Towing A Caravan – The Complete Guide

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towing a caravan

If you are thinking about buying a touring caravan it’s important to consider how you are going to tow it – and if you even can.

In this guide to towing a caravan, we will be covering some of the essentials.

Is It Easy To Tow A Caravan?

Towing a caravan is often thought to be difficult and stressful – and the idea of it can absolutely seem overwhelming.

But, with some knowledge and forward planning, towing a caravan doesn’t need to be hard work.

Go through the points in this guide and you’ll soon be raring to take your new tourer out on its first adventure!

In addition to the information that follows, also consider these tips for a calmer experience;

  • Plan your route ahead of time – knowledge is power. Familiarise yourself with the directions and roads you will be going down. Consider any fuel and food stops.
  • Time your journey think about what time you will be travelling. Avoid the usual busy times if you can – eg. rush hours!
  • Allow plenty of time if you have to check in to a site by a certain time, or reach a ferry port for a specific sailing, allow enough time, and then some more, to get there. Remember the slower speed you will be going at (see details below for speed limits with a caravan).
  • Car and caravan checks – before you travel go through your usual checks for your car (oil, battery, tyres etc) as well as your caravan (tow bar, lights etc).

Is Your Car Suitable For Towing?

can I tow my caravan

The rule here is that the caravan’s actual weight shouldn’t weigh more than the car you use for towing it. It’s logically much safer to go with the heavier the vehicle and the lighter the caravan combination.

These days cars come with a handbook that will state the maximum weight you can tow, making it much easier to work out. Always check before searching for your new caravan.

The standard recommendation is that the total weight of your caravan (including any contents) must not be more than 85% of your car’s unladen (kerb) weight – refer to manufacturer guidelines on this so you can ensure your outfit is safe for the road.

This is not official legislation; it is meant as a guide only, meaning it’s better not to maximise this weight recommendation really if possible.

When deciding which touring caravan to buy it’s important to think about whether you will need to also buy a new car to manage the weight, or, consider a caravan that is lighter.

What Tow Bar Should I Use?

tow bar for caravan

It’s important that you buy a tow bar that is ‘type approved’ – it is required that it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car. They will have a label with an approval number, the details of the vehicles it’s approved for.

The only exception to this is if your car was first used before 1 August 1998 – then it doesn’t need to be type-approved.

Before buying a tow bar check the latest rules on the Government website.

What Are The Rules For Towing A Caravan?

Aside from the recommended car and caravan combination, in the UK, there is the legal part to consider.

Licences

If you received your driving licence (Category B) after 1st January 1997, then this applies:

  • You can drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg – MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass), and you will also be able to tow a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • You can tow a trailer over 750kg MAM provided the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

However, the law states that if your licence was issued anytime before 1st January 1997 then:

  • You can drive a vehicle or trailer combination of up to 7.5 tonnes.

Super Size Caravans

Some of the larger caravans often built overseas might be too big for UK size restrictions. Currently, the size limit in the UK is no bigger than 2.55 metres in width and no longer than 7 metres.

Always double-check the latest Government regulations.

What Is The Speed Limit For Towing A Caravan?

Speed limits are different when you are towing a caravan. At the time of writing they are;

  • Built up areas – 30mph
  • Single carriageways – 50mph
  • Motorways and dual carriageways – 60mph

Can I Carry Any Passengers In The Caravan?

No, you are not allowed to carry any passengers in a caravan when it is being towed.

Are There Any Rules For Towing A Caravan On A Motorway?

Where there are three or more lanes available to use a car towing a caravan is not allowed to use the right-hand lane on a motorway.

Mirrors For Towing A Caravan

caravan towing mirrors

If your caravan is wider than the width of your car it is mandatory that you use suitable towing mirrors. Not only is it incredibly dangerous to tow a caravan without them, but you will also be liable for 3 points on your license and a £1,000 fine.

Do I Need A Number Plate For My Touring Caravan?

It is mandatory that you display the same car license plate on the back of the caravan when you are towing it.

Does My Caravan Need Breaks?

Yes. Any caravan you buy will and should be fitted with an over-run brake system. It’s essential that these are well maintained, preferably by a trusted caravan service centre.

Caravan Towing Course

Whereas it isn’t mandatory to go on a caravan towing course, taking one will provide you with some useful skills and improve your confidence when towing for the first time.

Both the Camping and Caravanning Club and Caravan and Motorhome Club offer courses in locations throughout the UK.

What Is The Best Car For Towing A Caravan?

As already covered above in our section about towing cars, it’s important to have a car that is up to the task of towing the weight of your caravan, together with the laden weight.  What you should also consider is the space you need in your car to carry all your passengers and your luggage. There are of course many other factors to consider too such as fuel economy and your budget.

Caravan Towing Covers

Do you need one? It’s not mandatory, but it’s recommended to protect the front of your caravan when you are towing it. Not only from potential debris chipping the window, but also, dirt, grime and oil from the roads.

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