Camping is a favourite Australian pastime, and there’s no greater feeling than hopping in the car and hitting the open road. Although sleeping on the ground in a tent is a perfectly fine option for those willing to rough it a little, touring with a caravan definitely offers a more luxurious outdoors experience.
But what if you’re new to towing a caravan? It’s important to do your research into towing capacity, weight balances, turning and braking techniques to ensure that you arrive at your campsite - and back home again - safe and sound.
What is towing capacity and how do I know what type of caravan my vehicle can handle?
In order for vehicles to tow caravans or other types of trailers both safely and legally, they must only tow within their stated towing capacity recommended by the manufacturer. This towing limit is often listed as either braked towing capacity (referring to trailers that have their own brakes and an electric tow kit installed) and unbraked towing capacity (for trailers that weigh less than 750kg without brakes). Towing limits are also subject to the type of towbar being used, vehicle design and rear axle strength, equipment being towed and regulatory requirements. It’s a good idea to buy a tow vehicle with a relatively long wheelbase and a vehicle that’s as heavy or heavier than the caravan being towed to help keep the vehicle firmly planted on the road.
How to calculate capacity for safely towing a caravan
When choosing a vehicle for towing a caravan, the vehicle’s weight needs to be considered when the car is fully loaded - including all accessories on the vehicle (roof racks, tow bars, awnings etc.), as well as fuel, passengers and luggage. You will also need to consider the weight of all of your camping gear, accessories, and food that will be carried in the caravan itself. To understand what type of caravan will work best with your vehicle, you need to look at Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) and Gross Combined Mass (GCM). When buying a vehicle for towing, you need to deduct the Gross Vehicle Mass from the Gross Combined Mass and then subtract the weight of everything you’ll be carrying. This will result in the maximum Gross Trailer Mass that the vehicle can handle. As all of these numbers are interrelated, close attention needs to be paid when purchasing a vehicle and caravan combination. Make sure that any trailer you are going to tow weighs less than the maximum tow rating of the vehicle you will be driving.
Toyota’s top towing vehicles
Toyota has a long list of vehicles that are perfect for exploring the great outdoors, but they all have different towing capacities that need to be paid attention to. It’s also important to note that the specs of a vehicle can influence towing capacity (petrol vs diesel, or 2WD vs 4WD for example). As a quick reference, here is a general list of Toyota’s top towing vehicles with their corresponding braked towing capacities:
- Toyota HiLux Towing capacity - 3,500 kg
- Toyota Prado Towing Capacity - 3,000 kg
- Toyota Kluger Towing Capacity - 2,000 kg
- Toyota Fortuna Towing Capacity - 3,100 kg
- Toyota RAV4 Towing Capacity - 1,500 kg
- LandCruiser Towing capacity - 3,500 kg
When purchasing one of these vehicles for the purpose of towing a caravan, we recommend that your vehicle is equipped with a Genuine Toyota Tow Bar. Our tow bars have been designed using the vehicle CAD information so they are best positioned to transfer weight appropriately to the vehicle. Toyota Genuine Accessories are safety tested on the vehicle rather than independently of the car.
Safety first for a stress-free, enjoyable journey
Before setting off on your next adventure, be sure that you give your vehicle a once over to ensure brakes, fluid levels, and your tyres are all in good condition. It’s also very important to install good towing mirrors before towing a caravan for the first time so you have maximum visibility. Another important tip is to ensure that the weight in the caravan is properly distributed. Start by packing the heaviest items first - just ahead of the wheel axles, and keep the weight spread evenly and low to the ground. Never store heavy items up high as it will raise the centre of gravity making the caravan more prone to tipping. Most importantly, double and triple check that the hitch, safety chains, braking and electrical cables are attached and secured properly.
For first-time towers, it’s a good idea to practice reversing, braking and turning before you head off on your big adventure - and if you are really nervous about towing a caravan, look online for a local towing course before you hit the open road. By doing the necessary research and preparations up front, towing a caravan will give you the freedom to venture off to places you’ve never dreamed of and create memories to last a lifetime along the way.