How Payload Works

Car Payload

Chances are this guy is exceeding his payload capacity for his car.
David Nevala/Getty Images
Chances are this guy is exceeding his payload capacity for his car.

Most of us who drive a car don't think as seriously about payload as someone who drives a truck. After all, a father wouldn't normally ask "Well, do we have the necessary payload packed up?" once his wife, children and luggage are settled into the car for a long drive. Compared to a truck, a car's payload is typically going to be much lower. Some of the car's load may be heavy, but anything that's heavy enough to exceed payload limits and be considered dangerous probably won't fit in a car anyway.

Still, there are some important things to consider when loading up a car that can affect your planning and the ease of a trip. It helps to remember that passengers count as payload, too, and that most car manufacturers factor in 150 pounds (68 kilograms) per person per seating position. That means that when you're considering how much weight you can carry in your car, you can think about every available empty seat as an extra 150 pounds. For instance, if your back seat that's designed to carry three passengers is empty, then you essentially have 450 pounds (204 kilograms) to fill up before things get a little shaky.

An SUV can carry far more weight than a car, right? On the next page we'll see how payload works for these vehicles.