The last thing you want on your holiday is to break the law and pick up endorsements and fines because of the way you are towing your caravan.
Here the team at Adrian Flux provide eight tips about how to keep within the law and avoid the unnecessary inconvenience of fines and points on your licence while towing a caravan.
1. Know what you can drive and stay within your limits
Your licence shows the vehicle categories you can drive, including the size of the caravan or trailer that you’re allowed to tow.
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997 you’ll be able to drive a vehicle and trailer up to a combined Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 8.25 tonnes.
If you passed after 1 January 1997 you may only drive a “category B” vehicle coupled with:
- A caravan up to 750kg MAM, or
- A caravan over 750kg MAM as long as the MAM of the combined car and caravan is less than 3500kg and the MAM of the caravan is less than the unladen weight of the car.
Category B means a vehicle up to 3500kg MAM with up to 8 passenger seats in addition to the driver’s seat.
If you want to drive a heavier combined car and trailer you will need to take an additional car and trailer test.
2. Load safely before towing a caravan
Incorrect loading of the caravan is a contributory factor in many accidents and if the police feel your caravan is over-laden or poorly packed and that caused an accident, they may choose to prosecute.
Try to put heavy items over the axle and fasten items so they don’t shift about as you drive. Aim to put the lighter things in the caravan and heavier ones in the car if there is room.
3. Check your registration numbers match
If you are towing a caravan or trailer the registration number on the back must match the registration number of the towing vehicle. If they don’t match, or you display no plate on the unit being towed, you are committing an offence and are liable for prosecution.
4. Watch your speed when towing a caravan
Generally speaking, the speed limits to observe when towing a caravan are 10 miles an hour slower than if you were driving in a car alone. That means on a motorway where the limit is 70mph, you should drive at no more than 60mph. On a dual carriageway where the limit is 60mph, you should stay below 50mph.
But remember, these speeds are limits, not targets. Driving at a speed that’s appropriate to the conditions is especially important when towing a caravan.
On roads with lower speed limits, the maximum for cars towing a caravan or trailer is the same as it is for other cars.
5. Whose lane is it anyway?
Cars towing caravans are prohibited from the right-hand lane of motorways and it is an offence to drive in one. The outside lane should be left open for overtaking vehicles and as cars can travel 10mph faster, caravans are not permitted to use it.
6. Passengers are prohibited from riding in the caravan
It is against the law to remain in the back of a caravan while it is in transit and the driver can be prosecuted for allowing anyone to do so.
The main reason is safety. Caravans don’t have bumpers and crumple zones to safeguard passengers like vehicles do. A passenger moving around inside a caravan in transit could also unsettle the weight distribution and cause an accident.
7. Make sure your lights are working before towing a caravan
Coupling your caravan to your tow car is a pretty simple process but you should double check everything you do. Make sure the hitch is fully engaged, that the breakaway cable (which applies the van’s brakes in the event of it becoming detached from the tow car) is hitched and that the lights are connected.
Check everything is connected properly and then double check. Get someone else to operate the car’s lights and ensure the corresponding indicators and brake lights are illuminating on the van.
8. On reflection, mirrors are a great idea when towing a caravan
When towing a caravan you are legally required to have a clear field of vision around and behind the trailer, without any blind spots. Most caravans are significantly wider than a car and it is usually not possible to comply without extension mirrors so you will need to get some fitted to avoid breaking the law.
Why it makes good sense to insure your caravan
You won’t be breaking the law if you decide not to get your caravan insured but it could be a decision that costs you dearly. The cost of replacing or repairing a caravan that has been damaged or stolen is huge compared to the cost of getting it insured in the first place.
For a cheap, no nonsense caravan insurance quote – policies start from as little as £70 a year – call the experts at Adrian Flux on 0800 369 8590.