top of page

2# Van life: What is your weight?

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Do you weigh often? There are thousands and thousands of people driving vehicles all over the world who are not aware of their weight. This is illegal and can lead to accidents and loss of insurance. As part of my research, before buying my van, one very important safety issue is knowing the weight of your van. When travelling in a caravan, van, motor home or camper van (I will refer to them as camping vehicles), you must constantly be aware of the weight of your camping vehicle. In Australia you can be stopped and checked at the side of the road at any time by police and the department of transport. I have heard many embarrassing stories of people having to unload items there and then before they are able to continue their journey.

Vehicle weights terms

Here are some terms (definitions) that are very important to know and understand when buying and owning a camping vehicle.

The Formula : GVM - TARE = NCC

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM - Unloaded Vehicle Weight (Tare) = Net Carrying Capacity (Payload)

GVM - Gross Vehicle Mass

The maximum permitted laden mass (weight) of the vehicle. That means EVERYTHING including the weight of the people and animals travelling in the vehicle. I will discuss this and give some examples a little bit later. In Australia, the maximum weight an individual can drive on a car licence is 4495kg, however not all vehicles have this permitted weight. You must work out the formula from the GVM of your vehicle.

TARE - Unloaded Vehicle Weight

The mass of the camping vehicle as built at the factory, ready for service with all fluid reservoirs filled to normal capacity (example, engine oil, coolants, brake fluid etc) and with all standard equipment. TARE Does Not include cargo, fresh water, LPG, Fuel etc

GAWR - Gross Axle Weight Rating

The manufacturer specified maximum axle load; the specific weight the axle is designed to carry. This is for all axles of your vehicle or vehicle combinations.

GCM - Gross Combined Mass

The value specified by the motor vehicle manufacturer as being the maximum sum of the Gross Vehicle Mass of the camping vehicle plus the trailer or vehicle being towed.

NCC - Net Carrying Capacity - Payload

The NCC is the allowance for anything that you add to the camping vehicle, including all the occupants (including the driver); animals; luggage; personal belongings; fuel; LPG; Water: Fresh water, grey water, hot water system etc:

The heaviest loaded camping vehicle with payload must not exceed the GVM and a camping vehicle towing a trailer or vehicle, must not exceed the GAWR Front and Rear and the GCM.

Payload example:

So, what can I take with me when I hit the road for full time van life. I would love to fill up the van with lots of creature comforts, but I know I cannot, due to space and weight.

When buying the van, knowing my payload is very important. According to the brochure these are the following weights:

GVM = 4,000 kg

TARE = 3,342 kg

Payload = 658 kg

Initially, I panicked with the low payload, however researching a little more, TARE is how it comes out of the factory...Brand new... The van I am ordering has a lot of inclusions standard from the factory, including solar and a diesel heater which I had on my original list. However as soon as I pick her up, I will be getting her weight checked.

This is my list of things that I will be adding...

  • My weight and the animal's weights 95kg

  • Food 50kg

  • Pet food 20kg

  • Water: 12oL fresh, 80L grey 200kg

  • Fuel 75kg

  • Gas 16kg

  • Clothes 20kg

  • Dishes & cutlery 20kg

  • Pots & pans 10kg

  • Bedding & linen 5kg

  • Tools 20kg

  • Craft & books 20kg

  • Bike/moped 5o kg

  • Battery Bank 10kg

So far, the weight is 611kg (this does not include the bull bar or the tow ball I would like to add).

658 - 611 = 47kg

Looking at this example, it does not leave much leeway for payload movement, and still remain legal to drive on the road. Until I start my travels the above amounts are only an estimate, and I am sure I will adjust and change certain items once I hit the road.

What do you need?

In life, we all love our creature comforts, and our camping vehicle is no different, especially if you are a full time traveller or are travelling for an extended amount of time. We need our favourite coffee, favourite mug, favourite blanket, and other things from home. The question is... what in life do your really need? Van Life will certainly test your theory on that. It comes back to that teaching moment of "Wants v's Needs".

Sentimental keepsakes or family heir looms that will not fit into your camper vehicle or is too heavy, could be left with family or put into storage depending on your situation. When reducing your wants to needs, these items would be the hardest items to know what to do with. We all have things that we just cannot sell. I have furniture that is hand made by my departed father, I have a handmade Turkish carpet (framed) left to me in my sisters will, I have hand painted artwork from Greece (memories of my last overseas trip with my sister before she passed away). I have a box of family history and heir looms dating back to the 1800's. These are things I cannot sell! None of these will be sold on Marketplace, E-bay or at a garage sale.

Travelling Light, not always plastic.

Today, there is so many possibilities to purchase light weight items for you camping vehicle that are modern, durable and will suite any decor. Your camper vehicle is your mobile tiny home on wheels so why not personalise it to make it a comfortable and liveable place to be. Little things can make your camping vehicle cosy and homely. Ikea and Kmart have many lightweight decor items that fit beautifully into small spaces.

Placing small plants or greenery into you space is great if your camping vehicle is a little bland...try to make them dual purpose, herbs for example are a great idea. Keep real plants to a minimum as they will be heavier than artificial plants. If you have difficulty keeping plants alive and only want the aesthetic value of the plant or want the look of plants without the weight... artificial plants are a great alternative. Solar LED fairy lights or strip lights can also softly light up your camper vehicle while adding to the aesthetic value and make your camper vehicle feel homely and cosy.

Your camping vehicle is your tiny home on wheels... so make it yours... lightly. Remember your weight!

Other Information: Correct Licence

  • Car License - A vehicle that does not exceed 4.5 tonnes (GVM)

  • Light Rigid - has GVM more than 4.5 tonnes but not more than 8 tonnes

  • Medium Rigid - has a GVM more than 8 tonnes and has no more than 2 axles.

Helpful suggestions:

  • If you are travelling and your destination is a caravan park or a budget campsite, you can reduce reduce your water level. 1 litre = 1kg.


If you have any other helpful suggestions please leave a comment below.

What do you do to ensure you are the correct weight?

How often an do you check?

How do you balance your wants v's your needs? What lightweight items do you use?

Comment below...


To comment you will be asked to log in via social media or email. This is a safety feature on the website and does not cost anything.

If you would like to receive update about future blogs please subscribe.


Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page