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In this article I’ll give a simple answer to the question: how much weight can you put in a caravan?
Let’s start with a simple explanation: Every caravan will be different depending on what it’s starting weight is (Tare) and it’s legal maximum weight limit (Aggregate Trailer Mass). To find out how much you can carry you shouldn’t rely on the Tare that’s stated on your caravan’s compliance plate. You really need to first take it to a public weighbridge.
Here you’ll also find out why:
Just because a car has a certain towing capacity doesn’t mean you actually can tow something of that weight
Here we go:
How much weight can you put in a caravan?
You can put as much weight as you like in a caravan as long as you don’t exceed its maximum weight limit. This weight can be found on your caravan’s compliance plate, and is known as it’s Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM).
On your caravan’s compliance plate you’ll usually also find your caravan’s dry weight (Tare).
So theoretically… to find out the amount of additional weight (Payload) you can carry out a simple subtraction:
Payload = ATM – Tare
But here’s the thing:
The definition of Tare includes “with all standard equipment, and any options fitted”
Compliance plates are mass produced by some manufacturers so they may not reflect which options YOU have.
Even if you completely empty your van, it’s weight rarely matches the Tare that’s listed on the compliance plate
How can I work out my caravan’s payload?
Some people might say that it’s simple to find out how much weight you can put in a caravan:
“Just put everything you need in your van… then take it to a public weighbridge and check you’re not over your maximum (ATM) because that’s the only weight that really matters”
I can’t condone this:
You might get to the weighbridge only to find out you’ve been driving illegally on the way there.
And you still have to get home.
The odds might be small, but what if:
- You get pulled over and fined
- An accident happens (that’s not even your fault) and you void your insurance, or
- You have an accident and someone is seriously injured (or worse)
[Some people have had quite a rude shock and realised how little they can carry… sometimes less than 100 kg not including water]
So to find out how much additional weight you can carry in YOUR caravan:
- Empty out your van
- Take it to a public weighbridge to find out your REAL Tare
- Subtract that amount from the ATM on your compliance plate
Now that you know how much Payload you have to work with you can pack accordingly…
… and it will help you work out whether or not you should travel with your water tanks empty or full
Check out our article: Should You Tow a Caravan With Full Water Tanks?
How does my car determine how much weight I can put in a caravan?
There’s two things that you need to be aware of when you’re talking about how much weight your car can tow:
- Towing capacity, and
- Gross Combined Mass (GCM)
Firstly, towing capacity. This is usually a pretty simple number that your car comes with.
[It’ll be in your user’s manual]
Bottom line for this one:
Don’t tow anything heavier than your car’s rated tow capacity. Ever.
There’s a weight limit for when your car and caravan are together… your car’s Gross Combined Mass (GCM) limit.
This one is important because:
Your car might be under its maximum weight, your caravan might be under its maximum weight… but together they can be over.
So you might be able to tow a caravan that weighs as much as the towing capacity… but need to have your car pretty much empty to do so
Here’s an example with some rounded up numbers:
Let’s imagine a car that has a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) limit of 6,000 kg
It has a towing capacity of 3,500 kg, so you load up your van to this amount.
But the car’s kerb weight is 2,150 kg…
This means you’ve only got 350 kg left to work with.
[That amount will get used up pretty quickly with a tank of fuel, bull bar, and some people]
So you can either leave the kids at home… or pack less in your van
By the way:
This is a real vehicle that’s marketed as having a 3,500 kg towing capacity… the Holden Colorado
To answer the question, how much weight can you put in a caravan, you need to know a bit about your caravan and car.
Want to find out more?