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What is the best tow vehicle or caravan ?

February 27, 2023

4mins

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AT CHECK WEIGHT from time to time we get asked what is the best vehicle or caravan.

As we see a lot of different set ups our focus is weighing your current set up and if it is compliant and safe. From weighing different combinations, we have seen completely compliant set-ups, combinations which exceed or are at a weight limit, to some that are very overweight and non-compliant and unsafe.

What we have found is that it is a compromise between power/payload/weight with payload being the main focus.

If you follow our Facebook page, you can go through the different posts and see there is no real vehicle that stands out as being constantly compliant.  It depends on what the owner’s plans are, what modifications they have made, and how much they have loaded into the vehicle.  

It is nearly an impossible question to answer, as everyone’s needs and wants is different

and below are some points to consider when buying a tow vehicle:

Budget

Budgets vary and the vehicles available vary a lot in price. What’s affordable for one person is out of the price range for another.

Power

More power has its advantages – but not all powerful vehicles have a great payload. You need the power to tow but power also comes at a weight cost.

Payload

Payload is one of the most important areas that you should consider when purchasing a vehicle. In general, a dual cab truck (we mean a real truck) has a better payload than a dual cab ute, and a dual cab ute has a better payload than a 4wd wagon. Also, the higher spec the model (i.e., more expensive) generally has less payload than the base model. There is always a vehicle to suit what you need. For example, look at the different payloads in caravans, some manufacturers will have a payload of only 400kgs and others will have a payload closer to 1000kgs. It pays to do your research and see out of your choices which one is better.

What’s the intended use?

Do you want to do “The Big Lap”, live in it full time, do extreme touring like desert crossings and remote travel, free camping, or just travel to caravan parks and stay on the sealed roads.

Depending on the above your vehicle choice will vary.

Van size and weight that the vehicle will tow

Whether you are travelling by yourself, as a couple or if you’re are a family changes the requirements dramatically.

Aftermarket accessories and gear – how and where will it be stored

  • bull bar, winches, lights, heavy duty side steps or sliders with brush bars, under body protection, rear bar with swing-away spare tyre carrier, roof top tent, rear draws, extra batteries, long range tank, water tank, recovery tracks, awning, solar panels, fridges, recovery gear all affect the weight of the vehicle and where and how it can be used

(and are they really necessary ?)

  • Are you intending on taking a boat, motor, fishing gear?
  • How many tools, battery operated tools, batteries, chargers etc are you taking
  • Are you travelling alone or in a convoy with friends or relatives
  • Push bikes (and the number of) affect your caravans balance and payload
  • Chainsaws, axes etc – need or a want – not needed in summer but maybe needed in winter

Food and drinks

Are you intending to be packing all your food and all your drinks from home, or as you travel, buy local and support the local economy. Why pack 4 cases of beer from home and carry it hundreds of kms to your campsite. Take a six pack cold and buy the rest when you get there.

How many people?

Buying a vehicle and /or caravan to take to the kids/grandkids occasionally means a lot of additional weight for a maybe! Do you really need a dual cab ute or would an extra cab be better (lighter).

How much storage is really required

A lot of the storage inside a caravan is for structure – so the walls don’t fall down – you don’t have to fill every cupboard.

Do you really need drawers in the back of the ute – they add a lot of weight in the wrong place and are the #1 reason that vehicle exceed their rear GAWR.

When looking at buying a vehicle or caravan what we consider is important is outlined below

Weights

Your tow vehicle, wagon, truck and caravan, camper trailer, horse float, or trailer all have to be compliant and under all limits at all times, there is no “GREY” area that allows you to be just over. We have all heard of authorities weighing tow vehicles and caravans and this will be likely be an on-going exercise which will cover everyone towing.

Whoever you are insured with is expecting you to be legally compliant at all times, and if you are unfortunate to have an accident and be overloaded you may find out that the insurance company will not cover you for the accident if weight was a contributing factor.

Ignorance is not a defence!

Safety

When we are weighing and talking to the owners, we find sometimes one partner does all the driving and the other one doesn’t have the confidence to tow or even drive the vehicle. Your partner should be able to drive – even if only as a backup – Ensure you are both comfortable driving the intended vehicle. Towing courses are available to help with your confidence.

Is your vehicle and what you are towing balanced, this will help when you are in a situation where you need to control the vehicle.

We recommend where possible the vehicle be heavier than the caravan – This is not a legal requirement (but probably should be) but you do not want a scenario of the “tail wagging the dog” when you are in a situation where you need to control the vehicle in a dangerous circumstance. E.g., van starting to sway. We recommend that the Caravan GTM being a maximum of 90% of the weight of the tow vehicle.

Assess your “NEEDS” and “WANTS”- Look at the fundamentals of the vehicle and caravan and does it cover all your needs first, then worry about what model variant later, sometimes there is a big difference in payload with looking at a base model vehicle verses a top specified one. Caravans are the same, once you start ticking off the accessory list the payload will be reduced accordingly!

If you are looking for a vehicle and caravan consider doing CHECK WEIGHT’s “Making Sense of caravan Weights” online course

Available here ONLINE COURSE Type in friendsofcheckweight for a $30 discount.

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