Do you own a caravan or thinking of investing in one? If you answer yes to either of those questions you need to ask yourself this, how much does a caravan weigh?
Why is it important that I know the weight of my caravan? That’s exactly what this article is going to explain to you.
You could find yourself with a fine up to £2,500, and penalty points. All for towing a caravan without knowing the law properly.
It’s not just the law either. You need to know for you and your family’s safety, and if your car is even powerful enough to tow the caravan, you have in mind.
The Law On Towing Caravans
Let’s look at what laws it involves when you tow your van.
When did you pass your driving test? Before 1997 or after?
If you passed your test before 1997 you should be able to drive a vehicle and caravan up to 8.25 tonnes (8,500kg). This is the MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass). Now with that kind of allowance, it pretty much guarantees you can tow any size of caravan.
I say should, because you need to check the back of your licence in case they have placed any restriction on the weight limit.
But, if you passed your test post-1997, the law changes. The law now reduces the MAM limit for a vehicle and caravan to 3.5 tonnes (3,500kg). A further detail to make a note of is the caravan MAM must be lower than the towing vehicle’s weight.
You can get on the right side of this law by taking a BE car and trailer driving test. If you’re used to towing vehicles, you probably don’t need any lessons prior to the test, and there’s no legal requirement that says you have to. If you pass the test, then you increase the MAM entitlement.
Now that you know what you’re legally allowed to tow, let’s talk about how much a caravan weighs?
How To Calculate The Weight Of A Caravan
Stuck on the outside of a caravan, near the door, usually, is the weight plate. Or ‘plate’ as it’s more often called. Different manufacturers layout the information differently, but there is a legal requirement to supply certain information.
Understand Your Weights
Listed on the ‘plate’ will be two weights, the VIN number, Tyre size, and tyre pressures as a legal necessity.
he ‘plate’ depicts the weights in (Kg) Kilograms, as the MIRO and MTPLM.
Mass In Running Order (MIRO) is the weight of your van with no payload. It does not include the weight of your leisure battery, and since 2015 most manufacturers will not include the weight of any water in the tanks.
Maximum Technically Permitted Laden Mass.
The manufacturer of your caravan decides this figure. It’s the MIRO and your user payload, together. Here is another example of why you must know your weights or you will break the law. If you go beyond the MTPLM, when towing a caravan on a road, you will have your insurance invalidated, void your warranty and break the law.
But what is the user payload? They will not display this figure on the ‘plate’. But it’s a figure that you can calculate. A payload is everything you take with you in the caravan. For example, bedding, crockery, cooking utensils, tables and chairs, TV, heaters and leisure battery.
To work out your user payload it’s quite easy, deduct the MIRO from the MTPLM and you get the payload. Now before you put all your belongings in the van, weigh each of them, that way you will not exceed the user payload limit.
Remember this about the MIRO, when your caravan left the manufacturers it didn’t have any accessories on there, such as solar panels, axle jacking points and so forth. So it will include none of these items in the MIRO.
Staying Legal On The Road When Towing A Caravan
So this is fine, but how does it work in the actual world. Taking an example of 1368Kg MTPLM and a MIRO of 1137Kg, you have a payload of 211Kg. So you would think that’s a decent payload figure, more than enough to include the belongings of all your family.
But hold on, you have solar panels fitted, also your leisure battery weighs over 50Kg now we deduct those from the 211Kg and we only have 141Kg for all the belongings.
It’s getting a bit of a pain now, having to either guess the weight or physically weigh every individual item. Here’s the solution.
Take the caravan fully loaded, just before you start your journey, to a local council weigh station. Don’t have any full water tanks on board when you get weighed, you can fill up when you get to your destination.
Now once you take that figure away from the MTPLM, you will know instantly if you’re within legal limits.
What if you’re overweight? Well, take the items you can easily remove and transfer them to the car. For one, put the leisure battery in the car.
How To Weigh A Caravan?
We’ve talked about taking your caravan to the local weigh station. But what if there isn’t one near you or you don’t want to load up only to find you’re overweight and have to trek back home to offload some gear?
There’s another solution. A portable weight scale by Reich.
If you get one here’s how to use it.
Place it on the ground and drive your caravan over it with each wheel in turn. The scales store the value for each wheel and then display the total weight of the caravan. The scales will weigh up to 1500Kg per wheel, more than enough for most caravans. The manufacturers claim an accuracy level of plus or minus 3%.
If you decide to invest in the Reich weight scales, it’s important to only use them on a flat tarmac surface to get an accurate result.
How Best To Load A Caravan For Weight Distribution
You have a vehicle balancing on one axle and two wheels (mostly) so weight distribution is critical. A badly loaded caravan will perform badly on the road.
You need to load the heavier items along the floor over the axle, preferably either side of the axle to balance the weight. Finally, ensure they are well secured, they don’t want to be sliding around. The lower the centre of mass, the less chance of the vehicle being blown over on the motorway by sudden gusts of strong winds.
Caravan Nose Weight
After you’ve finished loading your van, it makes sense to check the caravan’s nose weight. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s the force the caravan exerts on the towing vehicle’s tow ball. Vehicles have different ratings for this and will depend on the chassis and suspension of the vehicle.
Your vehicle’s manual will specify the nose weight limit. It can be a challenge, though, to get under the regulated limit. You can see the results of not being under the limit when a caravan is being towed by a vehicle and its front end is much too high and the back end very close to the ground.
There are consequences to this as well. If you’re towing like this and have an accident, the insurance company can refuse to pay out any claims. And it’s not just the insurance worries, there’s also the safety aspect. If there is too much nose weight and the front of the vehicle lifts, it will affect the stability of the steering, potentially leading to a serious accident.
How Do I Know My Car Can Tow A Caravan?
That’s not a simple question to answer, there are so many variables. For a start, what engine and size of the car are we talking about?
You can see the problem all too often on UK roads, a car towing a caravan that’s an obvious mismatch. That particular car should not be towing a caravan of that size.
So here’s how to work out, how to match a car to a caravan.
First, take note of these terms:
Kerb Weight -You will find this figure in your car’s handbook. But basically, this figure is the weight of the car, including the driver and a 90% capacity fuel in the tank.
Towing Capacity – also found in the vehicle handbook. There should be two figures, one for towing a braked trailer and one for an unbraked trailer. Because they put brakes on caravans, that’s the figure you need to know.
MTPLM – this term we’ve talked about earlier and it’s best to use this figure when matching a car and caravan.
Legally as long as your MTPLM is below the car’s legal towing limit, you’re OK. But does that mean it’s safe and practical, not really? The Camping and Caravanning Club recommend an 85% ratio.
This means, for example, if you have a vehicle kerb weight of 1800Kg then don’t tow a caravan over 1530Kg (1800kg x 0.85). Remember, this is a guideline for safer and more comfortable towing, not a legal necessity.
Conclusion To How Much Does A Caravan Weigh?
The reason we brought up the licence situation early in the article is that it has quite an impact on the vehicle and caravan combination you choose. After 1997 they calculated the MAM on the maximum laden weight of the caravan AND car and it must be less than 3,500Kg.
And don’t forget the nose weight of the caravan, when fully loaded against your vehicle limit. This is also hugely important, but often ignored.
As a side note, the weight of your caravan will also affect the tyre pressures, be sure to take that into account as well.