How Tos & Tutorials

How to Pick a Trailer Hitch Receiver

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What does a trailer hitch receiver do?

In this article, we’ll tell you what its purpose is and help you know if you’ve chosen the right one for your towing requirements.

WHAT IS A TRAILER HITCH RECEIVER AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

light duty towing

A trailer hitch receiver is a kind of trailer hitch that’s attached to the towing vehicle’s back (underside) part that serves as an extension of the main trailer hitch, where other accessories can also be put, to further secure the link between your towing vehicle and trailer.

Not all objects can be fitted inside your 4×4 and this is where the need for a trailer hitch receiver comes in. As a matter of fact, it can help you in more ways than one:

  • Attaching a bike rack to your car.
  • Towing large loads.
  • Making trailering possible for new vehicles without factory tow hitches.
  • Carrying overhead cargo.
  • Allowing smaller, lighter vehicles to tow.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RECEIVER AND A HITCH?

hitch receiver

A hitch is the main component that connects the tow vehicle to the trailer. Think of it as the spine or tree trunk that binds the two together.

On the other hand, a receiver is an accessory. It’s a part of the trailer’s hitch that extends further at the back of the tow vehicle to ensure the former and latter won’t break apart.

ARE ALL TRAILER HITCH RECEIVERS THE SAME SIZE?

trailer hitch receiver sizes

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Take note that trailer hitch receivers vary in size based on what the need or situation requires. There are 4 four different sizes of trailer hitch receivers:

  • 1-1/4 inch trailer hitch receiver – for lightweight towing meant for the typical SUVs or passenger cars (Tongue weight: 200-350lbs).
  • 2-inch trailer hitch receiver – for average towing targeted to crossovers and minivans (Tongue weight: 350-1200lbs).
  • 2-1/2 inch trailer hitch receiver – for slightly larger towing meant for pickup trucks (Tongue weight: 1000-2000lbs).
  • 3-inch trailer hitch receiver – for heavy-duty towing meant for large tow trucks (Tongue weight: 3000-4000lbs).

If you’re having doubts regarding the size of your trailer hitch receiver, then the best thing you can do is to determine your trailer hitch opening’s height and width using a tape measure.

What Is a Tongue Weight?

maverick towing capacity

Tongue weight in simpler term is the drag that your trailer gives to your tow vehicle’s hitch while being pulled during the travel period. Obviously, the resistance should be adequate, so your towing vehicle has enough strength to make it still possible to move.

As a rule of thumb, a tongue weight is only sufficient if it’s somewhere between 9-15% of the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) which is your vehicle’s total weight.

WHAT ARE THE CLASSES OF HITCH RECEIVER?

Hitch receivers are categorized under 5 classes according to their suitable vehicle type matches. Below is a table that tells what they are, what size of hitch receiver they require, and other useful references.

Class Usage Size of Opening Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) Tongue Weight Type of Tow Vehicle What Is Being Towed
1 Light duty 1-1/4” 1,000-2,000lbs 100-200lbs Passenger cars, small crossovers Motorcycles, small boats
2 Moderate duty 1-1/4” 2,000-3,500lbs 200-525lbs Mid-sized sedans Campers, snowmobiles
3 Hybrid/Mix 2” 3,500-8,000lbs 300-800lbs Pickups, minivans, SUVs Mid-sized campers, utility vehicles
4 Heavy duty 2” 5,000-12,000lbs 500-1,200lbs Large pickups, SUVs Large campers, toy haulers
5 Heaviest duty 2-1/2” or 3” 10,000-20,000 & 20,000-25,000lbs (respectively) 1,000-2,000lbs & 3,000-4,000lbs (respectively) Very large vehicles, commercial trucks Full-sized campers, equipment trailers

HOW DO I PICK A HITCH FOR MY RECEIVER?

trailer hitch ball sizes

In getting a hitch for your receiver, there are 3 primary factors you must consider:

  • Purpose of trailer hitch – hitches are divided into 5 classes or categories as previously mentioned depending on the type and weight of the tow vehicle you’ll be using. This means that a hitch for motorcycles won’t suffice one that’s intended for large campers.
  • Trailer hitch ball sizes – hitch balls are also known as trailer balls. They serve as the immediate connector between the tow vehicle and tow trailer. They come in 3 sizes: small (1-7/8”), medium (2”), and large (2-5/16”). As the size increases, weight carrying capacity also increases.
  • Trailer hitch condition – if you begin to see signs of rust eating portions of your current hitch, it means it has to be replaced quickly, even if it still has no effect on your tow vehicle and trailer’s performance to ensure your safety.

CAN I INSTALL A HITCH RECEIVER ON MY OWN?

hitch receiver installation

Trailer Hitch Receiver Installation

Installing a trailer hitch receiver by yourself nowadays is possible only if you know your vehicle inside and out. This is because online video tutorials are now present to give you a brief walkthrough on the process. On the contrary, if you’re not sure how or where to start, it’s still ideal to ask help from the professionals to ensure the process is done correctly. Usually, a professional trailer hitch receiver installation would cost somewhere between $300-$600 (if it involves the main parts).

This of course includes the brand, model, and year of your vehicle since the manner of installation is dependent on existing vehicle designs on a particular period. However, it’s also important to know that time spent during the installation also influences the cost. The longer the time consumed, the more expensive the task gets because it means it’s difficult. If you’re only after of installing the accessories, it would fall only on the $90-$200 price range as this is quite easily done.

CONCLUSION

A trailer hitch receiver should be specific to your tow vehicle so that it performs safely and efficiently as intended. If you’re having second thoughts in terms of installation or other matters, it’s never too late to ask assistance from your local mechanic or certified professional in the field, for thorough guidance. Let us in your thoughts by commenting below.

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