Since setting up Horton Common in 2014 I’ve had many discussions with our visitors about the weight of their caravans for various reasons. First, it may have been conservations about their tow car and how suitable they found it for pulling their caravan. Secondly, it has been conversations based around driving licences and ‘Gross Train Weight’. Therefore I thought I would write a post about these conversations, and to explain why the weight of a caravan is important for those looking to purchase a caravan for the first time. Before we discuss the topic of how much does a caravan weigh in detail, I’ll just cover the ‘highlights’.
The smallest and lightest caravans such as an Adria Altea have a weight of around 900kg and Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM)of 1100kg. Generally, trailers below this weight don’t have toilet/shower facilities and are really camping trailers more than a common understanding of what a caravan provides. The heaviest caravans you will see on UK roads would be something like a twin axel Airstream International. The weight of these caravans unladen is around 2,000kg and with a MTPLM of around 2,400kg.
Update: I would encourage you to read my post on how to weigh a caravan. I discuss the use of portable weigh scales and how to find and use public weighbridges.
What does MTPLM mean for a Caravans Weight?
MTPLM stands for Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass. On each caravan, there is a metal label (usually located around the door) which will provide full details on the caravan. It will show the MRO (sometimes MIRO) which stands for Mass in Running Order. This is the weight of the caravan as it leaves the factory, hence its unladen weight. The MTPLM is the maximum weight the caravan can be once laden while complying with your insurance policy and legal to tow. If you have an accident and your insurance company believe it was due to your caravan being overweight, they could refuse to payout. Therefore it’s very important you do not overload your caravan and pack a caravan correctly.
Quick Note: The MTPLM is also very important when it comes to purchasing new caravan tyres. You want to make sure the tyres your purchasing have a load index rating to suit the MTPLM of your caravan.
When Did You Pass Your Driving Test?
The weight of caravans becomes more significant to you depending on when you passed your driving test. The reasons being depending on when you passed your test it will dictate if you can legally tow a caravan over a certain weight, depending on your chosen tow vehicle.
Passed Before January 1st 1997?
If you passed your driving test before January 1st 1997 you probably don’t have much to worry about. Most driving licences around that date enable you to have a car and caravan weight up to 8,250kg also known as the maximum authorised mass (MAM). This should cover practically any car and caravan combination on you could want.
Passed After January 1st 1997?
This is where it starts to get a bit more complicated. The information from the governments’ website states, “You can also tow heavier trailers if the total MAM of the vehicle and trailer is not more than 3,500kg.” So that’s obviously a significant reduction from the 8,250kg for those with a pre-1997 licence. It’s also important to remember that the MAM is not the weight of the vehicle, but its total laden weight. In other words, the maximum that vehicle can weigh including its contents. So, for instance, if you passed your driving test after January 1st 1997, you would not be able to tow a heavy caravan such as an Airstream International without passing additional driving tests. If your not sure what your driving licence allows, you can actually now check it online.
To be able to use a large tow car to tow a large caravan you will need a B+E driving licence. I passed in 2004, so the above also applies to myself. I can tow provisionally B+E if supervised (and with L plates), as well as notifying my insurance company. Otherwise, I’m limited to keeping the total MAM of the caravan and car under 3,500kg.
How To Load A Caravan For Good Weight Distribution
When it comes to loading up your caravan weight distribution is very important. How you load up your caravan will affect how it performs on the road. First, you need to be aware of the user payload limit for your caravan. As stated above the payload will be the difference between the unladen weight of the caravan and its Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM). Once your confident your items are within the payload limit you can start to load the caravan. You want to distribute the items depending on their weight. The heaviest items (likely to be the awning) should be positioned over the caravan axle on the floor. Try to make sure you are balancing the weight of items either side of the axle. This will mean the caravan has good on the road performance without excessive pitching and snaking. The RAC has produced quite a good towing guide for caravanners.
Caravan Nose Weight and Why You Should Check It
Before you set off after loading up your caravan you should really check the nose weight of the caravan once fully laden. The nose weight is the force the caravan is placing on your cars tow ball. Each car has a different rating for nose weight on the tow ball. It depends on the cars chassis and suspension setup. Cars with long overhangs from the rear wheels generally have low nose weight limits. You will also typically find PHEVs and electric tow cars have lower nose weight limits. Cars with air suspension usually have higher nose weight limits. The reason being the air suspension can up the pressure to stop the back of the car dipping down too much.
Some cars have a nose weight limit as low as 60kg, larger 4x4s will be rated around 150kg, sometimes even higher. Always check the manual for your car to find its nose weight limit. Depending on how much stuff you have in your caravan and its position it can be challenging to keep the nose weight under control. Remember, a caravan motor mover can increase the noseweight of your caravan, also reducing your user payload.
Consequences of Going Over Your Nose Weight Limit
If you breach your nose weight limit and have an accident your insurance company could refuse to payout. It can also be very unsafe to exceed the nose weight rating. More weight on the back of the car will potentially lift the front. The front of your car obviously provides the steering. Less contact of your steering wheels on the road can lead to handling issues and potential accidents. Most people will have seen cars on the road which are clearly breaching their nose weight limit. The rear wheels of the car almost disappear into the arches, and the tow bar is practically dragging against the ground.
Conclusions on How Much Does a Caravan Weigh
When it comes to towing a caravan, especially with a driving licence post-1997 the weight of the caravan you choose has significant implications. So does the weight of your chosen tow car. The legal MAM is based on the maximum laden weight of the caravan AND car being under 3,500kg. Once you have chosen a suitable car and caravan combination to keep under the 3,500kg limit, you need to focus on loading the caravan properly. Weight distribution in the caravan can have a significant impact on how it feels to tow. Therefore checking the nose weight of your caravan against your cars nose weight limit should not be ignored. The weight of your caravan also plays an important role when it comes to calculating your caravan tyre pressures.
Anyway, I hope the above provided you with some useful information and links to other useful resources. I’ve also produced posts on how to set up a caravan on site and how to level a caravan. Once your setup with your car and caravan you may be interested in coming to visit us here ar Horton Common and experience our fully serviced pitches. 🙂