Understanding Caravan Weights, For Dummies

Hey travelers,

So if you’re a relatively new adventurer and in the early stages of your caravan search, then you may be somewhat dazed and confused when it comes to understanding caravan weights in relation to your tow capacity. Which, ironically, is arguably the most crucial factor in the caravan search.

The weight of your caravan is crucial for safety when towing and touring. To be within safe and legal tow weights, there are a few factors to work out. Let’s take a look at some of the basic terms we’d want to understand:

1. Tare Weight:
A general term describing the weight of a vehicle or van when it is empty without any additional loads. Simply, it’s the weight of the vehicle from its standard factory build. This does not include the weight of passengers, luggage, appliances, or other tools or equipment. It’s the baseline weight, you can find it on the compliance plate.

2. Mass in Running Order (MRO):
This is the weight of a vehicle in a ready-to-drive condition. It includes the weight of all necessary fluids such as fuel, oil, and coolants along with the weight of a toolkit. It some cases it can also include additional items such as a spare tire, extra battery, or other equipment.

3. Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) & Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)
More commonly referred to as GVM in Australia, they’re the same term that describes the maximum weight at which a car can be safely driven when fully loaded, including the weight of the passengers, luggage, tools, appliances, and other equipment. You can find your tow vehicle’s (car) maximum tow capacity on the sticker in the door jamb or the owner’s manual. You can find the van’s GVM on the compliance plate.

4. Payload:
This is the number of items you can load into your van before it becomes ‘overweight’. Typically to calculate this weight you subtract the tare weight from the Gross Vehicle Mass.
Payload = GVM - Tare Weight

5. Noseweight:
Also referred to as a hitch, coupling, or tongue weight. This is the downward force imposed by a van’s hitch on the tow vehicle’s towbar (ball or pin). It should ideally be 5-7% of the van’s fully laden weight. It’s useful to know the maximum load of the towbar, which can be found in the owner’s manual. The nose weight can be measured with a nose weight gauge, it goes between the hitch and the ground.

Those are the basic terms to get you to understand the lingo. As a rule of thumb, you can stick to the 85% guideline. This guideline is a recommendation to not tow a van that weighs more than 85% of your tow vehicle’s tare weight.

What are some of the other terms you’ve heard in relation to caravan and towing weights? If you have any advice for fellow travelers reply to this article!

Until we meet again, safe towing and travels!

I swear noseweight is the payload

Perfect article for a dummy like me