Do you know how to check your towing capacity?

Vin plate

We often get asked what the towing capacity of a tow bar is, but it is your car that determines what you can tow safely and legally.

The exact towing capacity figure that should be used for your vehicle is that which is stamped on the Vehicle Identification Number Plate (VIN Plate). The VIN plate can usually be found under the bonnet or on a door pillar and details of the location will be in the owner’s handbook.

The VIN plate will display either 3 or 4 sets of weights.

  • – The top figure ‘A’ is the gross vehicle weight, the Maximum Allowable Mass (MAM) of the vehicle including occupants, fuel and payload.
  • – The second figure ‘B’ is the gross train weight, this is the combined maximum allowable mass of the vehicle and trailer.
  • – The third and fourth figures ‘C’ and ‘D’ are maximum axle loads front and rear respectively.
    The maximum weight includes passengers, other loads, and fuel.

To calculate the recommended maximum towing capacity for your vehicle is the gross vehicle weight (A) subtracted from gross train weight (B).
On the above example 4200kg – 2505kg = 1695Kg

In addition for safe towing it is recommended by many towing experts that a novice should keep the fully laden weight of the caravan no heavier than 85% of the kerbweight of the tow car. This is known as the 85% rule. Bear in mind that it is a guide and not legally enforceable.

To calculate this, you need to know two key figures: the kerbweight of the car and the maximum mass of the caravan (called ‘maximum technically permissible laden mass’, or MTPLM).

If the mass of the caravan is 85% or less of the car’s kerbweight, the car will tow it with ease.

If it’s between 85% and 100%, be careful – only experienced caravanners should use that car to tow such a heavy van.

Did you know?
Certain performance, hybrid and city-car models or similar variants of standard models are not homologated to tow, including some cars with panoramic sunroofs, this means that the vehicle manufacturer has deemed that the model is unsuitable for use as a tow vehicle. With this type of vehicle, the towing capacity will equate to zero or a gross train weight will not be displayed.

31 thoughts on “Do you know how to check your towing capacity?”

  1. Hi, my cars maximum weight is 2450 but the maximum combined tow weight is 5240, my partner can only to a maximum of 3500, would she be legally allowed to tow upto 3500 weight with this car

    1. No, if the gross vehicle weight is 2450, and your gross train weight is 5240,
      5240 – 2450 = 2790
      So 2790 is the maximum tow weight for the vehicle, but remember that includes you and any luggage etc.

        1. Yes, for safe towing it is recommended by many towing experts that a novice should keep the fully laden weight of the caravan no heavier than 85% of the kerbweight of the tow car. This is known as the 85% rule. Bear in mind that it is a guide and not legally enforceable.

    1. Hi Tony. You need to check your towing capacity of the car using the method in this article, so many factors can effect this so using the vin plate is the only sure way to know what you are legally allowed to tow. If the figure of 1800kg refers to the kerb weight of your vehicle, then you are just over the 85% rule at 86.6%.

      1. I have a nissan van
        Vin plate shows
        1 – 960kg
        2- 1100kg
        I’ve done your calculations but not sure I’ve done it right. Can you tell me from this what my recommended towing capacity is? Also what the 85% rule would be if my van has a kerb weight of 1369kg would it be 1163.65kg? Meaning any trailer I tow if it is this amount or less my van will tow it easy?

        1. Hi Susan. 3100 – 2000 = 1100 maximum towing capacity – but do remember this includes all contents of what you are towing in addition to the trailer / caravan. Yes 85% is 1163.65, which is slightly more than your maximum capacity anyway. This is a guideline for the fully laden weight to promote safer towing.

  2. Hi , I have a 19 plate Kia Niro Hybrid.
    Most car reviews and internet site state that them,y vehicle can tow, but the manual only refers to towing of European vehicles despite the VIN Plate displaying the 4 weights. Kia UK customer service state that my vehicle is not suitable for towing , but the location dealership say that if the VIN Plate has the the required info then I could tow. Not sure who is right as I wouldn’t like to void my warranty or get into trouble with the law.
    Can you advise please?
    Thanks , Gerry

    1. Hi Gerry. If your vin plate displays all four weights your car is legally allowed to tow – up to the towing capacity as worked out using the method above. It is illegal to tow over this weight. Handbooks can often be misleading as they try to cover everything and are not specific to the actual vehicle (I’ve brought tears to a poor mans eyes when I had tell him that his recent purchase of a car to take the family caravanning was not homologated for towing due to the optional extras on the car, despite the manual and the dealership saying it could, doh!). I’ve checked and a tow bar is available for the Kia Niro Hybrid. Hope this helps.

    2. Hi Gerry

      We have the same question – where did you find the VIN plate. The manual only refers to the location of VIN numbers – no weights, just the VIN number.

  3. Hi I have a swift kontiki 669 and I’m trying to ascertain the permitted tow weight of the vehicle, it has a tag axle and the trailer il be using is twin wheeled,

    1. Hi Kevin, you should still have a weight / von on your motorhome. Same principle as in article, minus the weight of the vehicle from the gross train weight and it will give you a maximum towing capacity.

  4. I have renault captur 0.9 the 2014 dynamique media nav 5 door what size caravan can I tow I’m confused 😕

    1. Have you located the vin plate and followed the instructions above? The Vin plate is the only true was to check what you can tow.

  5. Hi I can’t work it out I’m dislexic I’ve got a old Mercedes ml and have been towing a 505 ifor Williams trailer with two horses 500 kg each horse is this allowed ? 😬

    1. Hi Nicola. We cant tell you without knowing what is written on the vin plate. Find the sticker that looks similar to the picture in the article. Take a picture and send it to us, happy to do the math for you.

    1. The Kerb weight of a car is not a plated weight. Many manufacturers don’t publish kerb weights that are easy to find. The mass in service on your V5 should be pretty close. Best way to determine your kerb weight is to take your car to a weigh bridge. Why do you want to know?

  6. I’m thinking of buying a car t9 tow when we move to Australia. The regs there talk about the “ball weight” . Can you work that out from the vin plate?

  7. Hi I have a E39 530D with the the following numbers on the weight plate:
    I was wondering if i can tow a 500 kilo trailer with a car on it having a kerb weight of 1430 kilos. I have a standard license allowing me to tow upto 3,500 kilos. Will i be able to tow this car legally to a track day? The new laws have really confused me and haven’t been clear with towing cars.

    1. Hi,
      If the BMW weighs 2335 and the trailer and track car are 1930 then the gross train would be 4265 just under the max for the car. I am not up on licence weights so cannot advise whether your licence allows you to tow this.

  8. Good evening
    I have a 2021 Ford Ranger wildtrak and all website state that is has a towing capacity of 3500kg but the formula that you described from my plate is
    A 3270kg
    B 6000kg
    = 3270kg
    Please could you state what the tow capacity is as I’m unsure.

    1. Hi. Yes, all manuals / websites are generic and can not take into account each individual vehicle and the specifications on it. So using the formula as you have done gives the correct tow capacity of 3270kg

  9. I am looking to buy a recently imported Subaru Legacy (originally registered and used in Japan)

    the seller is telling me it does not have a VIN plate with any weight figures and all he can offer is some weights from a Japanese deregistration document:

    Weight: 1560kg
    G/weight: 1835kg
    FF weight: 910kg
    RR weight: 650kg

    If those are the same as the VIN plate weights it would have an absurdley low towing limit if just 275Kg, for a vehicle that you would normally expect to be able to tow about 1800Kg.

    are second hand Japanese imports a problem in general or is this one just odd?

    1. Hi Dave. Generally most vehicles made for the domestic Japanese market to not have a towing capacity. The figures quoted certainly look like its pointing to a ridiculously low capacity, which is not much use to anyone! If you want to ensure towing capacity, steer clear of imports. However we always advise checking the vin plate on ALL vehicles even if it should have a capacity as some optional extras available off production line can effect a cars capacity, hence why looking in a manual can be misleading. We have made a grown man almost cry with his brand new BMW he assumed should be able to tow….

  10. Hi,

    I have a Fiat Doblo Maxi van which is 1 tonne capable. I was hoping to use it to pull a caravan, due to it being Diesel and having extra space for things like bikes etc.
    When doing the vin plate way I have a relatively low result of 1035, however the car version to the same engine spec etc. seems to be able to do 1300, I assume I am being penealised for the fact I can carry upto a tonne, even though I have no itension of using it?

    1. Hi Kieran. The Larger figure on your vin plate is the Gross train weight, this is the total combined weight your vehicle and anything attached to it or in it can weigh (including fuel, people, etc.) How you choose to distribute the weight is up to you. There are many factors that can effect a vehicles Gross train weight and these are often individual to the specific vehicle which is why using the vin is the only way to ensure the number is correct.

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