By in Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road when Towing Trailers or Caravans


If you are considering towing a trailer or caravan, it is important that you make a number of checks to ensure your journey is safe and legal.

MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass)

When you gained your licence is the first check. If you passed your driving test before the 1st January 1997 then you are valid to drive a vehicle with a MAM of 3500kg with a large trailer, or up to 7500kg if you hold an additional entitlement to drive categories C1 and C1+E; as long as the total MAM of the vehicle and trailer does not exceed 8250kg.

If you passed your driving test on or after the 1st January 1997 then you can drive a category B vehicle with a MAM of 3500kg or less and a trailer 750kg or less. If you wish to pull a trailer over 750kg then the combined total of MAM for the vehicle and trailer cannot exceed 3500kg and the MAM of the trailer must not exceed the kerb weight of the vehicle.

A plate should be located on both your vehicle and trailer/caravan which states the MAM to allow you to check if you meet these standards. You should also check your vehicle’s hand book for its specific towing limits that should not be exceeded. Please note that the manufacturers guide may not be the same as the legal limits, so check!

If you wish to tow combinations with a heavier MAM then you must pass the lorry theory test and the C1+E driving test.

Failing to meet these requirements can be considered a traffic offence against the Construction and Use Regulations Act 1986

Width and Length

The maximum dimensions for any trailer being towed by a vehicle is 2.55 meters in width and by any vehicle weighing 3500kg and below 7 meters in length, not including the A-frame.

Towing Equipment

It is important to point out that you can be fined up to £2500, get 3 penalty points and be banned from driving if you are caught using a vehicle or equipment considered dangerous. Carry out all the basic safety checks each time you tow a trailer or caravan. This includes:

Tow ball and connections

The trailer should be coupled to the tow ball following the manufacturer’s advice and the coupling height should be correct. Neither the 7 or 13 core cable and plug should be damaged.

Breakaway cable

The cable should not be damaged or worn (look for fraying). It should be loose enough that the breaks are not accidentally applied whilst travelling but it should not drag on the ground whilst in motion.

Wheels and tyres (On car and trailer)

There should be no cuts or bulges in the tyres with a tread depth of at least 1.6mm as the manufacturer’s inflation specification. The nuts and bolts should be tightened correctly and the mudguards on the trailer fitted and secure.

Lights and indicators

All the lights should be full functional with no damages or obstructions.

Load and weight limit

In addition to the above weight specifications, the trailer should not be overloaded and the load should be secure and distributed evenly over the axel.

If your trailer has no brakes it should not be more than 750kg or more than half the weight of the towing vehicle but if you trailer does have brakes it’s loaded weight should not be greater than 85% of the towing vehicles weight. The combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer should not be greater than the number stated on the vehicle identification number plate.

Your speed whilst driving

The trailer should not snake behind the vehicle. If you experience this you should reduce your speed. Brake gently and with plenty of time before bends and hazards to prevent making the trailer unsteady or start to snake (weave).

Number plate

There must be a number plate on the back trailer.

Additional equipment

Additional equipment may include the towing bar which must meet EU regulations and is designed for your car. You can check this by the approval number and details of the approved vehicles on the tow bars label.

Towing mirrors should also be fitted with an adequate view of the road behind if the trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your towing vehicle. You can be fined up to £1000 and an additional 3 penalty points if towing mirrors are not used correctly and when needed.

When buying equipment, trailers or caravans from America you should check they fit with EU regulations.

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Kiri Reeve

Kiri is an 18 year old currently taking a gap year before university. She is using this time to work and save towards for her course fees. She is also learning to drive with Trailer Training Essex.

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