What is a Tag Axle?
A tag axle is a non driven third axle. It sits directly behind the drive axle, effectively tagging along – hence the name tag axle.
A motorhome tag axle allows the motorhome to be much longer. There will be more room in a tag axle and it will be able to carry much more weight.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of having a tag axle motorhome and what benefits they bring.
Pros and Cons of a Tag Axle
- The tag axle can give a more comfortable ride.
- A motorhome with a tag axle is generally more stable, especially in windy conditions – they roll less.
- Much larger payloads – usually not far off a ton.
- More room for relaxing – usually separate shower and bedroom.
- Good at towing
- Better Braking
- One of the most obvious – more tyres to look after. Your vehicle will have six tyres rather than the normal four.
- A motorhome with a tag axle is a heavier vehicle – in the UK you will have to upgrade your licence to drive a tag axle as they are generally rated at more than 3500kg – the max for an ordinary driving license.
- Toll roads more expensive
- Can be difficult to manoeuvre – A large vehicle to drive about
- May lose traction
- May use more fuel
- More Complicated mechanics
- Resale Value affected
As with all things motorhome, there is no definitive answer to whether you should get a tag axle or not. When looking for a motorhome, I am of an age where I can drive a tag axle without having to sit another test. When we looked at them they are huge.
I can see the benefits of having one, they are very spacious, they usually have better handling on the roads but for me, they are just too big.
Let’s have a look at some of the decisions we had to make when choosing a motorhome.
Look at the Pros for Getting a Tag Axle.
Tag axle motorhomes are so large, you could have your whole family in there with no problem. A few people I have talked to have had 8 people around the table – comfortably. I have had 8 people in our non-tag axle but it wasn’t what I would describe as comfortable.
You will have a bed that will be permanently set up, usually in the rear of the motorhome. If you don’t like climbing into the bed at the front (I am thinking of the Hymer pull-down bed here) then you will be happy to know that you can have a full-size bed permanently made up that’s easy to climb into.
A tag axle motorhome usually has a separate toilet and shower. This is a true luxury and can make a huge difference to just generally living in the motorhome.
Our shower is part of the toilet and sometimes can be a bit of a faff to set up. On cold days that shower curtain sticking to you does not scream luxury and the thought of having a separate shower does seem very nice.
So if you like a lot of room a tag axle motorhome is a fantastic option.
More Comfortable Ride
A tag axle gives a much smoother ride. The axle reduces the size of the overhang at the back and can make the ride more stable. Most of the weight is at the rear of the motorhome so having in effect two axles helps to spread that load over a larger area.
This can also help in adverse weather conditions such as wind, you just have more rubber on the ground and a more distributed weight and this all helps with stability.
There is no denying it. The payload is massive on these machines. Usually, 800-1000kg (1763-2204lbs), which is more than double the payload of our motorhome. This makes them great for full-time motorhome living. I have seen a Hymer tag axle with a built-in washing machine, a large battery bank and lots of solar and still can carry more.
If you wanted to live full time in a motorhome a tag axle would be a good choice in my opinion.
A tag axle is perfectly able to tow a vehicle. Having a smaller vehicle with you makes sense if you want to explore the area you are visiting.
Tag axles have braking systems fitted which gives better stopping power than just a single axle. Very handy for bringing all that weight to a standstill.
Look At The Cons for a Tag Axle
Can be Difficult to Manouver
The sheer size of a tag axle can be daunting. They are usually about 8m long, give or take about a meter. Absolutely fine on the open road but can be tricky in tighter spots – supermarkets for instance.
That said, tag axle motorhomes are driven all over Europe and UK without problems so size does not seem to be a problem.
Special Licence in UK
Tag Axle motorhomes are heavy. That’s why they have a tag axle. You are going to need a C1 driving licence to drive one of these beasts but most owners would say that it’s completely worth it.
More Tyres for Tag Axle
So you will have six tyres rather than four to look after. This can be an added expense as you would expect.
But, due to having four tyres at the rear, that payload is shared across more rubber than a single axle.
Some owners of tag axles say that wear is reduced on the tag axle due to the shared load.
Having a 644 which is probably as big as you can go on a single axle, the weight on the rear tyres looks substantial, having another couple of wheels at the back would make sense which would share the load and reduce the weight each tyre was carrying.
Not easy to quantify but worth thinking about.
More Complicated repairs
Tag axles usually have a more complicated suspension and braking system than a standard axle. With that complication, there may be higher repair costs than with a standard axle.
May Lose Traction
A tag axle on a motorhome is generally not powered – that is, motorhomes with a tag axle tend to be front wheel drive. This is a lot of weight to pull, especially if on soft ground or a steep incline while towing. This means that you may find a loss of traction.
Some people overcome this problem by distributing more weight to the front of the motorhome.
Due to the UK licencing laws, there will be a lot fewer people who are able to drive these very large motorhomes without having to sit a test to obtain their C1 licence. This will affect the value of these motorhomes, especially as the population with a C1 part on their licence decreases.
When I passed my driving test last century the C1 was included. That is not the case anymore.
This means if you want one of these tag axle motorhomes you will have to invest money and time before you even look at one.
They are, however, super high spec motorhomes and maybe with putting in the effort
Like all things motorhome – there are pros and cons to it all. It’s weighing it up for yourself and trying to find the correct balance for your needs and skills. Not an easy task.
Use More Fuel
The more tyres on the road the more fuel you need to turn them so you may indeed use more fuel. Generally, tag axle motorhomes use more fuel due to their size and weight.
Other Types of Axle
Twin Rear Axle
This type of axle has two tyres side by side, each side. Again, 6 tyres but a different set-up from the tag axle.
This allows greater payload but you don’t have the weight of another axle.
They tend to be a bit more manoeuvrable than the tag axles.
This is the standard set-up for motorhomes where you have a total of four tyres on the road. Nice and simple.
Tag axle motorhomes are big motorhomes with big payloads. If you like a large living space with a lot of home comforts then you are probably looking at this type of motorhome. For me, I find motorhomes this size just a bit large for my requirements, it may be absolutely perfect for you.