Warning on heavy caravans

By: Laura Keys, Photography by: Jack Murphy

Long lists of standard inclusions on modern vans are bumping up their weights massively, putting vanners at risk of towing unsafe or even illegal rigs.

Warning on heavy caravans
The caravan industry association is warning buyers to do their homework before they buy their new van.

Caravanners are being urged to ensure their caravan complies with the towing capacity of their vehicle before they hit the road.

With modern vans becoming increasingly heavy due to the number of ‘standard inclusions’ they have, there is a real risk of vanners towing unsafe and even, illegal, rigs.

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia is encouraging owners, dealers and manufacturers to take responsibility for keeping caravan weights under control.

The association reports that the number of ‘standard inclusions’ modern vanners expect from a manufacturer or dealer when they buy a new van has become a common issue.


Any extra inclusions, whether added by the dealer, owner or manufacturer, quickly add up and could bring the overall of the van very close to its limit (the aggregate trailer mass, or ATM, stamped on the compliance plate). And that’s without taking into account water in the tanks, gas in the bottles and any clothes or normal travelling items.


The association reports that the weight of the caravan in relation to the consumer’s tow vehicle is often overlooked by all parties. It maintains that any business selling RV products needs to be aware of its obligations and legal responsibility in terms of safety. This is particularly important for manufacturers and dealers selling caravans to consumers, and all are encouraged to assess the suitability of the buyer’s tow vehicle prior to any contract being signed.

In some cases, vanners don’t find out that their tow vehicle legally can’t tow their van until the time of delivery or even months after the fact. This can have a serious impact on safety and insurance, even rendering it void if an accident occurred.


But suitability does not end at towing capacity. Many car manufacturers have specific conditions for their vehicles when they are used for towing, such as speed and ball weight restrictions, and rules about weight distribution hitches. All these conditions must be met by the vanner and failing to comply could void a vehicle’s warranty or insurance, cause mechanical damage or result in an accident.

Vanners are encouraged to refer to their vehicle’s handbook before contemplating towing, and certainly before buying a new van.