Unbraked & Braked Towing Capacity

🚙 Unbraked & Braked Towing Capacity Explained

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In general, towing capacity is the maximum weight that a vehicle is allowed to tow. So, what’s the difference between braked and unbraked towing capacities (or “towing limits”)?

Unbraked towing capacity means the that trailer doesn’t need its own brakes, while braked towing capacity means that it does, with that maximum weight allowance being set by the vehicle manufacturer.

That manufacturer-set towing capacity cannot be changed without upgrading some underbody and suspension components. From there you would need to seek mechanical approval by a licensed professional that specialises in vehicle weight upgrades, who would then issue an upgraded modification tag.

It’s important to understand the difference between braked towing capacity versus unbraked towing capacity so that you can set your tow vehicle up correctly and remain legal and safe on the road.

Here’s everything you need to know about unbraked and braked towing capacity.

Related Articles:
Can Your Vehicle Tow a Caravan? →
Full Guide to Towing Weights →

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Unbraked & Braked Towing Capacity Explained

Vehicle Towing Capacity

Towing capacity is the maximum weight that your vehicle can legally tow, as stated by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

What is Unbraked Towing Capacity?

Any trailer that weighs less than 750kg does not need to have its own braking system as the brakes from the vehicle are legally enough to serve the trailer as well.

You’ll find that older caravans, which used to be a lot lighter, quite often don’t have their own brakes like the modern ones do.

Small caravans and lightweight campers that fall under 750kg may not have their own brakes, so keep that in mind if your purchasing a trailer in that lighter range.

By law in Australia, the unbraked towing capacity of a car is capped at 750kg. This basically means that 750kg is the maximum weight that any car is allowed to tow without the trailer having its own brakes.

Be aware that not all cars are able to tow 750kg unbraked. Smaller cars will have a lower unbraked towing capacity, however, larger cars will all be capped at 750kg.

Below are some 2023 vehicle examples of UNBRAKED towing capacity limits.
(To be used as a guide only – individual model options may vary)

Vehicle Make & ModelUNBRAKED Towing Capacity
FORD Escape750 kg
FORD Ranger750 kg
HYUNDAI Kona600 kg
HYUNDAI Santa Fe750 kg
MAZDA CX-30600 kg
MAZDA BT-50750 kg
MITSUBISHI ASX750 kg
MITSUBISHI Triton750 kg
NISSAN Juke648 kg
NISSAN Patrol750 kg
TOYOTA Rav4480 – 750 kg
TOYOTA Landcruiser750 kg

What is Braked Towing Capacity?

Braked towing capacity is the maximum trailer weight that the vehicle can tow if the trailer has its own braking system.

Braked towing capacities for larger Australian cars generally range from 2,300kg – 3,500kg, depending on the chassis, body construction and engine.

It’s important to do your research before purchasing a vehicle so that you know you’ll have enough towing capacity to tow the size trailer, camper or caravan that you want.

Below are some 2023 vehicle examples of BRAKED towing capacity limits.
(To be used as a guide only – individual model options may vary)

Vehicle Make & ModelBRAKED Towing Capacity
FORD Escape1,200 kg
FORD Ranger2,500 – 3,500 kg
HYUNDAI Kona1,300 kg
HYUNDAI Santa Fe1,650 – 2,500 kg
MAZDA CX-301,200 kg
MAZDA BT-503,000 – 3,500 kg
MITSUBISHI ASX1,300 kg
MITSUBISHI Triton3,000 – 3,100 kg
NISSAN Juke1,250 kg
NISSAN Patrol3,500 kg
TOYOTA RAV4480 – 1,500 kg
TOYOTA Landcruiser3,500 kg

Where to Find Your Vehicle’s Towing Capacities

The braked and unbraked towing capacities of your vehicle should be in your car’s user manual. If you can’t locate them there, you can find them on Redbook.

Redbook Towing Capacities
Vehicle specifications on Redbook

How to find your vehicle’s towing capacities on Rebook:

  1. Search for your car’s make, model & year
  2. Locate your exact car from the matches
  3. Scroll down to ‘Overview’
  4. Click on ‘Specifications’
  5. Open up ‘Dimensions & Weights’
  6. Scroll down to “Towing Capacity”
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What Brakes Do You Need for Towing?

Caravan Draw Bar, Tow Hitch, Coupling
ALKO ESC (Electronic Brake System) on the caravan drawbar

The type of brakes you will need for towing depends on the weight of the trailer or caravan. The driver of the tow vehicle must be able to operate the brakes from the driver’s seat except for over-ride brakes.

As stated by the Australian Government in the Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1 (VSB1):

15.1 Trailers that do not exceed 0.75 tonne GTM with a single axle

No brakes are required.
Note: Two axles with centres spaced less than 1 metre apart are regarded as a single axle.

15.2 All other trailers that do not exceed 4.5 tonnes ATM

These trailers must be fitted with an efficient brake system that complies with ADR 38/-. Except for over-run brakes, all brakes must be operable from the driver’s seat of the towing vehicle.

For trailers up 2 tonnes GTM, an efficient braking system is considered to have brakes operating on the wheels of at least one axle. Over-run brakes may only be used on trailers that do not exceed 2 tonnes GTM.

Every trailer over 2 tonnes GTM must have brakes operating on all wheels. The brake system must cause immediate application of the trailer brakes in the event of the trailer becoming detached from the towing vehicle. Under these circumstances, the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes.

For Trailers up to 750 kg

  • No trailer brakes required

For Trailers 751 kg – 2,000 kg

  • Brakes operating on the wheels of at least one axle of the trailer
  • Over-ride brakes are permitted

For Trailers 2,000 kg – 4,500 kg

  • Brakes operating on all trailer wheels are required
  • Additional ‘Break-away’ system required (automatically activates if the trailer becomes detached from the tow vehicle)
  • In that circumstance, the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes
How Level Should the Van Be for Towing? →
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Braked Towing Capacity FAQs

What does 3500kg braked towing capacity mean?

If your vehicle has a braked towing capacity of 3,500 kg, it means that the car is legally allowed to tow a trailer weighing up to 3,500 kg.

What is braked towing capacity vs unbraked towing capacity?

Braked towing capacity is the weight of a trailer that a car can legally tow if the trailer does have its own brakes. Unbraked towing capacity is the weight of a trailer that a car can legally tow when the trailer does not have its own brakes (which is capped at 750 kg in Australia).

Does towing capacity include trailer weight?

Yes, the unbraked towing capacity is the weight of the entire trailer, including its load.

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Other Towing Weights You Need to Know

When it comes to hitching up, towing capacity is only one of multiple towing weights that you’ll need to understand and be able to calculate for yourself.

Here are all of the towing weight terms you’ll need to become familiar with.

Caravan Towing Weights Infographic

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

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

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)
The maximum allowable weight of the vehicle, as set by the manufacturer and cannot be exceeded at any time. GVM includes passengers, luggage, accessories and Tow Ball Weight.

GVM = Maximum Allowable Weight of Vehicle

Trailer Tare Weight
The weight of an empty trailer, including any accessories fitted at the time of the build. This is the weight of the trailer as you’d be driving it out of the dealership with empty water tanks, empty gas cylinders and no luggage.

TRAILER TARE WEIGHT = Weight of Empty Trailer + Only Factory-fitted Accessories

Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)
The maximum allowable weight of the trailer when fully loaded and unhitched from the tow vehicle. ATM is set by the trailer manufacturer and includes all accessories, luggage, full water tanks & gas bottles, tool boxes, bikes, gear etc.

ATM = Maximum Allowable Weight of Trailer

Gross Combination Mass (GCM)
The maximum allowable weight of your car and trailer 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 + Trailer

Tow Ball Weight (TBW)
The amount of weight the fully loaded trailer puts on the tow bar of the tow vehicle (which will change every time you add, subtract or shift payload in your trailer). 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 trailer’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 trailer when it is hitched up to the tow vehicle. It’s the maximum axle load that your trailer can carry, as specified by the trailer manufacturer.

GTM = ATM – TBW

Payload
This is the combined weight of all items that you can add or load into your vehicle and trailer. 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
TRAILER PAYLOAD 
= ATM – Trailer Tare Weight

For help working out your overall towing weights use the Towing Weight Calculator.

When it comes to organising your payload, the Caravan Packing List below has over 600 items for both the car and caravan, which you can tick off (editable, printable & digital)

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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