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Guide to towing trailers and caravans


If you are considering buying a trailer or caravan there are a number of points you need to consider in order to be both legal and safe on the road.

Towing and your driving licence

The gross (combined) weight of your vehicle and it's towed counterpart needs to be checked, as the weight that you are legally allowed to drive will depend on when you first got your driving licence. These are:-
  • Licences obtained before Jan 1 1997 - 8.25 metric tonnes or whatever is indicated on your licence

  • Licences obtained after Jan 1 1997 - 3.5 metric tonnes with trailer of up to 750kgs


Choosing a suitable towing vehicle

It's important to choose the right vehicle if you want to tow a trailer or caravan. It will have to be powerful enough to pull the trailer/caravan up a modest incline without difficulty. Ideally it will have a long wheelbase and be a fairly heavy vehicle like a 4X4.

The vehicle has to be properly maintained. Bulbs, brakes and brake pads must all be in excellent working order and your tyres should have a decent amount of tread and be inflated to the recommended pressure for the vehicle.

European regulations state that tow bars must be fitted to the point on the vehicle recommended by the manufacturer.

Check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered for towing a caravan or trailer and if you are not then ask them to amend it accordingly.


Speed restrictions for towing trailers or caravans

For towing vehicles, the UK speed limit on a dual carriageway or motorway is 60mph. On a single carriageway the speed limit for towing a caravan or trailer is 50mph.

If you are planning to travel outside of the UK you will have to check the speed restrictions for that particular country as they may vary.


Restrictions for weight and length

The weight of your braked trailer or caravan must not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. Checking your towing vehicles specification in it's manual should reveal this. Your unbraked trailer/caravan should have a gross maximum weight of 750kg or half the kerb weight of the towing vehicle.

For those unsure of the difference between braked and unbraked weights, the 'unbraked' weight of a trailer/caravan means the weight of one that does not have it's own brake system. The towing vehicle will have more control over a trailer/caravan if it has it's own set of brakes.

Excluding the A-frame and the hitch, the length of your trailer/caravan should not me more than 7 metres in length, and the width should be no more than 2.3m.

The rear of your trailer/caravan

As trailer/caravan obscures the rear of your vehicle, it is a required to replicate the functionality of signaling lights on the rear of your trailer or caravan. This includes:-

  • Brake lights

  • Red rear driving lights

  • Indicators

  • Number plate

  • Number plate light

  • A rear fog light

  • Two red triangular reflectors

Don't forget that it is illegal for anyone to travel inside the trailer or caravan when it is moving. Animals are permitted inside moving trailers/caravans although it is not advisable.


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