Why weight matters

You can have a camper trailer loaded with features, but all those bells and whistles are pointless if you can’t tow it!

Unlike a campervan or motorhome RVs, unless you have a vehicle, you can’t tow a camper trailer. But even with a vehicle you may not be able to tow a camper trailer!

Your vehicle and its towing rate or capacity is a major influence on your purchasing decision. For safety and legality, you must tow within your car’s towing capacity. So, what does towing capacity mean? In simple terms, it is the manufacturer’s maximum recommended weight your vehicle is able to tow, based on their engineering specifications and testing.

That information is usually listed as two separate figures:
• Unbraked towing, and;
• Braked towing.

Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for these specification sheets.

To give you an indication, below is a table of some popular vehicles and if they can be towed by an Ultimate vs. the average camper trailer.

SUVTowing (kg)UltimateCamper Avg
Audi Q52000
BMW X33500
BMW X53500
Ford Escape1500*Vehicle can tow, but with limited storage capacity.
(See notes below)
Holden Equinox2000
Honda CR-V1500*Vehicle can tow, but with limited storage capacity.
(See notes below)
Hyundai Kona1300
Hyundai Santa Fe2000
Hyundai Tucson1600
Kia Sportage1900
Mazda CX-31200
Mazda CX-51800
Mitsubishi ASX1300
Mitsubishi Outlander1600
Nissan X-Trail1500*Vehicle can tow, but with limited storage capacity.
(See notes below)
Subaru Forester1500*Vehicle can tow, but with limited storage capacity.
(See notes below)
Toyota Kluger2000
Toyota RAV 41500*Vehicle can tow, but with limited storage capacity.
(See notes below)
Volvo XC602400
Volvo XC902400
VW Tiguan2500

TABLE NOTES: Our average camper trailer TARE weight (1333kg) was based on the specs of six popular campers – Patriot X1-H, Cub Escape, Opus OP2, Black Series Phoenix, Mars Ranger X and the Jayco Eagle. We’ve also assumed you’ll need at least 200kg of additional storage for water, clothing and extra equipment. Where a vehicle doesn’t allow for this, we’ve marked it as a ‘Warning’. These figures are an indication only and accurate at the time of writing. However, please check your specific vehicle towing capacity before making a decision.

But weight is not just about towing capacity… that’s just the beginning.

When it comes to understanding the weight of a camper trailer and your vehicle’s towing capacity there are a number of acronyms used that may seem foreign to you. Below we have explained all the key terms you will need to know or hear while searching for your camper trailer.

The weight of the camper trailer without any items, including water, gas and added accessories.

The total weight of your camper trailer with all items, including water, gas and added accessories before it is hitched to your vehicle.

The total weight of the camper trailer with all items and when it is hitched onto the vehicle.

The weight the camper trailer puts on the vehicles hitch without any items, including water, gas and added accessories.

The weight of your vehicle with only a full tank of fuel, nothing else.

The maximum weight your vehicle can carry including tow ball weight of the camper trailer, the KW of the vehicle, all passengers, vehicle accessories and luggage within the vehicle.

The maximum weight allowed of all components, trailer, vehicle, accessories and items.

Fuel Efficiency

One of the joys of owning a camper trailer is being able to travel to far away locations, being self-contained and without the major costs of accommodation. However, towing a camper or caravan does come with increased fuel costs.

A Canadian study in 2014 showed that for every 100kg you add to your vehicles weight, your fuel costs go up by more than $1000 over the life of the vehicle.

Some camper trailers may be cheaper to buy, but at over 500kg heavier than an Ultimate Camper, the fuel costs could make getting away a more expensive exercise.

Drivability (Handling)

Having a camper trailer that handles well makes the driving experience more enjoyable, but is also far safer. Sadly, we’ve all seen news footage of upturned caravans scattered over highways, with holiday dreams ruined, or worse lives lost.

The weight and weight distribution of the camper plays a significant role in the drivability of the towing vehicle.

In a recent survey over 40% of RV owners said that road handling was the most important aspect of their purchase, with only 1 in 7 willing to economise this feature for a lower purchase price.

Source: Carvan camping association australia

One of the main factors that influences road handling on any camper trailer setup is the suspension. If both on and off-road handling is important to you then you must consider the suspension on each camper trailer you are looking at. Does the camper trailer have leaf spring suspension, or does it come with independent suspension? Are the brakes upgraded? Is there increased ground clearance? Does the camper trailer have good quality wheels and tyres? Selecting the right camper and suspension setup really comes back to your usage intensions.

All of these questions may or may not be relevant to you, depending on what sort of tracks your plan to tackle. If you plan to do mainly on road driving the biggest points that influence road
handling are suspension, tyres and brakes. However, If you are planning to do more off road
adventures the previous factors come into play but so do the ground clearance of the camper and weight distribution loaded and unloaded.

If in doubt, ask to hook the camper trailer up to your vehicle and go for a test drive. Test around corners, driving at higher speeds. Although you won’t be able to, in most cases, test the camper trailer off-road you should get a feel for how the camper trailer handles.

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