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Tow vehicle & 5th Wheeler capacity

No need for a large, thirsty tow vehicle.

We strive to keep our weights down, and strength up...so you have a larger range of Tow Vehicles to choose from. The list of suitable vehicles is constantly changing and evolving, so contact us if you have any questions.

The trailers size and fitted options determine its ‘tare weight’ so we strive to always keep a big margin between the tare and the ATM. The smaller vans from 18ft to 21ft can be towed by smaller utes like Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Toyota Hi-lux and so on. On average we end up with around 1000-700kg of free weight for an average 25 foot 5th Wheeler with an ATM of 3500kg. Commonly used tow vehicles for up to 26 foot are Nissan Navara, Mazda BT50, Holden Colorado, VW Amarock, Ford Ranger etc.


From 26 foot up, the ATM may have to be increased to more than 3500kg depending on how many options or extras are added. If you require a large van you may need a larger ute or truck. This range starts with Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Patrol, Ford F250-350, Chevrolet, Dodge Ram, Iveco daily etc.


The towing capacity of a tow vehicle (truck or ute) towing a 5th Wheel Caravan (or gooseneck) is calculated in a different way from that of a normal car or ute. With a 5th wheeler the tow ball / hitch is located in the tray of the vehicle. Australian Design Rules dictate the type of hitch that must be used, though not the specific location of that hitch.

  • if the hitch is behind the rear axle, the front of the towing vehicle can lift under towing conditions.
  • if the hitch is over the rear axle, front axle loading stays generally the same;
  • if the hitch is in front of the rear axle, front axle loading is increased. A slight front-end lifting effect may occur when speed increases, though this is only noticeable when accelerating hard from a standstill.

With a hitch in this position the tow vehicle can carry much more weight than it could if a caravan was connected to a tow ball as the 5th wheeler imposes (a great deal more of the mass) some 20% of the mass directly over the towing vehicle's rear axle. By doing so, pitching and shaking are all but eliminated.

When calculating the towing capacity of a vehicle for a 5th wheeler the manufacturer's weight ratings of the tow vehicle must not be exceeded by the trailer, specifically the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and the Gross Combined Mass (GCM). For example if the GCM is 4.5 tonnes and the tow vehicle weighs 2.0 tonnes, then the maximum weight of the fully laden trailer must not exceed 2.5 tonnes.

Whilst it is normal practice to have about 20% of the 5th wheeler's weight carried by the towing vehicle, that weight must not exceed the legal carrying capacity of the tow vehicle, particularly not exceeding the carrying capacity f the tow vehicles tyres nor the individual axle loading.


GVM (GROSS VEHICLE MASS) The GVM is the maximum allowable total mass of a fully loaded motor vehicle, consisting of the tare mass (mass of the vehicle) plus the load (including passengers).

GCM (GROSS COMBINATION MASS) GCM is the rating provided by the manufacturer of the tow vehicle. The maximum laden mass of a motor vehicle plus the maximum laden weight of an attached trailer is not permitted to exceed the GCM rating.

ATM (AGGREGATE TRAILER MASS) The total laden weight of a trailer, which includes the tow mass and whatever you add as a payload (e.g. water, gas, luggage). The ATM is specified by the trailer manufacturer and must not be exceeded.

GTM (GROSS TRAILER MASS) The total permissible mass which includes whatever you add as a payload (e.g. water, gas and luggage) that can be supported by the wheels of a trailer. This does not include the mass supported by the tow ball.

TARE MASS The unladen weight of the complete new trailer as delivered (including any options fitted).

TOW BALL MASS The weight imposed on the tow vehicle's tow ball by the coupling.

PAYLOAD The maximum payload is specified by the manufacturer. It must not be exceeded under any circumstances. Safety, insurance & warranty may be affected if the specified payload is exceeded.


We also install everything you need for hitching up your rig. Click here to see our hitch engineering and tray page.