Towing a Trailer or Caravan

A guide to towing safely.

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Guide to Towing Safely

The first thing to be aware of when towing a trailer or caravan, is there there are restrictions on what you can tow depending on your driving licence.
And there will be a maximum weight that you can tow depending on your car.

If you haven't already, you can read our guides:

Check the Gross Trailer Weight (that's the trailer + the load) against the manufacturer's stated Maximum Towing Capacity for your vehicle.

Trailer weight

The 85% Rule

In addition to the manufacturer’s stated Max. Towing Capacity figures it is recommended that the weight to be towed should not exceed 85% of the "kerb weight" of the towing vehicle. The "kerb weight" is defined as the weight of the vehicle plus a full tank of petrol and 75kg.

Kerb Weight

Maximum Trailer Size

There are restrictions on the maximum size of a trailer or caravan that you can tow.

The maximum width that you can tow is 2.55 metres regardless of the width of your vehicle, and the length cannot be more than 7 metres.

An important point to note is that if what you are towing is wider than your car, then you must use mirror extenders so that your rear view is not impaired.

Mirror extender for towing

Loading Up

There is an excellent video made by the University of Bath, which demonstrates in detail how important it is to load your trailer correctly, the same would also apply to any equipment stored in your caravan while towing.

The load must not project outside of the trailer as this can be very dangerous to other drivers and the stability of the trailer.

It’s dangerous and illegal for the load to stick out beyond the edges of the trailer.

The load should be safely contained within the trailer.

You should distribute weight evenly as much as possible. Overloading one side or having excess weight toward the nose or tail of the trailer can seriously impact the stability of trailers.

Most trailers will have a stated "Recommended Nose Weight" which should be followed.
Although, as we can see in the video above, it is always best to keep heavier items at the from top the trailer.

Displaying a Number Plate

It is also a legal requirement to display your number plate at the rear most part and not have it concealed so you will need to get another number plate made to go on your trailer, this can be done through your local car accessory shop.

However, don't just head to the shop and expect to buy a number plate.
You will need to take your cars registration document, and a form of identification in order to get a number plate made legally.

Lights on your Trailer

It is a legal requirement to light up the rear most part of what you are towing. You will need the following to make sure that you are legally towing, so these will need to be working on your trailer:

  • Indicators
  • Brake lights
  • Sidelights

Your trailer also needs an illuminated number plate and two triangular red reflectors

If the trailer is more than 1.3 meters wide, it must also have at least one red fog lamp.

Any trailer or caravan with a gross weight of over 750kg, which must be braked, should have a reverse lamp on the left hand side.

If the trailer's length exceeds 6m it must have two reverse lamps, one on each side.

Trailer Lights

What’s the speed limit for towing a caravan or trailer?

You are allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 60mph dual carriageways and motorways. A maximum speed of 50mph is permitted on other roads unless a lower speed limit is in place.

Despite the laws in place, we would always recommend driving slower, and safely for the weather conditions.
Try to keep to the inside lane on dual carriageways etc.

Also keep in mind the added weight of a trailer will slow down your acceleration rates so you will need to take that into account when making driving decisions, this will also influence your breaking capacity.

Click here to read the other articles in our Guide to Towing.