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Towing a Trailer or Caravan

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 14 Jun 2016 | comments*Discuss
Towing Trailers Caravans Entitlement

Whether or not you can legally tow a caravan or trailer on UK roads will depend on the type of driving licence you hold.

If you do have entitlement to tow, you will need to check the category entitlement on your driving licence to find out which types of trailers you can tow and which you cannot.

Licences Obtained Before Jan 1 1997

If you passed your test before 1 January 1997 you will keep your original entitlement to tow trailers until your licence expires- meaning you are allowed to power a vehicle/trailer combination that has a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM or gross vehicle weight), though you should check your individual licence for clarification of this.

Licences Obtained After Jan 1 1997

From this date, newly qualified drivers may drive a vehicle that is up to 3.5 tonnes MAM, coupled with trailer of up to 750kgs MAM. If you don’t have a full licence (i.e. provisional), you are not permitted to tow another vehicle at all until you pass your test.

Preparing to Tow

When you are thinking of towing a trailer or caravan you need to first make sure that the vehicle that will be doing the towing is up to the job. Ideally, a car with a long wheelbase and a short rear overhang - (the distance from between the middle of the back wheels to the tow bar) - is what you're looking for. It's also important that whichever vehicle you are using has been serviced regularly - towing a trailer or caravan can be really dangerous if the equipment being used isn't up to scratch.

Checking the Tow Bar

European regulations (EC94/20) say that - Tow bars must be fitted to the recommended fitting point of the vehicle manufacturer. Tow bars must pass the new Euronorm Standard, which is 20% higher than previous UK and European levels. Number plates must not be obscured by the tow plate when not in use.

Things to do Before You Go out on the Road

Before you take a car out on the road with a trailer or caravan, you should practice 'coupling' and 'uncoupling' the trailer or caravan to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Check Your Insurance Policy

Make sure that you are covered by your insurance policy. Most policies do cover you 3rd Party when towing but it is your responsibility to make sure that this is the case. If you're in any doubt about your cover then don't go out on the road with your trailer or caravan until you've spoken to your insurance company.

Speed Limits Differ when You're Towing

The maximum speed you can go to on a UK motorway or dual carriageway with a trailer is 60mph. Assuming there are no roadworks or other lower speed limits in force (as in places where 30mph and 40mph restrictions are often in force), the fastest you can go on a single carriageway is 50mph. The speed limit will vary across Europe so if you're heading out from the UK, check the restrictions before you travel. Whatever the speed limits are, your towing vehicle must be able to support the laden weight of the trailer or caravan when travelling at the maximum speed allowed, so tyres and tyre pressure MUST be checked carefully before setting off and at regular intervals.

Understand restrictions on the length and weight of the trailer/caravan allowed.The weight of a braked trailer should not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the tow car (you can find the kerb weight in your vehicle manual), and an unbraked trailer carries a gross maximum weight of 750Kg or half the kerb weight of the towing vehicle, whichever is the lesser. The overall length of the trailer or caravan should not be more than 7 metres, (with the exception of the A frame and hitch), and the width should not be more than 2.3m.

Check Your Plates

The trailer or caravan must be fitted with the correctly styled and numbered plate.

Be safe at night by making sure you have the following:

  • Red rear side lights
  • Directional indicators
  • Brake lights
  • Number plate light
  • One rear fog light
  • Two triangular red reflectors

Know the Law!

Finally, it is illegal to carry humans inside a moving trailer or the caravan. You are allowed to have animals in there, although it is not recommended that you should do so. Make sure you know what is and is not covered by the law before you head off onto the open road.

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[Add a Comment]
I'm insured to drive another car 3rd party belonging to someone else as well as my own insurance but can I also tow their caravan? I did get my licence before 1997?
Tara - 14-Jun-16 @ 6:05 PM
fluffy- Your Question:
Is possible that a manure trailer is insured without a number plate?

Our Response:
Yes you can insure a trailer in the same way you can insure a push bike. If it's used on the public roads it would need to have number plate attached that matches the vehicle that's towing it.
SaferMotoring - 20-Oct-15 @ 11:28 AM
Is possible that a manure trailer is insured without anumberplate?
fluffy - 19-Oct-15 @ 2:09 AM
@Phil. Ooops indeed! That's been changed now, thanks for being beady eyed :-)
SaferMotoring - 29-Sep-14 @ 11:03 AM
That means that I can tow an unbraked trailer with a gross weight of three quarters of a bag of sugar! Ooooops.
Phil - 25-Sep-14 @ 8:00 PM
@Pat. There is not usually anything in the car that tells you whether the lights on the trailer bar are working or not. You can buy a diagnostics device which will tell you that all the electrics are working correctly, but it's easier just to ask someone to take a look once you've hooked up :-)
The towbar electricals are tested on MOT. Here is what the MOT inspection manual states:
"On vehicles fitted with a towbar, check the condition and security of the trailer electrical socket (applies to both 7pin and 13pin sockets)
ON vehicles fitted with a towbar that have a trailer 13pin Euro-socket, use an approved device to check that the socket is wired to correctly operate the trailer: position lamps, stop lamps, direction indicators and rear fog lamp."
SaferMotoring - 15-Sep-14 @ 10:45 AM
I have just had a tow bar fitted to a new car. QIs it part of the MOT to test the tow bar electrical 13 pin plug, ie brake lights indicators, rear lights. And Q2, should tere be a visual indicator flasher to show the driver the indicators on the towed vehicle are working. I would be grateful for your advice.
Pat - 15-Sep-14 @ 9:47 AM
Well that was as clear as mud.All i wanted was what speed limit towing a caravan in Spain.Whilst In England it"s 50 and 60 no ifs and buts
suzie - 18-Aug-14 @ 9:07 AM
Can anybody tell me if it is illegal to have a trailer hitch locked onto the vehicle tow-bar whilst driving? Don't seem to be able to find this information anywhere, but keep being told that it is!!!
dejones1979 - 12-Jul-12 @ 2:37 PM
The caravan is fully insured as well, I just wanted to know if you needed fully comp or 3rd party fire and theft to tow
me - 22-May-12 @ 2:04 PM
@me. You can insure 3rd party but you'd be fool hardy to do so, unless you know you have the money to pay for any damage to your caravan (when noone else is at fault).
toetowing - 22-May-12 @ 12:23 PM
Do you needfully comprehensive insurance to tow a caravan, or can you use third party fire & theft.
me - 22-May-12 @ 11:19 AM
1.3 ford fiesta Encore 1996 has a max braked towing weight of 900 kgs
ROG - 4-May-12 @ 11:28 AM
We live here in Spain, and as Spain is skint, they are pulling over anyone with an A Frame trailer and fining them. They also made our friends take the car off the trailer and the wife had to follow him in their motorhome. She was petrified of driving in Spain, as she never does it. Now she is terrified of the journey home. She is 76, bless her..........You might want to check this out before taking your car on an A Frame trailer.
goldielocks - 11-Mar-12 @ 11:11 AM
whats the max width -weight towable behind a motorcycle combination (BMW R100) Simon
simon - 23-Nov-11 @ 2:54 PM
You have the incorrect maximum width of a trailer, as of April this year.
Cockovan - 12-Oct-11 @ 7:09 PM
I passed my test after 1997 jan,so how can i increase the amount i can tow?
greeny - 1-Jun-11 @ 10:56 PM
I have a ford fiesta encore, I am thinkiung off putting a tow bar on so that I can tow. what is the max weight of caravan ( is a 750 kgto much? ) thanks dave
dave71 - 4-May-11 @ 4:31 PM
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