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.




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  1. Found this article to be very refreshing. Gave me the real information I’d been looking for. I feel more confident now on what type of vehicle I want to upgrade too.

  2. I still don’t understand it. You said at the start of your article tha GCM does not equal GVM plus braked towing capacity. Then you finish up saying 70 series landcruiser is the only one doing it right with 3.3 ton GVM PLUS a braked towing of 3.5 ton = GCM OF 6.8 ton. Isn’t that contradictory. Need to explain that a bit better for simplings like me.

  3. 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.

  4. Great article expect for the last paragraph. I would have thought you guy would do your research. its not only Toyota the has a vehicle with a high GCM.
    The current Y62 Patrol has a GCM of 7000kg.

  5. Reading “Why Most Modern Ute Tow Ratings Are Bulls#!t” has given an insight on an issue that has had me puzzled since I bought my new rig. In your article you have stated the actual payload at full towing and actual towing capacity at full payload. Can you please advise the calculation used to give these actual ratings?
    I had already concluded that the towing capacity of my Nissan Navara NP300 of 3500kg was theoretical with no payload or driver for that matter and no tow bar. The truth is that it is false advertising.
    All I want to confirm is the payload for both vehicle and caravan complies legally.
    I would be grateful if you can look at the following specifications and calculations and clarify some details for me.
    Gross Combined Mass GCM 5910kg
    Gross Vehicle Mass GVM 2910kg
    Tare Vehicle Mass TVM 1921kg includes 10litres of fuel
    Gross Front Axle 1320kg
    Gross Rear Axle 1700kg
    Maximum Towing Rating 3500kg with brakes
    Maximum Tow Ball Load 300kg
    Reduction of GVM for 200kg Tow Ball Load 280kg as per name plate
    70litres of Diesel Fuel 60kg 80litre tank
    I assume these values apply to the base vehicle. I have had added a Nissan tow bar, a nudge bumper bar and a canopy which would increase the TVM by around 130kg or reduce the payload by the same amount.
    The measured tow ball weight of my fully loaded caravan was 220kg which will reduce the GVM proportionally by 300kg as per the name plate.
    I tow a Concept Innovation caravan with dual axles that has the following specifications on the name plate.
    Aggregate Trailer Mass ATM 2744kg
    Gross Trailer Mass GTM 2571kg
    Tare Vehicle Mass TVM 2344kg
    Tow Ball Mass TBM 173kg at Tare Mass
    Axle-Group Rating 2900kg
    The maximum Tow Ball mass is not specified as it has been left blank on the name plate. This assumes that the payload is fully supported by the caravan wheels.
    The calculated payload is ATM less TVM which is 2744kg – 2344kg equals 400kg.
    Now subtracting 200 litres of water, 18kg of LPG and 25kg of generator reduces 400kg to 157kg for storage of camping equipment, food and clothing etc. Not very much when camping equipment includes tools, levelling blocks, tent poles and pegs, camp chairs and table etc. The rest of the gear such as satellite dish, barbeque, air compressor for tyres, extra water and fuel, plus all the small items you need when camping is stored in the tow vehicle under the canopy.
    Using the formula based on total combined mass and my Navara, I have calculated tow vehicle payload on the left. On the right is the same calculation with my caravan and a PX Mkll Ford Ranger XLT for comparison.
    Navara Ranger
    GCM 5910kg Total Combined Mass 6000kg
    ATM 2744kg Caravan Maximum Loaded Mass 2744kg
    3166kg Maximum allowable Tow Vehicle GVM 3256kg
    Less 1921kg Vehicle Kerb or Tare Weight 2247kg
    Less 300kg 220kg measured Tow Ball Mass 220kg
    as per Nissan nameplate
    Less 130kg Tow Bar, Nudge Bar, Canopy 130kg
    Less 140kg Driver and one adult passenger 140kg
    Less 60kg Diesel Fuel 60kg
    615kg Usable Payload in Tow Vehicle 449kg
    However, if I do the same calculation based on tow vehicle gross mass, this comes up with a lower payload. On the right is the same calculation with my caravan and a PX Mkll Ford Ranger XLT.
    Navara Ranger
    GVM 2910kg Gross Vehicle Mass 3200kg
    TVM 1921kg Tare Vehicle Mass 2247kg
    989kg Theoretical Pay load 953kg
    Less 300kg Reduction for Tow Ball Load as per 220kg
    Nissan name plate
    Less 130kg Tow Bar, Nudge Bar, Canopy 130kg
    Less 140kg Driver and one adult passenger 140kg
    Less 60kg Diesel for running engine 60kg
    359kg Usable Payload in Tow Vehicle 393kg
    Using the formula based on combined mass gives a payload 256kg over the capacity of the Navara tow vehicle calculation and 56kg over capacity with the Ford Ranger. Using the total combined mass to calculate legal payload in both cases results in a reading that is over the tow vehicle legal limit. Please let me know if this is not the case?
    I also use a weight distribution hitch which transfers weight from the tow vehicle rear axle to the front axle and also to the caravan wheels. I would assume that this additional load on the caravan GTM of around 90kg will reduce the legal payload of the caravan. My calculation above gives a caravan payload of 157kg for camping equipment, food and clothing, so taking another 90kg off leaves only 67kg. Camping equipment would use half that up.
    I have measured my gear that I carry in the tow vehicle under the canopy and it came to 150kg which gives me around a 200kg safety margin with the calculated payload of 359kg.
    Unfortunately, when I weighed the caravan, I had exceeded the GTM by 89kg so I may have to look at taking some load out of the caravan and putting it in the tow vehicle or getting an increased rating for my caravan GTM if possible.
    I look forward to your comments.
    Kind regards,
    Ted Davis

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