In this article we’re going to give a simple explanation of how to work out caravan towing weights:

How to work out how much weight you can carry in your caravan?

If your car’s towing capacity legally allows you to tow this weight?

**HINT**: You may not be able max out on your car’s and caravan’s legal weight at the same time

Let’s get started:

## First… Why Do You Need to Know How to Work Out Caravan Towing Weights?

As long as I don’t pack too much I should be okay, right? ATM, GVM, GCM. I don’t need to worry about that stuff, do I?

Well, you might be the best driver in the world. But…

…what happens when you are involved in an accident that you didn’t cause?

What if someone pulls out in front of you and you have to try to stop suddenly?

Or if you have to swerve to miss an unexpected obstacle and get the wobbles?

Or you’re just plain unlucky and get called in over a weighbridge?

If you couldn’t be bothered learning about this stuff, you may as well not bother with paying for your insurance premiums either then.

Having a basic understanding of vehicle and towing weight definitions is a must for safety, reduced wear and tear, and for your hip pocket.

It can become overwhelming, so for simplicity sake we’ll use some rounded numbers.

So if you’re wondering how to work out caravan towing weights the first definition to understand is a caravan’s starting point:

## What is TARE Weight of a Caravan?

When talking caravans, this is the weight when not carrying any load, ready for service, and **with all standard equipment and any options fitted**.

Note well the last part of the definition, “**and any options fitted**”.

This means the tare mass that is listed on your mass produced compliance plate may not reflect your true ‘base weight’. Even straight out of the showroom, you may find a variation between what you think your van weighs and what it shows on the local weighbridge.

For our example we’ll use our caravan, a Jayco Expanda, which is pretty much 2,000kg

The next key definition to understand is the caravan’s maximum weight:

**Your Caravan’s Maximum Weight is the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) **

ATM is the total mass of the trailer when carrying the maximum load recommended by the manufacturer. This is the weight most people think about when talking towing capacity or how to work out caravan towing weights.

**When you’ve packed it with this stuff**: Most Popular Caravan Accessories for Travelling Australia [2019]

Our caravan has an ATM of about 2,500kg.

So pretty much, the load capacity (or payload) you can carry is:

**Load Capacity = ATM – Tare**

This would give 2,500kg – 2,000kg = 500kg load capacity.

Right?

Well, that annex, gas, food, clothes, the water in the tanks (grey and potable) all start to add up pretty quickly.

Really, the only way you know whether or not you’re compliant is to take yourself over a weighbridge.

So, as long as you have a vehicle that’s rated for 2,500kg towing capacity and you don’t overfill the caravan you’re right now, yes?

Maybe.

Still need to consider the tow vehicle:

## What is TARE Weight of a Car?

Similar to the caravan definition, this is the mass of a vehicle, unoccupied and unladen, with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity except for fuel, which shall be 10 litres only, and with all standard equipment and any options fitted.

In this example we’ll use a car that conveniently has a Tare of 2,000kg.

Now we have the base weight of the vehicle, I’m sure you can guess where this is heading?

## Your Car’s Maximum Weight is Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)

This is the maximum laden mass of a motor vehicle as specified by the ‘Manufacturer’.

This is pretty similar to Aggregate Trailer Mass, just on the tow vehicle side of things. Same way of working out the vehicles’ load capacity:

**Load Capacity = GVM – Tare**

If our fictional car had a max GVM of 3,000kg and a Tare of 2,000kg, that would leave us 1,000kg of load capacity… The loads that need to be taken into consideration here though include people, the rest of the fuel, things like roofracks and bumper bars, luggage, etc.

But wait, there’s more. The big one:

## The Maximum Total Weight for Your Car and Caravan is Gross Combined Mass (GCM)

**This is one of the most important things to consider in how to work out caravan towing weights**

This is the value specified for the vehicle by the ‘Manufacturer’ as being the maximum of the sum of the ‘Gross Vehicle Mass’ of the drawing vehicle plus the sum of the ‘Axle Loads’ of any vehicle capable of being drawn as a trailer (i.e. the max weight of both vehicle and manufacturer.

So, we might have a caravan with an Aggregrate Trailer Mass of 2,500kg, and a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3,000kg. We have a total of 5,500kg between the two.

Sounds good, as both the car and van aren’t overweight, right?

Well, the Gross Combined Mass may be less than this (e.g. 5,350k). So although neither of the elements are overweight, the combination may be.

A final point to make:

**Towball Download: You Caravan Loses Weight and Your Car Gains It**

Normally 10% of the trailer is transferred onto the tow vehicle.

[Not always the case though… read our article: How To Work Out Caravan or Camper Tow Ball Weight]

In this scenario, that’s 250kg extra that needs to be added up with the rest of the gear. If you were already maxed out with people and stuff, putting a trailer on may make the tow vehicle overweight. It’s a bonus for the trailer though, as weight comes off the tally (and hopefully ensures you’re below the Aggregate Trailer Mass)… which is:

**Gross Trailer Mass**

So when the trailer is couple to the towing vehicle, it’s given up the weight off the jockey wheel and instead the car is carrying it, this is known as Gross Trailer Mass (GTM)

It’s very easy to check your weights… you can get a ball weight scale from eBay for less than $50 with free postage:

Cheap and easy. For more things like this check out our list of 20 Caravan Gadgets Under $20 [That Make Travelling Australia Easier]

Or:

Most Popular Caravan Accessories for Travelling Australia [2019]

[Just don’t get too much stuff]

## Summary: How to Work Out Caravan Towing Weights

The amount you can put in your caravan is it’s max weight (ATM) minus it’s TARE (it’s base weight)

The amount you can put in your car is it’s max weight (GVM) minus its TARE (it’s base weight)

When you put the two together… you max not be able to max out on both

The references for these definitions are all from legislation and the ADRs. But hey, even though I used the textbook definitions, it’s my fault if I haven’t explained anything clearly so there’s still some confusion.

If that’s the case, please leave a comment, and I’ll go back to the drawing board.

I have gone cross eyed

Now colour blind and cross eyed? Simon, I don’t think you should be driving 😉

Thanks for great explanation.

Our pleasure Frank!

So I have a dmax with a gvm of 2950

I have a canopy and fridge and batteries added

So I recon my total vehicle weight including myself and my wife full tank of fuel would be 2850

Demax gcm is 5950

A caravan we are looking at buying has a atm 3080

Total that up is 5930

Because the atm is 3080 and they say to use 10 % for ball weight (300) but the caravan is listed as having 160 ball weight?

So even if the ball weight is 160 that would put my vehicle overweight 3010, is that a problem or do the scalies work on the overall

Which just under

I suppose my question is if you get pulled up by the scalies do they go on gcm or car and caravan separate

Hi Steve, you can get weighed as a combination AND the car/van individually

This pretty much means you might have to look at how your car is loaded and see if there’s 60Kg you can transfer to the van

This is a problem that commonly pops up… tow capacity may not always be able to be fully utilised when you’ve also got weight in the car

The 160 kg ball weight sounds pretty light for a van of ATM 3080 kg, it’s a touch over 5%. It’d be worth using some ball scales to check that

OK – I’m 74 and confused. My Lexus has a GVM of 3260 and my Jayco Silverline has ATM 3110. I weighed the car with the van attached to the tow ball – that weight was 3,300 so I take it I’m over by 40 kilos ? The van, attached to the towing vehicle but with all the van’s wheels on the weighbridge weighed 2,860. So am I legally under the 3110 ATM ? If I take 40 kilos out of the car and transfer it into the van am I now fully legal ?

Yes, sounds like you’re over in the car by 40 kg when the caravan is attached.

1. The 3,300 kg that your car weighed is with the car carrying some of the caravan’s weight (the tow ball download) which could be anywhere between 200-300 kg for a van of your size

2. The van’s ATM is measured when it’s unhitched. So without knowing how much your car was offloading from the van, it’s hard to know exactly. If it was only 200 kg towball weight you’d just scrape in… but if it’s 250 kg, then adding on the 40 kg from the car would put the van over too

3. Best thing to do would be (a) go back to the weighbridge and measure the car and van when they’re unhitched

(I’d probably get some towball scales too)

Thank you for your prompt reply, Steve. My ball weight is about 290, so the car, without ball weight is 3010 and, to my mind, quite legal. The Van, including ball weight is 3150, so overweight by 40k. What is confusing me is that we seem to be adding ball weight to both car and caravan. I can’t get my head around that – is that the way it is ? If that’s the way they work it out, it seems I’m 40k over with both car and van – total 80k ??

Hi Don, sounds right – things have weight limits when they’re isolated AND when they’re combined. By the looks of things your overweight in your van when it’s sitting there by itself (the ATM).

When you hook it up to the car, some of the van’s weight is transferred to the car… but that then makes the car overweight

I would have a look and see (a) if you can shed some kilos from your payload, or (b) if your van is pretty much close to it’s ATM when it has nothing in it (it’s TARE), it might be worth speaking to the dealer. Sometimes the weight that it comes to you is higher than the listed TARE… which happens more than you think

Cheers,

Michael

Thanks for your reply, Michael. I do believe the caravan Manufacturers ‘fiddle’ with the weights (ball weights, ATM weight, etc.) With both of my last two Jayco vans, (both have front kitchens) I have had new compliance plates issued as, even when empty, I just could not get the ball weight down to what was on the compliance plate. With my current Silverline, we are only carrying 20 litres of water, have cut back big time on what we carry and are still overweight. I have been told that included in your allowed payload is the water you carry, the gas bottles, bed mattress, solar panel, etc., so you end up being able to carry bugger all of your own stuff. It all seems ridiculous to me. Anyway, thanks again for your advice.

Don

I have a Mazda bt50 which has been upgraded by a qualified engineer and comes in at tare2250 and gvm3330and van that has been upgraded by the same engineer tare2060 gvm and I put it over the weigh ridge and came up with the following a

Weights total weight combined 5.9400 / ute3240kgs van2700 kts loaded my estimation is that I would have 250 kgsup my sleeve and 90 kgs up my sleeve for ute does this seem right also what would the ball weight be for this combination all walk has been done and passed by NSW Registration and is printed on my Rego papers Thanking for your time as I am in my late sevenths and seems confusing to me and I am trying to do the right thing Regards Ken

Hi Ken,

When you say that your ute’s weight is 3240 kgs is that with the van attached or unhitched? If that’s the weight with the van hitched up then yes, you have another 90 kg weight capacity. Which is pretty much one person and no passenger!

For your ball weight… an estimate is that it’s 10% of your van’s weight… but this would vary depending on how your van is loaded. I actually wrote this post here today to help you out: https://abigpeacheyadventure.com.au/tow-ball-weight/

Cheers,

Michael and Natalie

Hi Chief, picking up an old thread here, but would like your take on something. I have an NW Pajero. with a tow rating of 3t with a Tb weight of <180 or 2.5 t for over 180 kg tbw.

we have been away in the van previously, but i have just taken it over a weighbridge. and would like clarity on the following. weights came back as 2.85t for the car (inc tbw) and the van 2.35. do i include the tow ball weight in the van weight when i am looking at towing capacity (ie if i am limited to 2.5 t – is that with or without the tow ball weight – the scales have it as 2.36 hitched or 2.64 unhitched) this has a significant impact. i can redistribute some weight to bring the TBW down to 250kg, but want to ensure that i am not towing more than 2.5 t. my understanding is that weight (tbw ) becomes part of the tow vehicles axle loading and therefore GVM. what is your take?

Hi Shaun, towing capacity refers to Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)… so the weight of the caravan unhitched which here is 2.64t

So you might be able to move some weight from your van to your car (as long as you don’t exceed the car’s max weight (GVM) or the max gross combined weight (GCM)

Bear in mind – once you redistribute weight it will throw out the towball download calculations as this is entirely based on where you put the weight, not how much. There’s an article on here about that too if you’re interested

Cheers

Hi there,

I have a couple of questions and would really appreciate it if you could shed some light. The 2018 Isuzu MUX states a kerb weight of 2157kg and a GVM of 2750 so that leaves me with 593kg for passengers and other items including bullbar etc. So if there are 2 adults 90 + 75 kg + 5 kids 1 @ 70, 35, 30, 25, 25 (which is actually a reality) that adds up to 350 kg for passengers leaving me with 243kg. Subtract 50kg bullbar and 50 kg roof racks (unloaded) leaves me with 143kg max weight on the towball. Is this correct? If so then if I was towing a caravan that weighed (loaded) 2860kg I would need to ensure that only 5% (143kg) of the caravan (2860) was on the towball. So in essence nothing on the racks, don’t feed the kids, no more growing etc. Also being a 7 seater that means that if you had 7 adults that weighed 84 kg then you couldn’t tow anything because you exceed the 593kgs for the payload on the vehicle. I hope i’m wrong somewhere with all of this. I do realise that it’s unlikely to have 7 adults in the car all weighing 84 kg but throw a couple of adults weighing 100kg, Mum at 70, 4 kids all at 50 thats 470 which leaves 123kg on the towball nothing else on the car. If this is right then there must be a very high % of people that are exceeding the limits and some misleading advertising by the manufacturers.

Thanks for your time, look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Andrew, to answer your question:

Yes, this is correct. Not only that: kerb weight is usually calculated with only 10L of fuel. So with an MUX’s 65L tank, there’s another 40 odd kg to take into account.

Unfortunately it’s a case for a lot of vehicles that you can have (1) the car fully loaded and not tow, or (2) tow with a pretty much empty car.

You’re right, it is misleading advertising (particularly the vehicles that claim they have a 3.5t towing capacity)

Hi again Andrew… I put this together based on your question! I’m using the MU-X as the example in this article: https://abigpeacheyadventure.com.au/car-towing-weights/

Hi.

looking at buying a used van in WA. Specs Tare 1168 ATM 1540 GTM 1376 Towball 164. front kitchen.

Vehicle 2016 Nissan Xtrail 4wd petrol Towing 1500 tow ball rated 150 kg. Tare 1526 GVM 2080

Vehicle specs says 150kg towball down pressure reduces car load by 205kg. after allowing for that I’m confident I can keep vehicle GVM under capacity with 2 passengers fuel & luggage

I’m confident I can keep the van weight below the vehicle towing capacity of 1500 BUT

what about the Towball weight.

Concerned about load on towbar & ball and Road Traffic & Insurance compliance.

Is the answer- get the Caravan & Tow bar professionaly weighed?

If the Weighbridge certificate says the van ATM & Towbar under car capacity 1500/150 will that pass the authorities & Insurance OR do they rely onCompliance plate only?

Hi Rodney,

Yes, I recommend going to a weighbridge and getting it weighed. Bear in mind that towball download is entirely dependant on how you’ve loaded your van. Not just how much, but where you’ve put it (check out our related article,How To Work Out Caravan Tow Ball Weight

If you do this, I’d recommend that when you weigh it, get it done with your exact set-up… this way you can be assured that it’s right

[Even though a compliance plate says a tow ball download of 150 kg, the moment you put a generator box on the front it’ll increase it, and if you move it back over the axles it’ll decrease it]

G’day mate. This appears to be a never ending saga. Would appreciate some clarity. I have a prado with a 2500gk towing capacity. A GVM of 2850 kg and a GCM of 5300kg. I have a jayco van with an ATM of 2450 and GTM of 2300kg. I went over the weigh bridge (3 sections) and it came back with the car at 2,240kg, ball weight of 250kg and van weight of 2100kg.

Does that mean I have an extra 200kg payload in the van? And if the ball weight is added to the car, 350kg payload to the car?

I keep getting stuck with my calculations over the ball weight and whether that needs to be contributed to the van. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

BTW – the car was weighed with 180l of fuel and the van had 180l of water and all gear except for food and clothes.

Hi Martin,

Just to clarify – when you went over the weigh-bridge and you have “van weight of 2100kg”… is this attached to the car? Or by itself?

Cheers

That was unhitched however it was a 3 pad weigh bridge. So the van was on its own pad, the jockey wheel was on the next, and the car was further forward on the 3rd pad.

In essence, it was as if it was hitched.

So my calculations are that I have a GTM of 2300kg minus a tare of 2100kg so I have 200kg payload in the van.

The ATM is 2450kg, so as the van sits in the driveway, I have 2450kg – (2100kg + 250 ball weight) = 100kg to spare.

The car GVM is 2850kg. It weighed in at 2240kg. When the caravan is hitched, add the 250kg weight which takes it to 2490kg which gives me a 360kg payload to play with.

So all up, 360kg in the car and 200kg in the van when they are joined together. Right?

BTW – great blog/site. Enjoy your travels!

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the feedback

The above looks good, but one comment based on “The ATM is 2450kg, so as the van sits in the driveway, I have 2450kg – (2100kg + 250 ball weight) = 100kg to spare”

and

“So all up, 360kg in the car and 200kg in the van when they are joined together”

If you go over a weigh-bridge, you may be asked to uncouple your van. If you have 200kg in it… you’ll immediately be over the ATM

So it looks like you may only have 100kg of payload in the van to work with

Cheers,

Michael

Ahhhhh!!!! Didn’t think of that.

I guess I could always argue that once I got there, I had every intention of removing al the chairs, tables, etc out of the van so it would be under the ATM.

Thanks so much with this. It can be quite confusing and its good to know your weights.

The combined prado and jayco tow really well. I use Airbag man bags to decrease the sag and the van has dual independent suspension. It just pull straight and I never get the sway in high winds or poor conditions. I’m really happy with it.

All the best with your adventure. I’ll keep checking in to watch your progress.

Hi Jen here need HELP looking at buying a silverline that has a weight upgrade want to know if we would be legal towing with our holden colorado ute power is not the proplem just want to know if we wold be legal figures i know of are as follows ute GCM 6000 GVM 3150 current weight around 2200 max ball weight 350 tow 3500 – VAN tare 2735 GTM3136 ATM 3335 empty ball mass 199

I think we would be able to load up to 600 in the van and up to 400 in the ute this would be the max to stay at the 6000 combo of car and van.

Hi Jen,

Vehicle GVM of 3150kg: If you’re currently 2200kg, even if you maxed the ball weight of 350kg… at a total of 2550kg you’re good

Vehicle GCM of 6000kg: If you’re currently 2200kg of car, even if you maxed the van out at it’s ATM of 3335kg… at a total of 5555kg you’re good

Hope that helps,

Michael

GCM 6000 GVM 3150 current weight around 2200 max ball weight 350 tow 3500 – VAN tare 2735 GTM3136 ATM 3335 empty ball mass 199

I think we would be able to load up to 600 in the van and up to 400 in the ute this would be the max to stay at the 6000 combo of car and van.

I too am very confused about all this even though after reading most of the questions and answers provided. My question is, after getting the GVM increased up to 3500 kg in my 2017 Ranger does this increase the GCM which is 6000 from factory.

Hi Bob,

Unfortunately not – a GVM upgrade only changes GVM.

For your GCM, there’s been some changes to GCM upgrade laws… which state are you in?

Hi, I m totally confused trying to work out what is legal for a 5th wheeler and a vehicle to tow it, ccould you please help, , the tare weight of trailer is 3400, the gross weight of the trailer is 4495, the vehicle is modified toyota sahara tray body, with hitch in front of rear axle and it has a GVM of 3800 and a GCM of 7300, brakes are standard, but body has been extended by 1 meter, and it has a VASS certificate

Thanks and regards

Tamara Phillips

Hi Tamara,

Whether you can toe or not will depend a lot on how much weight you have in the car and caravan

The Tare of your trailer is 3400 kg… let’s say you only have 100 kg in it… so you’re towing 3500 kg

If your car is loaded up to it’s GVM of 3800 kg, then when you add the two together you’re already at you GCM of 7300 kg

So… you really need to weigh your car with it loaded up as you intend to drive it

Also:

Weigh the van with everything you’ll be carrying

Hope this helps,

Michael

Hi Michael,

just reading through the explanation and got a little confused, could you confirm my understanding of trailer weights please.

ATM = The maximum weight of the trailer as a whole standing alone.

GVM = The maximum weight on the axle’s of the trailer, connected to the tow vehicle ready to tow on the road.

This being the case any mass over the GVM up to the ATM of the trailer will have to be transferred through the tow ball to the tow vehicle. This will need to consider the max tow ball weight, max GVM and max GCM of the tow vehicle

Hi Colin,

That’s right – they’re the things that need to be considered (there’s also the car’s rated tow capacity)

Michael

Hi Michael

I gather that Jayco allow a load in their campertralers of 300kg on all their models. Then they weigh the trailer and add the 300kg to calculate an ATM. If you specify extras at ordering time the Tare will be higher and after they add the 300kg the ATM will be higher than a similar campertrailer without the extras. Why don’t Jayco (and maybe other manufacturers as well) just calculate an ATM based on the structural strengths of chassis, body and axles (with suspension) so as to come to a common ATM for all their (similar) campers? That would make the whole exercise much more transparent.

Thanks.

Regards.

Gerrit

I agree – that makes way more sense!

Hi , we have a Nissan Xtrail 4WD with a 1500kg braked and 750kg unbraked capacity.

What size and type of caravan would we be able to tow?

Cheers

Sue and Jeff

Hi Sue,

In addition to your braked towing capacity, there’s a few other things that need to be taken into consideration

Check out this article here: https://abigpeacheyadventure.com.au/car-towing-weights/

This one should hopefully directly answer your question,

Michael

Hello,

I am considering purchasing a 1007 Coromal Princeton caravan. As have many I have encountered the weight and balance issue.

The Tare weight is 2018

ATM is 2510

GTM is 2327

Axle group load Capacity is 2800

From the figures I assume 492 kg of payload.

The van has also an additional 120 lite water tank

solar panels and 2 batteries

additional spare

The tow vehicle is a 2011 Colorado 4x4x diesel auto

Tare is 1915

Kerb Weight is estimated at 1964

Payload approx 978

Towing capacity 3000

Max ball load 300

gross combination mass 5900

My question is, is this van too heavy for the vehicle?

Hi John,

There’s a few things to consider here:

1. Towing capacity: *PASS* At 3000kg, that’s plenty for the ATM of 2510kg

2. Towball download: *MAYBE* Even though 10% is thrown around, this might be 8-14% of your van’s weight. So if your van is at max weight of 2510kg, if your ball weight is at 12% you’re maxed out. Definitely need to check towball based on how you load (it changes – see this article How To Work Out Caravan Tow Ball Weight [3 Options])

3. Car GVM: *MAYBE* If your payload is approx 978… take off up to 300kg of ball weight and you’re down to 678. Add in a family of 5, a tank of fuel, drawers, bullbar, and an Engel?). Need to do the maths here.

4. Car GCM: *PASS* At a GCM of 5900kg, if your van is at max weight of 2,510kg that leaves about 3,400kg leftover. Based on the car’s Tare and Payload you’ve listed above, there’s capacity there

Hope this helps – otherwise check out How Much Weight Can My Car Legally Tow?

Thanks for explaining that you can find out how much your car can carry by subtracting its TARE from its GVM. I want to be able to haul a heavy caravan one day. I’ll have to try and make my car’s GVM better so the TARE doesn’t take too much off when I subtract the two.

Hi Franklin, it’s worth mentioning that GVM and payload is only one part of the equation… there’s 4 towing weights that would need to be taken into consideration.

Have a quick look at: How Much Weight Can My Car Legally Tow?

Hi getting confuse. I have a 2012 toyota kluger. Towing cap.2000kg Gvm 2630 Gcm 4630 Kerb 1940 payload 690. I want to buy a jayco expanda 2012 model 16ft. 17ft. Can i tow this caravans. Please help. Thanks

Hi Colin, how heavy is this model of Expanda?