Plenty of people think the payload is how much you can put in the tray. But it’s more complicated than that.

    When you see a payload figure you cannot simply think of that as being what you’re allowed to load the tray up with. If you do, you’ll be exceeding the limits of the vehicle. 

    That’s because the payload figure (often listed as Maximum Payload kg) is the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can carry, as specified by the people who made the vehicle.

    Let’s use another example to make it easier to understand.

    A Nissan Navara ST-X Dual Cab pick-up 4x4 auto has a payload of 1004 kilograms. That seems good, right? A proper one-tonne ute!

    But here’s the thing. It might be capable of a tonne of payload, but you need to know just how fast that carrying capacity can disappear when you start to load things up. 

    For instance, a group of four mates are heading off on a camping trip. The four of them weigh a combined 360kg. That means you’re down to 644kg. Then you’ve got all the camping gear. It’s just over 350kg, for argument’s sake. And we should mention that this Navara for this imaginary road trip also has the optional sunroof (11kg) and electric seats (5kg), the weights of which are very handily listed on the spec sheet. That leaves you with 278kg remaining.

    Then you might have that three-tonne caravan you want to take with you to make the camping trip a bit more comfortable for everyone, but old Barry the chainsaw can stay in the tent. That’ll mean the towball download puts you past the payload capacity by 22kg.

    And we haven’t even mentioned that this theoretical Navara has a steel bullbar (approx 80kg) and side steps (46kg). Plus the tow bar assembly (25kg). Now you’re in excess by 173kg.

    It’s easy to see how you can find yourself stretching beyond the limits of the vehicle, and I know this is starting to feel like we’re writing the method for a science experiment in Year 9, but here is the description that Nissan’s spec sheet lists: “Payload is the GVM minus the kerb mass. The kerb mass does not include passengers, luggage, cargo, any accessories fitted or any towball download (as appropriate). Payload is distributed across both the front and rear axles, never exceed the GVM or the axle limits.”

    Matt Campbell
    Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.