Caravans and trailers - towing in the UK and abroad

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When it comes to towing there are strict rules concerning the licence you hold and the weight of the unit you're towing

Older drivers are at an advantage here - anyone who passed their driving test before 1st January 1997 can drive a car and caravan/trailer up to 8,250kg, a motorhome (or minibus) up to 7,500kg and a motorhome with trailer up to 8,250kg.

For those who passed after 1st January 1997 the combined weight for what you can tow is much lower - you're restricted to a car and caravan/trailer up to 3,500kg, a motorhome up to 3,500kg and a motorhome and trailer up to 4,250kg (where the trailer weighs up to 750kg).

If you want to drive a towing outfit that exceeds these limits, you need to pass a Category B+E test. Check what your driving licence entitles you to drive.

Your car

It is important that the vehicle you use to pull your trailer is adequate for the job. Check your engine size and make sure it is large enough to tow the unit and load. Check your brakes are powerful enough to stop the vehicle and unit safely and that the unit's gross weight does not exceed the towing capacity of the towing vehicle.

European laws state that if your car was registered before 1st August 1998, you can use a towbar tested to BS AU 114b, but on younger cars the towbar must meet the EU 94/20 directive.

Check the condition of both car and caravan suspension; it's important for safety as well as comfort.

By law you must have a visual or audible warning on your vehicle to show the caravan indicators are working. You should also, check that all the caravan's road lighting functions are working.

Speed limits for towing

When towing in the UK you are automatically restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways, except where a lower general speed limit applies. On motorways with three lanes or more you are not permitted in the outside lane.

Towing speed limits in Europe vary, so make sure you're familiar with the limits in the countries you'll be visiting. Also make sure you're carrying all the right documentation and equipment for the tow vehicle and all drivers; see our Driving in Europe page.

In most European countries you have to carry a warning triangle, spare bulbs, first aid kit, spare glasses and your vehicle registration documents. A number of European countries also require high-visibility waistcoats or jackets to be carried in the passenger area and used by every adult in case of breakdown.

If you tow on motorways you really should have relevant breakdown cover as recovery of a trailer or caravan is considerably more time consuming and expensive.

Pre-journey checks

Before you set off, there are some essential checks you should do. Close gas taps and lift connectors off the gas bottle(s), switch off all interior lights and other electrical equipment, disconnect the mains supply and carefully stow the cable. Empty the fresh and waste water tanks.

Stow all loose equipment and belongings with heavy items as low as possible. Make sure windows and roof lights, doors, hatches and aerials are secured. Lift all the prop-stands and make a final check of nose-weight.


Caravan clubs and associations
Towing safety tips
Insuring your caravan or trailer

 

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