20/01/2012
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Motorhome weights and re-plating

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We’ve had several queries about the weight of motorhomes and what the process is for down-plating and up-plating. So we decided it is once again time to look into this issue.

What’s the concern?

Drivers who passed their test before January 1, 1997, are under 70 years of age and have no medical conditions that may affect their driving do not need to worry about the weight of their ‘van, provided it weighs under 7.5 tonnes.

However, if you passed your driving test after then, you will be automatically restricted to a vehicle weighing 3.5 tonnes and under. This is the same if you are lucky enough to have celebrated your seventieth birthday. Those with certain medical conditions will also be restricted by weight and type of vehicle.

So drivers in these categories must take care when buying a new ‘van, adding accessories and when loading up their ‘van. So check your licence and, if you are restricted, buy accordingly.

What about new motorhomes?

While manufacturers are working hard to minimise the weight of new motorhomes, they are still becoming heavier. The amount of equipment we’ve come to expect has also increased (bigger water tanks, full ovens, power windows, etc). It all adds up and there has to be a downside to this. And that downside is payload – the more the motorhome weighs, the less capacity it has to carry your essentials.

New versus used

Buy a new model and the unladen weight and payload should be displayed in a brochure. However, it isn’t always clear what the payload figure includes.

Check exactly what the stated payload includes – does it for example factor in any leisure batteries? Also, because manufacturers quote weights for standard vehicles, if you start specifying options (on the base vehicle or living area), this will affect your eventual payload.

Auto-Trail has a weight checker on its website, which allows you to specify the options you want on a particular ‘van and indicate how much payload will be left.

Used motorhomes are completely different. A previous owner may have added equipment. Therefore it’s best to get the dealer/seller to confirm the payload before you buy. Ask to see a recent weighbridge certificate and get confirmation of available payload in writing.

Cumulative weight

Once you know how much payload is available, you’ll must decide whether it will be enough. Add up essentials like mains extension lead (3.5kg) and a set of pans (2kg). Folding camping chairs can be at least 1kg.

Then you need to add items like clothes, food and bedding - it just keeps racking up. It’ll be a laborious process but gather up all the equipment you normally carry and weigh each item, tallying it as you go.

If you already have a motorhome, pack it up for a holiday with food, clothes and everything else you would normally take and head over to the weighbridge with everything, including passengers onboard. This will tell you if you’re within the vehicle’s limits. However, if you think you may be close to or even above the payload then get someone to follow you with some equipment in a second vehicle and load up the motorhome at the weighbridge!

Re-plating
If you realise that the quoted payload isn’t going to cover all the weight you intend to carry, then you may be able to get the vehicle re-plated to an increased weight.

Depending on the chassis, this could just be a simple paperwork exercise. However, it could also involve chassis, suspension and brake upgrades and be quite costly.

On the reverse, getting a vehicle downplated to 3,500kg is possible, but you have to ask yourself why you would want to do this. There is usually a reason why the vehicle is specified (or has been re-plated) to a higher maximum weight, often because the owners or manufacturer wanted to offer more payload.

So take time and be sure you are happy with your payload before you buy.

Top five essentials
• Check the licence of everyone who will drive the motorhome
• Whether buying new or used, ask for a weighbridge certificate and confirmation in writing of exactly what the manufacturer means when it quotes a payload figure (how has the vehicle been weighed to produce this figure?)
•Get your fully laden motorhome (include passengers, bikes, fuel, water, clothes and food, etc) weighed to ensure you’re legal
• Don’t overload garages
• Don’t risk it, not only do you risk points on your licence, a fine or possibly having your motorhome impounded but you are also risking your safety and that of other road users if you drive an overweight motorhome.


Click here to download the feature, originally printed in the November 2011 issue of MMM.

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