Nigel DonnellySee other Advice articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by Nigel Donnelly
There’s an art to getting the right towcar to match your caravan – or the other way round. Here’s how to do it.
Need a new towcar? Match it to your caravan safely
● First, establish how heavy your caravan is – find out its MTPLM (maximum technically permissible laden mass).
● Any caravan you buy should weigh no more than 85% of your car, so take your caravan’s MTPLM and divide by 0.85. This will give you a target kerbweight for your car. The 85% recommendation exists
because in the event of a snake your car needs to be heavier than the caravan to avoid a ‘tail wags the dog’ situation. Never tow anything heavier than the car.
● Your caravan must not exceed the car’s maximum towing weight (the most that the car manufacturer says the vehicle can tow), or you risk breaking the law. Beware: in some cars, it’s less than the kerbweight, and sometimes less than its 85% weight.
● Be aware of the car’s gross train weight (GTW) too – the maximum load the vehicle manufacturer says it can tow when it is fully laden. It is a combination of the car’s maximum gross weight (MGW) and the maximum weight of trailer it is allowed to pull. If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997, you’ll need to sit an additional test to gain licence categories B+E if your car’s MGW is up to 3500kg and you want to tow a caravan with an MTPLM of over 750kg.
● Noseweight. Your car will have a maximum noseweight limit (the maximum downward force the car manufacturer will allow to be exerted on the towball). Try to load your caravan so that it comes close to, but does not exceed this figure.
● Choose the right engine. Diesels often make better towcars than petrol-engined cars because they have more low-down torque (pulling power at low revs) than petrol cars. They’re also more efficient, they emit less carbon dioxide and some have particulate filters to trap sooty
Want a new caravan? Make sure that your car can tow it
● Multiply the car’s kerbweight (you’ll find it in the handbook) by 0.85. This figure is 85% of your car’s kerbweight and is the most your caravan should weigh when fully laden (see above for an explanation).
● Noseweight. Your caravan has a maximum noseweight limit, too, and it shouldn’t be exceeded. Reconciling the car and caravan’s noseweight can be tricky but is vital for safety.
For an idea of which cars are the best, our Tow Car Awards is a rigorous testing programme conducted annually by Practical Caravan, our sister publication What Car?, and the Camping & Caravanning Club. The results are published every August.
The most stable outfit match is a larger, heavier car with a smaller, lighter caravan. It makes a good starting point from which to achieve a good, solid pairing.
For more information
What Car? (for full reviews of every new car tested)