A simples guide

Towing and your car insurance

If you’re planning on hitching up a caravan, horse box or even a small box trailer, there are somethings you need to know first. Not least, there are specific rules relating to what weight you’re legally allowed to tow. There’s then the question of whether you’re insured or not.

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What you can tow

When your driving licence was issued, it will have a bearing on what you’re legally allowed to tow under your specific driving licence.

After passing a standard UK test you’ll have a category B licence allowing you to drive a car (or other small vehicle.) This licence gives you a towing allowance. The rules have changed over the years and what you’re allowed to tow has changed. The amount allowed has been reduced on each occasion. Older drivers therefore will find that their allowance is much greater.

This is going to sound complicated and we’re sorry about that, but we didn’t make the rules!

The best place to start is with your driving licence and check when it was issued.

trailer

What is MAM

No, your MAM isn’t your mother in this instance, MAM stands for Maximum Authorised Mass. This is the weight of a vehicle and trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when used on a road). So let’s take a look at the various MAM restrictions by date:

  • Licences held before 1 January 1997

If you passed your test on or before this date you’re entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM.

If you want to tow heavier combinations you’ll have to pass the category C theory test and C1+E practical test. This would allow you to drive a rigid lorry up to 7,500kg towing a trailer to a combined MAM of 12,000kg.

  • Licences issued between 1 January 1997 and 19 January 2013

If your licence was issued between these dates you can:

  • Drive a vehicle up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg.
  • Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

To tow heavier loads you’d have to take a B+E trailer tuition test which would then grant you the same allowance as pre-1997 licences.

  • Licences issued from 19 January 2013

If your licence was issued more recently you can:

  • Tow a trailer weighing no more than 750kg
  • Tow a trailer over 750kgs as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.

To tow heavier loads you’d have to take a B+E trailer tuition test which would then grant you the same allowance as pre-1997 licences.

Whatever you’re entitled to pull, be safe when pulling a trailer. They take some getting used to under normal conditions and reversing them is an art form!

Always check your vehicle handbook for safe weights. Never overload your vehicle or trailer, doing so will compromise stability and potentially make the vehicle difficult to control.

Heavy items should be loaded mainly over the axle and you need to ensure a downward load on the tow ball. Again, check your handbooks for the recommended maximum weight and tow ball load.

Make sure loads are fastened down securely and that nothing can fly out or off onto vehicles behind or on other carriageways.

Make sure that all doors and catches are secured properly. Check any cables and make them secure.

When you’re driving remember, speed limits are lower in some cases when towing. The speed limit for cars towing caravans or trailers is 30mph in a built-up area, 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageway or motorway.

Also, remember it's illegal to tow a trailer or caravan in the outside lane of a three- or four-lane motorway.

black car wheel

All clear? Now, what about insurance?

Before you set off on your trip, don’t assume that because you have car insurance you’re covered for your trailer and its contents in the same way.

Research carried out showed that over 75% of policies didn’t include trailers as standard. What’s more, even when it was included, the pay-out limit was £1,000 or less in 90% of cases.

Most policies will cover you third party only for the liability aspect of towing but not for damage to the trailer or its contents.

In other words you would be covered in the event that you injure another person or their property but not for your property if the accident is your fault.

In summary, before you start towing, check your licence and then once you’re happy with that, check your insurance. Finally, if necessary arrange additional cover.

Safe driving.

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