February 21, 2019

Your guide to: towing

If you’re new to towing, or haven’t towed in a while, we go back to basics with this online refresher.

Sometimes classic car enthusiasts must move cars – vehicles needing restoration, transporting to and from race circuits, or ones that are off the road, for example. But do you know the current rules and things to keep in mind when towing?

Who can tow?

Anyone with a UK licence can tow. Contrary to popular belief, a specific trailer licence doesn’t exist. What you can tow is based on when you passed your test in the UK, which dictates the weight of your load. If you want to tow something heavier than your licence allows, you might need to take an additional category B+E entitlement test.

What can I tow?

With the knowledge that anyone can tow on a UK licence, we break down the official rulings of what you can tow and what weights you can carry, which, as we’ve looked at, varies depending on when you passed your driving test.

If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you’re generally allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM). MAM is how much the vehicle can weigh when it’s loaded. You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM, should you wish.

If you passed your test from 1 January 1997 to 18 January 2013, your MAM allowances significantly reduce. You can:

  • Drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg
  • Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

If you have a licence that was issued from 19 January 2013, there are even stricter rules in place.

If you passed your test after this date you can tow a small trailer weighing no more than 750kg. You can also tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the towing vehicle and the loaded trailer is no more than 3500kg MAM.

If you’re unsure of how much your tow vehicle or car on the trailer weighs, you should be able to find out in the owner’s manuals. Sometimes the weights are even listed on the inside of the door.

What sort of trailer do I need?

To add to the towing weight confusion, there are typically two maximum towing weights that will be specified for your trailer – braked and unbraked. If your trailer weight is more than 750kg or over half the car’s kerb weight (if the car doesn’t have people or luggage), again you can find this in your manual, then you need a trailer with brakes.

Are there restrictions on the width and length of my trailer?

Yes, there are. According to the DVLA and the GOV website, the maximum trailer width is 2.55 metres.

The maximum length for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500kg is seven metres. This length does not include the A-frame.

What about tow bars?

If you’re towing a car using a trailer, then a tow bar needs to be fitted to the tow vehicle (the one pulling the load). If you’re fitting a tow bar for your car, it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car. However, if your car was first used before 1 August 1998, your tow bar doesn’t need to be type approved.

Anything else?

If you’re towing for the first time or haven’t towed for a while, it’s easy to forget the basics. We have two simple rules when you’re on the road.

Firstly, always make sure you have an adequate view of the road and load behind you. We recommend using additional clip on mirrors that extend the driver’s rear view.

Secondly, always try to ensure that the towing vehicle’s number plate is displayed on the back of the trailer.

Weight, what?

Yes, a lot of this your guide to: towing has revolved around weight. We suggest keeping it simple and always remembering:

  • What you can tow is based on what it says on the back of your UK licence (and when you passed your test).
  • You need to know the weight of your tow car and what you’re towing. Cars range massively in weight from around 600kg for a classic Mini to 2,500kg for a fully fuelled classic Range Rover.
  • Measure how much your trailer weighs (and if it needs to be braked or unbraked) then add that to the tow car and vehicle on trailer’s weight.
  • For trailers that are braked, we recommend using a vehicle that has more than 2,500kg capacity in any case.

Footman James offers specialists cover for support vehicles that tow, which can range from traditional passenger car tow vehicles to motorhomes and even large race transporters and vans.

There are many benefits to this particular support vehicle policy, but the main bonus is that you can extend the cover to include trailers, tools, spares and protective clothing if need.