Trailer Hitch Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Hitch for Your Needs 

If the confines of your vehicle’s cabin and cargo area aren’t enough to carry what you need, a trailer hitch can expand your horizons. You can carry hitch-mounted accessories like bicycle carriers, or, more commonly, you can tow a trailer.

You’ll need a vehicle capable of towing, plus the hitch needs to be rated to pull the maximum weight of the trailer as well as the weight it places on the tongue. Depending on your needs, a trailer hitch can range in price from around $100 to $900, so choosing the right style and class is crucial. Let’s break down what the different trailer hitch types and classes are, and we’ll give you our suggestions for each.

Can you put a trailer hitch on your vehicle? 

Generally, it’s possible to install a trailer hitch on most vehicles. There are many different types of trailer hitches available, and the specific hitch that is suitable for your vehicle will depend on the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the weight and size of the largest trailer you’ll want to tow. 

To install a trailer hitch, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the proper tools and equipment. Depending on the type of hitch you are installing, you may need to drill holes, cut through the bumper, snake bolts into blind holes in the frame, or make other modifications to the vehicle’s chassis. If you aren’t comfortable modifying your vehicle, it’s recommended to have a professional install your trailer hitch, as improper installation can compromise the safety of the hitch and the vehicle. 

Before installing a trailer hitch, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle is capable of safely towing the weight of the trailer or device you plan to use. You should also make sure that you have the proper towing equipment, such as a hitch ball, wiring harness, and brakes if required, and that you are familiar with the proper towing techniques and safety precautions. 

The three types of trailer hitches 

For non-commercial vehicles including pickup trucks and SUVs, there are three broad trailer hitch categories.  

  • Receiver hitches 
  • Fifth-wheel hitches 
  • Gooseneck hitches 

Of these three types, only trucks that need to haul flatdeck trailers, livestock trailers, and large campers will use gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches. They mount in the truck bed and have a coupler or hitch ball to connect to the trailer. 

For all the others, you’ll need a receiver hitch. These mount under the rear bumper to the frame, and there are five classes to choose from. 

Class 1 hitches 

The lightest duty trailer hitch is a Class 1, and it’s typically reserved for compact cars and crossovers. The receiver is a 1 1/4-inch square tube that connects with a pin and clip. The maximum tongue weight is up to 200 pounds, and the limit for the trailer’s weight with contents is up to 2,000 pounds. It’s the type you’d use to connect a bike carrier or pull a utility trailer with a garden tractor, for example.  

Our pick for a class 1 trailer hitch is from one of the best-known brands in the industry, Curt. The Curt Class 1 trailer hitch features a tubular drawbar and durable black paint with a square 1 1/4-inch receiver. They’re manufactured for a direct fit according to model, and they seldom require vehicle modifications. 

Class 2 hitches 

Like their smaller sibling, class 2 hitches have a 1 1/4-inch receiver, but they’re more capable. Generally, a class II hitch will be rated at up to 3,500 pounds of total trailer weight and 350 pounds of tongue weight. You might find yourself pulling a trailer with a cubic yard of aggregate or soil, or a small boat or pop-up travel trailer. 

Our pick for class II is the Draw-Tite trailer hitch. Long-lasting black powder coat protects the all-welded steel construction. They’re model-specific with bolt-on installation that typically takes no modification. 

Class 3 hitches 

Class 3 hitches cover a broad swath of the market. They’re used on many SUVs, minivans, crossovers, and pickup trucks and have a 2-inch receiver. They’re made even more durable and have a maximum tongue weight of 800 pounds, which is a significant bump. As well, the gross trailer weight tops out at 8,000 pounds, covering towables like travel trailers, most boats, and sometimes even car haulers. 

Our choice for the class III segment is a Reese Towpower Class III hitch. Where most options are model-specific, this option fits a range of models, years, and across a handful of makes too. The sliding frame adjusts to your vehicle, requires no special tools, and carries a 3-year warranty. 

Class 4 hitches 

Generally, the largest, sturdiest hitch you’ll want for a passenger-carrying vehicle is a Class 4 hitch. They’re meant for full-framed trucks and SUVs and can pull up to 10,000 pounds with a maximum tongue weight of 1,000 pounds. You’ll want to pair this hitch with an electric trailer brake controller if your vehicle doesn’t already have one. 

Curt Class IV hitch options are our pick in this category. They have a dual finishing coat to keep them in good shape and are made to bolt straight onto your application. With a limited lifetime, warranty, they’re a solid choice. 

Class 5 hitches 

Stretching the limits of what vehicles will feasibly tow, class 5 hitches have tongue weights of up to 2,550 pounds and can pull a max gross trailer weight of 17,000 pounds. Only a few models on the market, namely 3/4-ton and 1-ton trucks, will employ these big guns, and for massive trailers just below commercial size. 

The Draw-Tite Class V Box Universal Trailer Hitch gets you these limits. The boxed draw bar offers incredible strength and it’s fully powder coated for longevity.  

Shop at AutoZone for your trailer hitch and accessories. With the right parts to fit your vehicle and Trustworthy Advice from our associates, there’s no better place to find what you need to haul a trailer. 

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FAQ/People Also Ask 

How do you know what trailer hitch to buy? 

Most trailer hitches are vehicle specific, and sorting by year, make, and model will offer the correct classes to fit your vehicle. 

How do you know what size trailer hitch you need? 

The size or class of trailer hitch you need depends on the trailer you’re towing. Always install a hitch that’s rated for the gross trailer weight or higher. 

What are the 4 types of hitches? 

Receiver hitches, gooseneck hitches, and fifth-wheel hitches are the three most common types. Pintle hitches are also available but less commonly used. 

Which brand trailer hitch is best?

Several trailer hitch brands offer options for most makes and models including Curt, Reese, and Draw-Tite. It’s best to choose your new hitch based on the features you need.

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