Why most modern UTE tow ratings are bulls#!t

The inherent lie behind braked towing capacities.

We’re all being a little bit hoodwinked at the moment; led astray by 4WD manufacturers. It’s to do with the relevant tow ratings of vehicles, especially utes. It seems like all manufacturers are hell-bent to have a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity, the problem is that they are all cutting corners to get there.

If you believe what they tell you in the advertising, these utes are all stronger than Steven Seagal’s stare, and can do just about anything tough – especially towing and hauling big loads. But not everything is as it seems, and it’s important to actually know the limitations of these vehicles.

Let’s have a look at the braked towing capacity figures, in order of 4X4 ute sales popularity. I’ll pick the highest-spec models (with diesel engines) to keep the field even.

Toyota HiLux SR5: 3,500kg (manual), 3,200kg (auto)

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: 3,500kg

Mitsubishi Triton Exceed: 3,100kg

Holden Colorado Z71: 3,500kg

Nissan Navara ST-X: 3,500kg

Isuzu D-Max: 3,500kg

Mazda BT-50: 3,500kg

Volkswagen Amarok: 3,000kg

Volkswagen Amarok V6: 3,000kg

Oh lord; I pity the fool that thinks that’s the end of the story. And I genuinely worry for the folk out there who don’t know any better and take the salesman at his word. When they ask, “Will this tow my caravan?” Put simply, Gross Combination Mass does not equal Gross Vehicle Mass plus Braked Towing Capacity. Let’s look at the rest of the specs, and understand what’s happening here. Now, where did I leave that old Casio calculator…



Towing: 3,500kg (manual), 3,200kg (auto)

GVM: 3,000kg

GCM: 5,850kg

Kerb: 2,075kg

Payload: 925kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 275kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,850kg



Towing: 3,500kg

GCM: 6,000kg

GVM: 3,200kg

Kerb: 2,250kg

Payload: 950 kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 250kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,800kg



Towing: 3,100kg

GCM:  5,885kg

GVM: 2,900kg

Kerb: 1,955kg

Payload: 945kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 830kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,985kg


Holden Colorado

GCM: 6,000kg

GVM: 3,150kg

Kerb: 2,150kg

Payload: 1,000kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 350kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,850kg



GVM: 2,910kg

GCM: 5,910kg

Kerb: 1,969kg

Payload: 941kg

Navara towball penalty:100kg – 130kg

200kg – 280kg

300kg – 410kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 311-31kg (that’s not a typo, it’s 31kg)

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,000kg



GVM: 2,950kg

GCM: 5,950kg

Kerb: 1,940kg

Payload: 1,010kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 510kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,000kg



GVM: 3,200kg

GCM: 6,000kg

Kerb: 2,118kg

Payload: 1,082kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 382kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,200kg



GVM: 3,040kg

GCM: 5,550kg

Kerb: 2,020kg

Payoad: 1,018kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 530kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,510kg


Amarok V6

GVM: 3,080kg

GCM: 6,000kg

Kerb: 2,216kg

Payload: 864kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 784kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,920kg


The problem is pretty obvious. It makes realistically trying to understand your legal limits here in the real world quite difficult. 3.5-tonne towing does not mean you can tow 3.5 tonnes. And a 1-tonne payload does not mean you can put a tonne in the back, if you’re towing.

A dishonourable mention here needs to be levelled at the Navara. Having a GCM that isn’t truly representative of a full payload and full towing capacity that sucks, in my opinion. But Nissan, taking it to the next level of limiting complexity with its towball mass clause, which could effectively give you a 31kg payload… that’s absolute rubbish. When you start factoring in extra passengers and accessories like barwork and canopies, things only get more dire. In fact, you even have to include the towbar most of the time.

Who is doing it right? Only Toyota’s 70 Series LandCruiser, these days. 3.5-tonne towing plus a 3.3-tonne GVM equals a 6,800kg GCM. The Land Rover Defender 130 had better stats at 3,500 + 3,500 = 7,000, but it’s sadly no longer around. Step up into the Light Truck category if you’re really serious and look at an Iveco Daily 4X4.


This article was originally posted by Unsealed 4X4.

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Comments 28

  1. When the towpoint is behind the rear axle line, its not safe to tow a trailer heavier than the tow vehicle. Adding payload to the tow vehicle actually makes it safer to tow a heavier trailer. Whether its the government’s or the importer’s fault, somehow its not being presented the right way.

    The GVM is the maximum weight that a truck can carry including its own weight. This is the maximum or total weight of a loaded rigid vehicle (including body, payload, fuel and driver). It is a figure set by the manufacturer and is lodged with registration authorities and governs all applications and is stamped on the COMPLIANCE PLATE OF THE VEHICLE, remember by the manufacturer. Not including bull bars, winches, side steps, extra large fuel tank, you know the extra common aftermarket accessories, the rest of the family, the esky the camping gear and don’t forget to include the weight on the tow ball on the tow bar if you are towing a trailer or caravan etc.

    The GCM is given for the total weight any vehicle can carry and tow. This is the maximum weight of a loaded vehicle combined with trailer or caravan (also referred to as GCW Gross Combination Weight).

    Sorry, nothing dumb about the article.

  3. Can anyone explain the principle behind why it is possible to get a GVM certificated increase for a vehicle with suspension upgrades, but this does not alter or increase the GCM. Not winging, but would like to know the principle behind why?

    1. Mostly it’s about max axle loading.
      Generally a Gvm upgrade can only go to max axle loading
      Example my patrol
      Max front axle 1500kg
      Max rear axle 1800kg
      Total 3300kg yet gvm 3060kg
      So a Gvm upgrade would normally give Gvm of 3300kg, that’s an extra 240kg for around $1600

  4. I suspect mark drives one of those legendary, magical “unbreakable” Hilux utes . . . you know, the model that rolls off a cliff into the ocean, washes up on the beach a week later and drives away. Marketing puffery vs reality – the precise theme of this article. It’s like all the unfortunate people who buy brand new Prados to tow their shiny new caravan. Wonderful vehicle, but they discover too late that 2500kg is not enough to tow their new caravan legally.

  5. I know here you have compared diesel vehicles however it is incorrect to state, “Who is doing it right? Only Toyota’s 70 Series LandCruiser, these days. 3.5-tonne towing plus a 3.3-tonne GVM equals a 6,800kg GCM. ”

    The Nissan Patrol is superior to the Toyota, having a 3.5-tonne towing plus a 3.5-tonne GVM equals a 7,000kg GCM.

    1. it is the only one in diesel utes as the article states, not petrol or wagons, you can then bring in the d4 as well.

  6. What’s dumb about it Mark?
    Plenty of people out there towing 3t vans cause they have a 3.5t towing capacity without realising that they’re way over the combined vehicle mass after adding in four passengers, extra fuel, barwork, winches ect.

  7. Have to agree with you Bernie the most important number is the GCM then it’s individual axel weights and tow ball weights .
    My question is with a 5th wheeler is the 5th wheeler allowed to weigh more than the stated trailer towing ie 3500 kg even if all axel weights are correct and is under the GCM .
    Ps I’m really thinking of the Iveco daily as a tow vehicle but my question is still relevant to the average 4×4 ute that is towing a 5th wheeler

    1. I bought an older f250 7.3l just for towing, plenty of grunt, 1100kg carrying with 3.5 tonne still on the rear, gotta be careful doing a youi though!!

  8. Hi
    I have bought a navara and have discovered the rear suspension is very weak could you give me some advice on what would be the best way to strengthen it …would air bags or heavier Spring do the trick
    You comments would be appreciated

  9. The article is about utes, and by the way, like the Navara, the Y62 Patrol has a ballweight penalty at 350kg thus reducing allowable payload – read the manual. Very good article for those considering buying a ute.

  10. The GCM is based on the manufacturers decision what the vehicles enging gearbox configeration will happily tow ou a medium incline as well as its ability to safely retard a fully loaded braked trailer down a similar decline. All the spring up grades in the world wont enhance power or stopping ability.

  11. I’ve been doing the math on this for quite a while and found the same conclusion. We’ll be modifying a 105 series wagon with engine and trans transplant. It ticks all the weight and balance boxes with suitable power and economy as well. Can’t afford new vehicle which actually meets the requirements otherwise.

  12. Can someone explain the math in the article. How do you calculate the actual payload at full towing weight and the actual towing weight at full payload? What are the formula?

  13. The math used in this article is wrong, it does not take into account that
    1. Towing capacity is always stated in terms of the ATM of the caravan which includes ball weight
    2. GVM of a tow vehicle includes the towball weight, say 350Kg, when coupled.
    Therefore in the first example of the Hilux (pasted below) you have deducted the GVM of 3000 from the GCM of 5850 and stated actual towing capacity of 2850; in fact the actual towing capacity is 3100 (2850+350 towball weight already included in GVM). By not taking this into account you are counting the ball weight twice!
    You have to think in terms of a weighbridge results.


    Towing: 3,500kg (manual), 3,200kg (auto)

    GVM: 3,000kg

    GCM: 5,850kg

    Kerb: 2,075kg

    Payload: 925kg

    Actual payload @ full towing: 275kg

    Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,850kg

  14. You left out the best towing utes the american ones, they will do the job safely and easly they even have trailer brake controlers built in, plenty of power and some weight .

  15. Towing capacity of 3500Kg plus kerb weight of average 4×4 of 2000Kg is 1000 Kg over the legal capacity of Car licenced driver. So I’m guessing that there is a lot of caravanners driving illegally, never mind if the vehicle is legal.

    1. If you are referring to the 4500kg weight of vehicle? Then you are confusing two different regulations. the 4500kg maximum weight of the vehicle that refers to your license and the maximum weight of the vehicle you are driving. The 3500kg towing limit of your boat, caravan or trailer is the maximum you can tow. The other figure in the regulations is your GCM which refers to the weight of vehicle you are driving and weight you are towing as a combined total. As an example if your car is 2000kg and trailer is 3500kg you would need a GCM(gross combined mass) over 5500kg.If your GCM is 5400kg then you are over weight but if your GCM is 5600kg then you would be legal but would only have a capacity of 100kg of extra load you can carry including passengers, fuel, camping equipment etc. If your GCM is 5890kg then your limit would be 390kg. The GCM figure is on a plate usually either under the bonnet or on one of the vehicles pillars.

  16. How good is this advice, the truth for once, well overdue. For those of us trying to workout a combination (Car ‘V’ Caravan) against any future purchase this is excellent advice
    Well done 4X4

  17. Towing 3,500kg should include a downfall weight of approximately 350kg. This also needs to be multiplied by a factor addressing the leverage of the towbar being behind the axle. A factor of approximately 1.4 (rule of thumb only – specifics of relevant vehicle need to be applied) thereby increasing the downball force to approximately 490kg.

    Most utes would not have much payload left after deducting this figure. And payload includes, fuel, driver, passengers, personal luggage, and common accessories such as bullbar, canopy, roof rack, fridge (make your own list) and visit a weigh bridge while fully loaded with trailer/van attached. Be prepared to walk home, when you rig is proved to be not legal.

  18. I’m not a expert When it comes to towing weight but however my ID plate on my Ford Ranger does not give me a Curb weight it gives me a GVM which is 3200 Caravan 3500 kg you combine the two and that gives you the gross which is 6700 kg in the school that I came from clearly says you go according to your ID plates on your vehicle and ideally I would love to test this in court however speaking to Police when I point this out, they seemed a little bit confused as well. So my point is has the law changed when now we don’t work off our ID plates that are on our vehicles.

  19. Using this same logic, perhaps the author can start picking on many other manufacturer ‘claims’. Performance and economy figures will also be substantially different at max GVM. Handling will be different at max GVM. Its dumb logic.
    These utes are ‘certified’ to tow ‘up to’ their max rating. The manufacturer can advertise them as such. They don’t market them as being able to tow a 3.5t caravan! They can just put 3.5t of anything off the back. Some tradies may use them to tow small excavators, for example. They can be used to tow another vehicle etc.
    Manufacturers are well aware of the vehicles limitations, hence the more ‘reasonable’ GCM figures. The GCM ensures that as the load is increased, the vehicle is still within its limits. Yes, the tow figures are used for marketing, but they aren’t ‘false’, as some people like to claim.

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