Do I Need Insurance To Tow A Caravan
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Car insurance cover & towing
It may sound obvious, but your car insurance policy will only cover damage done to your car itself, not any trailers or caravans you tow behind it. However, having the right insurance, existing policy, or third-party cover for towing risks may suffice if your trailer or caravan detaches and hits another person's vehicle.
In this example, the damage to the other vehicle will be covered under your insurance policy's comprehensive cover, but any damage to your caravan won't be. This is why it's important to read through your car insurance policies before you start towing a caravan or trailer. Additionally, it may be worth taking out static caravan insurance, just as you'd take out home insurance.
Of course, you are legally required to have car insurance here in the UK, but you don't necessarily need it for anything you tow. Although, if you don't take out additional cover and insure your caravan or take out trailer insurance, any damage they cause while you're out and about will fall on you to pay for if you don't have caravan insurance.
Therefore, it's better to have it and not need it than vice versa. You'll also need to inform your insurance company if you've had a tow bar fitted to your car, as most car insurance policies from insurance providers will classify this as a modification.
Do I need a trailer licence
While there is no such thing as a "trailer licence", there are certain things you'll need to do in order to tow your caravan safely. One of these is taking an extra driving test that measures your proficiency in towing a trailer or caravan.
You'll only need to take this test if the vehicle and trailer combination you're towing exceeds a specific weight, so it's best to check before heading out on the road.
There are also different car towing rules for those who received their driving licence after a certain time. If you're unsure about the certain rules and regulations that apply to you and the caravan you'll be towing, it's best to check with the DVLA.
They can tell you what category of driver's licence you have and what your licence permits you to drive and tow.
Additionally, your towed vehicle will be measured by its maximum authorised mass (MAM).
This essentially means the total weight of a fully-loaded vehicle and is the maximum weight a car can tow safely. You might also hear it referred to as the gross vehicle weight (GVW).
UK rules on towing
The key maximum authorised mass weight to remember for towing is 3,500kg. On the 16th of December 2021, the UK government stated that if you passed your driving test on or after the 1st of January 1997 wouldn't need to take additional tests to tow vehicles up to this weight. They did this intending to open up HGV driving test slots back when there was a shortage of drivers, estimating that up to 30,000 more tests could take place.
Therefore, those who pass their driving test after the 16th of December 2021 will receive a BE driving licence code, automatically added to their driving record by the DVLA. However, there are specific towing rules that people with these licences must follow. These don't apply to those who passed their tests before the 1st of January 1997, but for everyone else, these rules are:
- You are permitted to drive a car or van with a trailer or caravan attached with a weight of 8,250kg MAM.
- You are permitted to drive a minibus with a trailer or caravan attached with a weight of 750kg MAM.
This allows most drivers to tow their caravans to wherever they need them. Most touring caravans will fall within these MAM categories, so you don't need to worry about extra tests or additional licence rules if you want to head out on holiday. However, additional rules and regulations exist for those wishing to tow vehicles that are heavier than these prescribed limits. These rules state that if you want to tow anything heavier than the BE category licence allows, you'll need to:
- Make an application to the DVLA for a provisional licence for driving medium-sized lorries and tow trailers.
- Pass the lorry driving theory test.
- Pass the lorry driving practical test, known more commonly as the C1+3 driving test.
Passing your lorry driving test and receiving the appropriate licence allows you to tow vehicles with a combined weight of 12,000kg MAM. If you want to find out more about towing limits and driving licences, or have any questions about the changes to the rules surrounding them, see the GOV.UK website.
How much can my car tow
The first place to check to find out your car's towing capacity is your owner's manual. If you've unfortunately thrown that away or lost it, the next place to look is for your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). You'll usually find this on the driver's side door or beneath your bonnet. Searching this number will tell you your vehicle's "gross train weight", essentially how much you can tow. If both of these options fail, there's an easy way to figure out your towing car's maximum towing weight.
The weight of your car itself will determine how much you can tow. As a general rule, any trailer or caravan you tow, including any cargo within them, should not exceed 85% of your car's kerb weight. This will ensure that you can safely tow your caravan or trailer without any issues. And it almost goes without saying, but don't hitch up if your trailer or caravan weighs more than your towing car, as this invariably will not end well.
With all this in mind, if you own a caravan or trailer and are looking for a car to tow, it would be incredibly useful to know the maximum towing weight for different cars.
This way, you can make a more informed purchase and avoid any disasters when you hitch up your vehicle. Ultimately, the make and model of a car determines its weight and, therefore, how much it can tow.
Here are some of the most popular cars in the UK and their respective maximum towing weights:
- Ford Fiesta - 900kg
- Nissan Qashqai - 1,200kg
- Kia Sportage - 2,200kg
- Volvo XC90 - 2,700kg
- BMW X5 - 3,500kg
Alongside ensuring your car can tow the right weight for your trailer or caravan, it's always prudent to ensure your load, caravan contents or personal possessions are distributed properly.
When towing any vehicle, it is best to distribute any cargo evenly inside it.
This prevents overloading one side of your trailer or caravan, which can make it more difficult and dangerous to tow. Loading your vehicle properly, especially when it is at its maximum load, ensures greater stability while you're in motion and is a responsible part of trailer and caravan ownership.
UK towing and trailer regulations
When out on the road here in the UK, there are certain regulations you need to adhere to when towing a vehicle. Some apply to your trailer or caravan before you even set off, so it's beneficial to be aware of these specific regulations to keep yourself out of trouble. Here we will take you through the various towing and trailer regulations that apply here in the UK besides those regarding weight.
Dos and don'ts of safe towing
Here are some rules to help you tow your caravan or trailer more safely. Towing caravans or trailers can be very tricky, especially if you've never done it before. Besides our recommendations, you can check the National Caravan Council (NCC) or your local caravan club for more information and tips on towing skills. So, here are our dos and don'ts for towing:
Do always check your tyres before departing. Underinflated or entirely deflated tyres can be incredibly hazardous at high speed, especially if they overheat and blow out. If your trailer or caravan has a braking system, you must also check this.
Do take extra care when cornering. Remember that you're towing, which extends the length of your vehicle, so you will need to take a wide line through all corners, especially in built-up areas.
Do remember to fit towing wing mirrors. This is especially crucial if your trailer or caravan is wider than the narrowest area of your towing car.
Do pull in to the side if there is a significant build-up of traffic behind you.
Don't speed. This goes without saying whenever you're driving, but it's just as important, if not more so, when towing, given the different speed limits. On a single carriageway, the speed limit for towing is 50mph, while on dual carriageways, it's 60mph. Maximum towing speeds could differ when travelling abroad, so you'll need to research this if heading overseas.
Don't allow passengers to sit in your trailer or caravan while moving.
Don't drive in the outside lane of a motorway unless you are specifically instructed to.
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