Towing a Caravan: What Do You Need to Know

Towing a Caravan: What Do You Need to Know

Caravan holidays can be so much fun. The open road, the ability to pick any destination, the caravan community. It really is a Great British pastime that has to be tried by all.

But if you're new to towing caravans, then the thought of pulling a 1000kg load down a dual carriageway can be a tad overwhelming.

No doubt you're thinking:

“Can I tow a caravan on my license?", “Where can I learn to tow a caravan?", and “What do you need to tow a caravan?".

To help you tow safely, we've put together this complete guide. Detailing what you need to know about caravan towing, this guide covers a range of caravan towing tips that will have you towing a caravan in no time.

What size caravan can I tow on a car licence?

The rules on what caravan you can tow are quite straightforward. However, there are different rules depending on when you passed your driving test.

Licences issued from 1 January 1997

If you passed your car driving test on or after 1 January 1997 you can:

  • Tow a trailer that weighs up to 3,500kg MAM

MAM stands for 'maximum authorised mass'. This is the complete weight of the car, trailer (caravan) and the trailer contents combined.

Licences issued before 1 January 1997

If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you can:

  • Drive a towing vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,250kg MAM. View your driving licence information to check
  • Drive a minibus while towing a trailer over 750kg MAM

If you want to tow heavier weights than what your current licence allows then you will need to take an additional car and trailer driving test.

Rules for towing over the age of 70

The rules around towing changed at the end of 2021 so you need to make sure that you can still legally tow within the current guidelines.

When you reach the age of 70, driving licence entitlements expire so they need to be renewed. Category B driving entitlements will remain in place however, Category B + E entitlements will only stay in place if they were held prior to the driving licence expiring.

The Caravan Club also states that when you reach the age of 70, you will also need to pass the D4 medical test and the standard eyesight test to ensure it is still safe for you to keep towing.

What can my car tow? (weight)

Making sure you can legally tow your caravan is vital. Failure to correctly match the weight of a car and caravan is an easy way to end up with a large fine, points on your licence or worse... a big crash.

To figure out what your car can tow, you can either use the VIN plate method or you can use a dedicated online calculator.

VIN Plate Method

The maximum towing capacity for each vehicle is set by the vehicle manufacturer. This information can be found on the Vehicle Identification Plate (VIN plate). The VIN plate can usually be found under the bonnet or on a door pillar.

It contains 4 lines of numbers:

  • 1st Line - 2500kg - Gross Vehicle Weight
  • 2nd Line - 4800kg - Gross Train Weight
  • 3rd Line - 1250kg - Maximum front axle load
  • 4th Line - 1300kg - Maximum rear axle load

The maximum towing capacity can be calculated by subtracting the gross vehicle weight from the gross train weight.

If the weight in the 1st and 2nd line are identical or line 2 doesn't contain a value, then your towing capacity is zero kg.

This means that your car manufacturer has concluded that your car is not capable of towing.

Dedicated Tow Match Calculator

If you find that method a little complicated, you can use a dedicated caravan tow match calculator provided by a third-party service.

These calculators have a catalogue of VIN plate numbers stored in their memory, and you can easily discover your car's towing capacity in a few clicks.

However, there is a small fee for using these services and there have been reports that they are not always 100% accurate on obscure car models.

What can my car tow? (width and length)

Now you have figured out what your car can tow in weight, it's also important to consider what your car can tow in width and length.

These are the two main rules:

  • The maximum towing width is 2.55 metres
  • The maximum towing length is 7 metres

Unfortunately, there is no third-party service that can give you these figures. You will need to access a vehicle manual and calculate the overall width and length. Alternatively, you can perform a double check using a tape measure.

What is the legality of towing a caravan?

Alongside the obvious licencing and weight rules, you will also find that there are a variety of other laws that you must adhere to when towing a caravan. These include:

  • All towbars must meet type approved EU regulations. All towbars sold by Witter are type approved and are specifically designed for your vehicle
  • Do not exceed the 50mph speed limit on a single carriageway
  • Do not exceed the 60mph speed limit on dual carriageways
  • Never carry passengers in a caravan while driving
  • Your number plate and registration number must be clearly displayed at the rear of your caravan
  • Your rear lights must be working and visible. Double check all your vehicle lights before driving
  • Any caravan over 750kg must have a working brake system
  • You must fit suitable towing extension mirrors, especially if you are towing a large caravan or trailer that is wider than the rear of your car, so you can maintain an adequate view of the road behind you. Failure to do so could lead to 3 points on your licence and a £1,000 fine.

How do I load a caravan correctly?

Packing your caravan correctly is the key to towing as safely as possible. Failure to place heavy and light objects in the right area can lead to an unbalanced load and is one of the number one causes of snaking.

Follow these rules:

  • Secure heavy loads low down and over the axles
  • Do not place heavy items at the very front or rear of the caravan
  • Do not drive with full water or waste tanks (the water will move when driving and can cause snaking)

Use this graphic as guidance:

graphic showing you how to pack a caravan

Where can I learn to tow a caravan?

Towing a caravan is not difficult, but it can be quite intimidating. If you are worried about towing, then it's probably best to get at least one lesson.

You can learn the basics of manoeuvring the caravan, mirrors, preparing the caravan and the importance of electronic stabilisers. This will provide you with so much more confidence when jumping in the driving seat.

So, where can you get behind the wheel?

You will also be able to find local caravan driving instructors in your area.

Does towing a caravan affect my insurance?

Your car insurance will cover your car, but it will not cover your caravan. You will need to purchase a separate caravan insurance policy to cover any damage caused to your caravan in the event of an accident.

Please note: It is not a legal requirement to have caravan insurance. Your car insurance will still cover third-party damage to another vehicle.

It is also worth noting that fitting a towbar can also affect how your car insurance premium is calculated. Fitting a towbar is classified as a car modification so it is important that you notify your insurance provider about this change to your vehicle. You can learn more about the best towbar for your vehicle here.