How Many Tons Does a Car Weigh?

Most car owners may not realize it, but knowing how much your car weighs is important. It may be necessary when crossing certain bridges, for one. You may even need to report this information to the DMV for proper classification and categorization of your car. It also may come in handy when adding weight to your car. You don’t want to go over the gross vehicle weight rating, do you? Or simply, you might need this information when trying to sell your junk car.

No matter how you look at it, knowing approximately what your car weighs is imperative. The weight of your car in tons will vary depending upon the make, model, year, materials used, and car type (truck, van, SUV, sedan, sports car). Below, we give you a more in-depth look at car weights in tons.

How Much Does Your Car Weigh?

To determine how much your car weighs, there are several options. The easiest way to find out how many tons a car weighs is to look for a sticker on the inside of the driver's side door. This should have information on the curb weight and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). You can look at the owner's manual or the manufacturer's website as well. There are also car comparison websites, separate from the manufacturer's site, that will allow you to find the curb weight and the GVWR on your car. Many scrap yards and truck stops have a scale to weigh vehicles on if you need an exact measurement.

Junk vehicles tend to fall between the 3,000-5,000 pound range, which includes sedans, SUVs, and trucks. These typical passenger vehicles are found in many households across the country, which therefore makes them the most likely to be sold to a junk car buyer at the end of the vehicle's life.

Here are some weights of common vehicles.

Vehicle Curb Weight (2000) Curb Weight (2023)
Honda Accord 2,954 lbs 3,239 lbs
Ford F-150 3,923 lbs 4,021 lbs
Toyota Rav4 2,668 lbs 3,370 lbs
Nissan Altima 2,933 lbs 3,244 lbs

What are the different ways to define vehicle weight?

Did you know that your car weight is measured in different ways? While you may not know your car’s exact weight, it is helpful to know the various methods of weighing it. Then, if asked, you know exactly what weight you’re looking for. Here are the various car weight types:

Curb weight

This is the most commonly used terminology for vehicle weight. It is used by most manufacturers. The curb weight includes the weight of the car itself, with all of its standard equipment and the fluids it needs to operate. It includes some gas, but not necessarily a full tank. It does not include the weight of the driver, passengers, and any cargo they place in the vehicle. You can think of curb weight as the weight of the vehicle as it sits on the showroom floor.

Dry weight

A car’s dry weight is its curb weight, minus the weight of all its fluids. That means no fuel, no oil, no coolant, no transmission fluid, no brake fluid, no power steering fluid, and no washer fluid. A car in this condition cannot be driven, and you will not find one in the real world (except possibly in a museum). A car’s dry weight is sometimes used by its manufacturer to artificially exaggerate its power-to-weight ratio compared to competitors’ standard curb weights.


Payload is the weight of everything you put into your car. It includes the driver, the passengers, the groceries, the sports equipment, the luggage, plus anything that you are towing. It’s all payload.

Gross vehicle weight (GVW)

Your car’s GVW is defined as its curb weight, plus the weight of the driver, any passengers, and whatever cargo and belongings are along for the ride. This will vary, depending on whether you are simply driving yourself to work, or you are taking the whole family on an extended vacation. This is not normally something to be concerned about when you are carrying passengers and their luggage, but if you are hauling a heavy load in a truck it could become an issue. You can find the label with your vehicle’s maximum GVW by looking in your owner’s manual, or on the driver’s door jamb of your car. It should be listed next to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressures.

Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)

This is an important one. It represents the maximum amount that your car, and everything in it, can safely weigh, according to the manufacturer. If you overload your vehicle and exceed its GVWR, a number of very bad things can happen to your vehicle – and whoever is riding in it:

  • The brakes can fail
  • The transmission can fail
  • The engine can overheat
  • The tires can blow out
  • The suspension can break

Gross combined weight (GCW) and gross combined weight rating (GCWR)

These two related weights come into play whenever you are pulling a trailer with your vehicle. It represents the combined weight of your vehicle, the trailer, and any people and cargo that have been loaded onto them. This is the weight reading you would get if you drove onto a scale with the trailer attached. It is similar to the GVW and GVWR, but it also includes the weight of what you are pulling. Do not exceed the maximum weight that your vehicle is rated for. Overloading your vehicle will cause the same problems listed above. Overloading your trailer can result in anything from braking problems to a severe accident.

Maximum load trailer weight

This measurement is similar to the gross combined rate. However, this includes the weight of a fully loaded trailer.

Gross axle weight

This is the amount of weight that is currently being supported by each axle.

Gross axle weight rating

This is the maximum amount of weight the axle can support.

What are Car Weight Classifications?

What a car weighs is dependent on many different goals and requirements. In addition, there are many ways to classify the weights of cars, depending on who is doing the classifying. Let’s look at the curb weight for cars based on their class or category.

Vehicle weights by size and type: bigger cars weigh more

Generally speaking, larger cars weigh more than smaller cars. Trucks and SUVs also tend to weigh more than similarly-sized cars. Here are some average weights for the various types of passenger vehicles on the market today:

Classification Example Avg. Class Weight
Subcompact Car Hyundai Accent 2,505 lbs.
Compact Car Toyota Corolla 2,919 lbs.
Midsize Car Honda Accord 3,361 lbs.
Large Car Dodge Charger 3,883 lbs.
Minivan Chrysler Pacifica 4,437 lbs.
Subcompact SUV Buick Encore 3,145 lbs.
Compact SUV Mazda CX-5 3,590 lbs.
Midsize SUV Ford Explorer 4,404 lbs.
Large SUV Chevrolet Tahoe 5,603 lbs.
Pickup Trucks
Midsize Pickup GMC Canyon 3,977 lbs.
Large Pickup RAM 1500 4,951 lbs.

NHTSA weight classifications

Here's a table showing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle classifications by weight:

Classification Description Weight Range
Mini Compact Smallest cars Up to 2,500 lbs
Subcompact Small cars 2,500 - 3,000 lbs
Compact Medium-small cars 3,000 - 3,500 lbs
Mid-Size Medium cars 3,500 - 4,000 lbs
Full-Size Largest cars Over 4,000 lbs
Small Pickup Trucks Smaller pickup trucks Up to 4,500 lbs
Standard Pickup Trucks Larger pickup trucks Over 4,500 lbs
Minivans Small vans Varies by model
Large Vans Large vans Over 8,500 lbs GVWR*
SUVs Sport Utility Vehicles Varies by model
Crossovers Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs) Varies by model

*GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

IIHS crash test weight/size classes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an insurance industry group with a crash testing program. To determine a size category for each vehicle, the IIHS uses a combination of weight and the size of the vehicle’s “shadow.” The shadow is the vehicle’s overall length multiplied by its width and expressed in square feet. Here is a simplified version:

Curb Weight in lbs. Size Range
Under 2,000 Micro
2,000 to 2,499 Mini to Small
2,500 to 2,999 Small to Midsize
3,000 to 3,499 Small to Midsize to Large
3,500 to 3,999 Small to Midsize to Large to Very Large
4,000 and up Midsize to Large to Very Large

FHWA vehicle weight classifications

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FHWA supports State and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the national highway system. The FHWA has created classifications for vehicles by their GVWR weight, which is the maximum weight that allows for safe operation on the roads:

Class Weight
Light Duty (by GVWR)
1 Under 6,000 lbs.
2 6,001 to 10,000 lbs.
Medium Duty (by GVWR)
3 10,001 to 14,000 lbs.
4 14,001 to 16,000 lbs.
5 16,001 to 19,500 lbs.
6 19,501 to 26,000 lbs.
Heavy Duty (by GVWR)
7 26,001 to 33,000 lbs.
8 33,001 lbs. and up

Note: GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is the maximum operating weight/mass of a vehicle as specified by the manufacturer, including the vehicle's chassis, body, engine, engine fluids, fuel, accessories, driver, passengers, and cargo, but excluding that of any trailers.

US Census Bureau truck weight classifications

The US Census Bureau classifies and counts trucks operating within the US by weight, using the following classification structure:

Classification Weight
Light-Duty Vehicle Under 10,000 lbs.
Medium-Duty Vehicle 10,000 to 19,500 lbs.
Light Heavy-Duty Vehicle 19,001 to 26,000 lbs.
Heavy-Duty Vehicle Over 26,000 lbs.

How to Determine the Weight of Your Vehicle

Now you have a general idea of what your car might weigh. However, the exact measurements can vary greatly by the type of car you have, the materials used to make the car, and the age of the vehicle. Here are some suggestions on how to be more specific about the weight of your car in tons.

Driver-side Door – Try opening the driver’s side door of your car. You may be able to find a sticker with the weight listed on it.

Car Manual – Your car’s manual is your guide to all things auto. Check your manual to find more specifications on your car’s weight.

Manufacturer – If you know the year, make, and model of your car, contact a customer service representative at the manufacturer’s office.

Car Scale – You can locate a nearby vehicle scale to get the weight of your car or truck.

As you can see, cars are heavy. Thinking of selling your junk car for cash? You can probably guess that the bigger the car, the more cash you’ll likely get. Not sure how much your car weighs? Try one of the methods above and use this information to get the best value on your junk car.

What are vehicle weight trends over time?

Vehicles are getting heavier over time. This is the result of a combination of both regulatory requirements and consumer demands. What we end up with are larger, roomier, stronger, safer, more efficient, less polluting, and more well-equipped vehicles in our national fleet. All those things increase the weight of the average vehicle on the road today.

The government makes cars heavier

Let’s start with how the US Government influences the weight of all vehicles:

  • The government has safety standards that require things like airbags and door beams to be added, which tend to make cars heavier. Cameras, radars, and other sensors for automated driver assistance systems add even more weight to vehicles. Some of this has been offset through the increased use of lightweight materials like plastics and aluminum.
  • The government mandates increasingly strict emission controls, which make additional pollution control systems necessary. This can also add weight.
  • But the government also requires cars to have improved fuel economy, which ideally should make cars lighter. Unfortunately, lighter vehicles are more vulnerable during impacts with larger, heavier vehicles. So cars have gotten a bit heavier as fuel economy increases, thanks to things like the turbochargers that are being added to many of today’s engines. The increasing use of more fuel-efficient but heavier transmissions, with more gears inside, is another way that today’s cars have become economical while still gaining weight.

Manufacturers make cars heavier

Vehicle manufacturers sell their cars, trucks, and SUVs by making each new model superior to its predecessor. This usually starts with an increase in interior space, so just about every new version of a given vehicle will be longer and broader. This requires more materials and will increase that vehicle’s weight. New models are also usually quieter inside, which takes extra sound insulation material. That adds weight. You can also count on more standard features on these new models – that also pack on the pounds. 

Consumer demands make cars heavier

Today’s consumers want certain equipment and options when they buy a car, and these in-demand items make most cars heavier. More and more people in colder climates want all-wheel drive on their cars. This provides safety in bad weather, but it also adds hundreds of pounds of weight. Panoramic glass sunroofs are another heavyweight option, as are larger wheels and tires. The current trend of increased SUV sales and decreased car sales has made the average car on the road heavier. A notable example of this is the growing popularity of big three-row SUVs, which can easily weigh between two and three tons – and that’s before you add any payload!

Questions about vehicle weights

What is the connection between weight & fuel efficiency?

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The less that a car weighs, the less fuel it takes to make it go a certain distance. Lighter, smaller cars do get the best fuel economy.

But what’s the best way to remove weight from a car? You can’t remove the safety and emissions control equipment – the government won’t let you. You can’t remove the air conditioning or the infotainment systems – car owners won’t go for that.

You may have heard of some specialized materials, like carbon fiber, that can be used to replace steel and greatly reduce the weight of a car. Unfortunately, carbon fiber is very expensive and would add significant cost to mass-market vehicles. It doesn’t matter how light a car is if no one can afford it!

Ford switched to an all-aluminum body for its F-150 pickup truck, which reduced the truck’s overall weight. Cadillac has been able to reduce the weight of some of its cars by using a mixture of materials for various parts and subassemblies. This is showing some promise, but it requires some advanced technologies to join pieces of different materials together permanently.

Once you own your car, there isn’t much you can do about its weight – or is there? Do you use your car as your personal storage locker? Are you constantly hauling around heavy sports equipment, weights, and other items that you don’t use regularly?

Here’s your chance to actually improve your car’s fuel efficiency! The EPA states that for every 100 lbs. worth of “stuff” you remove from your car, your fuel economy will improve by around one percent. You’ll see an even larger improvement with a smaller car. Give it a try!

What is the connection between weight & safety?

A lot of a modern car’s safety comes from how it is designed, as well as all of the airbags and other safety systems built into it. When everything works together during an impact, the body structures in the front and rear collapse to absorb much of the energy of the hit. At the same time, the airbags and seat belts keep the passengers in place within the very rigid structure of the passenger compartment, cushioning them from the remaining force of that impact.

So far, so good. But what if your car is larger (heavier) or smaller (lighter) than the one you have hit? Then pure physics comes into play, as force equals mass times acceleration. The larger, heavier vehicle will hit the lighter one with much more force and therefore is likely to cause more severe damage and injuries to the occupants of the smaller, lighter vehicle. Larger vehicles also have more “crumple space” between the driver and the front of the vehicle, which helps to absorb more of the impact of a frontal crash. This subject has been studied extensively, and the results are conclusive.

Of course, no matter how large your car is, there will always be larger vehicles than yours on the road. Delivery trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers are all out there in large numbers. Hitting one with any passenger vehicle will not be a pleasant experience. So buy the vehicle that’s right for you, and drive defensively!

What is the connection between weight & your car’s scrap metal content?

At this point, most of your car’s value will be determined by its metal content.  The vehicle recycling industry is heavily impacted by the scrap metal market.

Since most of a car’s weight comes from the metal in it, a heavier car containing more metal will be worth more than a lighter one with less. By weight, the average vehicle is 65% iron and steel, so a car weighing 3000 lbs. will contain around 2000 lbs., or a ton, of these two ferrous metals.

In addition, there are other valuable metals found in your vehicle. These include the aluminum found in some engine blocks and body parts, the lead in your battery and wheel balancing weights, the copper found in your vehicle’s wiring, and the platinum and palladium in your catalytic converter. These can all be reclaimed and reused to make new cars and other products, and they mean cash in your pocket when you junk your car. The heavier your car is, the more scrap metal it contains, so your payday from junking your car will be a bigger one.

Why Is It Important to Know a Car's Weight When Junking a Car?

t's important to know the car's weight when junking it as this helps to secure the best possible price for the junk car, as prices can be largely dependent on weight, as well as a variety of other factors.

To secure the best scrap value for your vehicle, it's important to know a few things before you inquire about an offer from a junk car buyer. You should have the following information on hand before you sell.

  • Model, make, year
  • Weight 
  • Odometer reading
  • Condition 

A car's weight plays an important factor in determining the junk car price. Heavier cars will bring in more than lighter cars, as a general rule of thumb. The heavier a vehicle is, the more weight in metal it has. This generally comes from the larger, more robust frame. This weight determines how much a vehicle can bring in when it's inevitably crushed and sent to the metal shredder at a recycling facility. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has noted that the average weight of vehicles has slowly been creeping upward over the years. This means that it's very likely that a newer 4-door sedan weighs more than one manufacturer a decade ago. Weight will vary significantly depending on the type of vehicle, such as a compact car versus a truck or a full-size SUV. 

If you already know the weight of your vehicle, you may be able to negotiate slightly with a junk car buyer. Professional buying services should offer a fair price without requiring any further negotiations, however. Some buyers may be taken aback by a junk car owner who knows the weight of the vehicle and its importance in the process of valuing the vehicle. 

The Impact of Junk Car Weight on Scrap Prices

When it comes to selling a junk car, one of the most critical factors that determine its value is the vehicle's weight. The weight of a junk car is directly tied to its scrap value because scrap prices are typically calculated on a per-ton basis. This means that the heavier your junk car, the more material there is to recycle, and consequently, the more money you can expect to receive.

Understanding Junk Car Weight

Junk cars come in various sizes and weights, ranging from lightweight compact cars to heavier SUVs and trucks. For example, a subcompact car like a Hyundai Accent might weigh around 2,500 lbs, while a large SUV like a Chevrolet Tahoe can weigh over 5,600 lbs. The weight of a vehicle is influenced by its size, the materials used in its construction, and any additional features or components it may have.

How Weight Affects Scrap Car Prices

A car's scrap value is influenced by the current market rates for metal, which can fluctuate based on supply and demand. When you sell a junk car, the buyer is primarily interested in the value of the metal content, including steel, aluminum, and other metals. As a result, the more your car weighs, the more metal it contains, and the higher its scrap value will be.

For example, if the current scrap price is $200 per ton, a 3,000-pound (or 1.5-ton) car could be worth approximately $300 in scrap value. However, if the same car were to weigh 4,000 pounds (or 2 tons), its scrap value could increase to around $400, assuming the same scrap price.

It's important to note that while weight is a significant factor, it's not the only consideration when determining a junk car's value. Other factors such as the make, model, condition, and location of the vehicle can also play a role.