When you enter the world of caravanning, it’s paramount that you know what all of the various weight terms mean, plus how they affect your own caravan and tow vehicle.
But, I get it, learning towing weights is like learning another language, especially when you’re just starting out.
One of the very first terms that you will come across is caravan tare weight because it has a lot to do with how much payload (“stuff”) you’re going to be able to pack into your van.
Some other terms you may come across for caravan tare weight include ‘tare mass,’ ’empty weight’ and ‘dry weight.’
Here’s everything you need to know about what caravan tare weight is, what it includes and how to measure your own caravan tare.
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What is Caravan Tare Weight?
Let’s start with the technical definition of caravan tare weight, then talk about what it actually means for everyday caravanners.
As provided by the Australian Government in the Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1 (VSB1):
12.7 Tare Mass
Tare is the total mass of the trailer when not carrying any load, but when ready for service, unoccupied (if relevant) and with all fluid reservoirs (if fitted) filled to nominal capacity except for fuel, which shall be 10 litres only, and with all standard equipment and any options fitted. This includes any mass imposed onto the drawing vehicle when the combination vehicle is resting on a horizontal supporting plane. (Fluid reservoirs do not include water tanks and waste water tanks fitted to caravans).
In other words…
Caravan tare is the weight of a caravan that is completely empty, but ready for use. It includes all standard fixtures and fittings, plus additional accessories that have been fitted in the factory. All fresh water tanks, grey water tanks, black water tanks (including toilet cassette), hot water tank and gas bottles must also be empty.
Think of caravan tare weight as the empty weight of the van as it rolls out of the factory at the manufacturing level, which does not include anything that the dealer or owner add to the van afterwards.
Tare Weight is NOT Required on the Compliance Plate
If your caravan has a figure stamped next to ‘Tare’ on the VIN Plate, it will be what the caravan weighed at the time of manufacture before it hit the dealer’s yard.
Not all caravan plates will have the tare weight filled in because legally, the only requirement is for the ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) to be stated, which is the maximum weight that the van cannot exceed.
That’s why there are plenty of caravans getting around with a blank tare weight.
The Problem with Manufacturer-Stamped Tare Weights
Having a tare weight on the compliance plate is extremely helpful when purchasing a caravan as it gives you some guidance on how much payload allowance you may have to play with.
However, once you own the van, you might as well throw the manufacturer’s tare weight out the window.
The tare weight of each caravan as it leaves the factory will rarely stay that caravan’s true tare.
You see, once you start adding jerry can holders, bike racks, toolboxes, extra solar panels and TVs into the kids’ bunks, you will now be facing a completely new “empty” tare weight. This effectively renders the manufacturer’s tare weight irrelevant.
Here’s why it’s so important to know your caravan’s ACTUAL tare weight…
To work out your available payload, you need to minus the weight of your completely empty caravan (Tare), away from the maximum weight that your caravan is allowed to be (ATM). The difference between those two figures is how much weight you’ve got left for all of your “stuff.”
What Does Caravan Tare Weight Include?
Remember, ‘tare’ is the weight of the caravan when it is completely empty.
What IS Included in Caravan Tare Weight?
Anything that was fitted to the caravan in the factory is included in the tare weight.
After the caravan leaves the factory floor and has already had its compliance plate stamped, all additional accessories and modifications will now come out of the payload allowance.
If you order a brand new caravan and ask for an additional water tank and two extra solar panels to be added to the build, those things are included in the caravan tare weight.
However, if you buy a brand new caravan and fit an extra water tank and two extra solar panels yourself, those things are included in your payload.
Caravan Tare Weight INCLUSIONS:
- Weight of completely empty caravan
- Factory-fitted accessories
What is NOT Included in Caravan Tare Weight?
Everything that is added to the caravan once it has left the factory will come out of the payload allowance.
Caravan Tare Weight EXCLUSIONS:
- Water in the water tanks
- Water in the hot water system
- Waste in the grey & black water tanks
- Waste in the toilet cassette
- Gas in the gas bottles
- Additional gas bottles that didn’t come standard with the caravan from factory
- All luggage (food, clothing, gear etc.)
- All accessories & modifications fitted after factory
How to Find Your ACTUAL Caravan Tare Weight
When it comes to working out how much weight allowance you’ve got left for all of your luggage, food, water and accessories, you’ll need to know the current tare weight of your caravan (regardless of what it was at factory).
To measure your caravan’s tare weight, you will need to head to a Public Weighbridge, which can usually be found at local waste and recycling centres.
How to measure the CARAVAN TARE:
- Ensure the caravan is empty of all luggage, accessories, gear, food, water, gas etc.
- Drive the caravan onto the weighbridge
- Unhitch the caravan from the car and drive the car off the weighbridge, leaving only the caravan on the scales
- Record the weight
Calculating Your Caravan’s Payload Allowance
Now that you’ve got your caravan’s current tare weight, all you need is the ATM to work out your available payload allowance.
The ATM is set by the caravan manufacturer and can be found on your caravan’s compliance VIN plate. VIN plates are usually located just inside the caravan entry door, on the drawbar or inside the tunnel boot.
Working out your payload allowance is easy…
Just take the maximum legal weight of the caravan (ATM) and take away the empty weight (tare). The figure you’re left with is the amount of weight you’ve got for loading up all of your luggage, water, gas and accessories.
Use the Caravan Packing List below to help sort out your payload.
Caravan Packing List
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- Pre-filled with 600+ items
- 17 categories
- ‘Weight’ column (to organise payload)
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Caravan Tare Weight FAQs
No, to get a correct tare weight, the caravan water tanks must be empty.
No, the gas bottles must be empty to measure your true caravan tare weight.
Yes, the caravan tare includes the tow ball weight. It’s only when the caravan is hitched up to a tow vehicle that the tow ball weight is transferred off the caravan and onto the vehicle.
The ATM is the maximum weight that the caravan is allowed to be, whereas the tare weight is the weight of the caravan when it is completely empty.
Tare is the weight of the empty caravan (without any luggage, accessories, gas and water), while the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) is the fully loaded weight of the tow vehicle.
GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) is the fully loaded weight of the tow vehicle. ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) is the maximum allowable weight of the caravan. Tare is the completely empty weight of the caravan and/ or tow vehicle.