Towing a Caravan or Trailer This Summer? 9 Useful Tips

With winter now in the rear view mirror and the warmer weather ahead of us, thoughts turn to days out and holidays.

If you are considering on hitching up a caravan or trailer, then beware. What you can tow depends on its size, weight, the type of license you have and when you passed your test.

Follow our guide to hassle free and safe journey;

• New to towing?

Be aware that towing a trailer will affect the handling of the vehicle. Extra care needs to be taken when braking and reversing.
Consider taking a towing course with one of the caravan clubs.

• Insurance:

Don’t assume that your car insurance covers you for towing. Even if it does there may be certain size or weight restrictions. This also applies to Breakdown cover. Check with your insurance company as cover varies between policies.

Have you declared your tow bars and roof racks? These are often regarded by insurers as ‘modifications’.

Unlike motor vehicles, there is no legal need to insure touring caravans or trailers. Thus it is unlikely that you have cover for this under your car insurance policy. You need specialist caravan insurance to provide cover against theft, damage and liabilities.

You should also consider insuring any contents as these are often a target for thieves.

• Equipment:

For vehicles registered after 1st August 1988 –
Any equipment used for towing must be type approved for your vehicle and meet EU regulations.

Fit suitable towing mirrors if the trailer is wider than the rear of your car.
Fines for towing without proper mirrors – up to £1,000 and 3 penalty on your license.

You must display the same number plate on the trailer as the towing vehicle.

Braking systems are required on trailers over 750kg.

You must use a breakaway cable or secondary coupling. This engages the trailer’s brakes (if fitted) or stops the trailer should it become detached from the vehicle.

• Know your weight limits:

The maximum authorised mass (MAM) also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW) is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be safely transported on the road. Check the maximum weight in the owner’s manual and shown on a plate or sticker fitted to the vehicle.

Date of driving test Maximum weight
Before 1 Jan 1997 Drive a car/van/ minibus towing a trailer up to a combined weight of 8,250kg
1 Jan 1997 – 18 Jan 2013 Drive a car/van up to 3, 500kg
With a towing weight up to 750kg
N.B. to tow more than 750kg the combined weight should not exceed 3,500kg
Since 19 Jan 2013 Drive a car/van towing a small trailer up to 750kg
N.B. Total combined weight not to exceed 3,500kg

(Information correct as of 26/04/2017)

To tow anything heavier you need to take a car and trailer driving test (also known as the B&E test).

Know your speed limits
Built up area 30 mph
Single carriageway 50 mph
Dual carriageway/motorway 60 mph

These are the maximum limits allowed and are not necessary safe driving speeds. Always take into account the weather conditions and adjust your speed accordingly.

• Know your towing width limit:

The maximum trailer width is 2.55 metres.

• Know your towing length:

The maximum trailer length is 7 metres.

• Be prepared:

Carry out maintenance checks on both vehicle and trailer.

Ensure the trailer is correctly secured in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Adjust the tyre pressure of the vehicle accordingly for the load towed.

Take care when packing, do not overload. The load should be evenly distributed by placing items centrally and above the axle. The loaded weight of your caravan or trailer should be no more than 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. This can be found in the manufacture’s handbook.

Fines for a vehicle in a dangerous condition – up to £2,500, a ban and 3 penalty points on your license.

• Whilst driving:

Incidents involving towed vehicles are not only distressing for those involved but cause long delays for other road users.

Be considerate of other drivers, don’t keep switching lanes.

It is illegal to drive in the outside lane of a motorway whilst towing a caravan or trailer.
Be aware when travelling abroad that the laws vary from country to country, so read up before you go.

For the latest rules and regulations about towing go to: www.gov.uk/towing-with-car