It’s Day 30 in our search for the Perfect family caravan, and wow we have learnt a lot over the past few weeks. You may have seen our first post on Day 6, where we talked about what we were looking for in a Family Caravan.
Today we’re going to talk about weights, not mine specifically, but those of a caravan, a car and the two combined. There are some major gotchas out there, the biggest being the ‘3.5 Tonne towing’ capability that most vehicle manufacturers are advertising.
When we were checking out caravans at the Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow, I think 2 out of 3 times the first question we were asked was ‘what is your tow vehicle’. For us, we don’t have it yet, in fact, we’re planning on literally putting the cart before the horse. And I’m going to explain why. UPDATE: We’ve made some big progress on our vehicle search
For us, choosing the right caravan is really important. We have a family of 5, and as such need a family sized van with a triple bunk. Being a large family also means we need to ensure we can load everything we need to within the van. Generally speaking, most family sized fans are around that 3 tonne range, after loading up all of your clothes, cooking gear, equipment and accessories. That’s called the GVM or Gross Vehicle Mass of your caravan, and includes everything onboard.
Now for me, up until recently, I thought great, a 3 tonne caravan will be no problem, I just need a 3 or even a 3.5 tonne capable towing vehicle. But this is where things get a little tricky and you could be putting your family and your finances at risk! This is why we are waiting to see which tow vehicle we are going to buy.
It comes down to a little thing called the GCM or Gross Combined Mass.
Let’s take for example your average Dual Cab ute. Let’s say it has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity. The ute itself might have a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3 tonne. That weight there includes everything standard and any extras you have added to the vehicle. Say the bull bar, winch, a car fridge and maybe roof racks and an awning.
Each vehicle will also have a Gross Combined Mass or GCM. This is a total weight including the Car, it’s direct payload as well as what it is towing. We have found most of the dual cabs have a GCM of 6 tonne.
A 3 tonne caravan towed by a 3 tonne vehicle isn’t actually a gross combination of 6 tonne!
Let’s say the 3 tonne caravan has a 300kg tow ball weight applied to the vehicle. This is pretty standard, and is the weight applied on the towing vehicle by the caravan. This also has to be included in the GCM or Gross Combined Mass.
We need to add up the 3 tonne caravan, the 3 tonne car and the 300kg of ball weight. That’s a GCM of 6.3 tonnes, which is over the manufacturers 6 tonne limit. Once you are over this limit you are putting the car at risk of breaking down, your family at risk of accident and most likely you are also invalidating your insurance. The manufacturers and insurance companies are going to be checking the weights of the vehicle and the caravan on making a claim after a breakdown or accident.
What would have happened if we were trying to tow the advertised 3.5 tonne towing capability? We would have been well over the 6 tonne GCM!
A quick search on Carsales gives you all the information you need on the weights. We took a look at one popular dual cab that we see a lot on the blog and travel sites.
This vehicle has a Gross Combination Mass of 6000kg, which most dual cabs do. The car itself has a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3200kg. However given we have a 3000kg caravan to apply to it, plus a tow ball weight of 300kg, we have to get our GVM of the vehicle down to 2900kg to be able to fit everything under our 6000kg GCM limit.
The curb weight, which is the vehicle empty and as standard is 2118kg. When we subtract that from our 2900kg, that leaves us with just 782kg to pack in the car.
If we upgrade the fuel tanks from 80L to 140L we add maybe 80KG of weight. Let’s add a bull bar and winch, maybe some lights for 75KG. A battery upgrade for another 50kg and an Engel fridge and some storage draws for another 75kg, maybe a canopy, roof rack and awning for another 75kg.
That takes our payload down to just 477kg. This has to allow for people, and our family will come in around the 350kg mark. It’s getting very tight!
There is no way we could have towed the advertised 3.5 tonne towing that a lot of the manufacturers with similar specs are advertising today. Be careful! You can upgrade suspension to be able to tow more, but there will be an engineer involved and certification plates applied. Check this out if you are thinking about a second hand tow vehicle.
We’ve got a lot more to learn, and will continue to update on how we are progressing in our search for the perfect family caravan.