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How to calculate gas mileage when towing a trailer

Updated April 12, 2019

When you tow a trailer, the added weight lowers the miles per gallon (MPG). How much the gas mileage drops will depend on the trailer's weight. Other factors such as the design and condition of the trailer, as well as road conditions and driving speed, also play a role in determining your gas mileage when towing a trailer. However, you can estimate your gas mileage in advance. If you keep mileage and fuel consumption records, you will be able to calculate the exact gas mileage afterward, providing you with an accurate estimate for future trips.

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  1. Determine your vehicle’s gas mileage without the trailer if you don’t know it already. Start by recording the odometer reading the next time you buy gas and fill the tank. Drive until the gas tank is near empty (around a quarter tank), then fill the tank up again and record the ending odometer reading. Subtract the starting from the ending odometer reading to find the miles driven. Divide by the number of gallons of gas purchased to fill the tank the second time to calculate your vehicle’s normal gas mileage.

  2. Estimate the weight of your trailer including cargo. The trailer weight will be listed in your owner's manual. If you are renting the trailer, the dealer can tell you the weight of the trailer when empty. You’ll need to estimate the amount of cargo you are loading onto the trailer. Alternatively, you can stop by a weighing station and have the loaded trailer weighed. In most states, the highway patrol operates such stations. Be aware that there may be a small fee.

  3. Estimate the drop in gas mileage. For light loads (under 1134 Kilogram) subtract 10 to 15 per cent from your normal gas mileage. For medium loads, subtract 15 to 25 per cent, and for heavy trailer loads of 5,000 or more subtract 25 to 35 per cent.

  4. Calculate the actual gas mileage when towing a trailer so you will have an accurate measure of fuel consumption in the future. Start with a full gas tank and record the odometer reading. Keep all gas purchase receipts. When your trip is complete, fill the gas tank and record the odometer reading. Subtract the starting odometer reading from the ending reading to determine miles driven. Total how many gallons of gas you purchased on the trip. Divide miles driven by total gallons purchased to figure out the actual gas mileage when towing a trailer.

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About the Author

William Adkins

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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