What is my car's towing weight limit?

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nic

Jul 13, 2020
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hi,
Apologies in advance if this has been asked before, I've had a search and can't find it.

We have a 2litre diesel Passat estate and are trying to figure out what size of caravan we can tow.

Kerbweight is 1500kg.
Tech Permissible Max Towing Mass is 2000kg (braked).
Gross Train Weight is 4115kg (There are no accronyms on the plate in the car so I'm assuming this is the GTW).

A few pages say 85-100% of kerbweight but the kerbweight is 500kg lower than both the max braked mass allowance and the GTW.

Anyone know why there's such a difference between the max permissible towing limit and the kerbweight - could really use the extra kgs for a decent sized caravan!

thanks
 
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Yes it is because caravans can be quite different to other types of trailer. They are very boxy and can be prone to sidewinds, passing vehicles etc and all because the loading and positioning of camping equipment, and driver performance and skill can make a big difference to its stability. The guide for 85% of cars kerb weight is a reasonable starting point for someone new to the hobby. It's not a fixed value a few percent either way isn't a problem. The higher figure that makers give is based on a number of aspects one is the cars ability to restart a number of times on a defined incline. My philosophy is keep caravan light and car heavy IE as much kit as feasible goes into the car.
 
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Towing limit covers all types of trailers and is based on the car's mechanical limitations - the 85-100% Towing Ratio is specific to caravans which are subject to higher side wind forces than other trailers.

My Touareg has a kerbweight of 2280kg but the towing limit is 3500kg - IMO, if as car's towing limit is less than the kerbweight it's less than ideal.
 

nic

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thanks for the replies, helps to make some sense of it all.

So basically the car can tow loads but caravans may need a lower limit because they're relatively blunt object and are more prone to sidewinds, ok thanks.

Most of the caravans we're looking at are around 1600kgs, so with a kerbweight of 1500kg plus passengers and heavy kit in the car it could be ok.....
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello Nic.
Welcome to the forum.

The world of towed weights and what is advice and what is law is a bit of a mine field, but fortunately from where your starting its straight forward to work out.

You have already quoted from your cars specification what its maximum towed weight is (2000kg) This can be verified by taking the Gross Train Weight and subtracting the cars Gross Vehicle Weight as displayed on teh weight plate above the GTW. Assuming the figures you have given are correct then GTW 4115, and the towed weight is 2000 then teh GVW should be 2115kg.
which is a healthy figure, and legally you could tow a trailer that weighs 2000kg.

However caravans in particular are difficult trailers simply becasue of their large size which makes the more susceptible to being blown around by wind and the bow waves coming from other vehicles when you pass, so the UK caravan industry is issued some advice and the suggest that new caravanners should start with smaller (less heavy) caravans and as experience grows moving towards larger caravans.

Now this is the bit that becomes more difficult, becasue they suggest a calculation that takes the heaviest the caravan is designed to be its MTPLM and divide it by the lightest a car can be when driven its Kerbweight all multiplied by 100 to produce a percentage figure - The advice suggests Novices no greater than 85% and experienced no greater than 100% .

Again assuming you figures are correct then your kerbweight is 1500kg. As a novice the advice is to consider caravans up to 1275kg for an 85% towing ratio. and for an experienced tower up to 1500kg. Now I must stress this is only advice and not law. so pushing the advisory limits may possible without serious handling consequence.

I must draw your attention to another possible fly in the ointment, and that what you are entitled to drive. If you passed your driving test before Jan 1997 then you should have Cat "Be" on your licence, and that allows you to drive a car and trailer up to at least a combined MAM of 7000kg.
However if you passed your test after 1996, the you will wont have Cat "Be" you will just have Cat "B" and crucially that limits you to a car and trailer of combined MAM not exceeding 3500kg. Maximum Authorised Mass or MAM is equivalent of the GVW for the car and the MTPLM for the caravan so the combined MAM is the GVW+MTPLM for the outfit If that sum exceeds 3500 even by 1kg you are technically driving without a licence for the vehicle.

Now I mention it becasue your GVW is apparently 2115kg , and to keep within the Cat B limit of 3500 that would leave you with the biggest permissible MTPLM of 3500 -2115 = 1385kg MTPLM

I hope this helps
 
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thanks for the replies, helps to make some sense of it all.

So basically the car can tow loads but caravans may need a lower limit because they're relatively blunt object and are more prone to sidewinds, ok thanks.

Most of the caravans we're looking at are around 1600kgs, so with a kerbweight of 1500kg plus passengers and heavy kit in the car it could be ok.....
I don’t know whether my post was ambiguous. But fir a newcomer the 85% guide is a good starting point give a few percent. My reference to loading the car was based on my philosophy of trying to stay within the 85-100% range of van to kerbweight then putting as much of my equipment weight into the car. This aids stability by making the car heavier but it doesn’t compensate fir keeping within the guidelines as far as I’m concerned. I would not tow at above 100% kerbweight and it’s years since I ever approached anywhere near 100%.
 
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Totally agree with otherclive re loading the car not the caravan-something we've always done-plus take care with noseweight and make sure tyre pressures are correct.
For a great read see here; https://forums.practicalcaravan.com/threads/85-debate-continuation.60543/
You will see that the 85% guidance creates a lot of debate! It'll keep you busy and confused, but suffice to say it's a good starting point and one which I have only managed to achieve when towing my windsurfing trailer with my Mark 2 Mr 2! Never with a caravan, but that's another story!
 
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nic

Jul 13, 2020
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Hello Nic.
Welcome to the forum.

The world of towed weights and what is advice and what is law is a bit of a mine field, but fortunately from where your starting its straight forward to work out.

You have already quoted from your cars specification what its maximum towed weight is (2000kg) This can be verified by taking the Gross Train Weight and subtracting the cars Gross Vehicle Weight as displayed on teh weight plate above the GTW. Assuming the figures you have given are correct then GTW 4115, and the towed weight is 2000 then teh GVW should be 2115kg.
which is a healthy figure, and legally you could tow a trailer that weighs 2000kg.

However caravans in particular are difficult trailers simply becasue of their large size which makes the more susceptible to being blown around by wind and the bow waves coming from other vehicles when you pass, so the UK caravan industry is issued some advice and the suggest that new caravanners should start with smaller (less heavy) caravans and as experience grows moving towards larger caravans.

Now this is the bit that becomes more difficult, becasue they suggest a calculation that takes the heaviest the caravan is designed to be its MTPLM and divide it by the lightest a car can be when driven its Kerbweight all multiplied by 100 to produce a percentage figure - The advice suggests Novices no greater than 85% and experienced no greater than 100% .

Again assuming you figures are correct then your kerbweight is 1500kg. As a novice the advice is to consider caravans up to 1275kg for an 85% towing ratio. and for an experienced tower up to 1500kg. Now I must stress this is only advice and not law. so pushing the advisory limits may possible without serious handling consequence.

I must draw your attention to another possible fly in the ointment, and that what you are entitled to drive. If you passed your driving test before Jan 1997 then you should have Cat "Be" on your licence, and that allows you to drive a car and trailer up to at least a combined MAM of 7000kg.
However if you passed your test after 1996, the you will wont have Cat "Be" you will just have Cat "B" and crucially that limits you to a car and trailer of combined MAM not exceeding 3500kg. Maximum Authorised Mass or MAM is equivalent of the GVW for the car and the MTPLM for the caravan so the combined MAM is the GVW+MTPLM for the outfit If that sum exceeds 3500 even by 1kg you are technically driving without a licence for the vehicle.

Now I mention it becasue your GVW is apparently 2115kg , and to keep within the Cat B limit of 3500 that would leave you with the biggest permissible MTPLM of 3500 -2115 = 1385kg MTPLM

I hope this helps

Thanks. The numbers I quoted are definitely correct, my problem was I couldn't find an explanation of why the 500kg difference, or why the caravan recommendation was against the lower number.

Also not sure why the Tow Car awards would award the passat repeatedly because 85% of 1500kg is a seriously limited range of caravans.

I know about the licence issue, not a problem for us fortunately. Although I'd have thought it was 3500kg-kerbweight=MLTPM.
 
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thanks for the replies, helps to make some sense of it all.

So basically the car can tow loads but caravans may need a lower limit because they're relatively blunt object and are more prone to sidewinds, ok thanks.

Most of the caravans we're looking at are around 1600kgs, so with a kerbweight of 1500kg plus passengers and heavy kit in the car it could be ok.....
That's not advisable for a beginner - 85% of 1500kg is 1275kg so 1600 kg is over the 100% - I suggest you focus on lighter caravans.
 
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Thanks. The numbers I quoted are definitely correct, my problem was I couldn't find an explanation of why the 500kg difference, or why the caravan recommendation was against the lower number.

Also not sure why the Tow Car awards would award the passat repeatedly because 85% of 1500kg is a seriously limited range of caravans.

I know about the licence issue, not a problem for us fortunately. Although I'd have thought it was 3500kg-kerbweight=MLTPM.


It’s not just the Passat, all Towcar tests in Club or PC magazines ballast to 85% kerbweight.
You are incorrect in your understanding of the B licence 3500 kg restrictive limit. It is calculated solely on the plated weights of car and caravan. So even if both are unloaded and the driver only has a B licence then they would be illegal and could be fined and have points added to the licence. It doesn’t require the Police/DVSA to weigh the outfit a quick look at the plates is all that’s required. But since you have BE it is academic.
 
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It would be interesting -and might be another topic entirely-but what do people consider as not being a beginner? Training? After the first caravan, ? HGV Class1, or 2 . Not sure what I think-I try to be a good careful read the road ahead driver, have done a skid pan course, and have towed a light trailer for windsurfing purposed behind an Mr2 mk2, and then went into caravanning and was I think immediately over the 85% rule and always have been since?
 
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...I know about the licence issue, not a problem for us fortunately. Although I'd have thought it was 3500kg-kerbweight=MLTPM.

I'm pleased your licence is good to go.

I can assure you 100% the the Cat B limitation is based on the maximum designed weights of both the car and trailer ("Combined MAM) is in your vernacular.
3500kg-GVW=MLTPM.

The Passat is a very capable tow car, but it can't escape the science of how much a large caravan can corrupt the tow vehicle. A company I worked for took a car and caravan to the Motor Industry Research Association track near Nuneaton to establish the internal forces acting on products inside caravans as part of a durability study. The results were eyeopening, and whilst what we were looking at were the internal accelerations (vibrations) it was clear from the orthogonal multi-axis records how many forces were pushing and pulling in multiple directions and affecting the tow vehicle.

Be in no doubt, big caravans produce big multi-directional forces acting on the tow ball which affect the vehicles handling.

I'm not a big fan of the industries 85%- 100% advice, I'm not sure it shouldn't be lower becasue it fails to offer any guarantees of safety, but the issue is highly complex and so far no one has come up with better solution.
 
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Aside from any B+E issues, the OP should look at the VIN plate which - IMSMC - is on the nearside central pillar visible with the front door open. The two numbers at the top show the maximum train weight and the gross vehicle weight: subtract the smaller number from the bigger number and you have the maximum trailer weight - and for a Passat Estate that should be in the range 1800-1850Kg. The figures on the VW web site are incorrect.
 
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thanks for the replies, helps to make some sense of it all.



Most of the caravans we're looking at are around 1600kgs, so with a kerbweight of 1500kg plus passengers and heavy kit in the car it could be ok.....
Passengers and load, don't count as far as kerb weight goes. Only the driver is included, drivers seat will always be occupied.
In fact in some situations extra passengers will reduce towing limit by a set amount per passenger.
I have a Vauxhall Insignia Elite that has a kerb weight of 1831 kg which on face value gives a 85% figure of 1557 kg which would be ok for the van size you are looking at 1600kg.
But the Insignia has a tow limit of 1600 kg which is good for two occupants of 75 kg each and no more. At altitude any passengers above this number would reduce the towing limit by 75kg. per person.
 
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thanks for the replies, helps to make some sense of it all.

So basically the car can tow loads but caravans may need a lower limit because they're relatively blunt object and are more prone to sidewinds, ok thanks.

Most of the caravans we're looking at are around 1600kgs, so with a kerbweight of 1500kg plus passengers and heavy kit in the car it could be ok.....

Taking into account the post I have quoted and some of the subsequent answers, It is important to understand the industry advice of 85 to 100% is only advisory but it does take into account considerable extra risks of towing a caravan. Its not perfect, but it would be ignoring sensible advice from other more experienced caravanners and going against the advice which is well intentioned if you proceed with a caravan of up to 1600kg.

I would not go as far as to suggest you will definitely have problems, but you will be pushing the probabilities by eroding the cars handling capabilities.

Ultimately the choice is yours and would be legal, but its a risky strategy. Do you really want to put you or your families safety in that much jeopardy?

I strongly suggest you take one of the clubs caravan towing courses. It may open your eyes to some of the real additional dangers of towing caravans.
 
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You might like to input your cars details into the matching site Towcar.info and look at a 1600 kg caravan match based on your desired caravan type. I’ve found that site quite accurate in its estimates but of course like all such sources it’s as good as the data and inputs. It also allows you to adjust settings like payload and noseweight to see the effects of various changes.



 
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Passengers and load, don't count as far as kerb weight goes. Only the driver is included, drivers seat will always be occupied.

By definition, kerbweight does not include the driver. (For more information refer to The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, Part 1 Reg 3).
 
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European Manufactures include in Kerb Weight " all fluids 90% Fuel in tank and 75 kg for driver and a small amount of luggage. European Directive 95/48/EC
 
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I have to say having seen plenty of outfits like this on the road and my experience although the stats suggest the car may not be kerb weight totally right I would stick my neck and say this outfit would be a very good safe tow at legal speeds. Only thing to do is try it take it steady and be careful initially. Watch tyre pressures and loading. We towed happily for 3 years at113% and with our Navara now at 95% and you honestly forget the van is on. The op states his surprise at the gap between towing limit and kerbweight rule. Our Navaras limit is 3500kg and 1000in the load bed and you want to see how some farmers round here load/drive them!!! Not right in any way of course but...

I am increasingly of the opinion that the kerb weight rule is the same as the Highway code braking distance. Perfect safe base for any car or outfit but technology has thankfully meant this is a minimum and safe basis for a beginner or poor towcar or van.
Hides head under parapet to avoid impending flak?!!
 
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European Manufactures include in Kerb Weight " all fluids 90% Fuel in tank and 75 kg for driver and a small amount of luggage. European Directive 95/48/EC

No, they are quoting mass in running order, not kerbweight. The directive that you are quoting does not even mention the term 'kerbweight'. Besides, 95/48/EC has since been replaced by 1230/2012/EC.
 
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It all seems a bit messy-i see when reading the caravan mags that some manufacturers quote with a 75kg driver-more realistic imo, whereas some don't-they then add the 75kg for the 85% calculation-and imo that's a bare minimum- and makes the op s comment about loading all the more relevant. if we are being realistic we'd have much more in the car than that.

Trucks are criticised for tail light towing-we'd never know as when loaded ready for a holiday our tail is most definitely not light and there is never any suggestion of rear wheel slip! Traction without the 4x4 is definitely not an issue.
 
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The trouble is that manufacturers aren't obliged to quote kerbweight at all and many that do talk about kerbweight when they actually mean mass in running order.
 
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The trouble is that manufacturers aren't obliged to quote kerbweight at all and many that do talk about kerbweight when they actually mean mass in running order.

Atached is the AA's definition of Kerb Weight and Miro
.
 
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