Definitive Guide To Driving Licence Categories. What Can We Drive? What Can We Tow?

More than 20 years since the last major changes to driving licence categories, and this subject remains the most misunderstood and contested topic across pretty much every online forum and social media platform. Worryingly, much of the mis information still comes from apparently credible sources, such as DVLA, C&MC, C&CC, RAC and a plethora of towing training companies.

Pretty much every time a question is asked, someone will suggest we check the back of our licence, or, even more commonly; “check the Government web site”, but does that really help? Finding the basics of licences can be relatively easy, but what about those extra things we need to know? How easy are they to find? Can I tow with L plates? What happens when I need to renew my licence at 70 years of age, and what can I tow if I take my BE test? This guide aims to cover not only the basics, but, ideally, every aspect of licence categories, including those illusive aspects that we might not be able to find easily elsewhere.

The Basics

When we pass our driving test, this entitles us to drive certain types of vehicles. It also allows us to tow with those vehicles. What we can drive and tow is determined by what ‘Categories’ we have on our licence. For the purposes of this guide, we will be looking at those which allow us to drive standard vehicles, and to tow with those vehicles.

Each of these categories will allow us to drive and tow within a certain weight range. It’s important to realise that these weights relate to the plated maximum weights of the vehicle or trailer only. One of the most common reasons for people towing illegally is that they are using the incorrect weights to calculate their limits (usually ‘kerb’ weight, or actual weight). It’s important to understand how we calculate these limits, as driving, or towing, not in accordance with our licence can also invalidate our insurance, and the two offences combined can have a very unwelcome impact on both our pockets and our licences, with heavy penalties and points being imposed in most cases.

Calculating Combined Weights

Working out the ‘weight’ of our combination, for licence purposes couldn’t be much simpler. Although available from more than one source, it’s, always, better to work from the original plates, attached to the car and trailer, as these are the weights the authorities will work on, if pulled.

The car will have a VIN plate attached to it. This is usually found on one of the door pillars, or under the bonnet. This is a typical example of what you might find.

This plate contains, typically, four weights.

The top weight is the Max Gross Weight of the car. (This is its MAM). This is the maximum the car is allowed to weigh, when it is fully loaded.

The second weight is Gross Combination Weight (GCW) formerly known as Gross Train Weight (GTW). This is the weight our car, plus trailer can weigh when both are fully loaded.

The third and fourth weights are the maximum allowed weights on front and rear axles respectively.

In addition to the VIN plate on the car, there should be a weight plate on the A frame or chassis of the caravan / trailer. These will vary in appearance, but a typical one will look like this.

This plate shows us two key pieces of information. It tells us our Mass In Running Order (MIRO) which is the weight of the caravan when it leaves the factory and it tells us our Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) which is what it is allowed to weigh when fully loaded. The difference between the two (in this case; 212kg) is our payload, or the amount of ‘stuff’ we can load in to the caravan before we commit the offence of over loading.

So. How do we calculate the ‘weight’ of our combination? We take the MAM of the towing vehicle (top weight on the plate) and add it to the MTPLM of the caravan. In the examples above, this would be 2,505kg + 1,184kg = 3,689kg total, so this combination would be 189kg over the legal limit for a post 1997 B licence holder. To be fair, though, the vehicle in this example is fairly heavy, There are plenty of decent combinations around, utilising vehicles with an MAM of around 2,100kg, and caravans up to 1,400kg.

MYTH: “You couldn’t tow anything with that car, because its GCW is over 3,500kg“. This is, once again, incorrect. The GCW of this car is 4,200kg, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tow with it, on a B licence. For licence purposes, we add together the MAM of the car and the MTPLM of the caravan. This car has an MAM of 2,505kg, meaning it can tow a caravan up to 995kg MTPLM on a B licence (3,500kg – 2,505kg).

Main Licence Categories For Towing

In this guide, we will, primarily, be looking at Categories B, BE, C1, C1E, C and CE, and I will address each of those individually. I will, also, be looking at how the date we passed our test can impact on what we can both drive, and tow.

Category B

Category B is the most commonly held licence category, and is held by pretty much everyone, regardless of when they passed their test. An understanding of this category is potentially, the single most important aspect of licences for many people, and, yet, it is, probably, the most universally misunderstood of all.

Category B allows the holder to drive any vehicle, up to an MAM of 3,500kg. MAM stands for Maximum Authorised Mass. This is the maximum the vehicle is allowed to weigh, and is shown on the car’s VIN plate. It is, also, shown on section [Y] of the V5 log book. As a guide, all standard cars will have an MAM of less than 3,500kg (including pickups and 4x4s) as will the vast majority of Transit style vans, meaning they can all be driven with no additional test, regardless of when we passed our driving test.

MYTH: “You cannot tow anything on a standard B licence. You have to take a towing test“. Although a very common misconception, this is, of course, completely incorrect.

MYTH: “You can tow on a B licence, but no more than 750kg”. This is, also, incorrect.

MYTH: “The maximum you can tow on a standard B licence is 3,500kg combined MAM (car plus trailer)“. Three out of three. Also incorrect.

OK, so now we have identified some of the common myths, what is the reality?

Many of you will be very familiar with this particular extract from the Government web site.

Although very often misunderstood, this extract is pretty clear, once you look at it correctly. Firstly, it clearly busts the first myth, that we cannot tow anything on a post 1997 B licence, as it explains exactly what we can tow. It also refutes the second myth, as it clearly confirms that we can tow a trailer over 750kg (provided, of course, the combined MAM doesn’t exceed 3,500kg). Finally, this extract confirms that we can tow more than 3,500kg, however, this is only the case where the MAM of the trailer is 750kg, or less. Potentially, therefore, on a post 1997 B licence, we can tow up to a combined MAM of 4,250kg. Of course all standard caravans are in excess of 750kg, meaning that, to all intents and purposes 3,500kg will be the figure to work to for anyone looking to tow a traditional caravan, on a standard B licence.

Because licences work on plated weights, they can be calculated exactly. 1kg over our licence limit is automatically illegal. There is no margin for error, as there can be with weigh bridges.

Category BE

Adding ‘E’ to any category will add towing rights to that category. How much those rights allow us to tow will depend on the category we are adding them to. Currently, if you have a standard B licence, and you are looking to take a BE test, to allow you to tow more, this will allow you to drive a vehicle, up to 3,500kg, towing a trailer up to the same weight. Consequently, this increases the combined max figure from 3,500kg to 7,000kg. Of course, this wasn’t, always, the case. Anyone obtaining their BE prior to 19 January 2013 (whether through pre 1997 ‘Grandad Rights’ or by taking a BE test, post 1997) is able to drive a vehicle up to 3,500kg, towing any trailer the car can tow (no 3,500kg trailer limit) as this extract from the Government web site confirms.

Category C1

Category C1 is the next Category up from B, and allows us to drive vehicles with an MAM in excess of 3,500kg (up to a maximum of 7,500kg). It, also, allows us to tow a trailer with an MAM up to 750kg. This is one of a number of reasons why many mistakenly believe that that you cannot tow more than 750kg on a B licence, as the higher categories are restricted to 750kg without the E suffix, however, category B is the exception to the rule.

Category C1E

As you might expect, this adds the towing element to a Category C1 licence. Taking a C1E test increases our combined allowed weight to 12,000kg. You will note that I say; “taking a C1E test…” Those taking the actual test will receive the full 12,000kg allowance, but what about those of us who have obtained our C1E through pre 1997 Grandad Rights? If you take a look at the back of any driving licence, you will see there are a number of restriction codes, relating to certain specific categories, as in this image below.

In this example above, you will see there is a 107 restriction code next to category C1E. This suggests that the person concerned passed their test before 1 January 1997 (in this case, specifically, 31 July 1981). This means our C1E is restricted to 8,250kg. This is the same limit as we have on C1, but, rather than restricting us to a 7,500kg vehicle towing a trailer of no more than 750kg, we are allowed to ‘mix and match’ weights, to the same level. In other words, for example; a 5,000kg vehicle, towing a 3,250kg trailer. Obviously, in all cases, we are assuming the vehicle is physically capable of towing these weights.

Category C

Category C allows us to drive vehicles over 7,500kg, however, once again, towing capacity is limited to 750kg. Category C covers us for heavy, rigid bodied vehicles, and is the equivalent of the old ‘Class 2’ HGV licence. This category is not obtained through pre 1997 Grandad Rights, and can only be obtained by passing the relevant test.

Category CE

Not surprisingly, this adds the towing category on to a C licence, allowing us to drive a heavy vehicle, towing a heavy trailer. This is the equivalent of the traditional ‘Class 1’ HGV licence.

These are the key categories involved in caravanning and motorhoming. I have, for the purposes of this review, ignored the non relevant ones, such as Category A (motorbikes) and Category D1 (mini busses) for example.

Date of Driving Test

In respect of driving licences, there is one crucial date we need to be aware of; 1 January 1997. Post this date is very simple. Of the Categories mentioned above, only Category B is obtained without an additional test. What this allows us to drive and tow is covered above, in some detail. There were, also, a number of changes made to licences, on 19 January 2013, but these have no impact on what we can tow on a standard B licence.

Those of us who passed their driving test before 1997 will have what I have referred to above as ‘Grandad Rights’. This means we will have been awarded additional categories, without the need for any additional tests. The relevant additional categories obtained are BE, C1 and C1E. Again, all of these are covered in detail above. This is what the Government web site has to say on the subject of pre 1997 licences.

This extract is a little misleading, and, as a result, many believe that the Category BE limit on a pre 1997 licence is 8,250kg. This isn’t correct. As mentioned above, in theory, there is no upper limit on a pre 2013 BE, as the trailer MAM can be unlimited. The 8,250kg referred to above is our C1E limit, with a 107 restriction code.

Can I Tow Over 3,500kg Combined, on a B licence, with L Plates?

The simple answer is; Yes. A standard Category B licence automatically gives us provisional BE status. This means we are able to tow to BE limits, with L plates on, provided we have appropriate supervision. An appropriate supervisor is one who is; over 21 years of age, has held their BE for at least 3 years, and is ‘as driving’ themselves (not drunk, asleep, reading, or otherwise distracted). Because we already hold a full licence, we are, also, allowed to drive on the motorway, even though we are displaying L plates.

MYTH: “In order to supervise a provisional BE driver, we must have taken a BE test. We can’t do so simply because we have Grandad Rights“. This is not correct. Recent changes to the law mean that anyone supervising a provisional licence holder for higher categories must have taken the test themselves. In other words, in order to supervise someone with provisional C1E status, we must have taken the C1E test, ourselves. This does not apply to BE status, and anyone who has held BE for at least 3 years can supervise, as confirmed in the extract below:

The following is a list of provisional BE entitlements, and the licences we need to hold in order to obtain them.

What Happens When We Reach 70 Years of Age?

Once we reach the age of 70, we are required to renew our licence every three years.

MYTH: “In order to renew our BE licence, we need to undergo a medical every three years”. This is incorrect. BE is automatically renewed at 70 years of age, and beyond. What we do lose are the higher categories, such as D1 / D1E and C1 / C1E. In reality, this is only likely to be a factor for those who wish to continue driving motorhomes over 3,500kg.

If we do wish to renew our C1E, at 70, then we will need to complete the D4 Form manually (it can’t be done online) and undertake a basic medical. This will need to be repeated every three years, when we renew our licence.

What If I Take My Test In An Automatic Car?

Assuming we are looking to take, for example, our BE trailer test, the cars we are allowed to tow with will very much depend on (a) the car we passed our original driving test in, and (b) the car we passed our towing test in. This extract from the Government web site clarifies how this works in practice:

What Happens When I Pass A Towing Test In A Higher Category?

As a general rule, if you pass a driving test for a higher category, you will usually find that your lower categories are upgraded automatically. A common example of this is when drivers obtain their Class 1 HGV licence (CE). This automatically upgrades the lower B and D categories, and, consequently, will give us BE, by default. A Class 2 HGV licence (C) on the other hand makes no difference to what we can tow with a car, as it does not include the ‘E’ towing element.

Again, this extract from the Government web site confirms the position.

General Licence Myths:

  • B licences are based on plated weights, but BE is based on actual weights”. This is a really common misconception, and, not true at all. All licences are based on plated max weights. The main reason this myth has arisen is, I suspect, down to the fact that, in most cases, B licence limits are likely to kick in before vehicle towing limits do. If you have a BE licence, however, then licence limits are unlikely to be an issue. This means the limiting factor will be the vehicle towing capacity, and this IS based on actual weights. It is an understandable misconception, but licence limits are always based on plated weights.
  • If we are driving a vehicle / combination over 3,500kg, then we will need a tachograph“. Another popular myth, tachos are only required where we are using a vehicle for hire or reward. It is not necessary in a private situation.
  • Have a look at the back of your licence. It will tell you what you can tow“. Whilst this is partly true, it can be very misleading. The back of our licence tells us what categories we have, but not what they mean,
  • A standard B licence allows you to tow an unbraked trailer up to 750kg, or a braked trailer over 750kg, as long as the combined weight doesn’t exceed 3,500kg“. This can, also, be written as; “If a trailer is unbraked, you can tow up to 4,250kg combined, but, if the trailer has brakes, you can only tow up to 3,500kg combined.” This one crops up time and time again. 750kg is an important threshold, both in terms of B licences, and trailer braking, but the two are not connected. Any trailer over 750kg MAM must have a braking system fitted, by law. For trailers of 750kg and below, brakes are not a legal requirement. Coincidentally, if a trailer has an MAM of 750kg, or less, the combined MAM we can tow, on a B licence increases to 4,250kg. This is, purely, a coincidence. The two facts are not related. If a trailer is 750kg, or less, then the combined weight allowed, on a B licence is 4,250kg. Whether the trailer is braked, or not, is irrelevant. Likewise, if the trailer is over 750kg, our combined limit is reduced to 3,500kg. It is purely a coincidence that these trailers will all be braked, as this is a separate legal requirement.
  • In order to tow legally, on a B licence, the trailer must weigh less than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle“. Another extremely common misconception, and understandably so, as this was the case for a number of years. When the licencing laws changed, in 1997, it was the case that all post 1997 licence holders were subject to this restriction, whereby the MTPLM of the trailer could not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, however, on 19 January 2013, the EU Third Driving Licence Directive 2006/126/EC was implemented, meaning that this restriction was removed for anyone passing after that date. We then had the ridiculous situation whereby the restriction only applied to those passing their test between 1 January 1997 and 18 January 2013. Because of this, DVLA agreed to make the EU Directive the basis for all licences, and this restriction was removed completely.

These are the basic principles of driving licence categories. They operate very differently from vehicle towing capacities. The former (as well of the basics of licences) are covered here; https://blueskyrecreation.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/quick-guide-to-towing-weights/ You will also find further links there to other articles and guides on similar subjects.

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Quick Guide To Towing Weights

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Yup. Here we go again. Another quick guide to towing weights. Incredibly, confusion seems as rife as ever regarding what we can and can’t, legally, tow on our licences and with our chosen tow cars. Of course, we have, already, covered all aspects of towing in various previous articles, but it seems that the most common sources of confusion remain how we calculate what our car can tow, and what we can, ourselves, tow on our own driving licence.

In order to try and address this, I have produced a quick, two page guide, focusing just on these two areas, in the hope it will help to clarify the legalities, especially as we race towards what, for many of you, will be the start of the holiday season. If you are in any doubt, feel free to check out our latest guide, the Quick Towing Weights Guide.

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85% Of Kerb Weight. Law, Guide Or Myth?

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For decades, now, many, including much of the towing industry, have worked on the basis that, for safe towing, we should, always, aim to stick to a trailer or caravan that weighs no more than 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. Over and over again, we hear; Well. The Caravan & Motorhome Club recommend it, so it must be right, but what, exactly, does it mean? Is there any scientific basis behind it, and, if not, what factors are important, and what weights should we, actually, be using?

Increasingly, trailer manufacturers are coming out and challenging the validity of the ‘85% rule’, and, it would appear, with good reason.

There are, it seems, a number of inherent flaws in the Caravan & Motorhome Club recommendation. Some of them are genuine flaws, whilst others are more down to errors of interpretation, than anything. A classic example of the latter is that many quote 85% as the figure recommended for anyone towing. Of course, this is incorrect, and the clubs recommend up to 100% for anyone who is more experienced at towing. The 85% hypothetical figure is for those new to towing, only, and, also, relates only to caravans, due, in the main, to their unique towing characteristics.

Is It Law?

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Another very common misconception is that the 85% is law, and must not be exceeded, under any circumstances. This is not true, and never has been. Indeed, and, more worryingly, some cars have a legal towing capacity that is, actually, lower than 85% of kerb weight, meaning that, using the latter, will, actually, render the driver illegal.

Whilst most are aware that the 85% is not a legal figure, there is a much more widespread belief that 100% is a legal limit. This is not, entirely, surprising. At the time of writing this, the web sites of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, Camping & Caravanning Club, National Trailer & Towing Association*, UK Tow, and just about every professional source I can find, clearly state that, on a post 1997 licence, the MAM of the trailer / caravan cannot exceed the kerb weight of the towing vehicle.

This is completely incorrect, but, to date, only the Camping and Caravanning Club have made a partial correction, on one part of their web site. The truth of the matter is that, from a purely legal perspective, there is no problem with towing a trailer or caravan that is in excess of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle, even on a standard B licence (provided it is, also, within both the physical towing capacity of the car, and the licence parameters of the driver).

Government sources did, originally, state that, on a post 1997 licence, trailer MAM could not exceed vehicle kerb weight, but this is no longer the case, and has been removed from all official Government sources (although not, it would appear, the majority of other industry sources).

Technological Developments

The 85% Guide (we will refer to it, as that, for now, as that is the term that is familiar to most) was conceived decades ago, before manufacturers, actually, specified an official braked towing limit for their vehicles. It was, also, put in place prior to the introduction of a significant number of technological developments, both in terms of vehicle, and trailer manufacture.

stabilisers0_0aks-all-three-rev2

We have seen significant advancements in things like suspension and brake design, ABS, ATC, stabiliser hitches etc. Towing, as a whole, is a lot safer than it was 30 or 40 years ago, provided we are mindful of other key factors, such as speed, loading, driving style etc.

Unfortunately, there has been no change in the recommended safe towing limit, since the mid 80’s, in order to compensate for this.

Why Was It Introduced?

The guide was, originally, introduced, in order to provide a measure by which those new to towing could gauge what was a safe figure to tow, with their chosen vehicle. Again, there are a huge amount of misconceptions as to why this was necessary. These range from; “it needs to be lighter, so that the car can brake more easily” to; “It needs to be lighter, so the car can pull it”.

The facts, however, are that a heavier car, relative to trailer, is preferable, as it is, generally, believed it helps to control any snaking that might occur. Caravans have very different handling characteristics, from other trailers. They are high sided, non aerodynamic boxes, with high centres of gravity, and low internal density.

This means they are more prone to snaking, caused by cross winds, overtaking lorries, etc, than other trailers. If this happens, then the theory is, that a heavier car, relative to the caravan, will help to prevent the ‘tail wagging the dog’. There is, of course, an element of common sense in this, however, in the modern world, with all the technological advances listed above, a correctly loaded caravan, with the right tyre pressures travelling within the speed limit, is far less likely to experience issues than it would have done thirty years ago. Of course, that is not, in any way, to suggest that it cannot happen, simply that the risks which were around when the guide was devised, are, now, significantly reduced.

How is it Calculated?

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This, in my personal opinion, is where the 85% guide really falls down, as it takes no account, whatsoever, of actual weights involved.

Contrary to popular misconception, you do not apply the 85% to vehicle towing capacity, or gross weight. You apply it to kerb weight.

So, we take the maximum gross weight of the caravan, and compare it to the kerb weight of the car.

That can give rise to some rather ridiculous inconsistencies. Let’s take a look at one, potential, scenario.

  • A car has a kerb weight of 1,600kg, and a max gross weight of 2,200kg
  • A caravan has a net weight of 1,500kg and a gross weight of 1,700kg.

The C&MC rule takes the maximum gross weight of the caravan, and compares it to the kerb weight of the car. In this case, gross weight of caravan / kerb weight of car equals 1,700kg / 1,600kg, which equates to a towing ratio of 106%. This would be rejected, out of hand, as a bad match, by our friends at C&MC.

OK, but that assumes the caravan is full, and the car is empty. So, what if it is the other way around? Net weight of caravan / gross weight of car equals 1,500kg / 2,200kg which works out to 68%.

Clearly, these are two completely different scenarios, however, according to the C&MC, they are EXACTLY THE SAME! Really? Of course, it is unlikely you will ever be travelling with a car that is fully loaded, towing a caravan that is completely empty, but is that, really, any less realistic than the C&MC version of towing a fully loaded caravan with a totally empty car? I suspect not.

Just for the purposes of comparison, let’s assume that both the car and the caravan are loaded to 50% capacity. The calculation, then, becomes 1,600kg / 1,900kg, or 84%. Ooh. Good. Spot on then. Again, all hypothetical, but it does expose the inconsistencies in the theory, and pushes it, still, further, into the realms of; ‘myth’.

Another way of looking at this is to take the example of a couple of potential tow cars. The Renault Grand Scenic 2 Litre and the Land Rover Defender have an almost identical kerb weight. The latter has a type approved towing limit of 3,500kg. That of the Renault is 1,300kg which, as it happens, is, almost 300kg less than 85% of kerb weight. In spite of this, the 85% Guide would have us believe that these two cars are equally competent at towing a caravan. Whilst I would not, for one second, advocate the towing of a three and a half tonne caravan with the Land Rover, it does, once again, highlight the potential issues with the guide.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World

OK, so it appears that the C&MC guideline is both outdated, and riddled with inconsistencies, but what do we use, instead? I guess the simple answer is; a mixture of manufacturers’ towing limits and common sense. Another of the many misconceptions surrounding towing weights is that the manufacturers’ specified towing capacity, simply, represents the amount the car can tow up a 12% incline. This is not the case. That is, indeed, a factor, but these figures are the maximum amount we can legally tow. It is naive, in the extreme, to assume this is based, purely, on what it can tow up a predetermined gradient, with no recourse to suspension, braking capabilities etc. The manufacturers’ braked towing limit is the amount the vehicle can legally and safely tow, taking due consideration of engine capabilities, suspension, brakes etc. That said, we would be foolish to completely ignore the unique challenges afforded by towing a caravan, if, indeed, that is our accommodation of choice, and, in most cases, the ‘happy medium’ is, as you would expect, likely to be found somewhere in between the C&MC guideline, and the manufacturers’ specified towing limit.

How Do Towing Capacities Work, And What Can We Tow?

The commonly held belief is that we can tow, up to the limit specified on the car’s VIN plate. This is, to a large extent, true, however, it is a little more involved than that. A typical VIN plate will include four weights (see below).

VIN

The top weight represents the maximum allowed gross weight of the car.

The second weight is the maximum gross weight of car plus trailer (Gross Combination Weight).

The last two weights are the maximum allowed load on each axle.

It is a widely held belief that the difference between lines one and two is the maximum amount the car can tow. In the case of the plate, above, this would be 1,695kg (4,200kg – 2,505kg). In some cases, this may well be the case, however, what this, actually, represents is the maximum amount the car can tow, when it is, itself, fully loaded. It is, perfectly, possible, that the actual towing capacity could, in fact, be more, and, often, the V5 will show a higher figure. The only thing that is legally enforceable, in UK law, is the Gross Combination Weight. Provided this is not exceeded, you will be towing within the law. Hence, in the example above, if the car were only loaded to 2,305kg (under loaded by 200kg) then the trailer could, theoretically, be loaded to 1,895kg, and still remain within the required Gross Combination Weight. Just as a point of caution, though; the Department For Transport Guide To Towing With A Car does advise that exceeding the amounts on the VIN plate / V5 “…is likely to be construed as using a vehicle in a dangerous condition”. So, legally, we are covered, as long as we are within Gross Combination Weight, however, if we abuse that too much, it could go against us, so it’s always best to remain within the limits of the VIN plate / V5 wherever possible.

Also worth pointing out, at this stage, that, whilst driving licence restrictions** (where applicable) work on plated maximum weights, vehicle towing limits are based on actual weights, so, in this example, provided the actual weight of car plus trailer does not exceed 4,200kg, it will be legal.

Conclusion

There is absolutely no doubt we should, always, take whatever steps we can, in order to ensure we are driving / towing both safely and legally, and driving with an appropriate weight ratio is an important part of this, of that, there is no doubt. The question, here, is what, if any, place the 85% guideline has in this equation, in the modern world.

Clearly, there are far more important factors to consider, when towing, including, but not restricted to;

  • Correct distribution of load and nose weight
  • Correct tyre pressures
  • Use of a stabiliser hitch, such as an AL-KO or Winterhoff hitch
  • Adherence to the legal speed limit, when towing
  • Appropriate driving style, avoiding heavy braking, accelerating and cornering
  • Use of ATC, if fitted

All of these will help to minimise the risk of the kind of snaking the 85% guide was introduced to help us control. (A case of prevention being better than cure).

The important thing is to apply common sense (something the guide fails to do, as it doesn’t address actual weights of car and caravan, only kerb weight of car and gross weight of caravan).

Rather than blindly following an outdated, and, largely, illogical, guide, common sense dictates we look at what both car and trailer, actually, weigh and work on that ratio.

Obviously, the heavier the car, relative to the trailer, the better, but let’s keep things realistic, when working out what we can, and cannot tow.

*    Since writing this, the NTTA have responded, as follows, although, as of August 2017, they have, yet, to update their web site.

“Good afternoon Mr. Young

Thank you for taking the trouble to point out the inconsistent answer on our FAQs page.

I am inclined to agree with you, especially as the confusion relating to kerb weights was withdrawn by DVLA earlier this year. There was a kerb weight restriction that applied to those drivers who passed their driving test after 01/01/1997 but confusingly, this did not apply to those who gained their licence on or after 19th January 2013 as the EU Third Driving licence Directive 2006/126/EC was implemented.

DVLA agreed to make this the basis for all licences so things are now more simple.
I would suggest that we change the wording on the FAQ Answer to:

The 85% figure is a recommendation, not a legal limit, given by caravan clubs to give good power to weight ratio for successful towing. The recommendation is aimed especially at those inexperienced in towing.

You may legally tow up to the car manufacturer’s towing limit as ascertained from the vehicle’s type or chassis plate (see the first question, above).

Does this make more sense? We will be reviewing our advice items as we revise our website in the course of the next few months. I expect that we will need to change a number of points that are a little out of date.

Thanks again for your input.

Kind regards,

Larry Lambert

Company Secretary
National Trailer and Towing Association Ltd”

**  For full details on licence restrictions, and all other key aspects of towing legislation, check out our earlier article; The Layman’s Guide To Towing In The UK.

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Camp Site Review: Upper Lynstone Caravan & Camping Park, Bude

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Upper Lynstone Caravan & Camping Park is a smallish, 4 star, family run camp site, a five to ten minute walk outside of the North Cornish coastal town of Bude. Its elevated position gives it excellent views, and it is just a stone’s throw from the coastal path, which offers, amongst other things, a more scenic walk into Bude, itself. The site takes pretty much any type of unit, including tents, trailer tents, folding campers, caravans and motorhomes, making it an ideal location for larger family groups to meet up and share one site, regardless of the accommodation they are bringing with them. The site, also, offers a number of static caravans, which can be booked directly with the site.

Facilities

The site, currently, offers approximately 40 pitches, with 10Amp electric hookup, plus a similar number of non EHU camping pitches, some of which are pre bookable. The site is sloping, but those pitches that aren’t on level ground have been terraced, to ensure that, wherever you are on the site, sloping ground will not be an issue.

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The pitches are, in the main, separated by very low wooden fences, and are a minimum of 11 metres wide, which is pretty impressive, for a site of this size. All are grassed, with no hard standings that I am aware of. The main camping field is somewhat less formal, offering a number of open plan camping pitches.

There is one main facilities block, but there is a second, smaller one, close to the main reception, where the recycling area and laundry facilities are, also, located, as is the shop and children’s play area.

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The facilities are modern, and clean, and more than adequate, for a site of this size. What was particularly impressive was the attention to detail, and some of the little touches, such as cloths to wipe down the sinks, in the wash room areas, drainer racks in the dish washing areas and hand gel at the chemical toilet emptying point.

Site Review

Upper Lynstone Caravan & Camping Park is situated on the Lynstone Road, approximately half a mile outside of Bude. The site is approached via a short driveway, with the reception, shop, and, presumably, owners accommodation directly ahead. This is very picturesque, with the main accommodation being a typical, if rather large, chocolate box cottage, with thatched roof.

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The Shop, Although Not Huge, Contains Most Of The Basics

Inside the main reception area, there is, also, a small shop. Whilst this is rather diminutive in size, it has a reasonable array of products, for its size, including both the basic food produce items (bacon, eggs, milk etc) and the key camping essentials, in case of emergencies. There are, also, a number of non essential items, such as a rather tempting ice cream freezer. A freezer pack service is also provided, as is a phone / mobile device charging service, both at a small charge. The site does have wi-fi, although this is not compatible with some of the more high usage streaming sites.

Having checked in, we drove past the children’s play area, recycling area and laundry room, through the small selection of statics, and up into the main camping fields. As already mentioned, the pitches were large, level and with both excellent views, and EHU.

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Modern Amenities Block Is Clean, And Well Maintained

The toilet block is commensurate with the size of the site, with around half a dozen showers in both male and female facilities. These areas were extremely well maintained, and very clean. Hair dryers were, also, provided, if required. As is the way, with many camp sites, these days, showers are a push button affair, with no temperature adjustment. No great issue, normally, except we happened to be visiting in the hottest June for 40 years, so the ability to turn the temperature down, just a touch, would have been more than welcome (especially with my own, customary, sun burn). Other than that, it really is difficult to fault the toilet / shower facilities provided, especially in such a small, family run site.

Washing up facilities consisted of a couple of sinks in the main facilities block, and a couple more in the laundry area. Again, about right for the size of site, and the plastic drainers provided were a nice touch, surprisingly lacking in many sites.

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One Of The Two Dish Washing Areas

The chemical toilet emptying point, likewise, was very modern and the addition of a hand gel dispenser on the wall did not go unnoticed. A simple, but often lacking, touch.

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The Well Equipped Laundry Room, With Additional Washing Up Sinks. You Can, Also, Hire An Ironing Board And Iron, If Required

Away from the main facilities block, near to reception, is the laundry area / second washing up area. This, also, doubled as an additional information room, with a large array of brochures and flyers for local attractions and events.

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Comprehensive Play Air With Extensive Views Behind

Immediately opposite the laundry room is the children’s play area. This is a very respectable feature, for the size of site, and set in front of some pretty impressive views.

Bude, itself, is a lovely town, with a great beach, plenty of pubs and eateries, and a decent array of shops and super markets. The main beach, also, features an outdoor tidal sea pool, which is a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right.

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Bude Canal And Wharf, Looking Towards The Sea

A 10 minute, max, walk into Bude, brings you to the canal and harbour area, with car parks and a number of pubs and eateries, including the Brendon Arms, Falcon Hotel and the Olive Tree Restaurant.

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The Falcon Hotel. One Of The Many Pubs & Eateries In Bude

A further two minute walk along the wharf brings you to the main beach, with sea pool, traditional beach huts, and highly recommended ‘Life’s a Beach’ Bistro / Restaurant.

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The Outdoor Sea Pool, With Beach Huts Behind

Behind the beach is the main town, with its selection of shops, cafes and super markets. Plenty to see and do here, even when the weather isn’t the greatest.

Dogs are welcomed on the site, at a small additional cost. There are no specific dog facilities on site, but almost unlimited walking options just outside.

Conclusion

Upper Lynstone is an excellent little site, in an exceptional location. Facilities are modern, and well maintained, and pitches are large, level and with, in the main, excellent views. Cost of an average pitch, with EHU, ranges from £18 to £25, depending on the season. Awnings and dogs, again, depending on season, range from £1 to £2. What I loved about this site is that it is the best of both worlds. Family friendly, but without hundreds of kids running around. Well maintained but without too many rules and regulations. Large enough to have a bit of atmosphere, and all the facilities you could need, but small enough to provide a relaxing and welcoming stay.

Local facilities, in Bude, are excellent, with plenty to see and do. All in all, the whole package makes for a very enjoyable experience, and one we will be looking forward to repeating in the forseeable future.

To take a look at the main Upper Lynstone web site, click Here.

For details of pricing and booking, click Here.

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Towing Mirrors. A Quick Look At The Law.

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In our earlier article; The Layman’s Guide To Towing In The UK, one of the items covered was that of the legal requirement (or not) of fitting extended mirrors, when towing, however, towing mirrors, as a topic, is, along with licences and towing weights, possibly, one of the most heavily debated topics on the internet, and it is clear that a significant percentage of those commenting, actually, have no idea as to what the law, really, is. In view of this, I thought it was worth looking at the topic of mirrors, as an issue, in its own right, to clarify exactly where we stand on them, when towing.

The Big Myth

By far the most common myth we are, currently, hearing, is; “The law has changed now. You must always fit extended mirrors when towing. They are now a legal requirement”. This is, in actual fact, not true. The law, simply states that we must have the prescribed rear view. This view is defined as an area that is 4 metres out from the side of the vehicle, at a distance of 20 metres back, as shown on the diagram below. Indeed, if we already have that required field of vision, then, in all likelihood, fitting extended mirrors will, actually, render us illegal.

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The Law

The wording on the Government Web Site seems to change with the wind, however, at the time of writing, it, currently states;

“You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. Fit suitable towing mirrors if your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your car”.

Anyone familiar with the likes of the Highway Code will know that use of the word ‘must’, in this context, means a statement is law, as opposed to recommendation. As the site, clearly, states; “you must have an adequate view”, that is the legal requirement, not the fitting of towing mirrors. The site then goes on to say that you should fit suitable mirrors, if your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your car. In most cases, if the caravan or trailer is wider, then towing mirrors will be required, in order to achieve the legally required rear view.

Another worrying thing we hear, on an, almost daily basis, is; “You may as well fit them, even if you don’t need them, just to be safe”. This is extremely poor advice. Whilst the vast majority of us will, indeed, need mirrors when towing, as mentioned above, fitting them when not required will, actually, render us illegal. OK, so why is that?

It is all to do with not allowing the mirrors to protrude too far beyond the side of the vehicle / trailer combination.

The Road Vehicles (Construction And Use) Regulations 1986 state;

“Where the bottom edge of an exterior mirror is less than 2 m above the road surface when the vehicle is laden, that mirror shall not project more than 20 cm beyond the overall width of the vehicle or, in a case where the vehicle is drawing a trailer which has an overall width greater than that of the drawing vehicle, more than 20 cm beyond the overall width of the trailer”

Ok, so, in layman’s terms; if a mirror is less than 2 metres above the ground, it is not allowed to protrude more than 20cm* beyond the side of the trailer / caravan, so as not to provide a further obstruction, and cause damage or injury to persons or property. This is, also, the reason why we are not allowed to use towing mirrors, when we aren’t, actually, towing, as this would mean the mirrors were, automatically, extending beyond the allowed limit.

Also just worth mentioning that, if the car was registered after 26th January 2010, extendable mirrors must be E-marked to show that they comply with EU safety regulations.

Penalties

Failure to comply with the law, on towing mirrors, is not cheap. Whilst fines can be as little as £50, the maximum allowed penalty for non compliance is £1,000, and three points PER MIRROR. This is why many advocate ‘caution’ and suggest fitting them, when they aren’t required, however, as already stated, that, too, can be an offence, if they aren’t necessary.

Summary

OK, so the vast majority of us will need towing mirrors, if what we are towing is wider than the rear of our car. For some, however, especially those towing with larger, commercial vehicles, or towing smaller trailers, such as some of the smaller 4 berth folding campers, towing mirrors will not be required, as we will, already, have the required rear view, and fitting them will, actually, render us illegal. As with many aspects of the law, it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’. We need to understand the basic principles of the legislation, so we can best apply it to our own, individual, towing situation.

* – For cars manufactured after 26 January 2007, this distance has been increased to 25cm

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Camp Site Review: Riverside Caravan Park, Stratford Upon Avon

Riverside Caravan Park can be found about a mile out of the centre of Stratford, itself, and is situated right on the banks of the River Avon. The site takes all types of caravans, motorhomes and folding campers, and also provides it’s own glamping pods, wooden lodges and static caravans, as well as having a separate residential park homes area. It does not accommodate tents or trailer tents.

Pitches, Although Not Segregated, Have Plenty Of Space Between Them.

The site has approximately 100 touring pitches, all with electric hookup. A small number of river side pitches are, also, available, at a small premium. The pitches are set out over two or three main areas, and are not segregated in any way, from each other, although spacing between pitches was more than adequate.

Facilities

Although A Little Dated, Facilities Are More Than Adequate, With a Number Of Wet Rooms, Containing Both A Shower And Wash Basin

The site has one, well maintained, shower & toilet  block.

This contains all major amenities, you would expect, including fresh water, grey water disposal, chemical toilet emptying point and motorhome emptying point.

There is a laundry room, and washing up facilities, as you would expect, with a site of this quality.

The jewel in the crown for this site is the on site bar / restaurant, which also provides conference and wedding / private function facilities.

Below this is a themed children’s play area, and crazy golf course.

The site, also, provides a water taxi to the centre of Stratford.

Not only does this perform an essential function, it is, actually, an attraction in its own right, and is definitely recommended.

Site Review

The site is situated about a mile out of Stratford, on the Tiddington Road, just before you get to the village of Tiddington, itself. It is approached via a long driveway, at the end of which is the main reception building. We arrived a little late, so we pulled up to the late arrivals area, and were shown to our pitch by a warden, and asked to pop in to reception the next day, to book in, properly, and pay the balance of our account.

The Outlook From One Of The Small Number Of River Side Pitches Is Definitely Worth The Small Premium. Even Picnic Tables Are Provided.

We paid a little extra for a river side pitch, and I have to say, it was well worth it. The location was gorgeous. Every pitch we saw appeared to be very level, and all included their own electric hookup.

Just 5 minutes walk from the site entrance is the village of Tiddington, which incorporates a post office, convenience store, pub, Chinese and Indian restaurants (both offering a takeaway service) and a tapas bar. I can’t comment on the quality of these, as, in the three days we were at the site, we never had the need to wander outside its perimeter (other than the daily river taxi ride into Stratford).

The toilet / washroom facilities are a little dated in terms of decor, and could probably do with a bit of an update, from that perspective, however, they were clean, well maintained, and feature under floor heating, for added comfort. Many of the showers were in separate rooms, with their own wash basin, chair, etc, so everything you need to get ready for a day or night out, in one convenient place. One shower room even had a toilet in there, as opposed to a sink, which was a little unusual, but still plenty of space in there. There is, also, a separate disabled washroom, with easy access for those with their own RADAR key.

The Riverside Bar & Restuarant

On the edge of the site, and adjacent to the River Avon is the Riverside Bar, Restaurant & Function Rooms. This is a very new addition to the park, and, at the time of writing, is still not showing on Google Maps.

It is a very contemporary design, and its elevated position, whilst designed to avoid flooding, also provides an excellent vantage point to relax with a drink, and enjoy the view.

Whether You Are Enjoying A Cup Of Something Hot, Or A Glass Of The Cold Stuff, This Is An Exceptional Place To Do So.

The River Taxi Pulls Up To The Jetty, At Riverside Bar & Restaurant, Ready To Collect Another Up To Half A Dozen Passengers

Below the building is the crazy golf course, and, to the side, the themed children’s play area. A few feet from the building is the jetty, which is used by the site run river taxi service. This service runs from 10am until 5.20pm and, at £2 per person, is the ideal way to make your way into Stratford, itself. There are two river taxis (three at peak times) running at 20 – 30 minute intervals. The journey is 10 – 15 minutes long, and the taxi can carry up to 6 passengers (including dogs, who are a common sight on there).

Stratford Town Centre Has Plenty To Keep You Occupied, Including Shops, Eateries And Tourist Attractions

Stratford, itself, is a great day out, with shops, bars and restaurants, and, of course, the many and varied tourist attractions, both Shakespeare oriented and others. Only living 12 miles from the town, we didn’t make too much of the attractions, but we still travelled in, daily, on the water taxi, for something to eat, and to stock up on supplies from the shops.

The View From The Riverside Restaurant Is Quite Exceptional, And An Excellent Backdrop To Any Meal

On of the many reasons for choosing this site (and one of the many reasons we will be returning) was the Riverside Bar & Restaurant. It has to be said, the menu was not the most imaginative in the world, especially when you consider the quality of the surroundings, but there are more than enough options to choose from, and the quality of both the food and the service, when we were there, was excellent. To check out the current menu and specials menus, take a look here.

Canine visitors to the site are, also, well catered for. Dogs are welcome (up to 2 per pitch), there is a dedicated walking area, and plenty of poop bins / poop bag dispensers dotted around the site. When we were there, there was one dog to our right, two to our left, and two cats on the pitch behind. As mentioned above, well behaved dogs are, also, welcomed on the river taxi, as well.

Conclusion

It has to be said; Riverside is now my new favourite site, and I’m extremely pleased it is only 12 miles away, as I’m sure we will be returning on a reasonably regular basis. The site is clean, well maintained, and the both the location and the facilities make it a really outstanding place to take a break.

The River Taxi Is Just One Of The Nice Little Touches That Makes Riverside Caravan Park A Really Unique Site

Washroom facilities, whilst a little dated, are of a reasonably high standard, and more than adequate for purpose. The Riverside Bar and Restaurant means you don’t have to venture too far, for something decent to eat, but, if you do decide to wander off site, then both Tiddington and Stratford Upon Avon are just a few minutes away on foot or by water taxi. If I’m honest, I’m struggling to find anything negative to say about this site. When we stayed there, the cost, for two of us, on a riverside pitch, with no awning (an additional cost of £2.50 per night) it came to £26 per night, which is far from being the most expensive site I have, ever, stayed on.

If you want to check out the main Riverside Caravan Park web site, take a look here.

To take a look at a quick promotional video of the site, click here.

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Taking A Look At The Caravan Camping & Motorhome Show 2017

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The Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show is the UK’s second largest motorhome and caravanning event. It is also an excellent opportunity for the public to see all of the new 2017 caravan, motorhome, holiday home, folding camper and trailer tent … Continue reading

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Car Tax Changes, From April 2017. How Will They Affect Us?

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Many of us will be looking at increased car tax, on any new vehicles we buy, when the proposed new changes to Vehicle Excise Duty kick in on 1 April 2017. In fact, current estimates are that 70% of new car owners will be paying more than they would have done under the original scheme.

Some of you may be surprised to know (others, less so) that those hardest hit will be the lower emission models, who’s green credentials have, until now, kept car tax rates to a bare minimum.

Impending Changes

OK, so we know a change is coming, but how, exactly, does it affect us?

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that these changes only affect those cars first registered on, or after, 1 April 2017. Cars owned prior to that will continue to be taxed under the old regime.

Currently, all vehicles are taxed on a relatively straight forward basis. We pay an annual car tax, based on the emissions of our chosen vehicle, with all vehicles under 99g/km of emissions being tax exempt. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to many that the new system is due to be a little more complicated, and will be based on a three tier system, with different Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates for year one, as opposed to subsequent years. Thus, the current 13 band system will be replaced with a new 3 tier system, classified, simply, as; zero, standard and premium.

The zero band will, now, only apply to those cars which, actually, have zero emissions. Premium will apply to all cars (even those with zero emissions) costing more than £40,000, and standard will apply to everything in between.

The new bands for VED will be as follows:

New VED System for All Cars Registered From 1 April 2017

Emissions (g/km)                    Year One Rate                         Ongoing Annual Rate*

0                                                                        £0                                                           £0

1 – 50                                                               £10                                                         £140

51 – 75                                                              £25                                                        £140

75 – 90                                                            £100                                                      £140

91 – 100                                                          £120                                                      £140

101 – 110                                                         £140                                                      £140

111 – 130                                                         £160                                                      £140

131 – 150                                                        £200                                                      £140

151 – 170                                                        £500                                                      £140

171 – 190                                                       £800                                                       £140

191 – 225                                                     £1,200                                                      £140

235 – 255                                                    £1,700                                                       £140

Over 255                                                     £2,000                                                      £140

* Cars over £40,000 pay a further £310 supplement for five years.

What Does It All Mean?

So what does this all mean, for the majority of us? Well, as mentioned above, some 70% of drivers are expected to be worse off, under the new system. The vast majority of these, however, are going to be those who drive what were, traditionally, considered to be eco friendly vehicles. For those of us that tow, however, these new changes are likely to work in our favour.

This is because, once we get beyond the first year for any sub £40,000 car, we will be looking at a flat rate of £140 per year. For any cars with emissions of between 1 and 99 g/km this will represent an increase of £140 per year, however, for those of us with larger cars, and 4 x 4s, more commonly associated with towing, £140 is likely to represent a not insignificant saving on the current system.

Zero emission cars will continue to attract no VED, unless they cost in excess of £40,000. If they do, then even a pure electric car will still attract the £310 surcharge for the first five years. This gives us the somewhat illogical scenario that a £39,000 car, with ultra high emissions, of say, 250g/km will cost £140 a year (after year 1) to tax, whilst a £41,000 all electric car will cost £450 a year, for the first five years (£140, plus £310 supplement). Not a popular choice with the green fraternity, but a far more popular one with those of us who love to tow. Who would have thought it?

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TV Licensing. Do We Need One When Touring?

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TV licensing laws have changed, relatively recently, and this has not helped the ongoing confusion surrounding them, especially insofar as they relate to touring, as opposed to static caravans.

When it comes to caravans and similar holiday accommodation, there are, basically, two main options;

  • Static caravans and moveable chalets
  • Touring caravans, vehicles and boats (including folding campers etc).

Different rules apply, depending on which of the above we are staying away in.

Static Caravans And Moveable Chalets

Although not really relevant to those of us who have folding campers and other touring units, it is important to understand the rules, as they relate to statics, as these are, often, confused with those appertaining to tourers.

The simple rule for any static caravan or moveable chalet is that we are covered by the TV licence we have at home, and do not require a separate TV licence for these, PROVIDED the TV in the caravan is not being watched at the same time as the one at home. This is more common than you might imagine, with many couples going away and leaving older children, or family members, at home to look after the house, pets etc. That said, it is nigh on impossible to imagine how this might, possibly be enforceable, and seems to be on a, largely, voluntary basis. To notify TV Licencing that you don’t need a separate licence, you can download and complete a; Non Simultaneous Use Declaration Form.

It is important to emphasise that this only applies to static caravans, not tourers. They must be able to be moved, either by towing or on a flat bed lorry or trailer. A fixed premises, such as house, cottage, bungalow or flat will not apply, and you must obtain a separate licence to watch TV in one of these. (Unless the item is powered by its own batteries and is not connected to either a power source or aerial point, in which case it is covered by our home licence).

Touring Caravans, Campers, Vehicles & Boats

The rules for tourers are even more straightforward. Any touring unit (even one sited on a seasonal pitch) will be covered by our home TV licence, and will not require a separate one, under any circumstances (unless we don’t have one at home). This includes all caravans, folding campers, trailer tents, tents and motor homes.

TV Licencing. General Points

There are a couple of general, non camping specific, facts relating to TV licencing, which are, also, worthy of note.

  • Until recently, no TV licence was required for watching catchup or streamed TV, only. This has now been revised, and a TV licence is now required to download and watch programs on BBC iPlayer. This does not apply to the downloading of programs via applications other than iPlayer.
  • It is a common misconception that you don’t need a TV licence, if you don’t watch any BBC channels. This is not true. A licence is required to watch any live TV program. The ‘BBC only’ restriction applies only to downloaded programs, watched on BBC iPlayer.

Irrespective of these two points above, the domestic TV licence we hold at home will cover us for all touring units, and, provided we have one in our main house, we will NOT require one for watching TV, of any kind, in our folding camper, caravan etc.

If you want to check out the specific criteria for requiring a TV licence, you can do so in the Do You Need A TV Licence section of the TV licencing web site.

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Model Review: Echo 4×4 Centre, Echo 4

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This week, the Motorhome & Caravan Show, at the NEC, saw the show debut for Safari Trailers & Campers, and the entry level offering from Echo 4×4 Centre; the Echo 4, an innovative trailer tent model, originating from South Africa. Other models in the UK range include the Echo 5, Echo 6 and flag ship model, the Kavango. The company does produce smaller models (Echo 1 – 3) but they aren’t, currently, imported into the UK by Safari Trailers & Campers.

According to the Safari Trailers & Campers company web site; “The ECHO 4 is an extreme off-road camper and a step up from the conventional off-road trailers. With enhanced features, such as ample storage, dust sealing, water capacity and weight distribution, this trailer is a reliable addition to the 4×4 enthusiast. This rugged off-road trailer is known for its comfort and its ease in towing, making it one of the ultimate campers to suit ANY wilderness adventure. Tried and trusted, the ECHO 4 remains a favourite for the serious outdoor explorer”.

Not too much to add to that, I don’t think.

The Basics

The Echo 4 is a two / four berth trailer tent. Like all of the Safari range, it is top end, both in terms of price, but, also, in terms of quality and attention to detail. The whole tent opens out from the trailer, leaving the main double bed in place. This creates a spacious living area to the left of the camper (looking at it from the front). To the right, is the kitchen area. This can be protected from the elements with either a short awning canopy, or a full length, two metre canopy, as seen in the picture above.

One of the great things about the Echo 4 is that its accommodation is modular. The main living area, itself, can be adapted and extended, using a series of velcro attachments. The basic unit comes with the Add-A-Room extension included. This annex will sleep a couple of adults, or three children. It is, also, possible, to add a large toilet compartment on to one of the side doors, using the same velcro type attachments.

The kitchen is typical of this style of trailer, but comes with all required fittings and accessories, as well as a load of dedicated storage.

Specifications

The Echo 4 is an extremely rugged design, built with the intention of off road usage. It features a hot dipped zinc galvanised chassis, electro galvanised body and military standard rip stop canvas. Folded, the trailer is 133cm long, 104cm wide and 90cm high. When opened up, on site, it extends to 371cm long, by 180cm wide and 153cm high. The trailer, itself, weighs 445kg.

The list of items included with the unit is comprehensive, to say the least, and is covered below, however, it does come with a pretty hefty price tag, of £13,495, including VAT.

Review / Appraisal

Initial reaction is that this is one cool trailer. It is designed for off road use, and it has that rugged look you associate with this style of trailer. The trailers are built by Echo 4×4 Centre, in South Africa, and imported into the UK, by Safari Trailers & Campers.

The basic trailer is unhitched, and wheeled into place. It is then opened out, leaving the bed in situe on the top of the trailer, with living area to one side, and kitchen area to the other.

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Main Bed Area With Ample Storage Below. You Won’t Get A Much Better Vantage Point To Wake Up In.

The bed, itself, is very elevated, and can only be accessed via a ladder inside the main living area. Once in the bed, however, the views can be quite exceptional, with a window on three sides, and elevated position.

Underneath the bed is a wealth of storage space, which is extremely well organised, and can be accessed from either the kitchen side, or the main living area side.

The bed, itself, even, comes with a fitted sheet and matching pillow cases.

There is, also, a table / work surface on each side, and a number of well organised drawers (six per side). The living area has a built in ground sheet, and is well insulated, for colder nights. The Add-A-Room annex adds additional sleeping space for two adults, or three children, and attaches to the end of the living area. There is, also, an optional add on toilet compartment, which attaches to the side of the living area, if required.

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Left To Right; Ladder Access To Bed, Table / Work Top, Storage Drawers & Vanity Mirror / Storage

On the other side of the trailer is the kitchen area. This can be covered with the shorter canopy, for cooking only, or the larger, two metre canopy for a little extra sheltered space. The kitchen, itself, is very comprehensively equipped, although cooking and washing facilities are quite basic (as is, often, the case with trailer tents of this nature).

The kitchen unit is, actually, contained within the main trailer unit, and, simply, pulls out from there. It is comprised of comprehensive storage, with accessories, a cooker, and washing up bowl, with drainer. The cooker is, simply, a two burner gas hob, with wind shield, and the ‘sink’ is a plastic bowl which drops into a frame at the side of the kitchen unit, in much the same way as the Camp-let models do, however, in this case, the Echo 4 has the added advantage of a matching slot in drainer, as well, but not a tap running directly into the ‘sink’. Where this model really excels is in the utensils it includes, and the dedicated storage provided for them.

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In the picture, above, from left to right, we have the main compartment door, with cutlery rack attached. Next we have the first four storage drawers, with compartments for cups, glasses, plates etc, work surface with cooker over, two further drawers behind and sink / drainer to the far right. There is, also, a power management unit behind the cooker. Whilst the cooking and washing facilities are, somewhat, basic, the list of cooking equipment and utensils is pretty comprehensive, and includes; 6 Plates, 6 Side Plates, 6 Bowls, 6 Mugs, 6 Whisky Glasses, 4 Wine Glasses, 6 Knifes, 6 Forks, 6 Table Spoons, 6 Tea Spoons, 6 Steak Knifes, 1 Bread Knife, 2 Smaller Knifes, 1 Bottle Opener, 1 BBQ Tong, 1 Salt & Pepper Set, 1 Cutlery Bag and 4 750mm Bottle Holders.

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All Crockery & Utensils Are Kept In Dedicated Storage

There is a compartment for a fridge, two jerry cans, as well as a gas compartment and 100 litre water tank, with tap. There is an on board mains and 12V system and gas locker. There are, also, 3 LED lights, and, in the living area, there is what is described as a; ‘vanity compartment’, which includes a number of additional drawers and a series of hanging compartments, with mirror.

Conclusion

One thing this year’s Motorhome & Caravan Show did confirm is that there is a definite trend toward the more rugged ‘adventure’ style of trailer tent, particularly the demountable ‘tent on a trailer’ style, like the new Trigano Qztrail Quest 500, Quest 700 and Zenith models. The Echo 4 takes this to the next level. Although styling and equipment levels are very different, the Echo range appears to be very much targeted towards the Holtkamper type of customer, insofar, as it is at the top end of the price bracket, but with build quality, performance and design to match that price tag. Also, like the Holtkampers, it has one raised, fixed double bed, with further berths being provided by way of ground level annexes. Cooking and washing facilities are basic, but attention to detail is high and this model will be equally at home on the camp sites of the UK, as it will on the plains of South Africa. With a very rapid basic set up time of under 10 minutes, it will, also, appeal to the Combi-camp and Camp-let market, as well, albeit with a somewhat higher price tag.

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The Echo 4×4 Centre Website has more details on the entire Echo range. In the UK, however, there are, currently, four models being imported, by Safari Trailers & Campers, of Huntley, Scotland. You can find out more about these, on their company web site. For a brief walk around video of the Echo 4, taken at this week’s NEC show (they are still there until Sunday) take a look at our Youtube channel, HERE

Don’t forget, for more discussions and advice, we now have our own Facebook Group, so feel free to check that out, as well.

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