The listed weight of a vehicle depends on the country and standard used, unfortunately there is not yet a globalised standard used by all car manufacturers. This is a list of the most commonly found standards used worldwide.
Unladen weight is the term commonly used in Europe, of which there are two main standards:
DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung), is the German Institute for Standardisation, an independent platform for standardisation in Germany and worldwide. DIN calculates the weight of a car as follows:
Weight of the car + Weight of fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) + Weight of fuel to fill the tank to 90% capacity = DIN Unladen Weight
The EU Unladen weight is calculated as follows:
Weight of the car + Weight of fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) + Weight of fuel to fill the tank to 90% capacity + 68kg allowance for a driver + 7kg allowance for cargo = EU Unladen Weight
Curb Weight (or Kerb Weight)
Curb weight is the term commonly used in America and Australia, which is officially defined as:
The vehicle in running order, unoccupied and unladen, with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity (full) including fuel, and with all standard equipment fitted (options and accessories are not included).
This is how curb weight is calculated:
Weight of the car with standard equipment fitted (options and accessories are not included) + Weight of fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) + Weight of fuel to fill the tank to 100% capacity = US Curb Weight
Dry weight is the lightest possible weight that a vehicle can be. It is calculated as the weight of car with no driver, no cargo, empty of fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) and empty of fuel.
Dry weight is rarely displayed by manufacturers when marketing a vehicle because in this state, the car is not in a drivable condition.
Tare Weight is the weight of the vehicle in a state where it can be driven, this is how it is calculated:
Weight of the car + Weight of fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) + Weight of 10 litres of fuel = Tare Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is made up from the weight of the car, full fluids (oil, coolant, etc.), a full tank of fuel, plus the maximum load the car can accommodate (people and cargo). The GVW is usually listed by manufacturers as the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle and should never be exceeded. The GVW can usually be found on the vehicle’s weight label in the door jam and in the vehicle’s handbook.
Exceeding the GVW would most likely create the following issues:
- Compromise the handling characteristics of the vehicle making it more difficult to manoeuvre
- Bottom out the suspension, potentially causing damage to the vehicle’s shock absorbers
- Increased braking distances and making the braking system more susceptible to brake fade
- Exceeding the weight limits specified on the tyres, which could damage the tyre sidewalls potentially leading to a blowout
How to Compare Different Vehicle Weight Standards
The density of petrol and diesel can vary, but for these calculations, it is assumed petrol has a density of 0.72kg per litre at 15oC, with diesel having a density of 0.84kg per litre at 15oC.
Updated: 21st March 2020