How to tow a caravan

Posted by on May 25th, 2017

Caravan holidays are incredibly popular in the UK and while cheap flights abroad will always prove tempting, they are yet to dampen the British appetite for caravans.

If you’re one of the 55,000 people who bought a caravan in 2016, or you’ve taken the plunge more recently, there will be some questions about towing your touring caravan that you’ll have thought of.

It’s probably something you’ve never done before and you might not even know whether you’re allowed to tow a caravan yet but the good news is that we’re here to help.

1. What licence do I need to tow a caravan?

If you have a full UK driving licence, you can tow a caravan however you must be aware of the weights you can work with.

If you passed your driving test after 19 January 2013, you can tow:

– Small trailers that weigh less than 750kg
– A trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of your trailer and vehicle is no more than 3.500kg in total

If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997 you can tow:

– A trailer up to 750kg as long as the combined weight of your trailer and vehicle is no more than 3.500kg in total
– A trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of your trailer and vehicle is no more than 3.500kg in total

The combined weight of your vehicle and trailer is called the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) and if it exceeds 3,500kg then you will need to take a BE driving test.

With a BE licence you can drive a vehicle with a MAM of 3,500kg, as well as a trailer.

If you passed your BE licence you can tow a trailer of any size and weight. If you passed your BE licence after 19 January 2013 you can tow a trailer with a MAM of up to 3,500kg.

2. What weight is my car?

Obviously, the weight of your car influences what caravan you can tow and whether or not you need to take another driving test.
It’s quite easy to find out the MAM of your vehicle. Usually it’s listed in the owner’s manual of your car and it’s often found on a sticker or plate fitted to your vehicle.

If you can’t find it there, a simple internet search will usually throw up the answer and, it’s worth noting, that it’s often referred to as Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).


3. What weight is my caravan?

Like knowing the weight of your car, knowing the weight of your caravan is just as important.

Fortunately, you should be made aware of your caravan’s weight when you buy it, it is listed in the Technical Handbook and on the caravan’s weight plate too.

It is listed as the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) but you need to ensure that the weight of your touring caravan does not exceed the maximum towing weight of your car.

Remember, if your caravan weighs more than 750kg, including what you’re carrying inside, it must have a working brake system.

4. What weight can my car tow?

While your driving licence might enable you to tow a caravan it doesn’t mean that your car is necessarily capable of pulling that much extra weight.

That’s why it’s vital that you know the maximum weight your car can tow, otherwise your car is going to suffer and you’re putting yourself and other road users at risk.

You can find out the gross train weight of your car on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate, usually on the inside of the driver’s door or under the bonnet.

Government advice states that if your VIN does not list train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing anything.

5. 85 per cent is the golden rule

If your caravan weighs 85 per cent or less of your car’s kerb weight, it should have no difficulty pulling a trailer.

If it’s between 85 and 100 per cent of the weight of the car, you should be able to tow the caravan however caution is advised.

If your caravan weighs more than the car itself, then you should not be towing it with that vehicle – you’ll need an upgrade.

If your car and caravan are not properly matched, you will find it difficult to drive without stabilisers.

6. What’s the maximum width and length when towing a touring caravan?

Your touring caravan cannot be wider than 2.55 metres when being towed.

The maximum length of a touring caravan, not including the A-frame, is seven metres.

7. How to pack your caravan for towing

Packing your touring caravan properly is important before you begin towing because the way you distribute weight can impact stability on the road and you also need to be careful not to exceed its MTPLM.

Any heavy items should be kept on the floor of your caravan and above the axle. Don’t be tempted to put heavy items towards the back of your caravan because it will make it tail-heavy and unstable on the road.

Medium weight items can be spread about but generally keep heavy items as near to the axle as possible.

Light items can go virtually anywhere however keep them as close to the floor as possible to keep your centre of gravity low.

8. Fitting a tow bracket to a car

Your tow bracket is the only point of contact between your caravan and your car so make sure it’s up to scratch.

Make sure your bracket is British or European standard and try to use mounts that are recommended by the manufacturer of your car.

Get your bracket fitted by an approved National Trailer and Towing Association company and it’s also important to remember that fitting a tow bar is essentially a modification, so you should inform your car insurance provider.

9. Mirrors and visibility laws for caravan towing

UK law states that you must have an adequate view of the road behind you

If you’re towing a caravan that’s wider than the rear of your car you must fit towing mirrors and failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £1,000 and three penalty points.

10. How to get your car ready to tow a caravan

If you’re towing a caravan there are a few things you’ll need to do to your car to make your life easier.

First off, you’ll need to adjust your tyre pressure to suit heavier loads too.

Check your car’s manual to find out what its fully loaded tyre pressures should be and make sure your tyres match up.

Try to keep your parcel shelf clear and free from obstruction, while keeping all items secure so they’re not sliding about and distracting you.

11. Driving tips for caravan towing

Once you’ve got your touring caravan secured and loaded properly, you’re pretty much good to go.

We’d always advise taking your car and caravan for a practice spin before getting out on the road properly however the important things to remember are:

– Your weight and stopping distances have increased so give yourself more time and space when you’re on the road, especially when turning
– Keep your speed down to 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways
– Do not carry passengers in your caravan

That may make it seem like towing a caravan is more trouble than it’s worth but it’s all pretty straightforward.