What Weight Caravan Do I Need?

All this talk of  Mass in Running Order, Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass, Gross Vehicle Weight, Unladen Weight etc etc. may have obscured the obvious questions:

  • What weight does my caravan need to be?
  • How much do I need to be able to tow?

This site is about towing at or near the limit of the 3500kg restriction, but to understand why, we should look at what caravans are available in different sizes and what they weigh. The maximum weight you can realistically tow is 1500kg or just over, so we’ll look at caravans up to that weight. The caravans listed below are the lightest available for their size.

Around 1000kg

At this weight there aren’t many caravans around, but there is one that stands out, the Swift Basecamp.

It has an MTPLM of 994kg (1027kg for the Basecamp Plus) and is able to be towed by most cars.

It’s drawbacks are limited room and only 2 berths. There is an awning available with bedroom but this means someone is sleeping outside.

The Basecamp is intended as a crossover vehicle from camping to caravanning and it fulfills this task admirably, so it could be exactly what you’re looking for.

A more traditional caravan at this weight is the Lunar Ariva at 990kg MTPLM.

Again, it is a 2 berth but can be considered more traditional in format than the Basecamp. It doesn’t have a dedicated awning so you can add whichever one you like of a suitable size.

Floorplan of Lunar Ariva:

Caravans at this weight really need an awning to be able to sleep a family.

Bailey offers the Pursuit range of lightweight caravans, and their 400-2 comes in at 1090kg MTPLM, floorplan below:

Around 1200kg

Stepping up 200kg will gain you some needed space but it is still a low weight in caravan terms and you are still limited to 2 berths.

Lunar offers the 1220kg Quasar 462 with 2 berths and a larger bathroom

Lunar Quasar 462 floorplan

Swift offers the Sprite Alpine 2 with MTPLM 1208kg

floorplan:

As you can see it is very similar in layout to the Lunar above and at a similar weight.

Around 1300kg

Moving up a step we come to the first 4 berth caravan at 1245kg MTPLM with a fixed double bed and large bathroom, in the

Venus 540/4

1400 to 1500kg and 6 berths

At these weights we see more luxurious caravans but mostly a similar size to the Venus (above). They have different layouts and different equipment, but they are a similar overall size.

There are some exceptions, for example if you need a 5 or6 berth caravan.

Bailey Pursuit 560-5 has an MTPLM of 1407kg and 5 berths

Venus have the 590/6 with 6 berths at 1395kg MTPLM

These have seating at both ends as there is no fixed double bed, which gives you separate seating areas for adults and children, but you do compromise on the size of the bathroom.

Swift have a 6 berth in this weight range with the Sprite Major 6 MTPLM 1468kg with a slightly different layout (below)

The next 6 berth in the Swift range is the Challenger 590 but weighs 1600kg so is out of reach.

Elddis have the 6 berth Avante 586 with MTPLM 1460kg which again has a slightly different layout which could be beneficial as it has a larger bathroom (below)

The Venus range by Lunar, the Sprite from Swift and the Pursuit from Bailey are very lightweight for their size, with minimal extra equipment helping to this end. You will find a one piece front window and items like a 3 burner gas-only hob and combined oven/grill, no radio/cd player or Alko ATC, to save on weight.

Caravans of the size of the Venus 540/4 make up the majority of caravans up to 1500kg that we can expect to be able to tow. There are different layouts with the end double bedroom with central bathroom becoming popular this year.

The difference between the Venus at 1245kg and others of a similar size but heavier weight, is quite simply – extra equipment.

Some items you might think unnecessary and others you simply can’t live without. That’s where personal choice and trawling through many many caravan brochures comes into play. Enjoy!

Please see other sections of the site for more luxurious ranges at around 1500kg.

 

 

 

 

New Car Models for 2018

If, like me, you see adverts for new car models and you immediately think “I wonder what that’s like as a tow car?” then this is the page for you!

How do the new models and updates of existing models for 2018 check out when looked at from a tow car perspective?

Renault Koleos

The lightest Koleos has a GVW of 2153kg

The heaviest has a GVW of 2300kg

A good looking car that has some potential if you want a basic light caravan, but not suitable for our purposes of towing a 1500kg caravan.

Mitsubishi ASX

On first glance the ASX is a contender – it has a powerful 2.2 diesel engine, 4WD, and an auto gearbox all in a package with a GVW of 2060kg.

Unfortunately it’s towing limit is 1400kg, great if you want a small caravan but not good enough for our purposes.

Seat Ateca

The 2.0 diesel has a 150PS engine, manual gearbox, 4WD and a towing limit of 2000kg. Unfortunately it has a GVW of 2100kg so is limited to towing 1400kg to stay within the 3500kg limit.

The 1.6 diesel has 115PS, front wheel drive and a towing limit of 1700kg, with a GVW of 1910kg, so you could tow up to 1590kg.

This is where the nonsense of this towing limit law kicks in. A less powerful 2WD version of the same car is allowed to tow a larger caravan than the more powerful 4WD version. Madness!

Peugeot 308 SW Estate

The 308 Estate 2.0 150 GT is updated for 2018 and looks promising. It has a 2 litre diesel engine with 150PS but more importantly 273lb/ft of torque and stated fuel consumption of 72mpg.

GVW 1970kg

Towing limit 1500kg

You can tow up to it’s limit of 1500kg with a standard car licence, but remember you will be going over 100% of kerbweight as it’s a fairly light 1315kg unladen as it has a high luggage capacity of 655kg, much more than the 503kg of a Mazda 6 estate for example.

 

Convertible?

Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI SE

If you don’t have a lot of luggage or there are just 2 of you, then this could be a rather stylish tow car!

GVW 2000kg

Towing Limit 1800kg

Max MTPLM 1500kg

If you thought you couldn’t tow a good sized caravan with a convertible think again  – the Audi A3 is a stylish 4 seater with a large lugging capability that could be just what you are looking for, and with a GVW of exactly 2000kg it can tow a 1500kg caravan with ease.

Luggage room is limited as boot space is needed for the roof (weather permitting) but you can have the roof up whilst towing and down when unpacked at site.

BMW 2 series 220D Sport (Nav)

GVW 2005kg

Towing Limit 1500kg

Max MTPLM 1495kg

Another convertible you can tow a good sized caravan with (up to 1495kg).

The same issues apply as above with the Audi A3 but if it suits you then why not?

Mercedes C class Convertible C200 Sport

GVW 2125 kg

Towing Limit 1600kg

Max MTPLM 1375kg

This one is a little heavier so limits what you can tow at 1375kg, but it could be just the job for a lighter caravan from the Elddis Explore or Lunar Venus ranges. Both of these have a fixed bed 4 berth under the 1375kg limit for this car (see links above).

 

The Death of the Luxury Caravan

If you are under 40 and have a standard car driving licence, you will find it very difficult to tow a caravan weighing over 1400kg. When it comes to trying to tow a caravan up to 1500kg there are a handful of tow cars you can choose, and it is tricky and time consuming to find one that fits the bill. Over 1500kg you can all but forget it! This is very different if you are over 40 and passed your test before 1997, as you can tow pretty much what you like without a further test.

In 1997, to “harmonise driving categories between EU member states” the legislation was brought in, but didn’t have much effect as few 17 and 18 year olds passing their tests were interested in towing a caravan. Now that the majority of under 40’s have this restriction, the effect on caravan sales is beginning to bite.

The problem is you are limited to a combined weight of 3500kg for car and caravan. You might be thinking that seems fine, three and a half tonnes? To tow a 1500kg caravan I can have a car weighing 2 tonnes. Only really big cars weigh 2 tonnes or more, but you’d be wrong.  Even a Ford Mondeo’s maximum laden weight is 2.3 tonnes (2300kg), leaving you with just 1200kg for the caravan, and it’s the loaded weight that is measured in the 3500kg limit.

Figures from the DVLA show that since 1997, five million drivers have passed their driving test.

Of those 5 million only 1.2% have passed the further “trailer test” to upgrade to a B+E licence, that’s 60,000 drivers in 20 years, or 3,000 per year.  All of the 3,000 will not be caravanners, it is made up of horse owners needing to transport their horses, drivers employed where they need to tow a trailer, for example a vehicle recovery driver etc, so at best half of those will be caravan owners. 1500 people per year when new caravan sales last year were 21,512 (NCC figures), not to mention the number of used caravan sales to (generally) younger families most affected by the 3500kg limit, is a tiny number of people coming through who are licensed to tow heavier caravans.

Now with 500,000 touring caravans in the UK and the Caravan and Motorhome Club having 850,000 members, there’s a big problem looming for caravan manufacturers.

The driving licence law change in 1997 means that most people over the age of 40 have the E classification added to their licence automatically, meaning they can tow a car with trailer up to 8,250kg combined weight without a further test. Since then you are limited to a combined weight of 3500kg. You had to pass your test before Jan 1997 to benefit, meaning you had to be at least 17 in 1996. Every year those people are getting older, in ten years they’ll be over 50, in 20 years they’ll be over 60.

Things might seem fine at present, as the people looking to buy a caravan weighing over 1500kg costing £25-35k are actually in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s as they have the financial means to do so. But as the pool of people able to buy these caravans gets ever smaller with the passing of time, the larger more luxurious more profitable end of the caravan ranges are going to become unsalable.

This will mean the death of the luxury caravan market, along with 6 berth caravans and twin axle caravans.

We have already seen this starting to happen. Data that the DVLA provided me with here has seen a rise in motorhome sales of 21%, yet only a 7% rise in the same period (2016 vs 2014) for caravans. This comes after a large drop in sales of both from 2008 when loan availability dried up. There is also evidence from dealers that tells us customers are inquiring about large 5 and 6 berth caravans regularly but sales have remained flat. Larger and heavier caravans are not selling as they should, and it is first noticeable in the 6 berth models as parents with young children (that will be able to sleep on the bunk beds) are generally in their 20’s and 30’s and so subject to the 1997 licence restrictions.

Looking at the 2018 ranges from Swift and Lunar, two of the most popular and lightweight manufacturers, more than half of their models weigh 1500kg or more, meaning a dramatic impact on sales of the heavier models, and a consequent impact on profitability for manufacturers. What this will mean for prices of lighter models when the more profitable luxury (heavier) models don’t sell as expected is debatable, but I can’t see it meaning cheaper prices. It’s likely to leave us all paying more at a critical time for the UK caravan industry as a whole.

The NCC (National Caravan Council) has written to the government setting out it’s position regarding the opportunities afforded with “Brexit” including “Driving Licence restrictions”

So there could be some good news on the horizon, although that will be a couple of years away.

If you would like to help, I urge you to write to your MP or the Dept. for Transport to get this issue on the legislative agenda.

2017/18 Lightweight Caravan Ranges

Elddis Affinity (2018)

0ne 2-berth and three 4-berth models all with a MTPLM below 1500kg but a good amount of equipment, including the very useful AL-KO ATC trailer control as standard.

The 554 model has a fixed transverse island bed and an end bathroom MTPLM 1477kg

The 4-berth Affinity 550 has an end bedroom, central bathroom with en-suite option, large fixed bed and front lounge that turns into another double or 2 small singles great for younger children.

MTPLM 1467kg

You can see the full range HERE

Lunar Quasar (2017)

The Quasar range has one 2-berth, five 4-berth and one 6-berth caravans all of which you can tow if you choose your tow car carefully (even the twin axle 674)

The Quasar 574 is a 4-berth transverse island bed model with an end bathroom and a MTPLM of 1390kg.

You can see from the picture below that it doesn’t have a front sunroof, but this is more than made up for by the “Skyview” roof light which measures 1400mm x 440mm.

Although it doesn’t have ATC trailer control as standard this can always be fitted as an extra which won’t increase your MTPLM.

ATC trailer control can be fitted to most caravans with an AL-KO chassis either by taking it to an AL-KO service centre or contacting their mobile service which fits it at your home. More information.

You can see the full range HERE

Lunar Lexon (2017)

A range of four 4-berth caravans with a max MTPLM of 1495kg.

The Lexon is one range up from the Quasar in the Lunar ranges and as such it has more equipment (including ATC trailer control) as standard and so weighs a little more. There isn’t the versatility of a 6-berth and twin axle models as in the Quasar but they are all nicely appointed and relatively lightweight for their size.

The Lexon 590 has a rear island bed with centre bathroom that can be made “en-suite” by closing the central caravan door.

You can see the full range HERE

The next stop up the Lunar range is the luxurious Clubman. The Clubman SR is exactly the same size and layout as the Lexon 590 (above) and for this year it has exactly the same MTPLM of 1495kg even though it has more equipment.

To complete this seemingly miraculous feat and to keep the Clubman SR’s towing weight down, they have reduced the user payload to 155kg (the Lexon 590 has 181kg. It appears that caravan manufacturers have seen the driving licence problem coming and have decided to try and have as many models as possible at or below the 1500kg figure.

 

Used Tow Cars

If you are looking for an older tow car or perhaps want to supplement your daily driver with another cheaper car just for towing, this is where to look.

Please double check any GVW’s quoted here on your specific car as they can alter depending on extra equipment added at the factory.

Subaru Legacy Outback 2.5 SE Auto 4WD (2007 model)

This car has the perfect GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) at 1970kg to be able to tow the Twin Axle Lunar Quasar 674 (2017) (MTPLM 1530kg) and a reassuringly high towing limit of 1800kg. It also has 4 wheel drive, an auto gearbox and a 173PS 2.5 litre petrol engine.

*Note the 2018 Quasar 647 has increased it’s MTPLM to 1560kg but the 2017 model is still available used.

A quick look online gives prices for this 10 year old dream tow car between £3-4,000 for a good example from a dealer (with associated benefits).

I think it would be very difficult to find a better tow car with the constantly increasing weight of newer cars (more equipment, more weight, more GVW = less caravan…). It’s not the most beautiful car ever made (opinion!) but it does exactly what we need to fit under the 3500kg weight limit and has 4WD for muddy campsites.

**Subaru UK hasn’t published GVW’s for it’s current range – I’m waiting for them to get back to me with some figures, although I expect the Forester to be around 2,000kg and so should be a great option.

Tow Cars – A Selection of 2017 Models

These are tow cars with a GVW around 2000kg and a towing limit above 1500kg, meaning you can tow a reasonably sized family caravan and stay within the 3500kg limit. There are hundreds of potential tow cars but I’ve tried to stick to ones you can fit some luggage in, as well as ones you can tow a good sized caravan with.

Mazda 6 2.2d (175PS)Sport Nav Saloon

GVW 2055kg

Towing limit 1600kg

Max MTPLM 1445kg

The petrol version won “Petrol Tow Car of the Year 2013” and the diesel version double the torque so better suited for towing.

The 2.0 petrol has a GVW of 1945kg and a towing limit of 1500kg so is also suitable if you prefer a petrol car, although you can afford to go for the petrol estate version with a GVW of 1990kg (making the caravan limit 1500kg).

The diesel estate version goes up to 2090kg GVW leaving you with 1410kg for the caravan.

Ford Mondeo

GVW 2330kg

Towing limit 2000kg

Max MTPLM 1170kg

The Mondeo is a great tow car and has won several awards, but for our purposes it is too heavy, with a GVW for the 2.0 D Estate of 2330kg. This leaves just 1170kg for the caravan – great if you want a small tourer but not really family sized.

Just a point about the Mondeo compared to the Mazda 6 – their unladen weights are similar, but the Mondeo has a higher loading weight of 733kg (how much you can legally put in it) compared to 514kg for the Mazda, which makes it’s GVW higher.

The Mondeo doesn’t weigh any more, and you are likely to put the same amount of weight in it, but it’s larger “possible” capacity makes it unsuitable for our purposes – the tricky balancing act!

A4 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra SE 5dr

GVW 2100kg

Towing limit 1600kg

Max MTPLM 1400kg

Slightly heavy for our purposes but a quality tow car if you want to tow 1400kg

VW Passat Saloon 2.0 TDI SE Business 5dr

GVW 2020kg

Towing limit 2000kg

Max MTPLM 1480kg

A great tow car with a healthy towing limit of 2000kg

The estate version has a GVW of 2100kg and the same towing limit of 2000kg meaning you can tow up to 1400kg.

It was the 2015 Tow Car Awards Overall Winner so you can be assured of it’s suitability to towing, and is a very highly rated car for everyday driving.

Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI CR SE L 5dr (6 speed manual)

GVW 1924kg

Towing limit 1800kg

Max MTPLM 1576

This car (in DSG auto gearbox form) was a Tow Car Award Winner 2017

This is the 6 speed manual version which has a lower GVW (by 20kg) which might make the difference for your potential caravan match, meaning you can tow slightly higher at 1576 MTPLM (as opposed to 1556kg for the auto).

A great tow car and highly recommended with it’s high towing capacity, one for the shortlist if you’re looking to buy a new tow car.

The Skoda has a lower kerbweight of 1374kg so don’t tow with it unladen but the caravan fully loaded. If you leave your caravan in storage don’t leave it full of equipment (not that you would) so that you have to tow it home with an empty car.

Mazda CX-5

The mid-sized CX-5 is a “really superb tow car” as tested in 4WD Sport Nav guise, but with a GVW of 2143kg leaves 1357kg for the caravan to stay within the 3500kg limit. You can increase the available MTPLM by opting for the 2WD petrol version with a GVW of 2020kg enabling you to tow 1480kg.

Seat Leon Sport Tourer 2.0 TDI 184 FR Technology 5dr

GVW 1970kg

Towing limit 1800kg

Max MTPLM 1530kg

The 1.6 diesel was tested in 2013 and found to be “more composed than most small cars” but comes with the same proviso as the Skoda Octavia Estate in that it’s kerbweight is 1340kg so you will be going above 100% towing ratio of max caravan weight to unladen car weight. With both laden the ratio is 77%, well below the 85% recommendation.

Honda CR-V Estate 2.0i-VTEC S 5dr 2wd

GVW 1960kg

Towing Limit 1700kg

Max MTPLM 1540kg

If you are careful which model you choose the CR-V is an excellent tow car capable of towing a caravan up to 1540kg and keeping within the 3500kg limit. Some models (the diesel 4wd ones) have a GVW of 2170kg leaving you with a limit of just 1330kg for the caravan, so do check your particular model carefully.

 

 

 

Family Caravans You Can Tow

Maximum MTPLM You Can Tow

We know from other discussions on this site (here) that the maximum weight of loaded (MTPLM) caravan we can tow, if we have the right car, is 1576kg.

If this changes through new cars or more research I will update this figure.

The car we can use to tow this weight is a Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI  6-speed manual (GVW:1924kg), although I would recommend the 2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5 Estate 4×4 (GVW:1970kg)

Here I’m going to look at family sized caravans that you can tow legally, and when loaded correctly – safely too.

Everywhere you look for caravans, either new or used, the MTPLM figure will be quoted,making it very easy to choose a caravan weighing the right amount. What’s not so easy is finding a model that has all the space and facilities you need (want!) for your family to be comfortable and catered for, many of the family sized caravans in higher specification models weigh too much to be able to tow.

Twin-Axle Caravans

I expected there to be no twin axle caravans that fit under the weight limit, but after doing some research it seems there are a couple. This is good news as a twin axle is generally more stable, less affected by cross-winds for example, but obviously weighs more due to the second axle and two extra wheels.

Lunar Quasar 674 (2017)

MTPLM 1530kg

This is a large twin axle caravan with 4 berths and a fixed island bed and is perfect to give you lots of room for a family of 4. More details here.

*Note for 2018 the 674 has increased it’s MTPLM to 1560kg. This is due to Alde wet central heating being a standard fit item.

Lunar Quasar 674

 

Venus 620/6 (2017)

MTPLM 1500kg

A large twin axle caravan with 6 berths (two double beds, one fixed and 2 bunks) ideal for the larger family. More details here.

Venus 620/6

*Note for 2018 the 620/6 has decreased it’s MTPLM to 1480kg

Sprite Freedom FB (2017)

MTPLM 1500kg

A large twin axle caravan with 6 berths (two double beds, one fixed and 2 bunks). More details here.

*Note for 2018 the Sprite range has undergone a review and the lightest twin axle is now the Sprite Quattro EW MTPLM 1605kg.

The twin-axle caravans above are the heaviest you can tow, and that’s only possible because they are the absolute lightest twin-axles available.

You are far more likely to tow a single axle caravan weighing 1500kg or less. There are many caravans weighing 1500kg or less but that is really the magic number.

When looking at caravans online their MTPLM is clearly stated, so choosing one under 1500kg is relatively easy.

When looking for a caravan to tow with a standard car licence obtained after 1997 the highest priority is to choose the right tow car – if you have one that weighs 2300kg Gross (laden), like a Mondeo Estate for example,  then you have limited yourself to towing only 1200kg, which, as you can see from reading this site, will not get you anything more than a 2 berth model.

It’s a wiser option to choose your car first, by looking through the information on this site, and then you are free to choose a caravan up to the car’s limit.

 

 

 

 

Tow Car Award Winners 2017

There are 12 categories of Practical Caravan Tow Car winners for 2017:

You can see them all in detail here.

I’m going to go through each car and tell you it’s GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) and what you are allowed to tow with a Cat B licence:

*Up to 1400kg Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0TDi 150PS DSG

GVW 1944kg

Towing limit 1800kg

Keep within 3500kg limit you can tow a caravan with a MTPLM of 1556kg

The award winner is the DSG gearbox model which weighs 20kg more than the 6 speed manual.

This is a very good car for Cat B licence holders as it has a relatively low GVW of less than 2 tonnes, and a high towing limit, as well as being a tow car award winner and as such is worth putting on your short-list.

*1400-1549kg Skoda Superb 2.0 TDi 150PS

GVW 2065kg

Towing limit 2000kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM of 1435kg

*1550-1699kg Jaguar XF 2.0D 180PS

GVW 2250kg

Towing limit 1800kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 1250kg

*1700-1899kg Faguar F-Pace 3.0D S

GVW 2570kg

Towing limit 2400kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 930kg

*1900kg+ Land Rover Discovery 3.0T6 HSE

GVW 3170kg

Towing limit 3500kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 330kg

(You can legally tow 750kg)

Best Budget 4×4 Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.4 SZ5 Auto

GVW 1730kg

Towing limit 1200kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = 1200kg (can’t go above towing limit)

Best Hybrid Volvo XC90 T8

GVW 3010kg

Towing limit 2400kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 490kg

(You can legally tow 750kg)

Best MPV Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCi 180PS

GVW 2530kg

Towing limit 2000kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 970kg

Best Petrol Tow Car Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSi Quattro

GVW 2170kg

Towing limit 1700kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 1330kg

Best Pick-up VW Amarok 3.0 TDi 224PS

GVW 3290kg

Towing limit 3100kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 210kg

(You can legally tow 750kg)

Best Ultralight Tow Car Hyundai i30 1.4 GDi

GVW 1820kg

Towing limit 1400kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = 1400kg (can’t go above towing limit)

Fuel Economy Award Skoda Superb 2.0 TDi 150PS

GVW 2260kg

Towing limit 2200kg

Keep within 3500kg limit = caravan MTPLM 1240kg

 

*The weights refer to the kerbweight (unladen) of the car, which if you’ve read Problems With Weight Limits is not useful to us.

 

The Bigger the Car – The Smaller the Caravan

As you can see from the above data, the car which most efficiently uses the 3500kg weight limit is the Skoda Octavia Estate with a capability to tow a caravan weighing 1556kg.

It’s rather frustrating that we have to balance car and caravan weights in this way when obviously to tow a particular sized caravan, the bigger the towing vehicle the better, but unfortunately that’s what we have to comply with at present.

I’m writing to every caravan manufacturer and trade body to see if we can raise this issue with the government with the objective of changing the law, if you’d like to help with this aim please get in touch.