What is Curb Weight?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Curb weight is the total weight of a vehicle when it is full of fluids and ready to operate minus the weight of the driver and passengers. This measurement is used to determine tire specifications and, in many areas, license plate fees. Curb weight differs from gross weight in that gross weight not only includes the vehicle, all fluids being full and a driver, but it also demonstrates the weight of the vehicle when it is loaded to its maximum hauling capacity. It is used in determining what size of motorcycle a person can handle. Curb weight is also used to calculate vehicle shipping charges when having a vehicle delivered to a location by truck or ship.

The measurement can be an important factor in determining the weight capacity of a small aircraft. When deciding on the proper load limit of the airplane, the pilot can factor the curb weight of the plane and the weight of all passengers, then subtract the figure from the total gross load capacity of the aircraft. This will tell the pilot the total amount of luggage weight which can be loaded onto the aircraft without hindering its flight characteristics. This same formula can be applied to small watercraft as well.


When towing a vehicle on a trailer, the trailer capacity is mandated by the curb weight of the vehicle being towed. This is the only determining factor, since it is not legal to have passengers in a towed vehicle or a loaded vehicle on a trailer. To move a disabled vehicle such as a truck with a full payload, a wrecker must be used to safely tow the vehicle. The weight of the vehicle is added to the weight of the trailer to give the trailer's gross weight hauling capacity. This ensures proper braking abilities and proper tire wear while loaded.

Curb weight capacity is listed on many small recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles and off-road buggies. The weight limits must be factored in with the operator's weight to calculate gross vehicle weight numbers. These numbers are important due to many off-road bridges having light load capacities. The vehicle manufacturers cannot know the weight of the person who will purchase or ride the equipment; therefore, the company has given the rider the ability to do the math and arrive at each individual's gross weight factors. This enables the consumer to assure the proper level of safety when operating a recreational vehicle.


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Post 3

Hello, I have a question. Why is curb weight used to determine tire specifications, but not gross weight?

Post 2

I am currently researching new and used cars to determine which makes and models I should consider buying. In my research, I have discovered just how much curb weight determines several other characteristics of the car.

One thing that is very important to me is gas mileage. I have about a thirty minute commute to work, one way, so I want a car that is easy on gas. I've noticed that cars that way less tend to have better gas mileage. So, I'm considering buying a compact sedan.

On the other hand, people tell me that small cars are usually not that safe. I suppose because there is less steel surrounding the driver, they don't hold up too

well in an accident. I have also heard that small cars tend to roll over easier than larger cars.

I guess I'll have to do a little more research to find the perfect car, one that has great gas mileage, but doesn't compromise safety.

Post 1

Time and time again, I have confused curb weight with gross weight. Thanks for this article, it definitely clears things up.

A few years ago, I had a boating incident because I didn't know the difference between gross weight versus curb weight. I own a small, four passenger boat, or at least I did before water damaged destroyed it.

To make a long story short, I was out on a lake with myself and three adult friends. We were all grown men, all weighing at least two hundred and fifty pounds. Usually, I took my kids out on my boat, but this time, I wanted to spend time with friends.

Unfortunately, the maximum weight capacity listed on

the boat was a gross weight. I mistook it for curb weight, so I did not think twice about letting my friends on board.

Needless to say, as my boat started sinking soon after we left the dock, water rushed on board, causing extensive water damage.

Next time I get a boat, I'll pay more attention to the numbers.

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