Searching used cars in the UK for a vehicle to use for towing? Then you want to be sure the cars you’re looking at are capable of doing the towing you require. We’re here to help, with this handy guide to the most frequently asked questions about towing.
Can I Tow A Trailer On My Licence?
Your first and most vital question about towing is likely to be about whether it’s legal for you to tow anything in the first place. And there are two parts to this: what your car can legally tow and what your driving licence legally allows you to tow. Let’s start with you, the driver.
Anyone with a standard driving licence is allowed to tow a trailer – but how heavy that trailer is allowed to be, varies with when you passed your test.
If you passed on or after 1 January 1997, you can tow up to 3,500kg ‘maximum authorised mass’ (MAM) – that’s the total combined weight of the trailer and anything on it. Towing that much requires a braked trailer; without brakes, the maximum towing capacity is 750kg (as long as that’s not more than half the weight of the vehicle doing the towing).
If you passed before 1 January 1997, you can drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined MAM of up to 8,250kg.
However, in both cases, the maximum towing capacity may also be limited by the vehicle doing the towing – very few cars, for example, are actually rated to two up to 3,500kg.
How Do I Know The Towing Capacity Of My Car?
If you’ve still got the owner’s manual you should be able to look it up in there – but that can sometimes be confusing because different versions of the same car can have different towing capacities.
So instead look for the main vehicle identification number (VIN) plate or ‘weight plate’. This might be under the bonnet, by the windscreen or attached to one of the door frames (the manual will help you locate it – or do a search for your model’s location online). Once found you’ll see it has four weights on it:
- the gross vehicle weight – the total amount the vehicle and all its contents can weigh; sometimes known as the vehicle’s MAM
- the gross train weight – the total legal combined weight of the vehicle and trailer
- the maximum axle loads for the front and rear of the vehicle
To work out the maximum towing capacity you simply need to subtract the gross vehicle weight from the gross train weight. The remaining figure will be the most the car is capable of towing – keeping in mind the provisos about braked and unbraked trailers mentioned above.
Can I Tow A Caravan?
You can tow anything that’s within the legal limits of the car and your driving licence. So, as long as the caravan in question falls within that capacity you are fine to tow it.
Basic caravan weights vary from as little as 400kg to over 2,500kg, so it is important to check. You also need to consider the additional weight of everything loaded into the caravan as well.
Also, remember that caravans are typically wider than the vehicle towing them, so you may need extended mirrors in order to maintain a legally acceptable view of the road behind.
How Do I Find Out How Much My Trailer Or Caravan Weighs When Loaded?
While you can get portable scales for use at home, the easiest weight to find out the weight of any vehicle, trailer or caravan is to visit a public weighbridge.
You can find these via an official government weighbridge website. Note that some charge a fee for their use.
What Is The Speed Limit When Towing?
If you’re towing a trailer or caravan, remember that the maximum speed limit on dual carriageways and motorways is 60mph (not 70mph), and 50mph on single carriageway national limit roads (usually 60mph).
Also note that you are not allowed to use the outside lane of a motorway while towing.
What Are The Maximum Dimensions Of Trailer I Can Tow?
Your trailer should not exceed 2.55m in width and 7m in length.
Can You Tow With An Automatic Car?
Yes, this is perfectly possible – and many modern automatic cars make this very easy, aided by the ability to take manual control of gear selection. Which is useful going up and down hill, for example.
Just make sure to stay within the legal limits of your licence and the towing capacity of the car – which might be different to the equivalent manual gearbox version.
Do I Need Extra Training Before Towing With A Car?
Legally no – as long as you stick within the limitations of your driving licence.
However, driving a car while towing a trailer is a very different business to driving normally, so at the very least you should try and practice as much as possible before taking a lengthy trip and endangering the lives of others. Trailer training courses do exist, and these will help you tow with greater confidence as well as safety.