Do you have the right vehicle to tow your caravan?

Written by 
Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
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, updated on June 2nd, 2023       

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Caravan towing

You may be eyeing a caravan or you already are a proud owner of one. Before you go in to close in on the deal it’s important to check if the caravan and car are compatible with each other in terms of the towing capacity. Although you may be able to tow a caravan with a small car, it is vital to be aware of the legal restrictions that come with it. Here is what you need to know when it comes to finding the right caravan car ratio.

Finding out the right towing weight

To know what is the right tow weight that is needed, you can look at the tow-related numbers on the compliance plate. You can also find this information on the owner’s manual or the manufacturers specification sheets. This will give you information on the Tare Mass that tells you what the caravan weighs when it is empty and the Gross Vehicle Mass (GMV) that tells you the legal weight that is needed for you to tow.

Understanding the trailer weight

Trailers are usually assessed by their total weight which is also known as tare weight. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aussies gravitate towards caravans in the weight range of 2 to 2.5 tonne. A tare weight is basically the weight of the caravan when it is not loaded.

This is then combined with the maximum payload that it is legally allowed to carry which needs to be checked, also known as the Aggregate trailer mas (ATM). The gross trailer mass (GTM) is another important weight that you can check when it comes to towing a caravan properly. This is the weight of the trailer on its own axle which tends to be less than the ATM. Keep in mind that this is not the Gross trailer weight.

Things to keep in mind

The key thing to keep in mind when understanding the right vehicle to caravan ratio is:

  • The maximum weight of the trailer equipped with brakes
  • The maximum tow ball download
  • The maximum weight allowed for your vehicle and the trailer combined

This can help you refine your search for caravans that will be compatible with your vehicle, which means less damage for your vehicle. Remember to create a buffer between the maximum towing capacity and the intended load at about 20%.

What will happen when you pair the wrong vehicle to the wrong caravan?

Choosing the wrong caravan to attach to your vehicle can not only cause a risk for you when you are driving on the road, but it can also affect your vehicles fuel economy and response time. When you operate your vehicle at the limit of its towing capacity it can consume more fuel than it usually does. It can also increase the wear and tear on the tyres, brakes, drivetrain, and suspensions to name a few. This, in turn, can create a domino effect that can cause your car to react poorly to unexpected turns that can cause you to jackknife or swerve badly.

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