Towing a travel trailer can be a challenge at first, but once you have the basic knowledge, the proper equipment and have done it a few times it will become easier with experience. Matching the trailer ball size to your trailer coupler is important to the safety of yourself and other drivers on the road.
What size ball does a travel trailer use? Due to the weight, a typical travel trailer as well as an expandable trailer use a 2 5/16″ ball for towing. If you have something smaller such as a popup camper or teardrop, these typically will use a 2″ ball. The third typical size ball is 1 7/8, and these are not used in travel trailer towing applications.
Trailer Ball Sizes Explained
1 ⅞” Ball
This ball size is typically not suited for towing a travel trailer or tent trailer. A 1 7/8″ ball has a capacity up to 2,000 pounds, therefore, it is not suited for towing travel trailers, but will work for a small utility trailer. These can be purchased in two different shank sizes of 3/4″ and 1″.
2″ trailer balls are the most common ball size in the towing world, but as far as towing a travel trailer, do not have enough capacity. They can handle 3,500 pounds to 8,000 pounds. The shank sizes can also dictate their capacity and are avaialble in 3/4″, 1″, and 1 1/4″.
If you have a tent trailer, a 2″ ball will be right up your alley as they are typically the right ball for a popup camper coupler. When purchasing, make sure to always buy a ball that is rated for higher than the weight of your trailer so just in case you get a larger one, or need it to tow another vehicle such as a boat, you can use it universally.
2 5/16” Trailer Ball
2 and 5/16″ trailer balls are the typical size for a travel trailer. With a weight raising of 6,000 pounds through 40,000 pounds, most travel trailers, toy haulers, and expandable trailers fit in this category and will also need a brake controller and will also need a brake controller. These balls are available in a 1″ and 1 1/4″ shank sizes to properly fit their towing weight capacity. When purchasing a receiver, make sure you purchase the receiver that will fit your shank size.
Hitch Ball Mount
Receivers are made in three different sizes, their sizes will match up to your vehicle. Typically, when towing a tent trailer, travel trailer, toy hauler, or expandable, you will need a 2″ or greater receiver. Lots of newer trucks 2500 or larger are starting to come with the beefier 2 1/2″ receiver size. The receiver size is the inner diameter of the hitch on your vehicle.
1 ¼” Hitch Ball Mount
This size of receiver is typically found on a class I and II vehicle hitches. They have a maximum trailer weight of 1,000 and 2,000 pounds respectively, and have a maximum tongue weight of 100-200 pounds. These receiver sizes are not suitable for towing a travel trailer.
2” Hitch Ball Mount
The 2″ receiver size is the most common size found in vehicles today. They are found in vehicles with Class III and IV hitches. If you have a Class III hitch, you can tow up to 8,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 800 pounds. A class IV version will tow up to 12,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 1,200 pounds.
Class IV hitches are mostly found on vehicles with a larger towing package ordered from the factory.
2 1/2” Hitch Ball Mount
The 2 1/2″ receiver size is reserved for beefier trucks 2,500 and above. They typically come on a Class V vehicle hitch which is raised for up to 20,000 pounds with up to 2,000 pounds of tongue weight.
3″ Hitch Ball Mount
The 3″ receiver size is the heaviest available on a consumer vehicle with a tow raiting up to 25,000 pounds and a tongue weight up to 4,000 pounds. These are truly for the beefiest trucks on the lot.
Types of Receiver Hitches
Each class will have different towing ratings. Keep in mind to check your brand of hitch as hitch railings will vary between manufacturers.
A class I hitch will typically be installed on cars. They have a maximum gross trailer weight towing capacity of 2,000 pounds and have a 1 1/4″ receiver size.
A Class II hitch also has a 1 1/4″ receiver size but is typically found in larger cars and crossover SUV’s. Their weight raising is typically up to 3,500 pounds.
A Class III or class 3 trailer hitch is one of the most common you will find on the road today. They have a gross trailer weight raising to tow up to 8,000 pounds and are the smallest hitch you can use with a weight distribution setup. Class III hitches will have a 2″ receiver size.
A class IV hitch will be installed on most pickups or larger SUV’s on the market. Their gross trailer weight towing capacity is up to 10,000 pounds and can be up to 12,000 pounds with a weight distribution setup. If you have a 1500 size pickup truck with a towing package, it is most likely you will have this size hitch.
Class V CD Hitch
A class V XD hitch will have a maximum weight towing capacity of 17,000 pounds. This hitch size will have a 2″ receiver size.
Class V CD Hitch
A Class V CD (commercial duty) hitch will have a maximum weight capacity of 20,000 pounds and a receiver size of 2 1/2″. These are typically found on 2500 and 3500 trucks.
The ball height is important when setting up your towing setup. You will want your trailer to be level while towing. To learn more about towing level, read our guide here.
If your truck is higher than your trailer ball, you will need a drop hitch. If it is lower, you will need the opposite. Many weight distribution hitches will have the option of multiple heights up or down.
If you do not need a weight distribution hitch, you may want to get an adjustable ball hitch in case you ever get a new vehicle or trailer you can use the same hitch. We recommend this adjustable height model for both a 2″ ball a 2 5/16″ ball.
Weight Distribution Hitches
Weight distribution hitches are recommended for many trailers if your hitch weight causes the rear of your vehicle to drop. To find out more about weight distribution hitches with sway control, read our article about the top hitches here.
What size ball does a tent trailer use? Most tent trailers are lightweight and therefore only use a 2″ ball. Larger popup campers and expandable trailers that are heavier will use a 2 5/16″ ball.
What size ball does an expandable trailer use? Most expandable trailers are just like hard sided travel trailers and will use a 2 5/16″ ball due to their weight. Expandable trailers are very similar to full hard sided travel trailers and therefore have brakes and only be slightly lighter than their bigger hard sided brothers.
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