Understanding Caravan Towing Capacity

When you were first dreaming of the idea of owning a caravan and taking off to see Australia, having the holiday of your lifetime, did you think you could just quickly stick your caravan on your car, pack your stuff and away you go? I’m sure you will know by now, if you’ve done your research, that it’s not quite that simple. You need to understand your vehicle’s caravan towing capacity, which really only happens when you have your head around all the different weights associated with your car and your caravan.

To help you understand your caravan towing capacity, we’ve compiled a list of key caravan towing capacity terms and definitions, which you can keep handy for when you’re preparing for your big adventure.

1.    Tare Mass – tare mass is essentially the weight of an empty vehicle or container, so you’ll see the terms tare mass (vehicle), which is the weight of your car as per the manufacturers specifications, and tare weight (caravan), which is the weight of your caravan without anything added.

2.    Payload – Any mass added to your vehicle’s tare mass. This includes passengers, luggage, bull bars and tow ball mass. Standard specifications set by the manufacturer include fuel and other liquids, and these don’t count towards your payload.

3.    Maximum payload (caravan) – Essentially anything and everything you’ve added to your caravan since purchasing it. The maximum payload is the top weight allowed to be added as per the manufacturers specifications. It doesn’t include the weight of your passengers.

4.    Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) – The maximum weight limit your car’s wheels can support. This is set by the car manufacturer.

5.    Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) – tare weight (caravan) + maximum payload

6.    Tow Ball Mass (TBM) – This is the weight placed on your tow ball when you hitch your fully loaded caravan to it.

7.    Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) – The maximum weight your caravan’s wheels can support, not including the weight taken by the car when the caravan is hitched. The caravan manufacturer sets this weight and it cannot be exceeded.

8.    Gross Combined Mass (GCM) – the combination of the maximum allowed weight of the car and caravan combined. 

Where Can I find these Weights?

Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), Tow Ball Mass (TBM), Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) are stamped on your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Plate. If you’re still confused, have a chat to your caravan retailer and they can talk you through everything to make sure you are set up properly.

Don’t let all the technical names and definitions put you off. Towing a caravan is like anything- understand the basics, speak to experienced people to get a better idea of what you’re doing, prepare and practice. Leave yourself plenty of time before your trip to get a full understanding of everything required. Caravan towing capacity is simply one (important) component of understanding how to tow your caravan safely. The great news is, there are thousands upon thousands of passionate, knowledgeable caravanners who would only be too happy to assist you. There are online discussion forums and groups to join, all you need to do is look. Happy travels!