What does your 4wd weigh

What does your 4WD weigh? Does it need to go on a diet?

Article from 4WDing Australia.

I’m very curious to know how many of you know what your 4WD weighs with no gear in it, and when it is loaded up for a trip away. In Australia, all 4WD’s come out with a GVM, Pay load, GCM and Towing Capacity. If you exceed these, you risk damaging your vehicle, having an accident and voiding your 4WD insurance.

It is super easy to have a 4WD that is over weight. How do I know? Check out what our Dmax weighed in at, and what we had to do about it; Isuzu Dmax touring build; a look at what it weighs.

Weight is more important than you might realise, and forms one of 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal.

Weighed down 4WD
What does your 4WD weigh?

So, how many of you know what your GVM and payload is? I’ve spent a bit of time looking into this, and have been very surprised with the results.

What do these acronyms mean?


GVM stands for Gross Vehicle Mass, and refers to the maximum weight your vehicle can be at any given time. It is the combination of your Tare Mass and Pay load

Pay load

Your pay load is the amount of weight you can add to a standard vehicle before it becomes illegal. Anything that is necessary for the operation of the vehicle is part of the tare mass, and anything above this is part of your pay load.

This includes the weight of your passengers, the tow ball weight of a trailer (if you are towing) and all of your accessories and luggage. This is a very important piece of knowledge for those who own a 4WD.

Tare weight

Tare weight refers to the unladen weight of your vehicle, with only parts that are necessary for operation of the vehicle. It does not include any aftermarket accessories


GCM stands for Gross Combination Mass, and is the maximum weight your vehicle and what you are towing can be. Generally this is in between 3 – 6 tonnes for a 4WD.

Towing capacity

Every vehicle comes with a set towing capacity. Anything you tow must be under this weight. Be sure you factor into account whether the trailer has brakes or not!

Lets make it clearer

So, the above can be a bit tricky to get your head around, so lets look at our 80 Series Land Cruiser for example. You can get these figures from http://www.redbook.com.au for your own vehicle (just find the right model; its easy as).

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM): 2960kg

Gross Combination Mass (GCM): 5460kg

Pay Load: 865kg

Towing Capacity (braked): 2500kg

If you take the Pay load (865kg) from the GVM (2960kg) you are left with 2095kg. This means the 80 Series Land Cruiser when empty weighs 2095kg, and you can add 865kg of weight to the 4WD. Everything that adds weight comes from the 865kg, including passengers, fuel, water, accessories and also very importantly, the tow ball weight applied when you are towing a trailer.

If you are towing, you must be under the GCM (5460kg), as well as the GVM.

If you want a clear guide to stay legal, check this out – Towing capacity; a simple guide to keep you legal.

Sleeping in your vehicle
Is your 4WD heavier than it is allowed to be?

The average 4WD

Let’s take a fairly average 4WD, with 2 adults, 2 kids, a few modifications and gear required to go on a 1 – 2 week camping trip. We will add everything up that contributes to the GVM, and see what the final weight is. For more information, check out our weight page at 4WD Weights.

4WD weights are very important
Loaded up for a trip up north
  • Steel Bull Bar (40kg)
  • UHF Radio, antenna and spotlights (5kg)
  • Second Battery (20kg)
  • Winch with dynema rope (much lighter than steel cable) (35kg)
  • Sidesteps (30kg)
  • Roof Rack full length aluminium (25kg)
  • Cargo Barrier (10kg)
  • Rear Drawer System (50kg)
  • 60L fridge with food (70kg)
  • 80L water (90kg)
  • Long range fuel tank with fuel (150kg)
  • Clothes for 4 (40kg)
  • Spare parts and tools (30kg )
  • Cooking equipment (20kg)
  • Tent (20kg)
  • Camping chairs (20kg)
  • 2 adults and 2 children (220kg)
  • Portable electronics (Camera’s, tablets, DVD players, phones etc) (10kg)

Add just the above up, and you are looking at 885kg. That’s not to mention the many other common accessories and other gear regularly found in a 4WD; rear bar, second spare, generator, Maxtrax, fishing gear, upgraded suspension, larger tyres, firewood, solar panels, scrub bars, work lights, LPG bottles, ratchet straps etc!

If you are towing a trailer, the tow ball weight is deducted from your payload. The average trailer would have a tow ball weight of 50 – 300kg. Most 4WD wagons have a payload of in between 500 and 800kg, and Utes are up around 800 – 1200kg. This means that many would be cutting it very close, or be well over the maximum GVM. If you are considering one or the other, check out 4WD Ute or Wagon; which one’s best?

Isuzu Dmax offroad
Our Dmax, which needed a GVM upgrade

Axle ratings

I will quickly mention that every vehicle also has individual axle ratings. This is to ensure that when you load your 4WD up, its done evenly. You can’t just use the full payload at the rear of the vehicle. Find out what your axle ratings are, and don’t exceed them. It is easily possible to be over your rear axle weight but underweight overall.

If you run a heavy Ute Canopy on a dual cab ute, or have a heavy tow ball weight its very hard to balance your axle weights, and you can easily end up with a bent chassis.

What does it mean if I exceed the GVM, GCM, Towing Capacity or axle ratings?

The most important thing to note is your insurance ONLY covers you and your 4WD when it is driven legally. If you exceed any of the acronyms above, you risk voiding your insurance. Beyond this though, you put more stress on the four wheel drive than was intended, and risk doing damage (suspension, chassis, driveline).

Carrying weight in the back of a 4WD
What’s in the back of your 4WD?

You use more fuel, lose the intended handling ability and have a harder time off road. The vehicle does more damage to 4WD tracks, and your risk of getting a puncture or other damage is increased. The risks are serious, and if you cause an accident that can be attributed to your vehicle being overweight, you can go to jail and/or pay huge fines and medical costs.

Bent chassis

If you type in ‘4×4 Bent Chassis’ into google images, you will see how many 4WD’s have had serious damage done to their 4WD’s. Often this is due to overloading or air bags on leaf sprung vehicles, but a vehicle with a lot of weight will put serious stress on the chassis and surrounding components.

Bent chassis tend to be most often on dual cabs, where there is too much weight behind the rear wheels. I took a photo up north of a hired 4WD camper, which I almost fell over when I saw. If you own a dual cab ute, check this out  – Is your dual cab’s chassis likely to bend?

Can you get caught?

Don’t think like that. You don’t want to get caught. If you do, chances are it would be after an accident when something horrible has already happened. I have heard of mobile weighing stations being set up over east. Just like it is imperative that you know what modifications are legal on a 4WD, you must know how much it weights too.

4WD's with accessories
These aren’t light to start with!

Estimate the weight

I’d encourage everyone now to sit down and make a list of everything in their vehicle, and add the estimated weights up. Then, jump on Redbook and enter your vehicle in, which will tell you what the GVM, Pay load and GCVM are. If you are concerned about it being close to the limit, take it to a local weighing station and get it done properly.

Getting a GVM upgrade

Any quality suspension shop should be able to upgrade your GVM. There are kits that can be purchased for most modern vehicles from ARB and the like which will give you a bit of a boost. However, if you have an older vehicle the only way to do it is to see an engineer, and get it customized.

GVM upgrades often only involve replacing the suspension, but may also include upgrading the brakes and various other components. You can take a look at the GVM upgrade on our Dmax here – Isuzu Dmax GVM Upgrade.

Does your GCM go up?

Something worth noting is that your GCM will not normally go up if you get a GVM upgrade. This has been done in the past, but it is a grey area at the moment that the authorities are shutting down.

4WDing with a lot of weight
Additional weight makes it hard off road

This poses a very serious problem for those who tow heavy trailers. Effectively you gain some pay load, but you reduce your towing capacity!

Get your GVM upgrade before you license a brand new vehicle

It is possible to get a GVM upgrade done on a brand new car before it is licensed. If this is done, then the modifications go on the licensing paper and you have much less hassle than trying to do it after the vehicle is licensed. I know a lot of people have done this with the 200 series Land Cruisers, which come with a pay load of 645kg. If you put 5 heavy adults in the vehicle, you really haven’t got anything left to play with!

What are your options if you can’t get a GVM upgrade?

As I mentioned above, if you can’t get a GVM upgrade, you need to speak to an engineer. This is a costly route, and will put most people off doing it. Other than that, all you can do is limit what you carry, or get a different vehicle.

Big Caravan
Caravans aren’t getting any smaller

Touring in a 4WD; is it really possible?

I believe the large majority of 4WD’s in Australia that are traveling on holidays for more than a week would be overweight, or very close to it. When you step back and look at everything that one carries, it’s seriously easy to be over.

If you are travelling for more than a couple of weeks at a time, you really need to tow a trailer, which means you can spread some of the load. No doubt some Utes would be under their GVM, but I don’t think it would be by much.

There are lots of reasons why a normal 4WD isn’t suited for what many people use them for. Is your 4WD really suitable or do you need a truck?

4WD Trucks are a great option
Maybe we all need these!

If you know what your 4WD weighs with all of its accessories, along with its pay load, let me know below. I’d love to know what situation you are in!

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Comments 8

  1. My rig is a 2005 Sorento BL V6, with 2H, 4H, 4L built back when Kia were still using a ladder frame chassis. The Kerb weight is 1971kgs with a payload of 589. Everything I’ve added and carry has been individually weighed, with totals confirmed by a weighbridge. This includes a roof rack and what that carries – which is determined by vehicle roof load limits not the claims of rack manufacturers… that’s something your readers also need to consider.
    A GVM upgrade isn’t necessary, but upgrading suspension and tyres for load stability definitely is. I’m now running Bilstein Shocks with Dobinson HD springs (that’s a lift aided by bigger tyres). Each one of my 10 ply Light Truck tyres is rated for over 1000kgs (per corner). That works for me.
    Fully loaded with 2 people, it’s still 91kgs under GVM.

  2. Great article that needs to be understood by all owners to ensure safe and legal touring. Being the ex Product Manager of OME I had personal experience of many owners not realizing their vehicles actual weight. Bent chassises ,cracked coil spring mounting brackets, blown shocks, broken leaf springs being some of the problems the owners faced and almost in every case these pronlems happen in remote spots.

  3. I have a 100 series cruiser, just the weight of bolted on accessories (front bar, winch, spot lights, rear drawers, cargo barrier, rock sliders, rear bar, extra spare wheel, dual battery system, roof rack, awning and hardshell rooftop tent) puts us over GVM before even adding the weight of people or any camping gear, fridge, food or beers… the only option I can see for us is to remove the tent and change to a camper trailer, so the car will basically be completely empty of luggage with all loose items stowed in the trailer. Until then we will continue travelling overweight and hope for the best.

    1. Don’t risk your lives with that breached GVM strategy.
      My initial comment above was about planning around safety and GVM. For example, I use hard plastic storage boxes instead of drawers. I have tie downs for my fridge but don’t use a fridge slide … I have a ground tent rather than a rtt. A battery powered chain saw, etc, etc. There’s massive weight savings you can make with every decision on gear.
      And even though I’m under my GVM fully loaded, I’ve just ordered a small oz-made lightweight off-road trailer (not a camper trailer) as well.

  4. If you want to save all the drama of guessing the weight of your vehicle & added bits before a trip why not set it up before hand & weigh it as in the article above.
    I recently had our Prado 150 (2014) weighed with all fitted accessories (suspension upgrade, bull bar, tow bar, dual bat etc.), full fuel (150lt) & equipment we always have in the vehicle on a trip (compressor, tool kits, fridge, recovery gear etc.). I call this operating weight (Aviation term for everything on board except supplemental items – Pax, camping gear, luggage & fridge supplies).
    The operating weight from the weigh bridge was 2500kg compared to the Prado Manual Kerb Wt of 2315 which meant that there was 185kg for the above accessories etc.
    With a GVM of 2990kg this gave us 490kg for driver, pax + Supplemental items.
    Knowing the Operating weight makes it easy to estimate the total weight as you have a known weight to add the extra Sup items. If the tank is not full just adjust the weight accordingly.
    The weigh bridge has 4 separate weigh pads for separate zones if you are towing (A) front wheels, (B) Rear Wheels, (C) van jockey wheel, (D) Van main wheels, so in the one session you can weigh the vehicle and van to have all the weights itemised. GVM, Ball Wt, GTM, ATM, GCM and Ball Downforce % with a quick calculation. For $35 it’s a bargain.
    We used GoWeigh (fully automated weigh station) at the BP Truck stop at Beresfield (near Newcastle) just past the lights at the northern end of the M1.
    It takes less than 10 minutes to complete, just drive on, disconnect the van & drive forward making sure the wheels & jockey wheel are on the separate pads. Go to the terminal, follow the instructions & pay by card.

  5. I think your estimated weighs are light. My previous ECB alloy winch bar without winch was 51kg. My current steel bar is 80kg. Likewise my 105 ah AGM auxiliary battery is 35kg. I have had to put my Prado on a diet after being found to be overweight on the front axle. Before and at the end of each trip I weigh my vehicle three ways, front axle, rear axle then add them together. Finally weigh the vehicle to make sure it agrees. Cost nothing at a public weigh bridge and provides peace of mind.

  6. Don’t risk your lives with that breached GVM strategy.
    My initial comment above was about planning around safety and GVM. For example, I use hard plastic storage boxes instead of drawers. I have tie downs for my fridge but don’t use a fridge slide … I have a ground tent rather than a rtt. A battery powered chain saw, etc, etc. There’s massive weight savings you can make with every decision on gear.
    And even though I’m under my GVM fully loaded, I’ve just ordered a small oz-made lightweight off-road trailer (not a camper trailer) as well.

  7. My 2010 DMax is, after much modification to the tray and canopy right on the GVM limit when loaded, I’m under on my GCM when my van is hooked up by about 400 kg, but I would like another 10% on my GVM (290 kg) just to cover any extra junk that I like to carry.
    I’ve been told that I cant do a GVM upgrade on that model because of factory axle load limits, I had thought about a lazy axle but the cost is over the top for me, I could manufacture a bolt on setup similar to the early Hayman Reese lazy axle but finding an engineer to stamp it ok is a problem, any suggestions?

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