What Is My Towing Capacity? (Expert Guide)
Ensuring that your car can legally tow the required capacity is vital to your safety.
Failure to match your car and caravan weight capacities is not only an easy way to end up with a fine and three points on your licence, but it can also endanger your life and the lives of others around you.
But if you have no experience towing a trailer or caravan, you will no doubt find the experience both intimidating and overwhelming.
No doubt you’re thinking:
“What does kerb weight mean?”, “What is a vehicle identification number?”, and “How can I be sure the towing vehicle can handle the laden weight?”
To help you tow safely, we’ve put together this complete guide. Covering everything you need to know about towing capacities, this guide includes a range of caravan towing tips that will have you towing a caravan in no time.
Towing Capacity Jargon
Before we start getting into how you can find your car’s towing capacity, we think it’s important to clarify some of the towing capacity jargon you may stumble upon when reading this article. Refer back to this list further on in the article, if you need to.
Kerb Weight (Unladen weight)
This refers to the weight of a car without occupants or baggage.
Gross Vehicle Weight
This is the total maximum weight of the vehicle.
Gross Train Weight
This is the total maximum weight of the vehicle plus caravan plus load.
This is the vehicle identification plate. The VIN plate can usually be found under the bonnet.
How to find maximum towing capacity (manual)
Each car’s maximum towing capacity is set by the vehicle manufacturer. You find this information by reading the Vehicle Identification Plate (VIN plate). Your VIN plate will either be located under the car bonnet or on the door pillar. Refer to car manual if you are struggling to find the VIN plate.
When you have found the VIN plate, you will see 4 lines of numbers. It will look like the below:
- 1st Line - 2500kg - Gross Vehicle Weight
- 2nd Line - 4800kg - Gross Train Weight
- 3rd Line - 1250kg - Maximum front axle load
- 4th Line - 1300kg - Maximum rear axle load
The 1st line is the gross vehicle weight (GVW). This is the total maximum weight of the vehicle. Do not load the car over this weight.
The 2nd line is the gross train weight (GTW). This is the total maximum weight of the vehicle plus caravan plus load. Do not load the car and trailer/caravan over the weight.
To find the maximum towing capacity for your vehicle, all you need to do is subtract the gross vehicle weight (1st line) from the gross train weight (2nd line). Follow the diagram below:
In this case, we would subtract 2500kg from 4800kg. The maximum towing capacity of this vehicle is 2300kg.
This is the absolute maximum weight your vehicle can tow.
Please note: If the weight in the 1st and 2nd line are identical or line 2 doesn't contain a value, then your towing capacity is zero kg. This means that your car manufacturer has concluded that your car is not capable of towing.
How to find caravan towing capacity (manual)
Our recommendation is that unless you are an experienced caravanner, the caravan you tow should be no heavier than 85% of your car's kerb weight.
The kerb weight of your car can be found:
- In the owner's manual
- On the VIN plate on the door
- On the V5 registration document
Kerb weight is the weight of a car without occupants or baggage.
To find your caravan towing capacity, all you need to do is find out what 85% of your car’s kerb weight is.
In this case, our car’s kerb weight is 2000kg. 85% of 2000kg is 1700kg. Therefore, we can tow a caravan that weighs a maximum of 1700kg when fully loaded.
How to find towing capacity (tow match service)
Alternatively, if you’re finding the manual method a little complicated, then you can use a tow outfit match service provided by a third party.
These tools have a catalogue of VIN plates, owner’s handbooks and kerb weights for each vehicle model stored. The tools can then easily calculate your car’s towing capacity in a few clicks.
You can also gain access to all available caravans your car can tow safely and information about the optimal hill start weights etc.
However, just to warn you, there is likely to be a small fee for using these services and there have been reports that they are not always 100% accurate on obscure car models.
What can my car tow? (Width and Length)
Now you have figured out what weight your car can tow, it’s also important to consider what your car can tow in width and length.
The two rules are:
Unfortunately, there is no third-party service that can give you these figures. You will need to access a vehicle manual and calculate the overall width and length. Alternatively, you can perform a double check using a tape measure.