How To Tow Safely & Legally

New Rules from 16/12/21

Previously, the rules on towing differed according to when you passed your car driving test, but on 16th December 2021, the government changed this. Click here to view the UK GOV website.

The rules for towing are different in Northern Ireland.

But just because you can tow something legally, it doesn’t mean that you should.

A. What You Can Legally Tow

If you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you probably have ‘Grandfather Rights’ to tow, but that has now changed…

Like most people* in the UK who passed their test before 1st January 1997, my driving licence had what is known as ‘Grandfather Rights’ (or more flatteringly ‘Acquired Rights’) which allowed me to tow vehicles up to 8.25t.

The change in the law allows anyone who passed their car driving test after 1st January 1997 to tow trailers up to 3,500kg.

When it is next upadated, the BE category will be added to your photocard driving licence.

The Previous Rules:

1. If you passed your test BEFORE 1 January 1997

2. If you passed your test on or AFTER 1 January 1997

  • You can drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM.
  • You can only tow a trailer OVER 750kg if the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.
  • There are further size restrictions for trailers that can be towed by motorists who passed their test on or after 19 January 2013
  • You had to pass a car and trailer driving test to tow anything heavier.
  • Click this link to an online tool to show what you can and cannot tow.

A. New Rule – The Law Change on 16th December 2021

  • The laws on towing have changed to allow those who passed their car driving test from 1 January 1997 to tow trailers up to 3,500kg MAM.
  • DVLA will update your driving licence record to show that you’re allowed to tow trailers.
  • You’ll get category BE added to your driving licence when you get a new photocard driving licence. You do not need to contact DVLA for this to happen. It will be done automatically.

B. But Should You Tow Just Because You Can?

The rules have been relaxed not for safety reasons, but to free up test slots to address the shortage of HGV drivers.

Just because you can tow, it doesn’t mean you should.

Our caravan and van have a total train length of about 40-feet’ a similar length to an articulated lorry. I left the towing to Mark at first. Although we were completely new to caravanning, Mark holds an LGV1 licence, so he can legally drive an artic. I have never towed anything before, never mind taken charge of something that is the length of an HGV.

C. Why Should You Take A Towing Course?

I felt that it was important for me to learn to tow the caravan for a number of reasons;

1. Share the Driving

If we do long journeys, it is safer to share the driving.

2. In Case of Injury

If something did happen – like Mark was suddenly taken ill or even just twisted his ankle – I would be able to take over at the wheel. (This DID happen – had I been unable to tow, we would have been stuck in Budapest for weeks when Mark broke his ribs.)

3. Reduction In Insurance

There is also a good chance that completing a towing course will result in a reduction in your caravan insurance. Insurers look kindly on well-trained drivers for one reason only – you are less of a risk; to yourself and other road users and are less likely to damage those expensive assets – your beloved caravan and tow car.

It’s your life; your van; you decide if you think it’s worth it.

D. Where Can I Learn To Tow?

You can book yourself on a short try-out session – there are free towing and manoeuvring experiences at many of the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Shows. While this is a useful taster, it is not enough in itself.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club run a two-day Practical Caravanning Course several times a year, so I signed myself up. The course covered manoeuvring as well as many other subjects that have proved invaluable. It gave us a boost of knowledge just when we needed it – at the start of our caravanning career. The C&CC also run towing courses.

You can read about how “The Woman at the Wheel” got on in her Towing Course here!

E. Is My Car Suitable To Tow?

It is also important to ‘match’ your caravan and tow car to ensure that you have a safe and legal combination in terms of weights and pulling power. The Caravan & Motorhome Club and the Camping & Caravan Club both offer a free matching service to members while Towsafe offers the service for a small fee.

F. Safety Checks Before You Tow

Click here for a comprehensive list of the checks recommended by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Association) that you should carry out every time you tow a trailer, caravan or horsebox with a car, to make sure you’re towing safely and legally.

You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving, and get 3 penalty points for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Keeping your vehicles well maintained and serviced will go a long way towards ensuring that they are safe. You can also get a free safety check for a trailer up to 3,500kg through the National Trailer and Towing Association’s (NTTA) free safety checks scheme.

*I have heard rumours that DVLA sometimes removes categories from driving licences which are sent back to make changes, such as updating an address. It is best to check your licence to make sure that it does display all the correct categories required to tow your vehicle. Click here to follow a link to the discussion. 

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Published by WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before" - & believe me, we have! BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

6 thoughts on “How To Tow Safely & Legally

    1. Hi Margot, I am a member of several caravan pages on Facebook. You will find that there is most likely a page for your specific make of caravan; for example, I am a member of a few Bailey forums. This is very helpful since we share the same caravan layouts, systems etc so if you have a problem, there is usually someone who can advise.

      Caravan Adventures a very helpful page. The admin is a fellow blogger, Deb, an experienced caravanner whose blog has published lots of advice as well as her caravanning story.

      There are lots of others; Legs Down Feet Up; Caravan Friends; Caravanning Talk; Caravan Newbies: Caravanning with Pets; Caravanning in Europe; Permanent Caravan Dwellers are just a few examples. Whatever your particular interest, you will find a FB page!

      The Camping and Caravan Club and Caravan and Motorhome Club also have their own FB pages. The clubs’ websites have lots of advice sheets published on there covering all kinds of subjects. I think that the websites also have forums.

      Caravan Talk, is an internet forum where you can post questions or just read advice that is already on there. Headings make it easy to navigate by subject.

      I hope that this helps!


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