Discover the basics of towing a caravan
Are you licensed to tow a caravan?
Drivers who have passed their B driving test since 1st January 1997 can tow an outfit (car and caravan) with a combined Maximum Allowable Mass of 3,500kg if the caravan weighs more than 750kg or 4,250kg if the caravan weighs less than 750kg. For heavier combinations, drivers who passed their test after this date need to pass a B+E test. Those that passed their driving test prior to 1st January 1997 are exempt from this, although, if you have never towed a caravan before, our advice would be to attend a relevant driving course (see below).
Is your car suitable for towing?
There are plenty of B-licence-friendly car plus caravan combinations that can be towed within the 3500kg limit legally. It’s important that the car you’re going to be towing with makes a good match with your caravan so, before you purchase your new caravan, establish what you can tow with your car, i.e. the weight ratio.
Best recommendations are that the laden weight of the caravan (that is the caravan plus any load within it, which must not exceed the caravan’s MTPLM) should not exceed 85% of the towing vehicle’s kerbweight.
This provides a good towing performance with a little power in reserve for overtaking and inclines, though some car manufacturers actually specify a maximum towing limit less than 85%.
You can find your car’s kerbweight in the vehicle handbook.
To help you choose a suitable car/caravan combination, you can use an online matching service such as TowCheck (www.towcheck.co.uk), which is run by the National Caravan Council. The service generates a list of suitable caravans that match your car and, vice versa, if you’ve set your heart on a particular caravan that is just right for your needs, you can find the right car to tow it.
Don’t forget the tow bar for your tow car
Of course, you’ll need a towbar to tow your caravan. You need to determine whether you would prefer a permanently fixed or detachable towbar but, either way, it must be type-approved for the particular towcar. Always check the electrics between tow car and caravan are working prior to moving off and ensure that the breakaway cable – which will apply the brakes on the caravan if it becomes detached from the towcar – is connected.
Make sure you notify your motor insurance company that your car has been fitted with a towbar and that you might be towing. In the event of an accident, your insurance will then cover any third party damage that might be caused by what you are towing. Bear in mind, that it will not cover damage to the caravan itself, which will need a separate insurance policy.
It is essential (the law says so) that you have a good view down both sides of the caravan while towing and therefore a pair of extension mirrors will be required. These can be purchased from caravan dealerships or outdoor leisure shops such as Prima Leisure or Halfords. Don’t forget to take the mirrors off once you’ve pitched at a campsite if you’re planning on driving anywhere without the caravan.
Back to school
If you’ve never towed a caravan before, we’d advocate attending a caravan manoeuvring course. Both The Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club run introductory courses throughout the UK. Courses usually last a day and you’ll run through the basics of towing before going outdoors to gain practical experience in hitching a caravan and manoeuvres such as turning corners and reversing. Alternatively, the clubs operate short taster sessions on towing at many of the bigger caravan and camping shows, including those held in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.
Courses are suitable for everyone, including beginners, those returning to caravanning after many years and the nervous that have perhaps become too reliant on electronic caravan movers and might like a little reassurance on reversing with a caravan.