The question can I tow a caravan on my licence is an important one with many ramifications. The reality is that most people are unaware of the restrictions, let alone the fact there are restrictions in place.
You can tow a caravan on a driving licence issued after 1997 but it is more limited than a driving licence issued prior to 1997.
The danger of this is that the unsuspecting driver may suddenly find themselves in court, facing a hefty fine and up to six points on their license, simply for towing a caravan. Their ignorance to the rules in place is not a defence.
Although the awareness of the rules in place is generally low, it actually is not as complex as some would have you believe. Read the detail below to establish your next steps.
Listen to this post
Caravanning is as traditional as fish and chips to the British. It’s one of our national characteristics. Before you rush out and buy a caravan of your dreams, there are a couple of things that will influence your decision. Many people are completely unaware that there are limitations in place that will initially restrict what you can tow. Continue reading to find out exactly where you stand.
The good news is that these restrictions are not overly difficult to overcome but you may need to take some action. It is normally people’s ignorance of the rules in place that leads to problems so there is nothing to cause you panic.
If you gained your licence after the first of January 1997, you have a greater limitation than those who passed their test before this date.
Those passing their test in 1997 and after are issued with a B license. Those who passed before then are issued with a B+E licence.
If you hold a B licence, you have to upgrade to a B+E licence. This is done through a test which is practical and is carried out at centers throughout the UK.
The result of this is growing in significance as since 1997, over 5 million drivers have passed their test. Obviously, this number is growing all the time and increasingly, issues regarding illegally towing vehicles.
I have a ‘B’ licence…can I tow a caravan?
The simple answer is yes, you can tow a caravan. However, there are restrictions in place which you need to pay careful attention too.
What you can tow depends entirely on the MAM…Maximum Authorised Mass. You will be limited to towing a maximum of 4.25 tonnes for car and caravan, if the caravan is more the 750kg.
If the caravan weighs more than 750kg, your MAM is restricted to 3.5 tonnes for the combined vehicle and caravan.
I got my licence before 1997…what are my restrictions?
If you did get your licence before 1997 with B+E licence, you may consider yourself quite lucky. Your Maximum Authorised Mass is also in place but the numbers are significantly more generous.
The vehicle and caravan combination are to a maximum of 8.25 tonnes and additionally, you are also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.
What do I have to do if I want to tow something heavier?
If you passed your test on or after 1997 and have a ‘B’ licence, you need to take and pass the Car and trailer driving test.
If you currently have a B+E licence and passed your test before 1997, you have a number of options open to you;
- Apply for provisional licence for a medium-sized lorry and trailer (category C1+E).
- Pass the lorry theory test.
- Pass the C1+E driving test.
Hopefully this should clarify what you need to do if you find yourself in this situation. As with anything, this information is up to date but things can change. It is always a good idea to refer to the UK Government website which obviously provides the latest regulations. You can find them here.
Is there a restriction on the towing weight and width?
Vehicles are tested before they are sold to the public and they are sold with a stated Gross Train Weight (GTW). This is normally found on the VIN number which is under the bonnet or on the inside of the driver’s door.
The Gross Train Weight is the total weight of the car plus the fully loaded trailer…that must NOT be exceeded. It is the maximum. If the VIN does not contain this figure, it is not suitable for towing.
In terms of width, there is a maximum width in place for all trailers at 2.55 metres. The maximum length of a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes is 7 metres (excluding the ‘A’ frame).
Are there any legal standards for the equipment for my caravan?
The equipment that you use to attach your caravan must meet certain restrictions. Not only must it meet certain legal standards, it also needs to be utilized correctly.
You must display the same number plate as the towing car on your caravan.
If your caravan weighs over 750kg when loaded, you must have a working brake system on your caravan. They must obviously be in good working decision. You also need a breakaway cable or secondary coupling in case the caravan becomes detached from the car.
As obvious as it sounds, you need to ensure you have clear visibility behind you. In most circumstances, the caravan is wider than the vehicle towing it. You therefore need to fit mirrors suitable to allow you to do this.
They need to be approved for your car and this is called ‘type approved’. This reflects that the tow bar is suitable for your car and meets EU regulations. These type approved tow bars have the information on them, the approval number and details of the vehicles they are approved for.
It is important that you meet these requirements. There is always a chance you can get spot checked. Failure to meet these requirements can lead to a large maximum fine of £2500, be banned from driving and receive 3 penalty points. Therefore, don’t take any chances. Importantly, they are there for your safety and other road users.
What checks do I need to carry out before I set off?
I mentioned above that the penalties for using a vehicle in dangerous condition are not light…fine, points and a possible ban.
You therefore need to make checks to your caravan before you travel anywhere. There are some basic checks that you need to consider.
Tow ball and connections
- The caravan is coupled correctly to the tow ball or pin. The manufacturers advice must be followed here.
- The coupling height needs to be correct
- No damage to the 7 or 13 core cable and plug
- You must use a breakaway cable or some form of secondary coupling. This puts on the brakes or stops the caravan from breaking away if it becomes uncoupled. You therefore need to check that the cable is in good condition. You also need to ensure it is not too tight so it doesn’t engage the brakes accidentally. Finally, it is not too loose so that it drags on the ground.
Tyres and wheels
Before you set out on your journey, ensure that the tyres do not have any cuts or bulges and that they are inflated to the correct tyre pressure.
The tyre tread must be at least the legal limit of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre.
Indicators and lights
Check that they are functioning correctly. Ask somebody for some help to check your brake lights.
Ensure you do not exceed the legal and vehicle weight limit. You can find the vehicles weight limit on the VIN number as discussed above. Make sure that the weight is distributed properly and is secured.
- Check when your licence was issued
- Check if you need to take the car and trailer driving test
- Check the VIN plate on your vehicle to see what it can tow
- Check you meet the legal standards
Before I go…
Let me know what you think…have you been caught out and what happened? I hope you find this information useful, let me know if there is anything further you want to know or if there is anything that I should be adding in.
Since you are here…can i ask a favour?
It would be really nice if you could share this image and article on your social media.
It’s just a couple of clicks for you, but it means everything to us.
Thank you so much…