Whether or not you can legally tow a caravan or trailer on UK roads will depend on the type of driving licence you hold.
If you do have entitlement to tow, you will need to check the category entitlement on your driving licence to find out which types of trailers you can tow and which you cannot.
Type of licence
Licences Obtained Before Jan 1 1997
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997 you will keep your original entitlement to tow trailers until your licence expires- meaning you are allowed to power a vehicle/trailer combination that has a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM or gross vehicle weight), though you should check your individual licence for clarification of this.
Licences Obtained After Jan 1 1997
From this date, newly qualified drivers may drive a vehicle that is up to 3.5 tonnes MAM, coupled with trailer of up to 750kgs MAM. If you don’t have a full licence (i.e. provisional), you are not permitted to tow another vehicle at all until you pass your test.
Preparing to Tow
When you are thinking of towing a trailer or caravan you need to first make sure that the vehicle that will be doing the towing is up to the job. Ideally, a car with a long wheelbase and a short rear overhang - (the distance from between the middle of the back wheels to the tow bar) - is what you're looking for. It's also important that whichever vehicle you are using has been serviced regularly - towing a trailer or caravan can be really dangerous if the equipment being used isn't up to scratch.
Checking the Tow Bar
European regulations (EC94/20) say that - Tow bars must be fitted to the recommended fitting point of the vehicle manufacturer. Tow bars must pass the new Euronorm Standard, which is 20% higher than the previous UK and European levels. Number plates must not be obscured by the tow plate when not in use.
Things to do Before You Go out on the Road
Before you take a car out on the road with a trailer or caravan, you should practice 'coupling' and 'uncoupling' the trailer or caravan to make sure you know what you’re doing.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Make sure that you are covered by your insurance policy. Most policies do cover you 3rd Party when towing but it is your responsibility to make sure that this is the case. If you're in any doubt about your cover then don't go out on the road with your trailer or caravan until you've spoken to your insurance company.
Speed Limits Differ when You're Towing
The maximum speed you can go to on a UK motorway or dual carriageway with a trailer is 60mph. Assuming there are no roadworks or other lower speed limits in force (as in places where 30mph and 40mph restrictions are often in force), the fastest you can go on a single carriageway is 50mph. The speed limit will vary across Europe so if you're heading out from the UK, check the restrictions before you travel. Whatever the speed limits are, your towing vehicle must be able to support the laden weight of the trailer or caravan when travelling at the maximum speed allowed, so tyres and tyre pressure MUST be checked carefully before setting off and at regular intervals.
Understand restrictions on the length and weight of the trailer/caravan allowed.The weight of a braked trailer should not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the tow car (you can find the kerb weight in your vehicle manual), and an unbraked trailer carries a gross maximum weight of 750Kg or half the kerb weight of the towing vehicle, whichever is the lesser. The overall length of the trailer or caravan should not be more than 7 metres, (with the exception of the A frame and hitch), and the width should not be more than 2.3m.
Check Your Plates
The trailer or caravan must be fitted with the correctly styled and numbered plate. Be safe at night by making sure you have the following:
- Red rear side lights
- Directional indicators
- Brake lights
- Number plate light
- One rear fog light
- Two triangular red reflectors
Know the Law!
Finally, it is illegal to carry humans inside a moving trailer or the caravan. You are allowed to have animals in there, although it is not recommended that you should do so. Make sure you know what is and is not covered by the law before you head off onto the open road.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is for general purpose information only and should not be constituted as legal advice. This article has been produced by a third party and Jardine Motors does not take any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the website or the information provided. Article last updated March 2016.