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05 Jul 2021
Adam Bate Confused.com

Towing insurance and rules explained

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Car towing a caravan

For some, a caravan holiday is the perfect getaway. For others, towing is just part of their job. But in either case it pays to be clued up.

Here’s everything you need to know about towing a caravan and using a tow trailer. That includes UK towing laws, and how to find out your car’s towing capacity.

 

What can I tow?

Car towing rules vary and depend on when you passed your driving test and got your licence, and what you’re towing. 

You can check your driving licence online to see what vehicles you’re permitted to drive and what you’re legally allowed to tow. Or you can call the DVLA on 0300 790 6801.

For more information on driving licence rules, see our guide on driving licence categories and codes.

How much you can tow is measured in maximum authorised mass (MAM).

In other words, MAM is the total weight of a vehicle when it’s loaded and represents the absolute limit a car can safely tow. 

It’s also sometimes referred to as gross vehicle weight (GVW). Just like MAM, it shows the maximum weight that you can carry safely..

Rules for drivers with licences issued on or after 1 January 1997:

  • You can drive a car or van of up to 3,500kg MAM while towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM, with a combined total weight of 4,250kg.

  • You can tow a trailer of over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

 

If you need to tow anything heavier than this you’ll have to pass the car and trailer driving test, also known as the B+E category test.

Rules for drivers with licences issued before 1 January 1997:

  • Drive a car or van and a trailer or caravan of up to 8,250kg MAM.

  • You can drive a minibus while towing a trailer of over 750kg MAM.

 

If you need to tow even heavier vehicles, you’ll have to:

  • Apply for a provisional licence for a medium-sized lorry and trailer

  • Pass the lorry theory test 

  • Pass the actual driving test, also known as the C1+3 driving test.

This’ll allow you to tow a combined weight of up to 12,000kg MAM.

 

How much can my car tow?

If you don’t have your manual at hand, your vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ or VIN might be on the driver’s door or under the bonnet.

If not, there’s an easy way to work out how much your car can tow. The caravan, or trailer, needs to weigh (including cargo) less than 85% of your car’s kerb weight.

If what you’re trying to tow is heavier than your car, then you shouldn’t attempt driving at all as it won’t be safe.

Cars have an official maximum weight they can tow safely. 

If you’re looking for the best cars for towing caravans you’ll need to look at the weight a car can tow as this will depend upon the make and model

Here's how much weight some of UK’s most popular cars can cope with:

  • Ford Fiesta – up to 900kg

  • Nissan Qashqai – up to 1,200kg

  • Volvo XC90 – up to 2,700kg

  • Kia Sportage - up to 2,200kg

  • BMW X5 – up to 3,500kg.

When packing, ensure the weight is evenly spread and avoid overloading a particular side. This way the car and the caravan/trailer should remain more stable when in motion. 

 

How to weigh a caravan or trailer

The easiest way is to use a public weighbridge. You can search for a nearby weighbridge on GOV.UK. They’re usually privately owned, and it’ll cost around £20 to weigh your vehicle.

It’s worth weighing your caravan or trailer before you load it. That’s if you’re unsure of the exact weight and there isn’t another way of finding that information.

Then, you can use a weighbridge again after you’ve loaded it. You can then calculate the MAM and see if your car will be able to cope and if it’ll be safe to drive. 

 

Am I insured to tow a caravan?

Most insurers should still cover your car when you're towing a caravan. It's best to get in touch with them and let them know you plan on using your car for towing.

That way they'll be able to let you know of any exclusions to your policy.

Although the policy should still cover your car, it's less likely that your caravan would also be covered.

 

Do I need trailer insurance or caravan cover?

It makes sense to think about getting covered, even though caravan insurance isn’t mandatory.

You can check if your current car insurance policy covers you. And – if it does – make sure you know exactly what’s included in it.

For example, many insurers tend to include third-party cover for trailers, but they might not cover caravans.

Additional cover might be available as an extra that can be added to your existing policy or it may be worth approaching a specialist insurer.

Always check the level of cover for theft, or damage caused by floods, storms or vandalism.

Also, some home insurance policies may include ‘away from home’ cover. This might allow you to claim if something gets stolen from your caravan.

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Do caravans need an MOT?

You don’t need an MOT for a caravan, but you do need to make sure it’s in good working order and it’s safe to be on the road. You can do this by getting it regularly serviced.

 

What’s the speed limit for towing a caravan or trailer?

You can’t go at the same speed as other cars if you’re towing a caravan or a trailer as it would not be safe.

There are specific speed limits for towing :

  • 30 mph in built-up areas

  • 50 mph on single carriageways

  • 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways.

 

Whistle-stop tips for painless towing

Here are some other tips and things to consider when towing:

  • If you’re fitting a tow bar, it needs to meet ‘type approved’ EU regulations.

  • Your number plate needs to show your car’s registration and be lit up at night.

  • If you’re towing a trailer, you must display the same number plate as the car you’re towing it with.

  • The maximum dimensions for a caravan in the UK are 2.3m in width and 7m in length.

  • Caravans or trailers that weigh over 750kg need their own braking system.

  • Always allow extra space around you and take more time for manoeuvres.

  • The extra weight your car will be pulling. This will result in a longer stopping distance, so brake earlier than you usually would.

  • Pack heavier items near to the axel and try to pack as lightly as possible.

  • Before you set off, always check the lights panel at the back for any faults.

  • Never have passengers in a trailer or caravan if you’re towing it.

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