David Motton

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What can I tow? Can I tow a caravan? What can my tow car pull? These are questions we're asked regularly – so our expert David Motton has the answers!

Legally matching tow car and caravan is more complicated than it might appear, especially for younger drivers with a B rather than a B+E licence.

With help and advice from Tim Booth, Leisure Vehicles Officer at the College of Policing in Coventry, and the NCC, we’ve put together this brief guide.

Am I safe and legal at 85%?

Both major clubs advise that newcomers shouldn’t tow a caravan weighing more than 85% of their car’s kerbweight, but this is a recommendation rather than a legal requirement.

Cars homologated (officially approved) for towing will have a legal towing limit. This may be more or less than the 85%, but shouldn’t be exceeded.

Tim and a colleague at the NCC have sent the following advice.

‘Construction and Use Regulations allow the driver to tow any trailer (caravan) up to the maximum trailer limit specified in the tow car manufacturer’s information.

‘The calculation for this legislation uses the actual weight of the trailer at the time; in some cases the MTPLM of the trailer may be in excess of the tow car’s limit, but the trailer has been loaded in such a way as to remain within the tow car’s maximum limit.

‘It is important when considering this option to ensure that the MiRO published by the trailer manufacturer is accurate. It is clear that, in many cases, there might be a variation by as much as 50kg, and this could substantially affect any ‘casual’ calculation being made.

‘To ensure strict compliance, the trailer and proposed content should be weighed at a calibrated weigh station. Items to be added to the trailer should NOT be placed into it during the journey to such a weighbridge, because the addition of excess items may result in offences being committed.

‘The caravan industry as a whole has, over many years, conducted numerous tests to seek to ensure the ‘safest’ conditions in which a tow car/caravan combination should be used on the road.

‘The use of a trailer in the circumstances outlined, while under this legislation, is of course legal; but this would not be considered as the safest practice.’

What if I have a B licence?

Drivers with a B licence (anyone who passed their test since 1 January 1997 and hasn’t taken a towing test) are more restricted in what they can tow than drivers who passed before this date, most of whom can tow outfits with a combined Maximum Authorised Mass/MAM of 8250kg.

If towing a caravan or trailer with a MAM of 750kg or less, the combined MAM of car and caravan can be up to 4250kg. It’s possible to tow caravans and trailers with a MAM of over 750kg, but the combined MAM cannot exceed 3500kg.

Licence limits relate to plated weights, not actual weights, as Tim and the NCC explain:

‘It is important to recognise that under other legislation, with regard to driving licence and tachograph laws, the weight of the trailer will be calculated on the basis of its MTPLM as published by the manufacturer, whether that trailer is loaded or not.’

Watch our outfit matching video for more information, or go online.

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