Caravan Towing Guide

Caravanning is one of the quintessential British pastimes and whether your a seasoned tourer or just getting started we hope you’ll find something useful & most importantly travel safely in the season ahead.

Can I tow a caravan on my licence?

Before you plan your next touring holiday (at Ladram Bay obviously!), there are certain legal requirements for towing a caravan. This comes down to weight or MAM (maximum authorised mass) of the load you plan to tow and the date you passed your driving test.

If you passed your driving test prior to 1st January 1997 you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM, but it is also worth checking your license for the specifics.

Drivers who passed their driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B licence (car), you can tow:

  • Small trailers weighing up to 750kg
  • A trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg MAM.

If you want to tow a trailer above 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is greater than 3,500kg, you will require an B+E entitlement on your licence.

A little perspective..

Vehicles can vary depending on extras and specification but a Toyota RAV4 can weigh up to 1,445kg, a A VW Passat can weigh up to 1,735kg, while larger 4×4’s such as the Discovery can reach 2,311kg. The average caravan is likely to weight anywhere between 1,000kg and 1,400kg.

In theory there will be car / caravan combinations that come in under 3,500kg, however you will also need to factor in your total weight, including passengers, luggage & crucially your caravans payload restrictions.

Can my car tow my caravan?

Working out your towing capacity is simply. The maximum weight your vehicle can tow (fully loaded car + fully loaded caravan) will be listed in the handbook. Alternatively this information is easily found on the internet, here is a comprehensive tow limit checker from TowCar.info to get you started.

Width and length towing laws…

The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. To put this in perspective the widest towing vehicle you will commonly see in the U.K will be something along the lines of an Audi Q7, BMW X6 or Range Rover Discovery’s measuring in at around 2 metres wide. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500 kilograms.

Safety tips for towing a caravan

  • Tow bars have to be ‘type approved’, meaning they meet EU regulations and are designed for your car. This doesn’t apply to cars registered before 1 August 1998.
  • Caravans (& any trailer) weighing over 750kg (including its load), are required to have a working brake system.
  • Trailers without brakes may tow a maximum of 750kg or half the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle – whichever is the lower.
  • Allow more time and space for everything, particularly taking corners and braking.
  • Check your vehicle’s and caravans tyres before setting out on a trip.
  • Never exceed 50mph on single carriageways or 60mph on dual carriageways.
  • Do not carry passengers in the caravan whilst in transit.
  • Ensure your car’s number plate is attached to the rear of your caravan, that the number plate can be illuminated at night and that it conforms to relevant British Standards. 
  • Rear light panels must always be working. Check before setting off and check during your journey.
  • When packing try to keep the caravan as light as possible. Place heavier objects low down and close to the axles. This will limit snaking. 
  • To prevent snaking and pitching make sure you have a well-matched car and caravan and try using stabilisers.

For a more in depth guide to caravan care please read our blog posts on ‘caring for your caravan this spring‘ or ‘a guide to caravan winter maintenance

Caravan packing checklist:

We cannot stop your other half from packing dodgy swimwear, but we can provide you with a list of essentials that any caravan or touring vehicle should carry. So before you think about entering our postcode (EX9 7BX) in the satnav, work through this list and tick off the items you think you might need.

Please remember you will need an allowance for payload (the difference between the caravan’s empty weight and its quoted maximum permissible weight), this prevents overloading. If you are travelling abroad (most commonly France) drivers are obliged to carry certain items by law, visit this link for a driving in France Checklist.

What to pack in your car…

  • Sat nav
  • Stabiliser
  • Jack
  • Spare tyre
  • Spare bulbs / fuses
  • Towing mirrors
  • Towball cover
  • Tow rope
  • Tyre pump
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Warning triangle
  • Fuel can
  • High vis top
  • Thermals (in winter)
  • First aid kit
  • Battery
  • Wheel clamps
  • Spare keys
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Torch

What to pack in your caravan…

  • Spare wheel & tyre
  • Spare bulbs / fuses
  • Wheel clamp
  • Wheel lock
  • Corner steady tool
  • Levelling blocks
  • Wheel chocks
  • Entrance step
  • Spirit level
  • Nose weight gauge
  • 230v mains lead
  • Mains adaptor
  • Polarity tester
  • 12v battery
  • Battery charger
  • Gas cylinders + spanner
  • Windbreak + pegs / mallet / hooks
  • Water contains (waste & drinking)
  • Groundsheet
  • Fire extinguisher

The seasoned tourers among you will have built up impressive caravaning inventories over the years. Read our must-have caravan gadgets list, full of everyday items that will make your next adventure; more comfortable, safer, easier, dryer and tastier.