Can I tow a trailer with my car?

Trailers, caravans and the law

Towing trailers or caravans with a car is a common requirement – and most people assume that they can tow anything their car can manage. Unfortunately, that isn’t always correct.

 

Trailer & Caravan Weights & Sizes – Outfit Matching

Assuming all other legal requirements are met, a braked trailer should not weight more than the manufacturer’s towing limit for the tow car. The towing vehicle’s maximum gross train weight should also not be exceeded. (Train weight is the combined weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer.)

Car towing a caravan

The Caravan Club recommends that caravans should not weigh more than 85% of the weight of the tow car, assuming that this is lower than the manufacturer’s towing limit for that car.

Unbraked trailers cannot weight more than 750kg and the towing vehicle must have a kerb weight of at least twice the maximum weight of the trailer.

For towing vehicles with a maximum laden weight of under 3,500kg, the maximum trailer dimensions are 2.3m wide and 7m long (excluding the tow coupling and drawbar).

(This information applies to towing vehicles and trailers with a maximum laden weight of less than 3,500kg. Above this is HGV territory – different rules apply).

For further information, see here.

 

If you passed your car test before 1st January 1997

Car drivers who passed their driving tests before 1st January 1997 were automatically given the necessary entitlement to tow a trailer behind a car or light commercial vehicle. This is shown as B+E on your driving licence.

This means that you can drive vehicles and trailer combinations with a combined maximum gross weight of up to 8,250kg (8.25 tonnes).

In practice, this means that for car drivers, any car and trailer or caravan combination is permitted legally, although you should always take care to ensure that the car and trailer are correctly matched; check that the trailer is not too heavy for the towing car.

 

If you passed your car test after 1st January 1997

Car drivers who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 are subject to greater restrictions on towing.

You can tow a vehicle and trailer combination weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, provided that the unladen weight of the towing vehicle is greater than the maximum permissible weight of the trailer.

You can also tow a trailer with a gross weight of 750kg behind any category B vehicle – giving a maximum permissible weight of 4.25 tonnes (max weight for category B is 3.5 tonnes).

In practice, these new rules are not too restrictive for most drivers, but there are a few surprising exceptions.

For example, large 4×4 pickups (like the Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux) often have gross weights over 2.5 tonnes. This means that when coupled with a medium-sized caravan or other trailer (weighing >1 tonne), the combined gross weight would be likely to exceed 3.5 tonnes, which would be illegal.

To find out the unladen weight of your car / towing vehicle, look in the owners’ manual.To find out the maximum permissible weight of a trailer, look for its ‘plate’ – a metal plate somewhere on the trailer that will state the maximum laden weight of the trailer.

 

The B+E Towing Test – The Solution


If you passed your car driving test on or after 1st January 1997 and want to increase your towing capabilities to include combination weights over 3.5 tonnes, you are required to take an additional driving test – the B+E test.

This allows you to tow trailers with a gross weight in excess of 750kg using vehicles with a gross weight of up to 3.5 tonnes.

This is mostly likely to be useful for drivers of vans and other light commercial vehicles who need to tow trailers, or for caravan owners who have large tow cars and/or caravans.

To find out more, visit the DirectGov website pages on Towing Caravans, Trailers & Commercial Vehicles.

Alternatively, a very comprehensive guide called Towing and the Law is available from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trades (SMMT) – click here for more information.

Disclaimer: All information on this page is provided in good faith. While we endeavour to update it when necessary, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness and take no responsibility for any errors or omissions.

Car Towing A Caravan or Trailer Safely

8 thoughts on “Can I tow a trailer with my car?

  • June 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm
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    i passed my test in july 2002. i want to be able to tow our trailer tent and a horse box. i know i need to pass an extra test for this but what i want to know is am i able to practise towing with a driver who is allowed to tow? do i need L plates on the vehicle and can you practice with a laden vehicle such as a horse box with a horse in it. the lessons for learning to tow are extortionate and i cant afford them so i want to try to do it as cheap as possible.

    Reply
    • July 2, 2012 at 9:11 am
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      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your comment. I expect you will need L plates but I am not sure about the rules for learning to tow a trailer and who you can practice with.

      The safest way to find out would probably be to give the DVLA a quick ring on 0300 790 6801 or email them http://www.direct.gov.uk/emaildvla

      Hope this helps,

      Roland

      Reply
  • October 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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    My son (Dean) passed his driving test after the regulations changed in 1997. He was stopped by the police towing a trailer with an Escort van, the plate on the trailer is 750kg, they nicked him infoming him that the trailer was too big for him to tow with the type of licence he had. When I Phoned the police they said that he could tow UP TO 750kg but NOT INCLUDING 750kg. We think it is anything OVER 750kg. Can anyone clear this up.

    Reply
    • October 29, 2012 at 7:14 am
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      Hi Peter,

      On the gov.uk website it does say ‘up to 750kg’, although I would have made the same assumption as you and assumed that it meant up to and including 750kg.

      a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500 kilograms (kg) Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM

      https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car

      Hope this helps (although not good news).

      Regards,

      Roland
      (SimpleMotoring.co.uk)

      Reply
  • August 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm
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    Hi

    I want to tow a 6m trailer that weighs 3500kg, with a van. Are there any suitable ones

    Reply
    • August 11, 2015 at 3:56 pm
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      There are several pick-ups on the market that can tow 3,500kg. The choice of vans is probably more restricted. For example, the Mercedes-Benz website seems to suggest that the maximum braked towing weight is 2,000kg for the Sprinter.

      I believe some Iveco Daily models can tow 3,500kg, but not all of them.

      Hope this helps,

      Roland

      Reply
  • September 26, 2015 at 11:10 am
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    Hi there, i was wondering what the story was with towing capacity’s. I have a nissan x trail which has a towing capacity of 2000kg, i also have an Ifor Williams 505 horse box, the maximum gross weight for this horsebox is 2350kg or there abouts, can i tow that horse box as long as i dont exceed the 2000kg my car is good for? I can’t make much sense of it all some sites saying you can, some you cant.

    Regards

    Michael

    Reply
    • September 29, 2015 at 4:39 am
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      Hi Michael,

      Good question! I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this one for sure, so I won’t add another guess to your collection. Perhaps braving a call to the DVLA might be worthwhile?

      Regards, Roland

      Reply

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