 pounds, while Iowa allows 80,000 pounds [source: Towing World]. You'll also want to have a good idea of your combined gross vehicle weight. This is the total weight for your RV, your towed cargo, all of the passengers, fuel -- anything found aboard the RV and tow vehicle that has weight.

Most states offer public scales for you to weigh your RV and tow set-up. They're usually found just off major highways. Some are operated by the state, while others are found on the premises of private businesses that use scales to weigh shipping cargo, like dairy farms. Either way, you'll likely be charged a fee. It'll be worth the money to know you're complying with state laws, however.

Before you leave on an extended trip with your RV and tow set-up, list the states you plan on traveling through. Beside each state, list different regulations that pertain to your situation, like allowable height and weight. You can use this as a handy reference guide. Be sure to also keep a full print out of the regulations of every state in your RV; you never know when a detour from your original path will tempt you.

The requirement your vehicle have insurance also varies by state; some states require it, while others don't. Read the next page to get a clearer picture of why you should be insured to the teeth when you're towing with your RV.