How to Weigh a Caravan

How to Weigh a Caravan (Step-by-Step Instructions + Pics)

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Without a doubt, the most important thing you should know as a caravanner is what your caravan weighs (in all of its variations). Beyond the need to keep your set-up within the legal parameters, it’s a matter of safety.

An overweight or incorrectly loaded caravan can become a weapon on the road and cause serious accident and injury to not only those inside the vehicle, but potentially other motorists in the vicinity.

Reasons to know & stick within your caravan towing weights:

  • Being overweight = illegal
  • Being overweight voids your insurance
  • Too much extra weight can strain the chassis & running gear
  • An overweight set-up can cause the “death wobbles”
  • State Transport Departments may issue a fine and/ or ground you (meaning the set-up can’t move unless weight is removed or a tow truck is called)

This article will detail exactly how to weigh a caravan using a public weighbridge, which can usually be found at local council rubbish and recycling centres.

Please Note: Getting caravan weights correct can be a tricky task especially with so many variations. The positioning and number of axles as well as load distribution all play a massive part in the process. While this post tackles the best ways to assess your own caravan weights, often the best option is to get it done professionally.

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When to Check Your Caravan Weights

Weighing your caravan is not just something to be done when you first make the purchase. There are many times throughout your caravanning days where you will find yourself re-weighing your set-up to make sure you’re still within your allowable limits.

Recommended times to weigh your caravan set-up:

  • BEFORE PURCHASE – often the original Tare on the VIN plate can be different due to extra accessories being fitted
  • EMPTY WHEN YOU FIRST GET THE VAN – before loading any gear, accessories, water etc. so that you know your Tare (empty) weight
  • ONCE FULLY LOADED – to check the fully loaded weight with passengers, food, fuel, water, accessories, gear etc.
  • EVERY TIME YOU MODIFY – if you add or subtract anything to or from your van, you will need to redo your weights
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Caravan Weight Terms

Here are all of the caravan weight terms that you will need to be familiar with when weighing your caravan.

Vehicle Tare Weight
The weight of the empty vehicle with all its fluids, but only 10L of fuel in the tank. This does not include driver, passengers, luggage etc.

VEHICLE TARE WEIGHT = Weight of Vehicle + Oil & Fluids + 10L Fuel

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)
The maximum allowable weight of the vehicle including passengers, luggage, accessories and Tow Ball Weight. This weight is set by the manufacturer and states the maximum weight the vehicle can be at any given time, which cannot be exceeded.

GVM = Maximum Allowable Weight of Vehicle

Caravan Tare Weight
The weight of the caravan, including any accessories fitted at the time of the build, but with empty water tanks and gas cylinders. This is the weight of the caravan as you’d be driving it out of the dealership.

CARAVAN TARE WEIGHT = Weight of Caravan + Only Factory-fitted Accessories

Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)
The maximum allowable weight of the caravan when fully loaded and unhitched from the tow vehicle. This is set by the manufacturer and is much like the car GVM, but this is the trailer version. Includes all accessories, luggage, full water tanks & gas bottles, tool boxes, bikes, gear etc.

ATM = Maximum Allowable Weight of Caravan

Gross Combination Mass (GCM)
The maximum allowable weight of your car and caravan combined. The GCM figure is set by the manufacturer of your vehicle and cannot be changed. This includes all gear and luggage, accessories, driver and passengers, fuel, water etc.

GCM = Maximum Allowable Weight of Car + Caravan

Tow Ball Weight (TBW)
The amount of weight the fully loaded caravan puts on the tow bar of the tow vehicle (which will change every time you add, subtract or shift payload in your caravan). The accepted TBW in Australia is around 10% of your ATM or a maximum of 350kg, whichever is lower.

So, the Tow Ball Weight will effectively transfer off the caravan’s GTM and onto the vehicle’s GVM, which becomes part of the car’s payload.

TBW = Approx. 10% of ATM

Gross Trailer Mass (GTM)
The weight of the fully loaded caravan when it is hitched up to the tow vehicle. It’s the maximum axle load that your trailer can carry, as specified by the caravan manufacturer.

GTM = ATM – TBW

Payload
This is the combined weight of all items that you can add or load into your car and caravan. This is anything above the Tare Weight, which was specified by the manufacturer and includes passengers, water, food, fuel, accessories, gear etc.

VEHICLE PAYLOAD = GVM – Vehicle Tare Weight
CARAVAN PAYLOAD 
= ATM – Caravan Tare Weight
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How to Weigh a Caravan

Weighing caravan at a public weighbridge
Unhitching the caravan on the weighbridge

To gather the following caravan weights, you will need access to a Public Weighbridge, which are free and usually found at council waste and recycling centres. It’s handy to let the staff know on the way in that you’ll need a few minutes to hitch and unhitch so that you can get your caravan weights.

Once you’ve got these figures, you can work out all of your caravan weights using the calculator below (or do your own calculations).

Caravan Towing Weight Calculator →

VEHICLE TARE (empty car)

Your vehicle’s tare weight will end up being different to what it was as a brand new car, rolling out of the factory. Once there are accessories fitted, such as bull bar, tow bar, roof racks and so on, the car’s empty ‘standalone’ weight will now include those items.

How to Weigh a Caravan - Vehicle Tare

How to measure the VEHICLE TARE:

  1. Ensure the car is empty of all luggage, passengers etc. and only has about 10L of fuel
  2. Drive vehicle onto weighbridge (without caravan)
  3. The driver must exit the vehicle and get off the weighbridge
  4. Record the weight
NOTE:
You can use KERB WEIGHT here, which just means weighing the car with FULL FUEL TANK/S instead of trying to figure out how much 10L is.
Then, when you’re working out how much payload weight you’ve got left for your “stuff,” you know you’ve already accounted for the fuel.

CARAVAN TARE (empty van)

How to Weigh a Caravan - Caravan Tare

How to measure the CARAVAN TARE:

  1. Ensure the caravan is empty of all luggage, accessories, gear, food, water, gas etc.
  2. Drive the caravan onto the weighbridge
  3. Unhitch the caravan from the car and drive the car off the weighbridge, leaving only the caravan on the scales
  4. Record the weight

GVM (fully loaded car)

How to Weigh a Caravan - GVM

How to measure the car’s GVM:

  1. Ensure the vehicle is fully loaded with full fuel tank, regular passengers, accessories, luggage etc.
  2. Drive the car onto the weighbridge
  3. Record the weight
  4. This needs to be lower than the manufacturer stated GVM


GCM (fully loaded combined weight of car & van)

How to Weigh a Caravan - GCM

How to measure the GCM:

  1. Ensure the vehicle and caravan are both fully loaded with luggage, passengers, food, fuel, water, gear etc.
  2. Drive the vehicle and caravan onto the weighbridge
  3. Record the weight
  4. This needs to be lower than the manufacturer stated GCM

GTM (fully loaded caravan – still hitched to vehicle)

How to Weigh a Caravan - GTM

How to measure the GTM:

  1. Ensure the vehicle and caravan are both fully loaded
  2. Drive the vehicle off the scales, but leave the caravan still on the weighbridge
  3. Keep the caravan hitched up to the vehicle
  4. Record the weight
  5. This needs to be lower than the manufacturer stated GTM

ATM (fully loaded caravan – unhitched from vehicle)

How to Weigh a Caravan - ATM

How to measure the ATM:

  1. Ensure the caravan is fully loaded
  2. Drive the caravan onto the weighbridge and unhitch it from the car
  3. Drive the car off the weighbridge, leaving only the caravan on the scales
  4. Record the weight
  5. This needs to be lower than the manufacturer stated ATM

TOW BALL WEIGHT

How to Weigh a Caravan - Tow Ball Weight

How to measure the TOW BALL WEIGHT:

  1. Drive only the car onto the weighbridge
  2. Leave the caravan hitched up, but make sure the caravan is not on the scales
  3. Write down the weight (Weight A) → This is the car’s weight including the tow ball weight
  4. Unhitch the caravan off the scales
  5. Drive the car only back onto the scales
  6. Write down the weight (Weight B) → This is the car’s standalone weight
  7. Tow Ball Download = Weight A (car weight with TBW) – Weight B (car’s standalone weight)
Tow Ball Weight Scales

You can also measure your own tow ball weight at home with a simple set of Ball Weight Scales, which are available online at Caravan RV Camping.

Tips for Reducing Tow Ball Weight →
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Caravan Packing List

Caravan Packing List

Never forget a thing with the ULTIMATE Caravan Packing List!

  • Pre-filled with 600+ items
  • 17 categories
  • ‘Weight’ column (to organise payload)
  • PRINTABLE – fully customisable
  • DIGITAL – completely interactive
  • Download once, use it over-and-over
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How to Work Out Payload Allowances

Car & Caravan Payloads

The instructions below will show you how to easily work out your payloads whenever they change along the way. Or, you can always use our Payload Calculator for a quick calculation.

Car & Caravan Payload Calculator →

Caravan Payload

The caravan payload is much “stuff” you can add to the caravan.

Caravan payload examples:

  • Full water tanks
  • Food
  • Cooking gear
  • Caravanning gear
  • Accessories
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Clothing
  • Luggage
  • Bikes
  • Tools
  • Full gas bottles
  • Awning privacy screens etc.

How to work out caravan payload:

  1. Take the Caravan Tare Weight
  2. Take the Caravan ATM
  3. Minus the Tare Weight from the ATM
  4. This figure is your caravan Payload (ATM – Tare = Payload)
Example:
Caravan Tare is 2,500 kg
Caravan ATM is 3,000 kg
3,000 kg – 2,500 kg = 500 kg Payload

Vehicle Payload

The vehicle payload is much “stuff” you can add to the vehicle. Keep in mind the Tow Ball Weight will be included in the vehicle payload when the caravan is hitched up.

Vehicle payload examples:

  • Caravan tow ball download (when hitched up)
  • Driver & passengers
  • Full fuel tanks
  • Luggage
  • Roof racks
  • 4WD recovery gear
  • Bull bar, tow bar & scrub bars
  • Accessories
  • Food & water

How to work out tow vehicle payload:

  1. Take the Car Tare Weight
  2. Take the Car GVM
  3. Minus the Tare Weight from the GVM
  4. This figure is your car Payload (GVM – Tare = Payload)
Example:
Car GVM is 3,000 kg
Car Tare is 2,200 kg
3,000 kg – 2,200 kg = 800 kg Payload

To further understand everything around towing weights, check out my full Guide to Caravan Towing Weights, plus the 3 Ways to Measure Tow Ball Weight.

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