What Weight Can I Legally Tow? – Part 1

1 Nov 2018


So the retirement payout is in the bank and you are ready to do the big caravan trip around Australia and here comes the shopping list of the must haves!!

New caravan, new tow vehicle and lots of new toys.

So the usual scenario goes like this……

You have found your dream caravan, 24’ semi off road with bathroom, air-conditioned, 12-volt system with enough power to light a small town for 5 days, TV, surround sound and every other modem convenience that you couldn’t possibly live without.

This shiny new rig has a TARE weight of 3100kg and an ATM of 3500kg full loaded.

You are driving a nice new Ford Ranger.

Can we tow this much weight you ask the salesman?

Yes, he says, your Ranger is rated to tow 3500kg so no problems, just sign here.


If your Ranger is fully loaded, and it will be, you can only legally tow a max weight of 2800kg. So before you spend your hard-earned money make sure you understand the rules. We see it at caravan shows all the time, people have bought a new caravan only to discover that they now need to upgrade the tow vehicle as well.

There are 4 important terms you must understand:


This is the weight of your caravan including extras before you load it up. It is a very good idea to insist on a current weigh bridge certificate before you take delivery of your caravan. (are aircon, fridge, battery weight included in the TARE?)

2. ATM

This is the maximum loaded weight of your caravan. Example: TARE 3100kg + 400kg of luggage = ATM 3500kg.

3. GVM

This is the maximum your vehicle can weigh fully loaded.

And finally the MOST IMPORTANT is

4. GCM – Gross Combination Mass.

This is the maximum total weight of your tow vehicle + your caravan. GCM is set by the vehicle manufacturer. If you exceed this limit you are illegal, you can be defected off the road and will have no insurance.

Difference between ATM and Combined Vehicle Mass (CVM) Diagram

Changes to the Australian Federal Law.

Previously, vehicles could undertake a GVM and GCM upgrade that increased both the vehicle payload and the rated tow capacity. However, as of the 1st July 2018 the Federal Administrator of Vehicle Standards issued Circular 0-4-6 which prohibits GCM upgrades, but still allows GVM upgrades.

Remember if you get a 500kg GVM upgrade without a GCM upgrade, that extra 500kg will reduce what you can tow by 500kg. Some States have implemented parts of this Circular, other States are yet to enact legislation so GVM and GCM upgrades can still be done however it is just a matter of time before they are banned. So in a nut shell, please check on the current laws in your State before committing to buy that BIG new caravan.

So What Can Your Vehicle Tow?

Below are the advertised tow ratings of the most popular 4WD dual cab utes. Remember the payload ‘assumes’ a 75kg driver + a full tank of fuel are already in the vehicle (Kerb Weight) and will vary slightly. The ball weight of your caravan must also be included in your payload. Please keep in mind that the figures below may vary slightly depending on year and model, also any optional extras fitted to the vehicle will change these numbers.

Now let’s look at what they can really tow when fully loaded. In no particular order…

VehicleTowingKerb WeightGVMGCMPayloadActual Towing Capacity at Full Payload
Toyota Hilux3500kg (Manual)
3200kg (Auto)
2,075kg3,000kg5,850kg925kg5,850 – 3,000 = 2,850kg
Ford Ranger3,500kg2,250kg3,200kg6,000kg950 kg6,000 – 3,200= 2,800kg
Mitsubishi Triton3,100kg1,955kg2,900kg5,885kg945kg5,885 – 2,900 = 2,985kg
Holden Colorado3,500kg2,150kg3,150kg6,000kg1,000kg6,000 – 3,150 = 2,850kg
Nissan Navara3,500kg1,969kg2,910kg5,910kg941kg5,910 – 2,910 = 3,000kg
Isuzu D-Max3,500kg1,940kg2,950kg5,950kg1,010kg5,950 – 2,950 = 3,000kg
Mazda BT503,500kg2,118kg3,200kg6,000kg1,082kg6,000 – 3,200 = 2,800kg
VW Amarock V63,500kg2,216kg3,080kg6,000kg864kg6,000 – 3,080 = 2,920kg

Was your vehicle not on the list?

Have more questions about legal towing weight limits?

Check out Part 2 Here >> 

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