How to safely load your caravan for towing

An important part of safely towing is making sure that your caravan is loaded properly. Incorrectly or excessively loading a caravan can have dangerous consequences, affecting your car’s handling, stability, and acceleration. It can also significantly reduce your fuel efficiency.

There are a number of good practices for loading a caravan, which aren’t difficult or time consuming, but could significantly affect the handling and safety of your caravan.

What can my caravan weigh?

There are a number of measurements you can use to determine how much you can load into your caravan. These weights can be found in your owner’s manual or on the ‘weight plate’ located on the inside of the door.

Your caravan’s maximum authorised mass (MAM), or maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM) – this is the maximum weight your caravan is permitted to be when fully loaded, and you can’t legally exceed this weight.

Your car’s kerb weight – this is the total weight of your car with all necessary fluids, including a full tank of fuel, and any equipment that comes as standard. It doesn’t include the weight of the driver, any passengers, or any added load.

For new caravanners, a good rule of thumb is that your caravan’s MAM – the weight of your caravan when it’s fully loaded – should be around 85% of your car’s kerb weight. While this isn’t an enforceable rule, it is a handy way to make sure that your load is manageable.

If you’re worried about exceeding the maximum weight allowed in your caravan, try transporting some heavier items in your towing vehicle – just be sure that you don’t exceed your car’s maximum weight limit too.

To be certain that you’re within the limit of your caravan, you can weigh each item before you load it. This may sound inconvenient, but you only have to do it the first time and make a note of each weight – you then have an inventory of every item’s weight to refer back to whenever you’re loading.

How should I store heavy items?

Generally, you’ll want to pack heavy items low down, and in the centre of your van, working outwards and upwards for lighter items. Packing in this way means that the heaviest weights sit as close to the axel as possible – this helps to lower the centre of gravity and increase stability for easy towing.

Items like your leisure batter and gas bottles should stay in their dedicated areas, but other heavy items like your awning and furniture should be secured low down and over the axle.

You should also try and keep most of the weight in the middle of the van – too much weight at the front can compress your car’s rear suspension, while too much weight at the back can cause the nose to lift and reduce the traction of your car’s rear wheels. In both instances, this can lead to poor handling and balance, so try and keep the heaviest objects central.

Once the heaviest items are in place, you can start loading your lighter luggage outwards and upwards, leaving the lightest objects for the top cabinets and spaces to improve balance and reduce the risk of damage if anything comes loose and falls down.