CMCA - Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia
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Cruiseweight or Heavyweight
Top tips for buying your new campervan, motorhome, caravan or RV.
Words and Images by: KEVIN BALLARD N48741

Kianga Point looking toward Dalmeny, NSW

The Tare and Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) weights of RVs have been talked about before: the Tare weight being the weight of the vehicle when empty and the GVM, when it’s fully loaded – and that includes people, in the case of motorhomes. Most owners have a basic understanding of all this, but knowing all the facts when purchasing your new pride and joy can come as a shock. It may also be very expensive if you’re pulled over by one of the State Roads authorities or police for a random vehicle inspection.

Take our case for example. We’ve been motorhoming for a number of years and decided to upgrade  the old beast. We didn’t want to upgrade our licences, so we aimed to keep the vehicle GVM to under 4500kg. After searching for some time we found the perfect motorhome that suited our needs.

I’m pretty sure that the Tare on the brochure was well under 4000kg but, when signing the paperwork, I was advised that it was a tad over 4000kg. That should have started the alarm bells ringing, but I wasn’t quick enough and this is where we and other consumers can get into trouble.

About 450kg may sound a lot, but when you consider the vehicle had very little fuel, no water in the tanks – including the hot water  system – no gas and no people in the vehicle when it was weighed, to give it the lightest possible Tare weight for registration purposes, you can see where we’re heading.

As you prepare for your first adventure, the kilograms soon start piling up and if you’re not careful, you’ll be overweight before you leave the driveway.

Golf clubs are a must when travelling along the Nullarbor


When doing a rough calculation, one litre of water equals one kilogram, a litre of diesel is between 820g and 880g and litre of petrol is about 740g. Consider these weight estimates: Driver and passenger/s: let’s say about 180kg; a 100L fuel tank is somewhere between 74kg and 88kg; 100L water tank plus the hot water system and a bit to kick-start the toilet cassette will be about 120kg – and we’re already up to about 400kg without even thinking about food, clothing, toiletries, a few odd tools, electronics such as laptops or iPads, hobbies of some kind (golf clubs, bowls, fishing equipment, and craft). And don’t forget any of those optional extras you may like to include, before or after purchase.

Some RVs don’t come with solar, batteries, air-con, etc so all this has to be taken into account if you’re thinking about upgrading – and you need to do it before you sign on line, drop your cash on the counter and drive (or tow) away.

Admittedly, caravanners don’t need to worry about fuel or people, but they have other things to take into consideration, such as the towing vehicle and ball weights, all of which I know nothing about.

So before you even consider purchasing a motorhome or caravan you need to know the real Tare weight of the vehicle – even if you have to ask the dealer to have it weighed as it is at the sales yard and then add the weight of all those items mentioned above, including people, fuel, water, and gas. The dealer may not like it, but it’s better than having an RV that you just paid anything up to $200,000 for, sitting in driveway not going anywhere because it’s overweight.

Want to talk about saving water? Ask the expert...

Coming back to the Tare weight of an empty vehicle, what exactly does this mean when purchasing an RV? Does this include the empty gas bottles, batteries, TV, even the mattress/s, all those things  that could easily be added after the vehicle is weighed? Mine did and most reputable RV dealers would include them, but there may be the odd ones who don’t. I took everything out of our RV that we put into it, then I will fill the water, gas and fuel tanks and take somewhere to have it weighed with myself and the missus aboard, to see if we can pack a toothbrush when we next travel. 

Kevin’s pride and joy parked at Narooma Wharf, NSW

Tags: CMCA Campervan and Motorhome Club Club Caravan Fifth Wheeler Camper Trailer Tips Hints Generator GVM Tare Weight Fuel Tank Cassette Dump Point
Category: Features
Written: Thu 01 Nov 2018
Printed: November, 2018
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