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Towing, limits and insurance

Towing, limits and insurance

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

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 8 NOVEMBER 2019

What can I tow?

What you’re legally allowed to tow depends on when your driving licence was issued.

After passing a standard UK driving test, you’ll be issued with a category B licence. This licence allows you to drive a car, and it also gives you a towing allowance.

However, the rules have changed over the years and the amount you’re allowed to tow has been reduced on each occasion. So the towing allowance for older drivers is much greater than for those who have gained their licence more recently.

It sounds complicated, but the easiest place to start is with your driving licence and check when it was issued.

Licence dates and towing restrictions

Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is the combined weight of the vehicle, trailer and the maximum load that can be carried safely on a public road. Let’s look at the various MAM restrictions by date:

Licences issued before 1 January 1997

If your licence was issued before this date you can:

  • drive a vehicle and trailer combination with a MAM of up to 8,250kg
  • drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM

To tow heavier loads, you’ll have to pass the category C theory test and the 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 with up to 8 passenger seats, towing a trailer of up to 750kg
  • tow a trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as the total MAM of both the trailer and vehicle isn’t more than 3,500kg

To tow heavier loads you’ll have to pass an additional B+E trailer test. This will allow you to tow any size trailer.

Licences issued after 19 January 2013

If your licence was issued after this date you can:

  • tow a trailer weighing no more than 750kg
  • tow a trailer over 750kg, as long as the total MAM of

both the trailer and vehicle isn’t more than 3,500kg
To tow heavier loads you’ll need to pass an additional B+E trailer test. This will allow you to tow a trailer with a MAM of up to 3,500kg.

What other towing rules should I be aware of?

  1. The maximum width of a trailer should not be more than 2.55m. The maximum length should not be more than 7m.
  2. The number plate on your trailer must be the same as the one on your towing car.
  3. The tow bar must be designed for your car and meet EU regulations.
  4. The speed limits for cars towing caravans or trailers are:
    -30mph in a built-up area
    -50mph on a single carriageway
    -60mph on a dual carriageway or motorway
  5. It’s illegal to tow a trailer or caravan in the outside lane of a three or four lane motorway.

Towing safety tips

Pulling a trailer can take some getting used to, and reversing one is an art form! Here are some top tips for safe towing:

  • Check your vehicle handbook to ensure your car has enough towing capacity for the trailer.
  • Always check your vehicle handbook for safe weights. Never overload your vehicle or trailer. Doing so will compromise stability and potentially make the vehicle more 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 handbook for the recommended maximum weight and tow ball load.
  • Make sure all loads are fastened down securely and that nothing can fly out onto vehicles behind or on other carriageways.
  • Make sure that all doors and catches are secured properly. Check any cables and make them secure.

Is towing covered on my car insurance policy?

Don’t assume that because you have car insurance you’re covered for your trailer and its contents in the same way.

Most standard policies will cover trailers or caravans but only at a third party level. Third party insurance only covers the other party’s damage and injuries if you’re involved in an accident where you were at fault. It doesn’t cover any damage to your trailer or its contents.

If you’re taking a caravan on holiday, check to see if the contents is covered under your home insurance while you’re away.

If you want more comprehensive cover for your trailer or caravan, you may need to arrange additional cover with your insurance provider, or take out separate trailer or caravan insurance with a specialist provider.

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