Car Advice

Why a 3500kg tow rating may not really be a 3500kg tow rating

Can tow 3500kg! The claim is there in big bold letters in the brochure, but here’s why your 3500kg tow rating may not really be a 3500kg tow rating.

Article updated 12/06/2015 with some clarifications based on comments by readers.
 
Part 2 now available – Everything you need to know about towing heavy trailers.
 
The short explanation is that most vehicles, particularly utes, can only tow their maximum braked trailer weight with a light load otherwise they exceed their design limits for weight.  And that is the asterisk which usually sits behind those bold 3500kg claims.
 
The full explanation follows, and it starts with some definitions:
 
Tare (or kerb) weight – how much the vehicle weighs, stock standard.  There is no exact definition of ‘stock’, as sometimes it means full of fuel, sometimes partially full, sometimes there’s an allowance for the driver, but it’s basically empty although ready to drive.
 
GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) – or the maximum the vehicle can legally weigh.  This is on the vehicle’s placard, and is a definite figure that is readily available for all vehicles.  It is often the same for all types of given model, but might vary a bit with trim level, engine or body style.
 
Payload – the difference between the GVM and tare.  For example, tare of 2000kg, GVM of 3000kg, payload = 1000kg.  Payload is everything that is put on the truck or it has to carry.  That includes bullbars, stronger tyres, roofracks, winches, canopies, storage systems, occupants, camping gear, recovery gear.  Typically a modified touring 4WD has gear that weighs 200-400kg, and by the time a family of four has kitted up and is ready for touring you’re looking at 900-1000kg.  I’ve done the maths a few times.
 
Front and rear axle load – how much weight can be placed on either axle.  Usually the sum of the two axles is more than the GVM.  For example, in the case of the Ranger it is 1480kg and 1850kg totalling 3330kg, 130kg more than the 3200kg GVM.  This means there’s a bit of flexibility in exactly where the load is positioned over the axles.  Beware of some aftermarket GVM upgrades which merely move the GVM to total the sum of the axle’s ratings, as then you lose that flexibility. 
 
Braked tow rating – how heavy a trailer the vehicle can tow, provided it has trailer brakes as opposed to no brakes in which case it relies only on the towcar to stop the combination.  Trailers over 2000kg need brakes that can be independently applied from the tow vehicle.
 
The braked tow rating is the trailer’s ATM, or Aggregate Trailer Mass.  That’s how much the trailer weighs.  The Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) is the ATM with the towball mass (downforce) subtracted.  For example, a trailer that weighs 2000kg has a 2000kg ATM, and if there’s 200kg on the towball the ATM is 1800kg. The ATM is the trailer equivalent of the GVM.  Trailers also have an unladen weight, the kerb weight.
 
GCM (Gross Combined Mass)  How heavy the combination of the vehicle and trailer can be.  This should be, but isn’t always, the sum of the GVM and braked tow rating (maximum ATM of the trailer).
 
Now that’s out the way let’s look at some numbers, all in kilograms:

 

Spec \ vehicleFord Ranger PX dualcabNissan Navara NP300 ST-X dualcabHolden Colorado LTX dualcabIsuzu D-Max LS-U dualcabMitsubishi Triton MQ Exceed dualcabIsuzu MU-X LS-TMitsubishi Pajero 3.2 ExceedLand Rover Discovery TDV6
Tare weight22001921207519401965206023352558
GVM32002910310029502900275030303240
Payload100098910251010935690695682
Front axle load14801320126013301450
Rear axle18501700184017801885
Total33303020310031103335
Difference: GVM, axle loads1301102008095
Max braked tow35003500350035003100300030003500
GCM60005910600059505885575060306740
Max car weight at tow max25002410250024502785275030303240
Loss of payload at tow max700500600500115000
Max trailer weight at car GVM28003000290030002985300030003500
Loss of trailer load at GVM700500600500115000

 

An interesting set of figures.  If we take the Ranger then that’s a 6000kg GCM, and let’s say we want to tow 3500kg.  That means 6000 – 3500 = 2500kg, the maximum the Ranger can weigh if it is to tow 3500kg.  
 
The Ranger’s tare weight is 2200kg, so 2500-2200 = 300kg of payload.  Which is not very much at all, if we put four people in the truck they’d need to be 75kg each as 75kg * 4 = 300kg.  Now you see what we mean when we say that the 3500kg tow ratings aren’t always realistic.  And the Ranger’s kerb weight wouldn’t even include a towbar.
 
If we go the other way for the Ranger, looking at how much we can tow when at GVM then it’s this:  GCM of 6000kg – GVM of 3200 = tow capacity of 2800kg, the most a trailer’s ATM can be.
 
Bottom line is if you work off the GCM then you can only tow 3500kg in a Ranger if you have no more than 300kg of load on the truck, or if the truck is at GVM, you can tow 2800kg.
 
However, there’s more to it.  Remember those axle loads?  Don’t want to exceed them, that’s for sure.  A 3500kg trailer will need round about 300kg of towball mass and that needs to be taken into account too.  I cannot do the maths here as I don’t know what the axle load is on a Ranger when empty (only its maximum), but let’s assume that the vehicle is at GVM and the front axle is weighted to the maximum.  We know from the table above there’s 130kg left to play with, so let’s put all that on the rear axle.  We know that 10% of trailer mass is the rough rule (and Ford recommend this too), so 130kg makes for around a 1300kg trailer.   But in reality less, because a 130kg towball mass over a metre behind the rear axle produces a moment (leverage) so the net effect on the rear axle is greater (and the load on the front axle is reduced too). 
 
Sound complicated?  That’s because it is. 
 
Now let’s now look at the new Nissan NP300 Navara.  Here we have a GCM of 5910kg, subtract the 3500kg tow rating and we have 2410kg, the maximum the truck can now weigh.  So 2410kg – 1910kg tare = 489kg of payload.  
 
Or the other way around to determine what trailer we can pull at GVM: we have the GCM of 5910kg, subtract 2910 GVM = 3000kg towing.  Then if we look at the axle load we see that there’s not a lot of play, with maximum combined axle load only 110kg more than the GVM.  A 110kg towball mass translates to a trailer of around 1100kg.
 
Some people claim this calculation is double-counting.  It’s not.  A trailer that weighs 3500kg still needs to be controlled by a vehicle and whether the mass is on the trailer’s axles or the towball makes no difference, it’s all part of that 3500kg figure.  But, the towball mass at the same time does create a significant downforce on the rear axle which is load on the towcar.
 
Some have said if the vehicle is at GVM you cannot tow. Remember there is usually some rear axle load left once the vehicle is at GVM. That can be used for towball mass provided the load is reduced to keep the vehicle below GVM.
 
The Pajero is another case again. Mitsubishi state that the maximum towball mass is 250kg: “maximum towball download (kg) when towed weight is 2,500kg or less” but above that (2500-3000kg) it is 180kg.  They also say that “a weight distribution hitch is recommended for towball downloads exceeding 135kg.”.  
 
These are just examples.  If you look at the fine print of just about any vehicle – but especially utes – there’s all sorts of complications once you start approaching maximum tow capacity and it’s certainly not a case of hook up and hope.

 
It is also interesting that the wagons tend to have a GCM equal to their GVM and maximum tow rating, whereas the utes do not.  Could this be because the utes have had their tow rating pushed a bit higher than what it should be?  Also note that the Triton can “only” tow 3100kg, but it loses only 115kg of payload when at its maximum of 3100kg.   It might not have the headline 3500kg, but realistically the numbers show it is real-world equal to the others.

towbar
A towbar with useful information on it about tow ratings. The GTM is explained above.
IMG_5144
ARB towbar on a Navara D22 dualcab ute.

The bottom line

Very few vehicles can tow their maximum rated tow weight when at their GVM, or even sometimes quite a way off it. The headline tow figure may not be usable in real life.

  • If the sum of the GVM and max tow rating is greater than the GCM, then you have to choose between a fully loaded vehicle or the heaviest trailer it’ll tow.  You have to take a close look at exactly what the manufacturer is saying about maximum towing capacities.  This is unlikely to a simple answer – hence this long and jargon laden article – so you need to ensure that anyone you take advice from actually has a clue about your specific vehicle and trailer.  Further tip – salespeople looking to close a deal are not known to be the most reliable source of technical advice on complex matters;
  • Don’t assume a weight-distribution hitch (WDH) is the solution.  Some manufacturers mandate a WDH, some recommend, and some say definitely do not use it;
  • If a vehicle is set up for offroading with the usual accessories it will weigh 200-400kg over tare.  This may reduce its towing ability as it may exceed its GCM once a heavy trailer is connected, or the driver gets in.  In fact, some vehicles are so heavily loaded and modified they’re at GVM before anyone gets in;
  • It doesn’t matter what sort of suspension or brakes you fit, if the compliance plate isn’t changed your GVM is what it is;
  • Be aware of your weights as there are legal, insurance and warranty implications if they are exceeded;
  • There are enough utes with broken chassis in the world already.  Either take less load, or get a bigger ute like a F-Truck or a small truck like an Iveco Daily or a Mitsubishi Canter.  Or if you really want a giant trailer, try a 5th-wheeler.
  • Some vehicles are speed-limited when they tow.  Holden recommend that Commdores be limited to 80km/h once the load is over 1600kg, or has less than 1500km on the clock.   In general, 2WD roadcars are not as good at towing as 4WDs.
IMG_0007
Nope. The distance between the rear axle and towball is crazy long, so any small movement on the trailer translates to a big movement on the rear axle. Whatever this ute is nominally rated to tow cannot be safely achieved with this setup. Also, it’s either overloaded or needs stiffer suspension. There’s only so much weight you can put behind the rear axle.

Tow car tips

  • The unbraked tow weight often 750kg for 4X4s, but that’s a legal maximum.  For smaller vehicles it can be much less;
  • The braked tow weight can vary across models.  The GU Patrol could tow 2500kg, 3200kg, or 3500kg depending on whether it was the 3.0 or 4.2, manual or auto. Weights of any type (GVM, tow, GCM) can be very specific to certain model, year, engine, driveline and trim level;
  • TSC is trailer stability control.  This is a variant of stability control that is designed especially to deal with trailer sway. One of those things you may only need once in your life but it kind of pays for itself right there and then.  However, as with any electronic aid, consider it an aid, not a free pass to just add more weight;
  • A good towcar will have a GCM that is the sum of its GVM and maximum braked tow rating.  It will be all wheel drive, diesel, automatic, powerful and have TSC;
  • The maximum tow rating can only be achieved if the towbar is rated appropriately.  Not all towbars are so rated;
  • Always go for a tow vehicle that is rated well in excess of your trailer’s weight, for example a 3000kg rated vehicle for a 2000kg trailer.  It’ll do the job much more easily and safely.  And you tend to avoid complications as described here;
  • If you tow offroad, as in low-range territory, then reducing the trailer load by about 1/3 is a good idea, for example a 3500kg car would then tow a trailer with an ATM of no more than 1200kg;
  • Modern automatics can be pretty much left in Drive when towing.  The electronics are smart enough to use the correct gear out of the 6 to 8 they use, and will not overload the vehicle in any particular ratio; and
  • Short wheelbase vehicles are not necessarily bad towcars.  They have a very short distance between the rear axle and the towball which is good for trailer control.  The Defender 90 is rated to 3500kg, same as the 130, and the shortie Prado when it was available had a higher rating than the long wheelbase version.  

Comment

Towing figures are the new power figures.  We used to obsess over kilowatts and torque, and to some extent we still do, but the manufacturers need another headline figure and now it’s tow ratings.  The bigger the number the better, and even if you don’t tow an impressive rating gives an impression of capability, strength and power.  So that’s why manufacturers are driven to go for higher and higher tow figures – it’s all marketing, and we can expect to see more of the same with the new utes coming onto the market
 
When Ford shifted the Ranger from 3350kg to 3500kg shortly after it was launched I suspect that was mainly done to combat the Colorado’s 3500kg rating.  Realistically, the amount you can tow in a Ranger rated at 3350kg is the same as one with 3500kg, such are the caveats around the higher figure.
 
Once you start pushing the limits of a vehicle like this then you run into limitations about exactly how that load can be towed, and that is how we’ve ended up needing to know all sorts of trailer tech jargon only to discover maybe you can’t actually tow that big trailer after all.


This article has been very popular, so we have written a follow-up.  If there is a specific vehicle you’d like us to investigate comment below.
 
You may also like to calculate your caravan’s towball mass using the interactive Ball Weight Calculator.

  • Bossie

    Great article, had a debate on this when comparing the New Triton and Colorado to the new so called benchmarks such as the Ranger and Amarok. My point was that for instance the Triton has a lower Tare and its rear axle weight are very similar to the Ranger. Also that the the Ranger’s payload are not realistic when towing where with the Triton you can keep it close to its max payload while towing the max braked tow, this equates to not a huge difference with a huge price and fuel consumption difference. The only reason you would tow a 3500kg van is when for instance you have a special van that needs to be towed and can be done with an empty payload and yes they are pushing the limits of these utes as they only rely on the chassis to handle the load spread as the body and tray are disconnected and whether we like it or not it helps when that limit are reached. Also Utes tend to push the back wheels as much forward as possible to increase turning circle, the Triton for instance have the J shape to obtain the smallest turning circle, engineering wise it cause a lever effect on the chassis when hi towball downforce are obtained with maybe a spare wheel bar on the back, hence towball weight are EXTREMELY important, also weight distribution between front and back as in most cases you end up with most weight behind the back axle and not on the back axle, hence result in a bend chassis. Is extremely important to put roof weight and also use the back seat cavity as much as possible in dual cab utes so there is enough weight on the front and middle of the vehicle when towing, put those heavy gear toolboxes in front of the tires and not behind it as currently is common practise!
    Would be interesting to compare the Toyota to this as I think it might just surprise in having high payload and towing capacity, making it the only ute worthy of the extra expense, lets wait and see.

  • Rod Cochrane

    ATM is the Gross mass that can be carried on the wheels of the trailer.That is the tare plus load which is GTM LESS the static load on the tow ball

    • Yes, as it says above…

      • Graham Hill

        ?????????????

        • Rod Cochrane

          Graham You are correct I should have looked up the difference between GTM and ATM

    • Graham Hill

      Incorrect ATM is the load on both the axles and the jockey wheel.

      GTM is the load on the axles only as when the rig is hitched up

  • Bill Rose

    What about the Jeep Grand Cherokee. ???

    • Jeep doesn’t supply the necessary details on its usual media site. I’ll have to ask. Which model, as their tow capacity varies from 1600kg to 3500kg?

      • Bella Luna

        Can you compare to the diesel grand cherokee please which advertises 3500kg tow weight, with load levelling airbags?!??

  • Bella Luna

    Could you please compare the difference when the tow weight is taken from the tow ball and placed in the tray ie a fifth wheel trailer. Do all max towing remain the same, with only down weight changing? I have had several people tell me “you can tow more with a fifth wheeler” but I can’t see this is true. I can only rationalise that you will get more room on your down weight?

    • Yes we will cover 5th wheelers in future but it is not strictly true that you can tow more that way as you’re still limited by the GCM.

      However, you can tow larger loads more safely and easily with less stress all round. The reason is the load is far better balanced, and trailer sway is much less of an issue because the trailer connection is between the front and rear axles, not behind the rear trying to wag the car.
      Far less issues with towball mass (becomes pin weight) and rear axle loads.

      5th wheel is the way to go for big trailers…there’s a reason trucks use this method and the trailer they tow tend to be dog trailers (with steerable axles). It’s only the recreational people who are behind. One reason may be that backing a dog trailer is a skill beyond normal backing a trailer…and even that is beyond many trailer drivers.

  • Damo

    This was a great read, alot of people are unaware of these statistics and quite frankly it’s a dangerous game. There are thousands of over weight tow vehicle’s on the road and the drivers are completely unbeknown

  • Andrew

    Gday – I drive an old classic 60 series (1987 HJ61) and it’s a beautiful car, but I can’t get anyone to give me it’s braked towing capacity. I’m looking to possibly upgrade from a Jayco eagle to an expanda but not sure if I will be legal.
    Do you have any knowledge of the 60s?

  • Graham Hill

    It does not state clearly in the first part of the article that included in the tugs load is the towball weight which is a significant amount out of payload.

    Also Tare is normally empty with 10 L of fuel only. Kerb weight is with full fuel tanks and nothing else

    • Depends on the definition of kerb and tare, and there are several for each. Sometimes it’s with a 75kg driver, sometimes 3/4 tanks.

      • Graham Hill

        Am referring mainly to Toyotas and that is what they state how their
        weights are taken. Ballweight as part of payload????

        • Answered above. Ball weight is not always part of payload. It does however contribute to rear axle load. The answer will vary from vehicle to vehicle.

        • Also Toyota are a bit self-contradictory. They state TBM is part of GVM, then go on to use diagrams and calculations which show it is not.

  • DJR96

    Great article and I look forward to the follow up.
    A few points:-
    There used to be a time when no light vehicle could tow more than it’s own GVM. Quite frankly I think that should be re-instated. Better yet, anything more than 80% should be on a 5th wheeler.

    And the old 10% towball weight BS. Yes that works out fine for your typical garden trailer, but anything over 120-150kg is simply not needed and indeed downright dangerous, regardless of trailer weight. You should never need to use a WDH, providing your tow vehicle is loaded up nearing it’s GVM (and rear axle load rating).

    And lastly, I don’t think any vehicle has stock suspension that will comfortably and safely work near these load limits. Check it out for yourselves – when your rig is loaded up is it’s ride height still within the middle third of it’s travel? I doubt it, more likely almost touching the bump stops…… Seriously look into upgrading your suspension if you do any significant towing or even regular heavy loads.

    • Agreed DJR96. Europe uses much lower ball weights with success. Problem is that vehicles are getting better at towing, trailers are getting heavier and the view is that if the car will pull the load it can tow the load, and the two are quite different. Also agree re suspension.

      Lightness…it’s a good thing.

      • DJR96

        Too right. Just because a vehicle has got a drivetrain that can pull all that weight over any hill, and brakes that’ll get it down any dale, does not in itself make it capable.
        First and foremost a vehicle has to be able to traverse our roads safely and competently.
        Mess with weight distribution and wheelbase/axle-towbar ratios and you’ve got a catastrophic incident waiting to happen. (That D22 pictured above is woeful.) Many vehicles aren’t good even at their best.

  • Robert

    Do you have information for WH Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, 5.7 petrol, rated at 3500kg?

  • Duncan

    How about specs for one of the best tow vehicles out there, 70 series cruisers?

    • The best tow vehicle is already listed 😉 70 will be added in another article.

  • Andrew

    Great article to highlight the issue, but:
    Tow ball load is part of the vehicle load. A vehicle already at GVM cannot add any load to the tow ball, irrespective of allowable axle loads, as additional load via the tow ball pushed the vehicle above GVM.

    • Andrew

      I.E. If vehicle by itself is at GVM, you CANNOT tow.

      • Not correct Andrew. A vehicle may be at GVM and have rear axle load left over which can be used for towball mass, per the table above. Whether that’s enough to tow anything useful is another question. Also, some manufacturers permit an increase over GVM for when towing if the rear axle is taken into account. Essentially, there are many different variables and each manufacturer is different. Also, different specs for different countries. Australia is well know for very high towball mass on its trailers.

        I have seen this point made a few times by people on forums, hope it clears the question up. I will address it again in the second article.

        • Andrew Wade

          Robert. Load is load. By your logic, I could remove the 130 kg ball LOAD and replace it with 130kg of bike rack LOAD (yeah, heavy bikes) and the vehicle wouldn’t be above GVM. Sorry, that’s just plain wrong.

          To confirm this I spoke with Vicroads Enforcement group. If you get weighed while your towing, they will weigh with a) Tow vehicle wheels only on the weighbridge to measure vehicle GVM, then b) All vehicle wheels on the weighbridge. This gives both Tow Vehicle GVM, & GCM.
          If the mass on the tow vehicles wheels is above the vehicle GVM, your done irrespective of axle load.

          Light duty towers are lucky that the likes of Vicroads are busy with the heavy duty end of transport, as if they blitzed the grey nomads, weighbridges would look like a second hand market on a rainy day.

          • Andrew, take a look at the photo above of the ARB towbar. You will see that an increase in TBM does not correspond to an decrease in GVM. The fine print in manufacturer’s material makes much the same point to a greater or lesser degree.

            This is not to contradict your point about pure physics or the weights of each component. Nor does it contradict what the enforcement group do.

            It is merely to highlight that the way weights are treated are not consistent – you have the what’s logical, what the manufacturers state, and the law (which varies)…and interpretations of each.

          • G H

            I think you are misinterpreting the weights. Most people would accept that at GVM you are allowed an included weight of ???? and if you raise it you must remove other things to keep the GVM the same. Technically it is illegal to overload the vehicle above the GVM.
            Nissan have sliding scale like that but you must still stay within the GVM.

            The Group axle weight is usually higher to provide a buffer for varying load conditions

  • Fiona

    Great article but wondering why land

    Cruisers weren’t mentioned? We have a 200 series Sahara and have done a lot of homework before purchasing for towing horses so would be interested on the review 🙂

    • Fiona I was just using some example vehicles. A follow up article is coming and will cover the 200. There are so many figures we cannot list all the vehicles and their variants, so have to cover some of the basic principles.

  • neil

    A very interesting read. A couple of years ago I had a series of emails with a engineer at the SA Dept of Road and Traffic. The content of your story was pretty much what I was trying to find out. I run a 09 Ford Ranger dual cab with a goose neck horse trailer. I question how Ford was claiming a 3500T tow rate on the new ranger. The sums do not add up. One of the towing requirements in SA is that the tow vehicle must be equal to or great than the trailer being towed. So GVM of the new Ranger is 6000T but claim a 3500T. Then I went on to ask about 5th wheel arrangements. There was no defined answer given. .That was another series of emails that didn’t make any clear outcomes.

  • epsuccess

    Level trailering and load position have a huge impact on handling.
    See so many downhill/uphill combinations that would come unstuck real easy.

  • Camilla Mowbray

    Interesting about the distance between tow ball and rear axle, and the comment about Defenders. I used to tow with one – it was totally lacking in grunt, but was very solid on the road. I’ve also heard comments about the value of shorter draw bars on trailers, which may also impact the mechanics of towing. Re 5th wheelers – these tow MUCH better (load over the axle) and it means the legal weight is up to 1000kg more. Our Toyota 70 series could tow 4500kg happily (as a gooseneck). Unfortunately, many Australian horse trailers are really heavy. Many of us probably overload them. Ours was a lightweight US version, big enough for 4 horses/set up for 3. It weighed 2900 kg – so if we had extra gear, feed etc, we could really only take two 500kg horses…

    • 2 x 500kg = 1000kg + 2900 = 3900kg…pretty big trailer!

    • Col Dewar

      too short a drawbar on any tralier is a lethal combo and a disaster in waiting..very few semis (considering the miles they travel ) have issues because they basicly have a loong drawbar.same goes for the fifth wheeler setup…i agree with Robert..pretty big trailer.

  • Case Scholtes

    Great article. I would also like to see a study on the Toyota 200 series. I did my a Study for a friend with one, as he had ordered a New Kedron that will ATM at nearly 3500kg. Problem I found was that without even considering the Caravan, he had already fitted the Car with a full Bull Bar & Winch, Full size Roof Rack, Swing-away Wheel holder and 2 Spares on the Rear , Pull out Drawers and beefed up the Fuel capacity to (believe it on not) 250 Litres. Lucky he isn’t expecting to carry a Tinny on the roof and associated folding Trailer & Outboard on the Van. With a Ball Load already nearly 350 kg he said he pictured his wife walking beside the car with 2 jerry cans.

    • Case – this is a common problem. It seems that some salespeople are more interested in the sale that the correct setup or the legality of the rig. In fairness, some of them are ignorant and think 3500kg is 3500kg. Sounds like the 200 would have been over GVM (small payload on those cars) even before he hooked up a big trailer.

      • Morgasshk

        I think it has to only be a matter of time before government regulations kick in some rulings about what terms and understanding can be used. As per our previous discussion up top re: Kerb weight. Also a lot of people these days will get items fit after leaving the dealership, especially Toyota where additional pressure has been placed on the network in regards to fitting non genuine equipment (as all excepting Bullbar and winch would have to be, and most likely those also). Whilst I believe some onus should be on those selling the product, it follows the same sort of mentality of once sold the responsibility of use passes – like filling up with fuel, getting properly serviced etc also passes on.

        Getting prepped for HiLux launch now and my mind is mush trying to interpret only 5 manufacturer’s towing, weights and capacities read outs. :S Thank god I don’t have to do it for my own purchase, lol, just for work 😀

  • kelly wilson

    Great article. I’m currently trying to find a 4×4 Or something to tow a 2 horse horse Float with… Which my current Ford 93 v8 tows good. Not a new One. I think I just need some advice because now I’m confused. I was looking at the hillux an rangers 2010 an up. Or should I be looking at a different angle?

    • Kelly, if your trailer and two horses comes to around 2000kg then one of the modern utes would be fine. If you’re up towards 3000kg I’d definitely be looking at a LC200, LC100, Discovery.

  • Morgasshk

    I don’t see why there is not a definitive definition of tare and kerb weight at the beginning of the article, as everything else seems pretty bang on. All states and territies classify it the same way, as does ADR. Tar weight is unladen mass of the vehicle alone with 10L of fuel, the Kerb weight (which in my opinion is the only one that should be used) is the Unladen vehicle weight with full tank/s of fuel. Bit more realistic to use… Neither include driver weight.

    • There is indeed an Australian definition of kerb weight which is ”
      the mass of the vehicle in running order unoccupied and unladen with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity including fuel, and with all standard equipment.” and it would be nice if everyone used it, but they do not.

      Another definition is the European standard EC Directive 95/48/E which says “a car, in ready to drive condition, with the fuel tank 90% full, a driver on board, weighing 68kg and luggage of 7kg”. Some manufacturers quote kerb weight for Australian models using this method – they shouldn’t but they do. Some don’t even specify what kerb weight means. Other definitons use a 50% full tank, as 10L is kind of pointless if you think about “ready to use”, 10L in a tank is pretty much fuel light on already and it’s quite different for a 50L tank to a 80L tank so a % makes more sense.

      Even if you go off a kerb weight of 10L fuel you’d best advised to add enough weight for a full tank of fuel to get a proper base, remembering that neither diesel nor petrol weigh 1kg per litre as both are lighter than water.

      That is why the article is not specific.

  • Rocka1951

    This great article with lots of detail thats not explained or offered when trying to buy the Grey Nomad set up. I try to be within limits when travelling as it is usually for long trips so i weigh bridge my setup the day before to make sure i have not done anything dumb.
    I drive BT50 2013 with bull bar, tow bar, long range tank(140ltr) and full drawer system with Waeco fridge and tow Jayco 19’6 outback van with rear ensuite.
    So weigh bridge comes out as follows
    car and van 5660kg
    caravan on ball 2500kg
    caravan off ball 2700kg
    car 2960 full loaded petrol passengers etc
    so ball weight 200 kg
    I am not engineer but an avid traveller wanting to travel well but more important SAFELY.
    With all the reading on the subject of weights etc I struggle to know if i am safe. Many Nomads are similar limited experience but good intentioned in need of guidance. Am I safe ?????

    • Rocka, you’re right the information isn’t always given out and when it is, it isn’t explained. It is not really up to the vehicle manufacturers to do this any more than it is up to them to explain how to drive. Have to rely on independent experts for that.

      Anyway, the GCM of the BT50 is 6000kg so your total of 5660 is within that limit. If we add 200kg of TBM to your vehicle weight we get 3160kg which is below the BT50’s GVM of 3200kg. I cannot tell whether your rear axle load is exceeded. However, you can’t tow anything much heavier than what you have already. So it looks like, on the evidence given, you’re within limits – but that is not the same as safe.

  • Cathy Bendtsen

    Would love to see the figures on an Amarok. Would also love the same sort of article on fifth wheel or gooseneck trailers. I tow horses and have been told goosenecks are more stable, but am having a hell of a time finding one that would work with my Amarok.

  • Andrew Rac

    I have a 2005 Grand Cherokee, 2.7 turbo diesel I have 2013 Jayco Sterling that tares at 2660kg I bought the Jeep because of the 3500 tow rating I recently set off on a trip and towed in fourth instead of drive as told to by a trans specialist and had the trans fail with the oil only 2weeks old looking very burnt. So in essence should I have been towing in drive and is the Cherokee actually unsuitable
    Cheers Andrew

    • alanrlow

      Unless something in the transmission actually failed the reason for the burnt oil is most likely due to the torque converter not locking up. This is equivalent to driving a manual with your foot half depressed on the clutch pedal. You would agree that the clutch wouldn’t last very long like this. An auto transmission’s oil can reach combustion temperatures in only minutes of heavy driving. The torque converter lock-up clutch avoids this by stopping the thrashing of the oil that takes place while the torque converter is slipping. It is usually recommended to not tow on over drive as the box can constantly shift in and out of OD and lock-up.

  • Gary Lennard

    and thats why I bought a shitty old Holden Suburban. All the numbers are real. GCW 7400 KGS, truck weighs 3200 with me,missus dogs and all we need to carry and the van comes in at 2400 loaded including 2 full 90lt water tanks. plenty of room to move for the off road van we plan to buy.

    • Good work!

      • Gary Lennard

        Didn’t buy the off roader but got a beautiful Elite Murray 25 ft with 3400 ATM. Still have 600 odd kilo payload spare in the old Subby. Doesn’t get us anywhere quickly but it doesn’t have to.Sure does feel good towing with a vehicle that isn’t lighter than the caravan.

  • Dave

    Can you do the math for me on a 120 series Prado 2500
    kg tow rating with 250 kg ball weight. I have a van with the ATM of 2500 kg. gross weight of the Prado is currently 2560
    Cheers Dave

    • What’s the Prado GCM and rear axle load?

      • Dave

        The Gvm is 2900 Toyota don’t stamp the plate with GCM numerals. So my guess is GVM+toe rating of 2500 should give me a GCM OF 5400. Can’t find axle weights in book or on car
        Cheers Dave

        • Nick Mclachlan

          According to Red Book, the 120 Prado has the following figures in Kg.
          Tare: 2200, Payload: 700, Braked Tow: 2500, GCM: 5400.
          I have been looking at them so have had a look.
          Not sure about the axle loads though.

          • 1800kg rear axle load for Prado, 1450kg front axle load. The figures above (esp kerb) will vary according to trim grade and engine/transmission.

          • Nick Mclachlan

            Thanks Rob, I did the figures based on a GXL not sure of the transmission however but according to the numbers the above don’t appear misleading. the only thing i wasnt clear on was max ball weight and how that will change payload.

            Thanks.
            Nick

  • Lindsay Carter

    Can you give the specs for a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3 ltr diesel.
    Thanks. Lindsay

  • Kane

    I have a Nissan Pathfinder R52. At 200kg ball weight I have to reduce the GVM by 300kg according to Nissan Specs. Nissan then go on to define the GVM in the fine print as equaling the weight of 4 passengers, fuel and luggage. My question is if I have to account for the ball weight again in the reduced GVM or is it already dealt with and i only have to add the load up as Nissan states, as passengers, luggage and fuel?

    • It’s odd that the GVM has to be reduced by 300kg…might have something to do with the rear axle loads and the overhang. The GVM is the maximum the vehicle can weigh, and as the weight of the 4 passengers and luggage is variable there’s no way it can be defined as GVM. That would be only a guide. Can you post the exact words please?

      • Kane

        My apologies Nissan provided the description in their spec sheet as an example. Nissan define the GVM as “the maximum loaded mass of the vehicle”. I have called Nissan and confirmed that the reduced GVM with a ball weight of 200kg already accounts for the ball weight in the GVM and therefore I do not need to worry about including it again in the reduced GVM amount.

    • Stuart

      Hi Kane

      I am new to towing and also have the R52 which I tow a Jayco Swann with. Do you a weight distribution system? I do as transferred from my prior vehicle. However note the Nissan users guide recommend you don’t use one. Just wondered how you approach this?
      Thanks
      Stuart

      • Kane

        Hi Stuart, I have not used a WD system, I am currently towing a Goldstream Storm with an ATM of 1480kg. I have not needed one to this point. I have however replaced the springs in the rear with heavy duty springs because the rear end was way too soft. It cost about $350 at Pedders. I am about to upgrade vans to a larger van of around 2300kg but the ball weight is not much different, so hopefully I will not need to do anything, however I do have the option of putting in airbags in the rear suspension to raise the rear end as well. Hope this helps.
        Kane

  • etowbars

    Towbar ADR rules were successfully liberalised a while back – despite intense lobbying from local manufacturers and dealers.

    There is still a misconception that all towbars must be ADR approved. This is not the case. Australia manufactured towbars must be ADR approved and stamped accordingly.

    European manufactured towbars must be approved and stamped by the EU authority ‘e/E’ on the name plate. Imported European towbars can be used on Australian roads as long as they are approved by the EU and do not have to undergo additional ADR certification.

    It is legal to fit and install European type approved towbars that comply, have been tested, rated and approved to the ECE 55/01 standard (alternative standard accepted by ADR 62/02). Australian design Rules recognise towbars type approved by the EU (as both Australia & the EU are signatories and comply to UN resolution ECE 55/01).

    Australian towbar manufacturers and dealers continue to misinform customers regarding ADR compliance. Old style square 50×50 receivers are archaic and arguably solely suited for agricultural use. The old style ‘traditional’ towbars are extremely cheap to manufacturer.

    Both Australian manufacturers as well as dealers have a certain monopoly as they hide behind previous ADRs and take advantage of misinformed consumers.

    European towbars are technically superior and more expensive to manufacturer. Dealers prefer to source locally made old fashioned towbars, due to the logistics costs of holding stock and importing the towbars – towbars weigh from 20-30kgs! Importing original towbars does not make economical sense when they can sell the old style (which cost approx $50 to manufacture) for close to $2000. The mark up the dealers charge is phenomenal.

    European towbar regulations are actually more limiting than ADRs. Both the EU and Australia are signatories to the United Nations directive ECE 55/01, which means there is a legally binding reciprocal agreement to accept towbars approved by either authority. European type approved towbars are compliant with Australian Design Standard ADR 62/02.

    The proof is in the actual ADR regulations – do not take your dealers word for it.

    Extract from current legislation: Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 62/02 – Mechanical Connections Between Vehicles).

    Section 15 – ALTERNATIVE STANDARDS

    15.1.The technical requirements of ECE Regulation No. 55/01 Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Mechanical Coupling Components of Combinations of Vehicles shall be deemed to be equivalent to the technical requirements of this standard [Australian Design Rule 62/02]” and are accepted as an alternative approved standard.

    Link to ADR 62/02 >> https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2010C00153

  • Kat

    After reading this excellent article I am now worried about towing with my Ford Falcon AU lll. It has a tow rating of 2300kg. My float is 800kg and I have 2 horses (450kg each). So far I have only towed with one horse which seems fine. Is it safe to tow both horses? Or is that cutting it a bit fine? Thank you.

    • Hi Kat. That’s 800 + 450 x 2 = 1700kg. So in theory, you should be right. However, it’s a question of detail. I don’t know if a TBM of 170kg can be handled by the Falcon, or if given that the horse float is double-axled and with nicely centred weight you could get away with less, maybe 100kg. Also, the maximum towing capacity for the Falcon might be dependent on using a weight distribution hitch or something else special, and the car might be speed-limited when towing. The owner’s manual should have all those answers – feel free to post a scan of the relevant pages here.

      • Kat

        Hi Robert, thanks so much for your reply, yes it’s the detail that bothers me too. I should have said too that my car is an auto and the TBM is 230kg as I bought a new towbar to replace the original 160kg one. I have posted the page in the manual for your perusal as I’m still not sure whether I should have a load levelling kit fitted??? I’m not putting a 2nd horse in my float until I know it’s all safe. Thanks again for your help.

        • Hi Kat. OK what that says is that your car is good for 1600kg UNLESS you have the Ford approved kit, in which case you can go to 2300kg.

          Your trailer is 1700kg plus so to tow it legally you must have the Ford Heavy Duty Towpack. Unless you take only one horse.

          A TBM of 230kg is too high for a 1700kg trailer. The maximum TBM is 160kg which will be ok for a 1600kg trailer.

          This is a typical trap…the car is advertised as 2300kg, the headline figure, but they don’t really mention the detail and the other gear!

          • Kat

            Ok, sorry a bit confused now and need to clarify (I am a newbie to this) so I replaced the standard towbar (1600) with a new Ford approved heavy duty one (2300) and may still need a gooseneck (not sure what this is) and a load levelling kit. Is that correct? I will contact Ford to sort this if I decide to keep the car.
            And what do you mean by the 3rd paragraph? A TBM of 230 kg is too high for a 1700 trailer??

          • You need all the other equipment listed in the owner’s manual which would be available at your Ford realer.

            A trailer of 1700kg should have a TBM of 170kg – the 230kg figure is a maximum, sorry that was a bit confusing.

            Best bet is to see a local trailer specialist…but check they’re not a hook up and hope merchant. If they can’t explain this thread to your satisfaction, go elsewhere.

          • Kat

            Ok, great, thanks very much for all your help, it is a steep learning curve 😀
            Cheers, Kat

  • Jacqui Sharkey

    Hi Robert,
    I am looking at purchasing a 2000 Mitsubishi Canter tip truck with a GVM of 6300kg. I can’t find anything about the towing capacity. Would you have any stats please? Thanks. Jacqui

    • Hi Jacqui sorry I don’t. That should be on the vehicle placard or owner’s manual. There are a few variants and it would probably vary a bit. But, the Canter would be much better placed to tow a big trailer than even a large 4WD.

    • digme

      Jacqui, because the canter is classed as a heavy vehicle it will have a tow capacity of 4.5 tonnes, if the gcm is higher you can have it registered to tow a heavier trailer,at a cost to you. I have a Ford trader registered to 4.585 tonnes and a Hino registered to 14.2 tonnes and both are allowed to tow 4.5 tonnes, the hino , if i pay extra can tow a 10 trailer. best to check with the relevant authority .

      • Jacqui

        Thanks for that information. We ended up purchasing a 2006 Mitsubishi Canter. The GCM is 10,000 and the GVM is 6500. The tare is 3220. I have tried working it out but I am hopeless at it. There is nothing in or on the truck to show the towing capacity and I can’t find a service manual to find out either.

  • Jacqui Sharkey

    Thanks Robert. I will see if the owner still has that info.

  • Peter

    Hi Robert, My wife and I are looking to join the grey nomads, with a purchase of a either a 15ft or 16 ft Jayco poptop with a Tare weight of either 1300 or 1500 Kg (depending on model) and towball weight of 138 or 153kg respectively. In terms of vehcle to tow we have been looking at the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (‘rated at 3000kg and 300kg ball weight), or the Mitsubishi Outlander rated at 2000kg and 200kg ball weight. I had been taking these figures as ‘accurate’, but having read your article I’m now not so sure re the Outlander. The info on the Outlander says that its Gross Vehicle Mass is 2260kg, and its Kerb Mass is 1630kg. So from my reading of your article leaves 630kg for my wife and I (say 170kg), actual tow bar weight ??, Luggage for the trip, fuel (60 ltrs deisel), plus the ball weight of the loaded up caravan (138+ or 153+).
    So on the basis of that data available at this stage, is the Outlander going to cut the mustard, or should we play safe with the Pajero Sport and lose some of the better driving features for most of the year when we are just doing city type driving with no van that the Outlander would deliver?

  • andrew donovan

    Ok so if iwant to tow a gooseneck / fifth wheeler with me 2015 isuzu dmax how do ya work the maximum weight you can hitch over axle .

  • Jacinta Rogers

    Hi Robert,
    I am looking at either purchasing a either a 2013 or a 2015 Mazda BT50, 5 seat, manual, diesel, 4×4. The 2013 model has a Gross Vehicle Mass Maximum of 3200 (kg) and a Gross Combination Mass of 6000 (kg), with a Tare Mass of 1884 (kg) from what I’ve found. The 2015 model has a Gross Combination Mass of 6000 (kg) and a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3200 (kg), with a Tare Mass 1884 (kg). I would also like to buy a horse float to tow behind it, what would be the most my float can weigh?

    My horses are 550kg and 650kg (at most) if that makes a difference, and if I can also put anything else in with them.

    Thank you heaps,
    Jacinta Rogers

    • Jacinta Rogers

      The float I was looking at has a weight of 2t so I wanted to make sure either of these cars are able to tow it before I purchase, otherwise I will choose a smaller float.

  • Jason

    I have a Toyota Prado 150 series GX with bullbar and cargo barrier, want to buy a caravan, what Tare of caravan should be my maximum limit

    • Need way more information; see below for an example.

  • amanda nemaric

    Looking at a jeep grand cherokee braked weight 3500 to tow 800kg float and 2x600kg horses ??

    • Would work. Make sure it’s a the right GC as not all have the same tow capacity.

  • Branko

    I have a big boat 3.2t fully loaded.
    Nissan patrol 3l td manual hardly could move it.
    So I need to chage the car.
    Please advice me about toyota land cruise 4.5 td auto which has 3.5t towing capacity.
    Is there better car in that range not talking about f250 or f350 GMC or Big Ram.

    Thanks heaps

    Branko

  • Wayne Wright

    D Maxdual cab

  • Wayne Wright

    I put my 2015 Dmax over the vic roads Broadford weigh bridge last week and was surprised to see the little red numbers read 2920KLG.Fitted to this vehicle is all ARB equipment steel deluxe front bar ,rear step towbar,side rails and steps,10,000lb winch driving lights,cabin pack rack,assent canopy,rear draws with fridge slide,long range tank,full,147ltrs.dual battery system,85ltr evercool freezer ,empty!.2xpot plants weighing approx 30kgs.My Conclusion after fitting the gear needed to travel Australia with only one passenger on board ,no luggage no food, no extra spare wheel ,no tent or sleeping gear,this 4×4 and most other vehicles of the same calibre are totally useless and illegal to drive according to our road rules.And just think ,I just did a trip up to the Gulf and back to Melbourne towing my camper trailer.Think l will go out and buy a $200.000 F350 to travel Australia next year.What a joke.

  • Stephen

    Are all these calculations the same for a 5 the wheeler or goose neck trailer be it a van or horse float behind say a 2015 d- max

  • john

    Why did you not show a toyota landcruiser ? they would probably be the most overloaded tow vehicle on the road

  • Don

    When I upgraded from the Pajero mainly because of ball weight I got a 2013 Colorado LTZ dual Cab.
    I havehad the tug on a weighbridge several times to check all is good.
    When I upgraded the van I basic aly reversed enginerred the tow capacity.
    GCM 6000
    GVM 3150 (as per letter from Holden back in 2013)
    and I work on a GTM of 2850 with 285 on the ball
    2850 + 285 = 3135 ATM
    My van has an ATM of 2760 with 260 ball
    When I go over the weighbridge the numbers i look for are,
    GCM 3100
    Front axel 1350
    Rear axel 1800
    GTM 2650 (as per compliance plate)
    3100 GVM + 2650 GTM + 5750 GCM
    and I’m good to go.
    I don’t worry about the ATM to much as that is when a van is in a static situation not going anywhere.
    I aways keep the GVM including axel weights, GTM and GCM figures in spec as that’s is how you travel on the road.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a freelance journalist, driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: http://www.l2sfbc.com/