How Much Does a Car Weigh?
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How Much Does a Car Weigh?

By Evan Walton | April 29, 2021

The average weight of a car in 2021 is 4,094 pounds, which is only a slight reduction from 2020.

Subcompact cars such as the Kia Rio have an average weight of 2,433 pounds.

For smaller cars, the average is lower than the overall average at 2,660 pounds. A small car example would be the Honda Civic at 2,771 pounds.

Midsize vehicles such as the Toyota Camry weigh an average of 3,361 pounds.

For large cars, the average car weighs 4,400 pounds like the Subaru Ascent weighing 4,430 pounds.

What Effects a Car's Weight:

There are a few contributing factors that make up a car's weight. These factors differ between the materials used during the production of the vehicle, the engine size of the vehicle, and the vehicle class.

Understanding your vehicle's weight is not only a safety consideration but is also a way to understand your projected fuel economy. There are a variety of ways to count the weight of a vehicle. Below are the most common ways a vehicle can be measured and referred to:

Different types of Vehicle Weight:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight: (GVW This weight is inclusive of passengers, cargo, and any added equipment.

  • Curb Weight: (CW)- The Curb Weight refers to the vehicle without the presence of passengers, cargo, or any extra equipment, so how the vehicle sits without outside factors.

  • Payload: The payload of a vehicle includes the weight of the vehicle, passengers, cargo, equipment, and anything being towed by the vehicle.

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): This is a way to measure the maximum allowed weight on the vehicle including all weigh sources before the vehicle's safety declines.

  • Gross Combined Weight: Gross combined weight is a measurement of your vehicle, and a trailer if you are towing one, to include cargo aboard the trailer.

  • Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight: This weight is measured through the inclusion of your vehicle and a trailer that is loaded to maximum capacity.

  • Gross Axle Weight: A rating placed on the amount of weight each axle of your vehicle can handle as a set, both front, and rear.

  • Gross Axle Weight Rating: This is a rating for each axle on your vehicle and explains how much weight each axle can handle.

Improved Fuel Economy

Vehicle weight has been closely linked with fuel economy, and the EPA has kept track of both for vehicles since the 1975 model year. The average fuel economy for 2020 light-duty vehicles was 25.7 miles per gallon (MPG), which was slightly higher than the previous year and a record high.

In 2018 the EPA recorded a record low in CO2 admissions, which rose by one percent in the following year. Since 2004, fuel economy has gotten better by 29 percent, and both emissions and fuel economy have improved 12 of the 15 years recorded.

Even more encouraging is the fact that fuel economy has continued to improve while weight and horsepower have started to increase again. In 2005, technology allowed both power and fuel economy to increase while weight remained largely the same.

In 2020 we see new cars receiving a huge increase in horsepower while weight is slowly creeping up again. As previously mentioned, weight has largely increased gradually over the years with only a few years seeing a dip or a spike.

Heavier vehicles are generally thought to be safer and in today’s market, more weight does not necessarily correlate with poor fuel economy due to improvements in engine and transmission efficiency. What’s more, technology hasn’t just increased efficiency but it has simultaneously helped automakers improve horsepower without increasing weight drastically. This trend has been particularly strong since the mid-2000s.

An EPA graph for fuel economy, weight, and horsepower for the 1975 model year through 2020 shows fuel economy and horsepower rising together through most of the years while weight has remained largely stable with a slight increase in the 2019 plus model years.

The influx of weight in the 2019 plus model year vehicles is largely in part to the increase of standard safety features offered by each manufacturer. Safety features and more elaborate interiors offered across the board in all makes and models of vehicles have contributed to the slight increase in weight year by year.

Stable New Vehicle Footprint

The footprint of a vehicle is the size of the vehicle judged by the area it occupies with all four tires. This number can be found by multiplying the wheelbase by the average track width (track width is the width between the right and left tires).

Fuel economy standards rely on vehicle footprint to determine fuel economy targets. The EPA began collecting footprint data for the 2008 car model year. Between 2008 and 2020, the average footprint size across all five vehicle types has remained fairly stable.

Truck footprint increased by 2.4 percent, cars increased by 2.1 percent, minivans and vans increased by 1.9 percent, truck-based SUVs increased by 0.7 percent and CUVs decreased by 0.4 percent.

The average of these footprints is largely influenced by market trends and the types of new vehicles made. Since 2008, the market trends have gone strongly towards trucks, CUVs, and SUVs, while cars and vans have dropped.

Because of this shift, the overall industry average footprint has gone up by 1.2 percent to an average size of 49.5 square feet. Values for 2021 were unchanged from 2020.

SUV Market Share At Record High

Crossovers (CUVs or known as car SUVs in the EPA report) have eaten up market share for several years, but data also shows that truck SUVs are also enjoying a larger share. Both types achieved record-high fuel economy as well.

CUVs, compact SUVs, and SUVs combined for a 50 percent market share in 2020, over 48 percent in 2019. Pickup trucks comprise another 20 percent of the market in 2020 over the previous 19 percent in 2019.

Crossovers have an average weight of 3,590 pounds and an average fuel efficiency MPG rating of 26.4. The fuel economy for SUVs was 24.2. Trucks also saw a marked increase in fuel economy, which puts them at their highest-ever average, tied with trucks in 1986. This is an achievement considering that trucks then were much smaller and weighed up to a third less than trucks today. The average weight for a light-duty pickup in 2021 is 4,000-4,700 pounds.

The fact that SUVs and CUVs make up such a large share of the market contributes to average weight staying the same and not decreasing, which might happen with a larger small passenger car market share.

Technology Effects

By 2017, over half of all vehicles were projected to use gasoline direct injection (GDI). This is a significant increase; the technology was only used in around three percent of vehicles ten years ago. Several automakers have adopted this technology in their entire vehicle lineup.

Brands like Ford, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and VW lead the way in using turbochargers along with GDI, which has resulted in a quarter of the market share. Nearly a quarter of vehicles also use continuously variable transmissions, which increases fuel economy and decreases weight. Japanese automakers use CVTs the most, while domestic and European brands have moved towards transmissions with seven speeds or more or use dual-clutch transmissions.

The majority of vehicle brands also now offer all-wheel-drive (AWD) as an option in their lineup. Some surprising new vehicles offering AWD are the Toyota Avalon, Dodge Challenger, and the Nissan Altima. The AWD technology has shown its increased benefits throughout the 2000s and continues to improve all-weather drivability.

What are the lightest cars in the U.S. market?

Even though the lightest new car sold in America in 2021 weighed less than a 1998 four-door Toyota Tercel, on average America still buys heavier cars than the rest of the world. For example, the Honda Fit is the 10th lightest new car in the U.S. market and it weighs just over 2,500 pounds which is increased in comparison to 1988 when a base Civic weighed 1,933 pounds. Some other examples of lighter cars on the American market in 2021 include the Nissan Versa at 2,599 pounds, the Mazda MX-5 Miata at 2,341 pounds, the Toyota Yaris at 2,822 pounds, and the Chevy Spark at 2,246 pounds.

Even though there are plenty of light cars available in the American market, the domination of SUVs, CUVs, and trucks in the market has raised the average market size.

What are some of the heavyweights on the U.S. market?

Surprisingly, the heaviest vehicles on the American market are not just SUVs. For example, the Mercedes-Maybach S560 4Matic sedan weighs in at just over 5,000 pounds. That's only 300 pounds less than the Mercedes-Benz GLS, which is an SUV. That particular SUV gets even heavier with an optional engine at 5,798 pounds.

The Ford Expedition has always been a heavy vehicle, but Ford recently managed to decrease its weight through the use of aluminum for its body panels and by using a turbo V6 rather than a heavier V8. It now weighs just over 5,400 pounds. Its luxury cousin, the Lincoln Navigator, weighs as much as 6,000 pounds with the addition of four-wheel-drive.

Some other scale-busting heavy cars on the American market include the Rolls-Royce Phantom luxury sedan (5,644 pounds), the Infiniti QX80 SUV (5,678 pounds), the Toyota Sequoia SUV (5,730 pounds), the Chevrolet Suburban 3500 HD (6,585 pounds), and the Cadillac Escalade ESV SUV (5,993 pounds). Remember, too, that in most cases those are base model figures. Larger engines, four-wheel-drive, and luxury trim balloon the weight as much as 500 or 600 pounds in some vehicles.

How to find the weight of a car

For safety, it is important to know how much your car weighs for a multitude of reasons. It is important to understand the maximum weight your vehicle can tow without causing damage, how many passengers and cargo you can safely travel with, and if there is a bridge or road that has a weight limit, knowing your vehicle's total weight limits are important. For reference for your specific vehicle, there are tools available to you that will give you the exact weight of your vehicle.

The driver's side door has a sticker with the weight of your car listed on the sill of the door frame. When you purchase a car, you receive an owner's manual that also lists all of the appropriate weights for your vehicle. You can also call the vehicle manufacture, providing them with your vehicle's year, make, model, and vehicle identification number and they will provide you with any weight measurement you require.

The last and often most efficient way to get an accurate measurement of your vehicle's weight is to take your vehicle to a vehicle scale location. You can go online to find the closest vehicle scale to you, and get an accurate measurement of weight from there. Weights you find online may be a different weight than what your local scale states. Understanding the limitations of your vehicle will help keep you and other drivers safe on the roadways.

Maximum vehicle weights for roadways

Every US state has a maximum weight and size determination for vehicles traveling on both highways and roads throughout the state. The majority of states established a weight limit of about 80,000 pounds, and many Canadian Provinces allow over 90,000 pounds. Federal law also comes into play with the regulation of 80,000 pound GVW limitation with 20,000 pounds on one axle and 34,000 on a tandem axle group. There are resources available if you are concerned that your cargo may place you over the legal limit, one of which is the DOT website. The DOT website will inform you of your individual state's legal limitations to ensure the safety of all on the roadway.