This is a topic that is cropping up with increasing frequency, especially since the legislation was further changed with effect from those driving tests passed on or after 19 January 2013. In fact, this article has now been viewed well over 100,00 times, so we thought it best to expand it and convert it to a downloadable format, which is why we have, since, created the Definitive Guide To Towing In The UK, which takes the contents of this article, and expands on them, to cover as many aspect of towing as possible.
The weight and nature of trailer you can tow, will, ultimately, depend on the date on which you first passed your driving test, as follows:
Licences Held Before 1 January 1997
If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. (Maximum Authorised Mass).
This is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road.
You also have entitlement to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750 kg
Licences held from 1 January 1997
If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can:
- drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes (or 3,500 kg) MAM towing a trailer of up to 750 kg MAM
- tow a trailer over 750 kg MAM as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500 kg
For anything heavier you need to take a category B+E driving test.
OK, very confusing, so what does that actually mean? The key thing here is the weight of the trailer. If the MAM of the trailer is less than 750 kg, then a combined MAM of 4,250 kg is permitted (3,500 kg vehicle, and 750 kg trailer). If the trailer exceeds 750 kg, then the combined MAM is reduced to 3,500 kg (in line with the maximum ‘actual’ weight allowed).
For example; if your vehicle has an MAM of 3,200 kg, and you trailer has an MAM of 600kg (total: 3,800 kg MAM) that IS legal, as the trailer is less than 750kg.
On the other hand, if your vehicle has an MAM of 3,000 kg, and your trailer has one of 800 kg, that is NOT legal, even though they have the same combined MAM. The distinction is that the MAM of the second trailer is over 750 kg.
Licences issued from 19 January 2013
From 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category B (car and small vehicle) test can tow:
- small trailers weighing no more than 750 kg
- tow a trailer over 750 kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500 kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)
If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750 kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500 kg, you’ll have to pass a further test and get B+E entitlement on your licence.
You’ll then be able to tow trailers up to 3,500 kg.
Still confused? Take a look at the Highways Agency ‘Fit To Tow‘ video. It might make things a little clearer.
Larger trailer? Might be worth checking out the Fit To Tow – Larger Trailer video.
Finally, do you have a caravan, and need to know the specifics? Yet another Highways Agency video might help; Fit To Tow – Caravans
Car Towing Weight And Width Limits
Most cars have a maximum weight of what they can tow. It’s usually listed in the handbook or specification sheet.
Alternatively the vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ may be listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car. This is normally under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded.
If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, according to Gov.UK, you shouldn’t use your vehicle for towing.
Width And Length
Most of us are aware of maximum weight limits, even if we’re not 100% sure what they are. Many, however, are not aware of any legal limits on the external dimensions of the trailers and caravans they are towing. The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres (excluding draw bar / A frame) for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kg).
In addition to all the weights and measures, we need to make sure that our towing equipment, also, is compliant with the latest legislation as well.
Some of the key items are;
If you get a tow bar for your car, it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car.
A type-approved tow bar will have a label with an approval number and details of the vehicles it’s approved for.
If your car was first used before 1 August 1998, your tow bar doesn’t need to be type-approved.
You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you may need to fit suitable towing mirrors.
If you tow without proper towing mirrors you can be:
- prosecuted by the police
- given 3 points on your licence
- fined up to £1,000
Any trailer weighing over 750 kilograms, including its load, must have a working brake system.
Some smaller trailers also have brakes, although these are optional.
Any brakes on a trailer or caravan must be in good working order.
You must display the same number plate as your towing car on the trailer. If you tow more than one trailer, fix the number plate to the trailer at the back.
A-Frames And Dollies
If you attach an A-frame to a car in order to tow it with a larger vehicle, the car plus A-frame counts as a trailer.
If you use a dolly to tow a broken-down vehicle, the dolly counts as a trailer.
In both cases the usual safety regulations for trailers apply.
You can find out more in the ‘A’ frames and dollies’ fact sheet on the Gov.UK Website
Those are the key laws appertaining to the towing of trailers etc with a car. They will apply to most types of vehicle and trailer combinations, with one notable exception;
American trailers and caravans don’t always meet European safety regulations.
If you want to use an American caravan or trailer in the UK or the EU, you must first check that it’s legal.
Read more in the ‘American caravan/trailer brakes and coupling up to 3500kg maximum laden weight’ fact sheet.
You may also find the following DVLA guides useful:
Source; Gov.UK Towing With A Car