caravan parked on dusty trail with family sitting outside

It’s important to know the details of your caravan – after all, its weight and length can greatly affect the way you drive and manoeuvre your caravan in a number of instances, including park, navigating tunnels, and even your towing car’s fuel consumption. Here’s how to work out caravan towing weight, how to correctly measure the width and height of your caravan, and much more.

Getting packed and ready to go for your first caravan holiday will first need some planning and thought to make sure you are towing safely. Loading your caravan is not as simple as packing all of your things in the most accessible cupboards and storage space.

Knowing your caravans TARE weight and ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass), will let you work out the amount of weight you can carry on or in your caravan, so it will trail behind the vehicle as best possible. The accepted rule of thumb is aiming for about 10% of the ATM on the hitch. So, if your caravan weighs approximately 2500kg, then there should be 250kg of that mass on the hitch or tow ball. Ensuring you are towing safely is not only important to you and your family but it is also important for all road
users. To help demonstrate how this works, watch what happens when weight is transferred to different areas on the trailer.

How To Work Out Caravan Towing Weight:

Your caravan will have a manufacturer’s plate (also known as a compliance plate) with the important details listed, giving you an easy point of reference. You can usually find this plate near the entrance door to the caravan, where you’ll find details including the caravan’s weight ratings as well as the tire sizes and pressures. There are a few codes you should know to properly understand your caravan’s weight.

Tare Mass:

The tare mass is the weight of your caravan with nothing in it. If you’re asking yourself “how much does a caravan weigh?”, you need to take into consideration not just the tare mass, but the caravan’s mass when at capacity.

Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)

This is the weight of the caravan when it’s carrying the maximum load recommended by the manufacturer. The ATM is, assuming manufacturer’s rules and recommendations are followed, the maximum weight of the caravan. If you’re ever wondering how heavy is a caravan, assume the weight to be the ATM. You can calculate the ATM by adding the tare mass and the maximum carry capacity or payload.

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)

The Gross Vehicle Mass or GVM is the weight limit your car can support. If your caravan’s ATM is larger than your car’s GVM, you won’t be able to tow that caravan with that car. Most four wheel drives will have no issues towing a caravan, but small and medium-sized cars will likely struggle.

caravan driving away down road in the outback

How Wide Is A Caravan (And How Wide Can It Be?)

Knowing the width of your caravan is important – you don’t want to be sandwiching it into any awkward spaces and causing damage! Each caravan’s width is different, so the exact measurements of your caravan can vary from the average width of a caravan. There is a maximum width for all caravans though, and in Australia, that maximum width is 2.5 metres. Your caravan may be smaller than this, as 2.5m is the maximum width allowance. Most caravans tend to be 2.2 or 2.3 metres wide.

How To Measure A Caravan:

Sometimes the best way to understand the size of your caravan is to grab a measuring tape and measure your caravan first-hand! Here’s some tips on how to do it properly…

How to measure caravan width:

The outside width of your caravan is the total distance from side to side. To measure the width of a caravan, align the end of your measuring tape with one side. Most measuring tapes will have a hook-like end that will hold on to a corner to make measuring easier. If your caravan has rounded corners, you can hook it onto the corner of the side and bottom and measure the width by extending the measuring tape underneath the caravan’s body.

How to measure caravan height:

The overall height of your caravan is the distance from the top of the vehicle to the ground. It’s important to measure all the way to the ground and not just to the floor of the caravan, since that won’t give you the overall height. Be sure to take into account all outer components of your caravan, not just the body of the caravan.

How to measure caravan length:

The overall length of the caravan is the distance from the very back of the caravan to the very front, at the coupling point (where it attaches to your car’s tow bar or tow hitch). As above, be sure to include things like spare wheels when measuring up your caravan.

How much does a caravan weigh:

Each caravan will weigh slightly different. The weight of your caravan will depend on its tare mass (its weight with nothing in it) and whatever you’re storing inside your caravan. On average, smaller caravans tend to weigh around 2000kg, while larger caravans tend to weigh around 3500kg.

man hitching caravan to back of car

How to calculate ball weight of a caravan?

The ball weight of a caravan is the weight at the tow ball. The ball weight is the downward force the tow ball experiences, as it holds the caravan balanced on the axles. It’s important to know the ball weight, because if your caravan is too heavy it can damage your tow ball or tow bar and even damage your vehicle.

Want to know how to calculate the ball weight of a caravan at home? Use some bathroom scales with a limit of over 100kg. Place your bathroom scales and a brick or paver on the ground at 90cm apart. Make sure the scales and the brick or paver are at the same height. Then, place a length of pipe or strong wood across the scales and the paver, like a bridge. Mark 1/3 measurements along the bridge. Now, place the jocky wheel of your loaded caravan at the 2/3 mark on the bridge. Record the displayed weight on the scales and multiply it by three. This is your caravan’s approximate ball weight. You can also calculate the ball weight of a caravan at a weighbridge.

How to weigh a caravan:

To weigh a caravan for a small fee, you’ll need to bring it to a weighbridge. You can use a public weighbridge to weigh your caravan or trailer. You just need to drive onto the weighbridge. Most weighbridges will be operated by a licenced operator for safety. You will have to pay a fee to use the weighbridge, but using a weighbridge is the best way to know your caravan’s weight. Alternatively, a Reich Weight Control is a great long term solution to weighing a caravan or any vehicle before going on holiday. This great little device takes the hassle out of weighing anything, by simply driving over it with each wheel, it will automatically calculate the total mass within a few kgs of accuracy. 

Looking for the ultimate DIY job? Why not take on the challenge of building your own caravan, allowing you to create your own rig and know exactly just how wide, tall and heavy it is.