There are various rules relating to what you can tow, depending on how long you have held your full driving licence for. You can check your driving licence information by using the DVLA’s online service to see if you are allowed to tow.
If Your Driving Licence Was Issued After 19th January 2013
After 19th January 2013, drivers who have passed a category B test (car and small vehicle test) are allowed to tow:
- Small trailers that weigh less than 750kg
- A trailer over the weight of 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer with the towing vehicle is under 3,500kg MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass)
If you are wanting to tow a trailer that weighs more than 750kg and the combined weight of the vehicle towing and the trailer is over 3,500kg, you will have to pass a further test to get B+E entitlement on your licence. This will then allow you to tow trailers up to a weight of 3,500kg.
If Your Driving Licence Was Issued Between 1st January 1997 & 19th January 2013
If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997 and hold a normal category B licence (car licence), you can:
- Drive a vehicle that weighs up to 3.5 tonnes (or 3,500kg if you prefer a metric measurement) MAM towing a trailer that weighs up to 750kg MAM
- Tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg MAM if the combined weight of the trailer and vehicle that is towing is under 3,500kg
Should you be wanting to tow anything heavier, you will need to take and pass a category B+E driving test.
If Your Driving Licence Was Issued Before 1st January 1997
As long as you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, you are free to drive a vehicle and trailer combination that weighs up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. This is the weight of a vehicle and trailer with the maximum load that can be safely carried when being used on the road.
You are also entitled to drive a minibus with a trailer that comes to more than 750kg MAM.
If You Want To Tow Heavier Combinations
Should you want to tow combinations that are heavier than your driving licence allows, you will have to apply for provisional entitlement to the new C1+E entitlement. Then you will have to pass the category C theory test and the C1+E practical test.
Once you have successfully done this, you are allowed to drive vehicles and trailers that have a combined weight of up to 12 tonnes MAM.
Towing Weight, Width And Length Limits For Cars
The majority of cars have a maximum amount of weight they can successfully tow, which you can typically find in their handbook or on their specification sheet.
Another way to find out how much your car can tow is using the vehicle’s gross train weight that is normally found on the vehicle identification number plate (VIN plate). You should find this under the bonnet or on the inside of the drivers door. The gross train weight is the fully loaded weight of the car and the fully loaded weight trailer combined and cannot be exceeded.
If you find that your VIN plate doesn’t have a rain weight listed, your vehicle should not be used for towing.
The maximum width allow for a trailer on any sort of vehicle that can be used for towing is 2.55 metres. If a vehicle is towing a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes (3,500kg), the maximum length that is allowed is 7 metres.
Specialist Equipment For Towing
There are various bits and pieces of equipment you will need if you want to tow objects with your car and these must be of a certain standard as well as complying with the relevant safety measures.
Any tow bars you get fitted to your car must be ‘type approved’ which means it need to meet the EU regulations and is designed specifically for your car. A tow bar that is type approved will have a label that has an approval number along with details of what vehicles it is approved for.
If you have a car that was used before 1st August 1998, the tow bar does not need to be type-approved.
By law, you must be able to see and have an adequate view of the road behind you, no matter what you are towing. If you find yourself in a situation where your caravan or trailer is wider than the back of the car that is towing, you may need to get suitable towing mirrors fitted.
If you tow and do not have proper mirrors, you can be prosecuted by the police, given three points on your licence and/or fined for up to £1,000 so it isn’t worth the risk. You can find towing mirrors online and at your local automotive shops.
If you have a trailer that weighs more than 750kg with its load, it has to have a working brake system. You may find that smaller trailers have brakes too, these are not a requirement and are optional.
Any brakes that you have on a trailer or a caravan must be in good working order and checked regularly.
If you have to attach an A-frame to your car so you can tow it with a bigger vehicle, the car and the A-frame counts as a trailer. If you need to use a dolly to tow a vehicle that has broken down, the dolly is classed as a trailer. In both instances of this, the normal safety regulations for trailers apply.
The DVLA offers more information about A-frames and dolly that you can view here.
You are required to display the same number plate on your caravan or trailer as you have on your car that is doing the towing. If you are towing more than a single trailer, you have to attach a number plate to the last trailer (the one that other road users can see the end of).
Towing American Caravans Or Trailers
Be wary if you are planning to tow an American trailer or caravan, as these don’t always meet the safety regulation for Europe; if you want to use one, you must first check that it is legal to do so.
If you are unsure and want to double check, you should look at the Department for Transport information sheet about “American Caravan/Trailer Brakes and coupling up to 3,500kg maximum laden weight“.