What Are the Laws For Towing A Caravan?
Looking to tow a caravan with your car? Caravanning is a great british tradition for many families that like to getaway for a small break in the countryside. However, before you set off on your trip, you will need to educate yourself with the rules and laws surrounding towing. The Rivervale guide to towing a caravan explains everything you need to know about loading and towing a caravan safely and legally.
Do I need a special licence for towing a caravan?
Your ability to legally tow a caravan or trailer depends on when you passed your driving test and the size of your caravan or trailer.
According to the UK government guidelines, drivers who passed their driving test before January 1st, 1997 are allowed to drive a vehicle with a caravan or trailer attached as long as the combined weight is under 8,250kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).
If you passed your test after January 1st, 1997 and hold a Category B licence, you are allowed to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a caravan/trailer of up to 750kg. You do not need to take an additional test if your vehicle and caravan/trailer meet this combined weight.
However if you want to tow a heavier caravan/trailer, you will have to pass the B+E test.
Towing a caravan if you’re above 70
Drivers that hit the age of 70 can either decide to let their licence expire or renew their licence every 3 years to continue driving in the UK. If you held a B+E category before your licence initially expired, then you will automatically keep the same entitlement once your drivers licence is officially renewed.
How to calculate your cars towing capacity?
To calculate your car’s towing capacity, you’ll need to know the following measurements;
The kerbweight of your vehicle; and
The maximum mass of the caravan (known as ‘maximum technically permissible laden mass’, or MTPLM).
Both of these measurements can be found in the car and caravan’s registration documents.
The MTPLM should be 85% or less, that way the car won’t be difficult to tow. If it’s between 85% and 100% of the kerbweight of the car, then we advise ONLY experienced caravaners to tow such a heavy caravan/trailer. If for whatever reason your caravan/trailer weighs more than the towing vehicle, then it shouldn't be used.
Find out the towing capacity of your car on towcar.info.
Where can I find the weight figures?
There are three ways to find the kerbweight of your towing car: the manufacturer manual, sometimes on a plate on the door sill or the V5 registration document (Look for ‘G: Mass In Service’).
As for the caravan/trailer, it is usually displayed on the a plate near the door frame, otherwise you can contact the manufacturer and they will inform you of the exact weight figures of your caravan/trailer.
Packing your caravan correctly
Snaking and pitching
Snaking or pitching occurs when your towing car and caravan/trailer are imbalanced in terms of weight, or are not loaded correctly.
Snaking is when the swaying of the caravan becomes too excessive, and the weight of the caravan begins to drag back the tow car, meaning the driver is likely to lose control. Pitching, by definition, is when the caravan’s front end moves up and down and causes the rear of the car to pull around like a seesaw.
Note that the best way to avoid Snaking and Pitching is to have a well-matched car and caravan in terms of weight and to load correctly.
What is the difference between braked and unbraked towing weight?
Most caravans/trailers will come with their own braking system to support the braking of the towing car. Most will work using an overrun system; when the towing car brakes, the caravan or trailer will try and continue at the same speed and so gains on the towing vehicle, the force of this overrun causes the braking system in the trailer to be activated.
Unbraked trailers rely solely on the brakes of the towing car to stop both the vehicle and the caravan/trailer, this is a lot of extra work the brakes need to do, so unbraked caravans or trailers have a lower maximum towing weight to ensure the towing vehicles braking system is not overwhelmed.
Always remember to carry out a few simple safety checks before you begin towing…
What are the speed limits and laws for towing a caravan?
Drivers who are towing a caravan or trailer must be aware of the different speed limits and laws when towing. These include;
Motorway - 60mph.
National Speed Limit Roads; Single carriage way - 50mph & dual carriage way - 60mph.
If you are driving a towing vehicle on the motorway with three or more lanes, then you are not permitted to use the right lane, which should be predominately used for overtaking vehicles.
Drivers can use the left lane on a motorway with two lanes to overtake but not a motorway that consists of three or four lanes.
For more information, read the guidelines provided in the Highway Code on gov.co.uk.
Tips for safely towing a caravan
Follow the below tips for towing a caravan/trailer on the road;
Towing a caravan - Tips & Laws
Your caravan must have an illuminated rear number plate that is the same as the towing vehicle.
By law, tow bars must be ‘type approved’. Basically, what this means is that it meets EU regulations and is specially designed for your vehicle. This doesn’t apply to cars first used before 1 August 1998. If you are unsure of how to fit one manually yourself, we recommend that you get a towbar fitted by a professional towbar fitting service
Drive “defensively”, this means being aware of other drivers around you, and expect the unexpected, especially around corners or bends in the road.
We advise that you check your towing vehicles tyres before setting off on your journey
DO NOT carry any passengers or animals in the caravan/trailer when you’re towing it.
Caravans must have flashing indicators fitted to the back and the rear light panels must be working and visible at all times.
Caravans/trailers weighing over 750 kilograms must have a working brake system installed.
You CANNOT park a caravan at parking meters, in street parking bays as it may cause obstruction for other road users.
Towing mirrors must be attached to your towing car’s wing mirrors so that you can see past your caravan and have improved visibility of what’s behind you.
If you are caught by the police without any towing mirrors, you are likely to penalised with a £1,000 charge and three points on your licence.
Bear in mind that it is also illegal to have towing mirrors attached if you are not actually towing a caravan/trailer.
Make sure the caravan/trailer weighs as little as possible with heavier items at the bottom and close to the axle.
Using your caravan/trailer abroad in Europe
Drivers who plan to drive abroad with their caravan/trailer will need to check the driving laws for each country they will be driving in plus any rules concerning insurance.
You will need hi-vis jackets for each passenger, two breathalysers, a set of spare bulbs, headlamp beam deflectors and reflective warning triangles.
You must have a UK driving licence photocard and a green card, an international driving permit (IDPs), regardless of whether a no-brexit deal is agreed or not.
What are the best cars for towing a caravan?
It’s a bit of a no-brainer which cars are suitable for towing a caravan - SUVs, Estates, Vans/Pick Ups etc, are all capable of towing a caravan/trailer with ease. Small cars like hatchback aren’t fit to carry the weight of a caravan/trailer.
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