How to tow a caravan

 

Knowing how to tow a caravan is an essential part of life as a caravanner. After all, if you ever want to take your caravan anywhere, you’ll need to tow it!

However, towing a caravan can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re doing so for the first time. From fears of snaking to making sure your mirrors are up to scratch, there are several things to get your head around when first learning how to tow a caravan.

Our guide will have you towing a caravan like a pro in no time.

 

How to tow a caravan: table of contents

1. Read up on the regulations
2. Find the right towbar
3. Make sure you can see the road
4. Check your brakes
5. Write a checklist
6. What to remember when on the road
7. Snaking and pitching
8. Caravan towing courses

 

1. Read up on the regulations

The rules on towing a caravan changed on 16th December 2021. The regulations set out what you’re allowed to tow, dependent on when you first became a qualified driver. However, if you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, you were not affected by the changes.

If you passed your Category B driving test before 1st January 1997, you can tow a caravan up to a combined weight (caravan + towing vehicle) of 8,250kg maximum authorised mass (MAM).

You can also drive a minibus with a trailer of more than 750kg MAM.

Side note: MAM is the limit to how much your vehicle can weigh when it’s loaded.

how to tow a caravan

If you passed your Category B driving test on or after 1st January 1997, you can tow a caravan up to 3,500kg MAM, provided the total weight of the caravan and towing vehicle does not exceed the latter’s gross train weight (GTW).

The GTW is the total permitted combined weight of your car, trailer, and load. A car’s GTW is often displayed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate or in the vehicle handbook.

There is no minimum age limit for towing a caravan, but you must renew your driving licence every three years once you reach the age of 70 if you wish to continue driving.

Information about different diving licence categories and what each one means can be found on the government website. Before towing a caravan, you must always ensure you have the relevant entitlements on your driving licence.

Please note that the regulations outlined above apply to drivers in England, Scotland and Wales only. Different regulations are in place in Northern Ireland.

 

2. Find the right towbar

how to tow a caravan

Power and weight are the most important factors when looking for a towbar. Ultimately, you won’t be able to tow efficiently if your towbar isn’t up to standard.

Ideally, your car will have 4-wheel drive, as this provides more stability and traction while towing. You should also ensure your car has sufficient torque, or you may find it difficult to tow up steep hills.

If you’re struggling to find a suitable towbar, TowSafe is a great online tool. TowSafe takes the make and model of your car and caravan and makes towbar recommendations based on them.

You also need to make sure your towbar is ‘type-approved’. In other words, it must meet certain legal requirements to be deemed safe for the road and fit for purpose.

Type-approved tow bars will have a label displaying:

  • an approval number
  • details of the vehicle it’s approved for

If you want to read more about towbar type-approval, this article is a good place to start.

 

3. Make sure you can see the road

how to tow a caravan

By law, you must have an adequate view of the road behind you while towing a caravan.

If your caravan is wider than the rear of your car, you’ll need to fit suitable mirrors that extend out to allow you to still see the road.

Not being able to see the road while driving is very dangerous. You could be fined up to £1,000 and receive three points on your licence if caught towing without adequate mirrors.

Related: Best caravan towing mirrors

 

4. Check your brakes

Anything you tow that weighs more than 750kg must have its own working brake system, as well as your car’s brake system.

The law states you must also use a breakaway cable or a secondary coupling device in case your caravan becomes detached from your car while moving.

Should this happen, the breakaway cable will apply the trailer brake to bring the trailer (in this case, your caravan) to a halt, minimising the risk of road accidents and collisions.

 

5. Write a checklist before you set off

how to tow a caravan

No matter how much you might think you know how to tow a caravan or how ready you may feel, it’s always worth writing yourself a checklist before you hit the road.

That way, you can guarantee that everything is ready and as it should be before setting off.

 

6. What to remember when on the road

Once you’ve set off, there are a few things you should always keep in mind while driving.

 

Give yourself more space and time

Remember, you’re covering a lot more ground than normal, so get into the habit of breaking earlier and accelerating more slowly than you normally would.

Remember the speed limit

When towing a caravan, the speed limit is 50mph on single-carriageways and 60mph on dual-carriageways. Make sure you remember this while you’re driving.

Allow more room when taking corners

Again, remember that you’re covering a larger area than normal, thanks to your caravan. Always take corners wider than normal to compensate for this; otherwise you risk clipping the curb with your caravan tyres as you turn.

Never have passengers in the caravan

It is against the law to have passengers in your caravan while it is being towed. You could face a serious fine and points on your licence if caught doing so.

 

7. How to tow a caravan: snaking and pitching

Snaking occurs when your car and caravan become out of sync with each other, causing the caravan to sway from side to side while you’re towing. Pitching is when the front end of the caravan starts bobbing up and down.

Both can be scary things to experience, especially if you’re on a busy road, as it’s easy to lose control of your car if snaking or pitching sets in.

If either start happening while towing, take both feet off the pedals and keep steering straight to correct the movement. Resist the temptation to apply the brakes, as this can actually cause the snaking or pitching to worsen.

It’s important to keep your car in a straight line. If you try to steer your way out of any swaying, you could make the situation worse.

Related: How to deal with a snaking caravan

 

8. Caravan towing courses

If you’re feeling a little unsure how to tow a caravan, or perhaps you don’t think you’re quite ready to hit the road just yet, signing up for a caravan towing course could be highly beneficial.

There are a range of courses that can teach you everything you need to know to build your confidence behind the wheel.

Courses are widely available up and down the country, so research local providers and assess your options. The DVSA also offers accredited training for drivers looking to improve their towing skills and capabilities.

 

Specialist touring caravan insurance through Ripe

Knowing how to tow a caravan will stand you in good stead throughout caravan life. But it doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how many caravans you’ve towed, accidents can still happen.

That’s why you may want to consider touring caravan insurance before hitting the road. Through Ripe, you can get Public Liability cover to protect you if you accidentally injure someone or damage third-party property while using your caravan.

Find out more about the ins and outs of touring caravan insurance through Ripe, and get an online quote today.

 

Related

The 7 best touring caravan sites with fishing lakes

What is a touring caravan? & 7 advantages of travelling in one

The 5 most Googled caravan questions

Please note the information provided on this page should not be taken as advice and has been written as a matter of opinion. For more on insurance cover and policy wording, see our homepage.

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