With international travel restrictions still up in the air, staycation holiday bookings are booming as millions of Brits plan a UK-based getaway this summer. Caravanning and camping holidays are proving hugely popular, which has led to a surge in sales of caravans and camper-trailers.
So, if you’re one of the many people planning to set up camp somewhere in the UK this summer, here’s what you need to know about towing a caravan or trailer safely and legally (nobody wants to kickstart their vacation with a fine or driving penalty!):
Weight limits – Are you allowed to tow?
If you passed your test before the 1st of January 1997, you should be entitled to tow most normal-sized caravans and camper-trailers as you have a combined car and caravan/trailer weight allowance of up to 8,250 kilograms.
However, if you passed your test after that date, your weight allowance is considerably smaller. You’re only allowed a combined car and caravan/trailer weight of 3,500 kilogrammes.
Other factors come into play, such as vehicle type, trailer/caravan-to-car weight ratios and laden and un-laden vehicle weights.
Check the rules
You should check first to ensure you’re not going to be in breach of the weight rules. The Government provides details online here: https://www.gov.uk/towing-rules.
Not all cars are designed to be powerful enough to tow all caravans and trailers – it shouldn’t exceed the maximum ‘train’ weight of your car.
Qualify to tow – updating your licence
Don’t worry if your current driving licence doesn’t allow you to tow the caravan weight you require, you can take an additional driving test that allows you to do so. The test doesn’t involve passing another theory exam, as with the standard driving test, or require a minimum number of driving lessons.
Other towing regulations
There are also other considerations when it comes to making sure you legally comply:
- Trailer width – A trailer behind a vehicle that weighs more than 3.5 tonnes should be no wider than 2.55metres and no longer than 7 metres
- Tow bars – There are two main types of tow bar, fixed and detachable, and either would be fine for everyday caravanning. A tow bar needs to be of an approved standard though, and should have a visible data plate and a label or stamp showing an ‘E’ number, which is the approval number
- Mirrors – You need to fit extendable mirrors if the caravan or trailer that you’re towing obscures your view of the road behind in any way
- Break lights – If your trailer or caravan weighs more than 750 kilogrammes when fully loaded, the law requires you to have break lights at its rear
- General lights – You need to fit two red triangular reflectors, amber indicators and two red sidelights to the rear of your trailer or caravan
- Number plates – You must display a number plate on the towed vehicle that illuminates at night
Before setting off
- Before setting off on your journey, take a practice run somewhere quiet to get used to driving with the additional vehicle load
- Check and re-check that all safety chains, spring bar hinges, hitch couplers and electrics are connected correctly and that your lights are working
- Make sure everything in and on your caravan or trailer is evenly distributed and the load is secure
On the road
- Motorway speed limits – Note that the speed limit for towing on motorways and dual carriageways is 60mph, less than the standard 70mph
- Take it slow and steady – Drive at a slow and steady pace, especially in poor driving conditions
- Braking – Allow more time for stopping as towing a heavy load increases braking distance. Sudden braking can lead to jack-knifing
- Steer carefully – Steer and manoeuvre as smoothly as possible to avoid causing swaying
- Take wider turns – Allow for much wider space when turning as your trailer or caravan wheels will be much tighter into the turn than your car’s
- Overtaking – Indicate your intentions well in advance and be aware you’ll need to allow a greater distance than normal before you’ve fully cleared the vehicle you’re overtaking. Try to avoid overtaking when going up hills
- Parking and reversing – It can be harder to gauge distance when parking and reversing with a trailer. Be mindful of this and, if unsure, ask someone to help guide you
…And you’re off!
Now that you’re suitably prepped and ready to go, it’s time to hit the open road and enjoy your vacation! Let’s hope the British weather is on your side and you get to relax and take in the views under some glorious sunshine.