Caravanning is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors and with the right vehicle, you can have the kind of holiday that suits you – from sleeping under the stars or staying in the comfort of your ‘home away from home’.

Saving up for it might be one of your biggest concerns, but driving safely should always be the priority. Many just want to hop on and go, but it pays to know more about your new vehicle. There is some basic information that you need to be aware of to be safe on the roads, one of which is the caravan towing weights. It is a collection of different tow vehicle and caravan weight measurements that serve as a loading guide and limits to ensure the safety of your passengers.

Lowdown on the Tow Vehicle

Some people might be towing trailers without really knowing what the standards are. They might even get away with it. But it’s best not to leave everything to chance and know exactly what you should be doing, so you could avoid a potential ‘violation’ you don’t even know you’re doing.

Tow Bar

Before any towing can be done, the vehicle has to be fitted with a tow bar with a maximum weight that matches the maximum towing capacity of the braked trailer. This ensures the caravan will be stable during the tow, making it safe for everyone.

Tow Ball

The tow bar attached to the chassis of a vehicle comes with a tow ball. The ones commonly sold are rated 3500kg, but it is important to look at it closely as there are also some that are only 2500kg rated. So, forgetting to check it may cause unintentional overloading.   

Maximum Axle Mass

You might see that the maximum axle mass rating is pretty high, but you need to consider the existing load in the vehicle and plus the weight of the caravan that you will add to it. Make sure you do not go beyond the limit.

Gross Combination Mass

The maximum Gross Combination Mass is the weight of the tow vehicle with the payload and the maximum weight it can tow. Visit a public weighing bridge and check if you need to remove or can still add a few things for your next trip.

Tow Vehicle Weights

Tare Mass

The tow vehicle’s actual mass with no payload. It includes the coolant, fuel and other liquid specified by the manufacturer.


The total mass of everything you add to the tare mass of the tow vehicle. Maximum Payload is the weight limit of the load you can add to the vehicle’s tare mass.

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)

The maximum weight indicated by the manufacturer that all the wheels in the tow vehicle can support. It includes the weights of the car, the passengers, and other things loaded in the car. When the vehicle is attached to a trailer, it includes the tow ball mass. The formula for GVM is:

  • Tow Vehicle Tare Mass + Maximum Payload = Gross Vehicle Mass

Maximum Tow Ball Download

This is the limit of the weight that can press down on the tow ball of the car.

Maximum Towing Capacity (Braked)

The highest amount of weight that your vehicle can tow when there is a trailer brake.

Maximum Towing Capacity (Unbraked)

The highest amount of weight that your vehicle can tow when there is no trailer brake. This rating is normally lighter than the maximum braked towing capacity. Both ‘braked’ and ‘unbraked’ ratings are indicated by the manufacturer.

Know These Caravan Weights

Keeping these weights in mind would be very useful the next time you plan to go on caravanning. You can make a few changes to make the towing more secure or remove some things that make the trailer unnecessarily heavy.

Tare Mass

It is the weight of the trailer with no payload, water in tanks, gas in cylinders and no accessories added to it. Take note of any modification done and check how much payload weight is left afterwards.

Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)

This is the maximum amount the trailer can weigh when it is unhitched. Another way to compute for this is by adding the tare mass to the maximum payload of the caravan. ATM is the total weight that the wheels will levy on the ground. This is given by the manufacturer and should not be exceeded. The formula for ATM is:

  • Caravan Tare Mass + Maximum Payload = Aggregate Trailer Mass

Gross Trailer Mass (GTM)

The maximum weight of the trailer that can be supported by its wheels only. That said, this amount does not include the weight it can support when hitched or when a jockey wheel is used when it is parked.  This is given by the manufacturer and should not be exceeded.

Tow Ball Mass

This is the weight on the tow ball from a fully loaded trailer hitched to a tow vehicle. As previously said, the tow balls have different ratings, so it pays to check.

Be on Your Way

The caravan’s tare mass, ATM, GTM and TBM are all indicated on caravan compliance plates. The general rule of thumb regarding the towing vehicle and caravan ratio is that the total weight of the towing vehicle (GVM) should at least be equal to the total weight of the caravan (ATM). However, the Caravan Council of Australia suggests that the caravan should not be more than 77% of the tow vehicle’s weight to be safe.

Now that you know the towing weights, you can shop for a caravan that would fit your existing towing vehicle, or vice versa. This will ensure not only an enjoyable caravanning adventure for your family, but also a safe one. Let Aussie Leisure Loans help you find your new caravan. Call our finance experts for an online quote today.