What You Must Know about Using Caravans and Trailers in the UK

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In order to travel with caravans and trailers in the United Kingdom there are certain things you will need to be aware of both for safety and legal reasons. For one thing, neither the car nor the caravan should be overloaded, and the weight of the trailer or caravan needs to be within the towing ability of your motor vehicle. It is also important that the combined weight of the caravan or trailer when fully loaded, and the vehicle when fully loaded, are below your car’s maximum “train” weight.

One way to ensure your combination is safe is to get help from the Camping & Caravanning Club or The Caravan Club. In order to find out what the weight of your loaded caravan actually is, you can either weigh everything you intend to load it with individually, and then add it to the ‘Mass in Running Order’ of the caravan, or you can simply take the caravan to be weighed at a local weighbridge.

Towing weights

The weight of a loaded caravan should come to no more than 85 percent of the Kerb Weight of your motor vehicle. Because of the amount of space that is provided it can be tempting to overload, but the caravan should actually be kept as light as it possibly can be, with the heaviest of all the items being taken placed low down and near to the axle.

Your driving license will show the categories of vehicles that you are legally allowed to drive in the United Kingdom, including the size of the trailer or caravan that you are permitted to tow, the rules for which changed back in 1997. If you passed your driving test prior to the 1st of January 1997 then you may be only to drive a vehicle in category B (meaning a vehicle weighing up to 3500 kilograms MAM, plus up to eight passenger seats, plus the driver’s seat) coupled with a caravan that weighs up to 750 kilograms MAM, or a caravan that weighs more than that if the MAM of the caravan and the car combined is under 3500 kilograms, and the caravan’s MAM is less than the car’s un-laden weight. Got that? Good.

Towing bars

When acquiring a tow bar for a motor vehicle it is important to make sure that they are “type approved”, which simply means that they have been designed with your vehicle in mind and meet with European Union regulations. Tow bars that are type approved come with a label featuring the details of the cars that it has been approved for use with, and an approval number. However, cars that were in use prior to the 1st of August 1998 do not have to use type approved tow bars.

Towing mirrors and brakes

Suitable towing mirrors must be fitted if the caravan or trailer is wider than the back of the car, so that an adequate view of the road behind the vehicle is accessible. Trailers that weigh more than 750 kilograms when loaded need to be fitted with a working brake system.