The Power To Pull


Read carefully, because in this short article we are going to help you decide on a vehicle that will help you pull…

No, no, no… we’re not talking about down at the pub on a Friday night, we’re talking about caravans, boats, horse floats, work trailers, and any other heavy stuff on wheels and an axle that you hitch up to your ride.

The Australian market is becoming spoiled for choice in the wide selection of tow vehicles. The benchmark weight that is fast becoming the industry advertising standard is the 3.5t mark, but what does that look like in reality?

The fact is you cannot simply look at the maximum tow capacity alone, there are other considerations to be made that may not be as obvious to the average punter. In fact, a vehicle with 4 grown men, fuel and supplies for a weekend’s fishing may not actually legally be able to tow the big boat for the weekend away!

Here we try and explain the whole tow game a bit more clearly and then look at what this means in real life for the “heavyweight” tow vehicles. By the end of this article, you will be better informed as to what you can hope to achieve in your vehicle of choice and if that vehicle is in fact the right fit for you.




  1. Gross Combined Mass (GCM): this is the total weight of the vehicle (including fuel, passengers and anything else you throw in or on it) plus the weight of whatever you are towing. If you pulled onto a weighbridge with trailer attached and everyone stayed in the car, this is your GCM.
  2. Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM): this is the maximum sum total that you can load your vehicle. Tow Ball Download (TBD) which is the weight of the hitch on your tow ball when the trailer is attached, also contributes to your GVM.
  3. Kerb Mass: This is the weight of your stock standard vehicle, full of fuel, ready to go. Please note that any accessories, bar work, winches, lights etc… are not included in the Kerb Mass.
  4. Payload: This is essentially how much your vehicle can carry (as stated by the manufacturer) and is simply the GVM less the Kerb Mass. When towing, the GCM less Kerb Mass is generally the defining figure however as the GCM is usually reached before GVM if we are looking at towing up to the maximum braked towing capacity.


So, with those terms now in your arsenal of knowledge, we will apply them to some of the 3.5t big hitters to see how realistic it is that each vehicle would be able to tow 3.5t in a real-world scenario.

The formula we are using is: Gross Combined Mass (GCM) – Kerb Weight – Towing Weight.

This will give us the final legal remaining payload that a fuelled-up vehicle can take when towing 3.5t. We will use manufacturer’s vehicle Kerb Weights and Gross Combined Mass values to work out the payload potential of each vehicle.

In our real-life scenario, we will assume that this 3.5t load is a big boat on a shiny trailer and you want to go away for a weekend of fishing with some mates…

Let’s see how many mates you can actually take…


Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series Wagon (GXL Auto):

6850kg – 2740kg – 3500kg = 610kg vehicle payload capacity remaining

4 x 85kg men = 340kgs

Spare capacity for beer and gear = 270kgs

Plenty of remaining payload here. You, Steve, Macca and Robbo are all heading away for a great weekend with extra capacity for fishing gear and beers a plenty.


Mazda BT-50 Dual Cab (XTR Auto):

6000kg – 2091kg – 3500kg = 409kg vehicle payload capacity

4 x 85kg men = 340kgs

Spare capacity for beer and gear = 69kgs

Some remaining payload here. You, Steve, Macca and Robbo are all still heading away for a great weekend albeit with a more modest amount of fishing gear and beer. Better make it tinnies over stubbies.


Holden Colorado Dual Cab (LT Auto):

6000kg – 2102kg – 3500kg = 398kg vehicle payload capacity

4 x 85kg men = 340kgs

Spare capacity for beer and gear = 58kgs

Again, some remaining payload here. You will still all be going for the trip, but you might want to get the boys to start eating salads in the lead up, or consider buying the bait and booze once you’ve arrived at your destination and launched the boat.


Ford Ranger Dual Cab (XLT Auto):

6000kg – 2202kg – 3500kg = 298kg vehicle payload capacity

4 x 85kg men = 340kgs

Spare capacity for beer and gear = -42kgs

Uh-oh! Trouble in Paradise… Looks like it’s going to be a round robin of scissor/paper/rock to see who is going to sit this one out. The 4th passenger is pushing the GCM over maximum legal limit by 42kilograms and that’s without any fishing gear or supplies!


Toyota HiLux Dual Cab (SR Manual Only – HiLux auto max tow weight is 3,200kg)

5850kg – 2080kg – 3500 = 270kg vehicle payload capacity

4 x 85kg men = 340kgs

Spare capacity for beer and gear = -70kgs


You can forget your original plan, there’s no way all four of you are going on this trip. The saying “two’s company and three’s a crowd” starts to echo in the back of your mind as you realise that you only have 15kgs to play with if there are three bums on seats. Better to just make it a weekend for two.


The above are simply a few examples of what is out in the marketplace. There are plenty of other vehicles all touting a 3.5t capacity, we just wanted to clearly illustrate that it is not the only feature to look at when purchasing a vehicle particularly if you do intend to tow right up to the limit of that capacity.

Make sure you look at what it is you intend to do when towing with the vehicle and the types of demands you will be placing on its overall capacity.  The vehicle needs to be able to tow your toys, but also has to be able to safely carry your intended number  of passengers and cargo.