One of the reasons I decided to write this article is to let both experienced and new drivers alike know just how important this topic is. Knowing your car’s weight can help you maintain it and drive it around with fewer issues. In fact, it can even save your life. There are also other reasons why you have to know how much does an average car weigh, and I’ll get to them in a minute.
But before that, here’s a quick overview of the questions this article is about to answer:
- What types of car weight do we know?
- How does the weight of different car classes differ?
- Why do you need to know the weight of your car?
Various Types of Weight
If you wanted to research this topic online a mere ten or even five years ago, you’d have run into a major roadblock. Namely, different folks (experts and laypeople alike) give different definitions of what “car weight” actually is. HaulGauge covered this topic briefly, and I highly recommend their video if you want the cliff notes. But do stick around if you’re interested in going a bit more in-depth regarding this topic.
Curb weight, or Kerb weight, is the total weight of a car with all of its parts fully intact. It also includes the weight of the maximum amount of fuel that the vehicle can carry. However, it does exclude several factors, including the passengers, the driver, and the load (i.e., cargo).
You might run into other terms for this type of weight, including “load weight” or, more commonly, “payload.” In short, this is the weight of all the cargo and equipment in the car. Both the driver and the passengers are also factored in when measuring your car’s cargo weight.
Gross Vehicle Weight or GVW
Gross vehicle weight includes anything that adds those pounds (or kilograms, if you’re not from the UK or the US) to the vehicle. Think of it as a combination of cargo weight and curb weight. In short, it stands for the total weight of the car, all of the passengers, the driver, and the cargo.
Collective Gross Weight
Collective gross weight, or gross combined weight, is calculated if you have a trailer or a similar tow vehicle to attach to your car. It’s the combined weight of both the car and the trailer you attach to it.
Highest Trailer Load Weight
Also known as maximum load trailer weight, it’s quite similar to CGW, but with one major difference. It’s the combined weight of a fully loaded trailer and the vehicle at its maximum weight.
Total Axle Weight or TAW
Knowing the weight of both the front and back axles of your car is essential, as it tells you how much they can handle and what their upper limits are in terms of payload. The TAW, therefore, refers to the combined weight of both axles when the vehicle is moving.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR
Manufacturers will always point out the vehicle’s GVWR — and for a good reason. The GVW Rating is the highest weight your car can handle at any given point. It takes the maximum load into consideration, one that you mustn’t exceed if you want your car to run smoothly and without any problems.
Total Axle Weight Rating or TAWR
Like the rating before it, TAWR stands for the maximum weight that each axle can handle at any given moment. Manufacturers provide this info with each car model, as exceeding the limit they ascribe can damage both the axle and the car.
Different Car Weight Classes
Now that you have an idea of how to measure car weight, let’s delve into different ways that manufacturers classify cars. In order to understand the total average, i.e., the median value of all cars, we need to go over each individual class. With that in mind, I’ll provide you with some of the weight averages for each individual class since some of them can vary wildly.
Based on their weight, cars can fall under one of the following classes:
- Smart Car
- Subcompact Car
- Compact Car
- Mid-Size Car
- Large Car
- Subcompact SUV
- Compact SUV
- Mid-Size SUV
- Large SUV
- Half-Ton Truck
Smart cars really don’t need a lot of introduction. They are compact, two-seat vehicles that take up little space and can be parked literally anywhere. Smart Cars itself is a division of Germany’s Daimler-Benz, which has specialized in making these compact automobiles for years now.
The average curb weight of all Smart cars is between 2,050 and 2,090 lbs (around 940 kg). They are, by far, the lightest cars you can own, though this makes them somewhat unsuitable if you own a trailer.
Subcompact cars (also known as superminis or B-segments) are slightly bulkier than Smart cars. Some examples of these vehicles include the Scion xD, the Suzuki Swift, and the Toyota Prius C.
On average, the superminis tend to weigh between 2,433 and 2,576 lbs (roughly 1,104 and 1,168 kg).
By far, some of the most common cars that people buy are compact vehicles or C-segments. From some of the classics like the 1952 Nash Rambler to the modern Chevrolet Cruze, millions of these units are sold in the United States each year.
One of the reasons for their popularity is that they don’t waste a lot of fuel. Even though they are heavier than subcompacts, these cars are far more fuel-efficient.
In terms of raw numbers, compact cars weigh some 16% more than subcompacts. An average small family car can weigh anywhere from 2,828 lbs (1,283 kg) to 3,010 lbs (1365 kg).
Intermediate or mid-size cars, or D-segments, are slightly bulkier than compacts, outweighing them by about 17%. Some of the biggest bestsellers in the automobile industry fall under this category, such as the Toyota Camry and the Opel Omega.
The average weight of mid-size cars ranges from 3,212 to 3,509 lbs (or 1,457–1,592 kg).
Large cars, also known as full-size cars, are, by far, the biggest vehicles that don’t fall under the SUV category. They are roughly 15% bulkier than mid-size cars but show a significant drop in fuel efficiency. There are quite a few noteworthy examples of popular large cars on the market, including the Lincoln Continental, the Dodge Charger, and the Nissan Maxima.
On average, a full-size car can weigh at least 3,738 lbs or 1,696 kg. The maximum curb weight, however, is a massive 4,027 lbs or nearly 2 tons.
Interestingly, a subcompact sport utility vehicle is actually lighter than a full-size car. More importantly, it also surpasses large cars in terms of fuel efficiency, and it performs well both on the highway and when driving through the city. That’s why people tend to buy models such as the Hyundai Kona or the Subaru Crosstrek instead of regular family-friendly cars.
Subcompact SUVs tend to weigh between 2,991 and 3,299 lbs, or 1,357 and 1,496 kg. They are, by no means, lightweight, but as far as SUVs go, they are the smallest.
While they might be bigger than subcompact SUVs, the compact models are still lighter than full-size cars, with 3,728 lbs (1691 kg) being their maximum curb weight. They perform just as well as the subcompact vehicles, but they do burn through more fuel.
The Subaru Forester and Nissan Rogue are two of the more popular models of compact SUVs on the market today.
Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee are, bar none, the best representatives of mid-size SUVs. They are so iconic that most people tend to think of them the very second someone mentions “SUV” in any context. Moreover, they are the first sport utility vehicle category that surpasses full-size cars in terms of weight.
The lightest mid-size SUVs weigh 4,135 lbs or 1,876 kg. Conversely, the heaviest models stand at 4,673 lbs or 2,120 kg, a little over 2 tons.
As proper monsters on the road, large SUVs can easily hold a family of five and still have room to spare. Think of your average Nissan Armada or Chevrolet Tahoe, and you’ll see just how big they can get.
So, what do the numbers say? Well, a large SUV weighs 5,468 lbs (2,480 kg), at the very least! That’s over 20% more than the largest mid-size SUV on the market today. Their top weight is around 5,738 lbs or 2,603 kg.
Half-ton trucks do not, as their name suggests, weigh only half a ton. They do, however, outweigh mid-size SUVs by roughly 5–10%. On average, the lightest half-ton truck weighs 4,496 lbs (2,039 kg) while the heaviest weighs 5,406 lbs (2,452 kg).
Interestingly, aside from mid-size and compact cars, half-ton trucks are some of the most frequently sold vehicles in the United States. Because of their size and popularity, companies have worked hard on improving their fuel efficiency and reducing the overall curb weight. So, while they might appear bulky, they are far from the heaviest on the market.
So, What Is the Total Average?
In 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average car weighed around 4,094 lbs or 1,857 kg. That number has remained more or less constant since the early 2010s. In other words, the average curb weight has not changed significantly in 2020, and, if these trends continue, it will likely stay that way for at least half a decade.
Why Should We Know Our Car’s Weight?
The first reason you ought to know your car’s weight comes down to fuel efficiency, which I mentioned several times throughout the article. Heavy cars tend to require more fuel than lighter ones, so you can end up spending large sums of money on gas alone.
Next, there’s the question of safety. One advantage of a bulky car is that it can protect you from a crash better than a lightweight car. In fact, the risk of fatality in a crash increases by almost 50% for every 1000-pound disadvantage.
Finally, I should mention practicality too. When you know your car’s weight, you know what tools to buy, such as jack stands that won’t break under the extra pounds. Moreover, you’ll know if the car you own can handle a trailer and the number of people it can carry. With the right GVWR, you can easily determine the size and weight of your payload, thus ensuring that your car doesn’t bottom out on long drives.