In the previous two parts of this series we have looked at the maximum rated towing capacity of common caravan tow vehicles verses the actual maximum towing capacity when the vehicle is fully loaded.
A good example is the Ford Ranger. When unloaded the Ranger will tow 3.5 tonne no problems but once you load the vehicle up with a full legal payload of 950kg you can only tow 2.8 tonne.
As I have previously said no one does a caravan trip around Australia with an empty vehicle, in fact most vehicles will be loaded to the full GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass), or in many cases overloaded.
Kerb weight is another term we need to discuss a bit more. Kerb weight is nominated by the vehicle manufacturer and is the total weight of a standard vehicle, in running order, usually with a full tank of fuel, but sometimes it only includes 10 litres of fuel. Some manufacturers also include a 75kg driver, others don’t so make sure you check what your vehicle Kerb Weight includes. Kerb weight DOES NOT include any optional extras.
Choosing Your Vehicle Accessories
There are two types of vehicle accessories on the market, the ones you want and the ones you need.
The reality is that if you fit your tow vehicle with all the toys you want you will very quickly go over your GVM. In my experience, and I first started towing a caravan back in 1985, many people set their rig up with equipment they just don’t need.
To be clear, if you plan to cross the Simpson Desert or drive un-accompanied up the Telegraph Track you will need a lot of extras, but if you are one of the 90% of Grey Nomads towing a caravan around the highways of Australia don’t overload your vehicle with extra gear that you won’t use.
Bull bars and recovery winches are a great example of what you don’t need. 60kg of weight and $2500 spent on something you will never need. In Australia, bull bars were designed to stop a kangaroo going through your radiator and leaving you stuck on the side of the road. The point is kangaroos are nocturnal. Unless you are doing a lot of rural night driving you don’t need one. The same for a recovery winch, unless you are doing an extreme 4WD trip, a snatch strap will get you out of trouble in most cases. A good quality nudge bar is the best option, and you just saved 60kg in weight.
The Weight Adds Up!
Lets have a look at some typical accessories and what weight they add to your vehicle: Bull bar/ recovery winch 60kg, long range fuel tank 100kg, tow bar 30kg, side steps 10kg, dual battery 30kg, 60ltr fridge/slide 60kg, rear draws 60kg, snorkel 10kg, AT tyres 50kg. That is a total weight of 410kg.
If you are driving a 200 series Landcruiser with a kerb weight of 2630kg and a payload of 720kg you are already in trouble because you still need to add a passenger 75kg, some personal luggage 40kg, AND the caravan ball weight (10% of the caravan ATM) 350kg. Your total payload is now 875kg which makes you 155kg OVER WEIGHT. You are now illegal and have no insurance.
Now lets see what gear we don’t really need...
- Bull bar/ recovery winch 60kg - not needed as already discussed above.
- 80 ltr Long range fuel tank 100kg - these cost about $1200, if you save 10 cents per litre by filling up at a cheaper stop you will save $8 per tank so it will take 150 fuel stops to recover the cost of the 2nd The longest distance between fuel stops around Australia is about 380km unless doing an extended off road trip and the 200 series has 132ltr fuel tank and a range of about 600km (20ltr/100km) when towing a caravan.
- Dual battery 30kg - just not needed. Your caravan has a 12 volt battery system fitted, so use it.
- 60 ltr fridge/slide 60kg - your caravan has a brand new fridge so use that. I just carry a good quality esky for drinks and roadside snacks.
- Rear draws 60kg - a coupe of good plastic boxes are much easier, they can be moved around or taken out as required.
- Snorkel 10kg - if you have to drive through a flooded waterway that goes over your bonnet you are probably on the wrong road.
If you remove the extras above you have just saved 260kg and your payload is now 615kg leaving you a spare 105kg.
What other options do you have if you still want some of the optional extras?
- Reduce the weight of the caravan you are towing. A dual axle caravan with a TARE weight of 2,500kg will generally have a payload of 400kg giving you an ATM of 2,900kg and a ball weight of 290kg. You just saved 60kg.
- Get a GVM upgrade which will increase your payload by 450kg to 1170kg. This option will reduce your maximum towing capacity from 3.5 tonne down to 3.05 tonne but you will have a significant increase in vehicle payload. Remember as of the 1st July 2018 the Federal Vehicle Standards have changed and GCM (Gross Combination Mass) upgrades are been phased out. Check out our first post in this series “What Weight can I Legally Tow”
- Buy a bigger tow vehicle! The new American big trucks like the Dodge Ram will give you increased towing capacity and payload.
Do Your Research
In summary what I recommend is that you do your homework before you commit to buying either tow vehicle or a new caravan. Make sure you understand your weight limits and stay under them.
If you are new to caravanning don’t make the mistake of fitting your new rig with everything you think you might need, before you take off. You are better to do a couple of short trips with just the basics then add more gear as you need it.
There are plenty of 4WD accessory shops along the way that can help you if you find you need something extra. With proper planning you can still take all the toys you want, kayaks, golfing gear, push bikes, roof top tent or car topper boat and still stay under your legal load limit.
In the fourth and final part of this series we will have a look at your caravan load and the extras that can quickly add up. we will also discuss caravan sway, what causes it and how to minimize the effects.
Read Part 4 Here >>